marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

powers and worlds

Among all the fantastic genres, superheroes in general live in very badly built worlds.  The writers don't want to, or aren't allowed to, work through the implications of what would happen.  Not that this does not appear in SF or fantasy as well -- abilities, like other aspects of the world, have implications that aren't always slithered into the text.


Some of the most obvious are the fighting implications -- I was pondering this because I had recently re-read this essay which does nicely cover many of the implications of superheroics in global politics.  (Come on -- was Superman really unable to affect anything in World War II without being knocked out cold?  Even if the Axis were really able to keep him out of direct attacks on their forces by magic, what about carrying supplies?  A few relief trips to Corrigdor or Bataan or Wake Island could have changed the Pacific War enormously.  Or across the Atlantic.

But it's the non-fighting implications that tend to get seriously underplayed, perhaps because they are not directly useful for story purposes.  Still, most powers could have some mundane uses.  Invisibility might appear to be best suited to battle or to espionage, but it could also be used for confidential messages as well.  Superstrength is perhaps the most limited, but many superstrong individuals could fit in locations where a piece of heavy equipment could not.  Telekinesis -- imagine what telekinetic surgery could do.

Gadgeteers tend to be the worst.  The Fantastic Four is supposed to be funded by the patents that Reed Richards holds.  That would have changed the world in so many ways that you wouldn't recognize it.  Flying cars?  Done deal.  And most gadgeteers would not limit themselves to fighting crime or committing it.  More money in law-abiding techniques.  And some of those tools would shift the economics of the world enormously.  Weather control -- imagine the impact on agriculture.
Tags: genre: superheroes, superpowers, world-building: economics, world-building: technology
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