Poll Position: A brave new world

I like thinking about what the real world would be like if some of the genre conventions we all love about comics were to be introduced here. So that's our weekly conundrum:


Discussion after the jump!

  • Mutant humans with super powers: The problem here is that a) you don't know what kind of people are going to be granted these abilities, and we all know some people are real jerks; and b) there's such a huge variation in power levels. What if the guy who gets hugely destructive powers with the morals of a dictator? On the other hand, you're bound to get some mutants who could really advance the general welfare of humanity.
  • Magic that works like science, requiring no special inborn gift to use: I like that in theory anyone could learn to be a magician, just like anyone today can learn to be a physicist. But not everyone would, which is also ok. Magic in these kinds of settings tends less to the "it can do anything" category of ridiculous to a more controlled, limited, and focused set of phenomena that are more or less predictable. This would be less exciting, but more egalitarian.
  • Magical abilities available only to certain humans: Here you have similar problems to the mutant scenario, where there's no telling who is going to be able to do what. On one hand, that's scary because you've automatically got two tiers of people, and one or the other is likely to get the shaft in a situation like that. On the other hand, the world's already divided up into various kinds of haves and have-nots, so this would be just one more thing to deal with.
  • Active Infernal and Heavenly entities -- angels and demons: I realize a lot of people believe this is happening already, but I'm talking comic-book levels of involvement here. And I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. At least with mutants and magicians, you've got beings who are fundamentally human. Angels and demons are fundamentally not-human, and yet would be running around with vast levels of power and control. That scares me.
  • Psionic abilities like telepathy, telekinesis, empathy, etc.: I probably should have broken this up into "for anyone" or "limited users" like with magic, because I do think that makes a difference. But I think mental powers are cool.
  • Portals to alternate realities: This could be hugely great, or hugely awful, depending on what's on the other end of those portals.

I think I'd probably go with the last one, multi-dimensional or alternate reality portals. They'd be a bunch of new frontiers for us to grow into, getting us out from this one breadbasket, and we'd probably have access to some amazing new stuff. I think humanity could do with an outward-facing frontier again.

What about you, what would you bring into the real world if you could?

23 Responses to Poll Position: A brave new world

  1. The Imp says:

    I am a HUGE alternate history geek, so I voted for the Portals.

  2. Gene says:

    As a huge Stargate and Sliders fan, I too voted for Portals. Then Maybe I could travel to a world where magic works, and study to become a mage šŸ™‚

  3. Ky2030 says:

    Yeah portals gives you a chance at all the rest, depending upon the reality you enter

  4. Jadebrain_Prime says:

    Well, with portals to an alternate reality, the only reason you would want to travel to that reality is because the laws of physics are different, right? This would be very complicated. In theory, if an entity or object obeying a different set of physical laws were to enter a universe with different physics, it would instantly self-destruct due to there being no way for it to exist in its new universe; meanwhile, the introduction of foreign physics would cause a massive amount of destruction to the rest of the universe.

    That said, I think I’d take the “Magic that works like Science” option. Ability to cast fireballs on your enemy? Good. Being sure you’ll be able to learn how, and not just hoping you were born able to? Excellent.

  5. John says:

    Tangential-stream-of-consciousness thought: reading the Claremont/Byrne X-Men of the late 70’s-early 80’s, I was down with the “persecuted minority” metaphor they were pushing. As I grew older, I realized just how absurd that metaphor really was. The movies kinda sealed it for me. (“Oh, there really *is* someone out there who can bend metal to their will…and they hate all humans and will stop at nothing to wipe us all out?”)

    It’s one thing when you hate (insert stereotype slur here) – it’s quite another when that (insert stereotype slur here) can blow up the building you’re in because they have allergies and went on a sneezing fit. If Marvel-type mutants really *did* walk among us, I’d want each and every one of ’em locked in a lead box underneath Yucca mountain.

  6. Jeff Hebert says:

    @John: Even the ones who don’t hate non-mutants and just want to get along? How is Cyclops, say, different from Joe Schmoe with a shotgun?

    I think the point of having Magneto being a Nazi concentration camp survivor was exactly that, to show that just as Hitler believing Jews had the power to control the world (a lot people continue to believe that, by the way) and so thought it justified killing ALL Jews, it would be wrong to believe that just because some mutants had power and wanted to use it for their own ends didn’t justify killing or locking up ALL mutants.

    I read an interesting take on the Civil War storyline, arguing that we were supposed to be on Captain America’s side just because he was Captain America, but really, Iron Man was right. If someone’s walking around downtown Detroit with a bunch of guns, we would want to know it and have that weapon registered. A Cyclops is the same, he’s basically walking around with a loaded gun all the time. That shouldn’t be illegal, but it should be known and registered.

    I don’t know for sure where I fall on that question, but I thought it was an interesting take on it. I do know, though, that preemptively throwing everyone who owns a gun into a lead box underneath Yucca mountain just because they might shoot someone some day is not a very good idea.

  7. Runt82 says:

    I decided to go with the “magical science” option. The first thing that came to mind was Fullmetal Alchemist and how alchemy was the “technology” that evolved instead of industrial machinery.

  8. Kalkin says:

    I don’t really care, which one there would exist, as long as I was one of those with access to it. The magic science option is a slight favorite, since that’d guarantee that I could learn it.

  9. Jeff Hebert says:

    Good point Kalkin — even if portals exist, who gets to control access to them?

  10. Gene says:

    I do!!

    I guess it would depend on the technology that creates the portal. If it’s a one time Alien thingy, then who ever finds it, figures it out, and can keep it secure would control it – weather government, company, or even an individual. If it’s something built here on Earth, then it would be dependent on the resources needed. If it required tons of energy and/or rare materiel like uranium, then the Governments would control it šŸ™ If it was easily made with no oddball resources needed then anyone could make one.

    From what I understand *cough* it’s not too hard to make a nuclear device, but getting the properly processed materiel is difficult. (I keep loosing the bid to some eBay freak that goes by the handle D0cD00mDaMan! that spam bids the last thirty seconds….EVERY TIME!! *Shake tiny fists of rage*)

  11. X-stacy says:

    I chose magic that can work for anybody because it seems like it would have the least potential to do harm and the most potential for me personally to get some cool power.

    But I had a comment about your comment on portals as a new frontier: If those alternate realities are inhabited, treating them as ours to play with and expand into would be pretty much the same as the Europeans arriving in the Americas and, well, doing the things Europeans did after arriving in the Americas. Unless of course those inhabitants are more advanced and better armed than us, in which case we better hope they aren’t interested in expansion of their own.

  12. Worf says:

    @Gene: What??? You don’t have your own uranium refinery in the backyard? How do you ever expect to be considered a world power without it?????

    onto the discussion…..

    -Mutant powers: I think this would quickly descend into a scenario like DC’s Kingdom Come (All out war between the powerful leaving ordinary man helpless) or Marvel’s Sentinels (some kind of agency trying to control/enslave/destroy the powerful). Pass.

    – “Sciency” Magic: Would probably become a “regulated” profession pretty soon, and the real powerful stuff would only be available if you were into the military or something. They wouldn’t just let anyone learn that “Fireball” or “Power Word Kill” kinda like the nuclear weapons of today. Pass.

    – Inborn Magic: Unless I was one of the ones to get it then PASS! šŸ˜‰

    – Angels and Demons: We would get caught in the middle. Not good. Not good at all. Definite PASS.

    – Psionics: The idea is very cool. And assuming we’re going with the “everyone has it” idea, I’d have to ask: Did everyone wake up one day with their abilities? If so, then total social chaos would ensue. And a Professor X level of ability would be very dangerous. Plus, governments would be fighting for control of these very powerful individuals. PASS.

    – Otherword Portals: My only concern would be what could come from the other sides, but the scientist in me would find it very awesome to explore other realities/universes. So I guess this is my choice. šŸ˜‰

  13. EnderX says:

    I always thought the reason for Magneto’s Holocaust background was justifying his paranoia – “It happened to my people (the Jews) before. It could happen to my people (the Mutants) again.” After all, half the time Erik himself is the Dictator-pattern power-wielder…an at least somewhat benevolent dictator, if House of M is anything to go by, but dictator nonetheless.

    And I’m not sure I would go for any of these, actually. I can see a downside to most of them. For example, your friendly portals? What happens when the ‘harmless’ germ pseudococcus crosses one in the middle of the tourist season and enters our world? The ‘psi’ stuff you didn’t focus on? The only non-destructive psi power I’ve ever run across in storylines is read-only empathy, and unless it can be turned off, that tends to lead to suicidal depression as the victim/wielder feels every hurting soul around them.

    Angels and Demons, and the Portals, are the only things on your list that don’t run afoul of one rather large stumbling block, which you touch on in most of them: Human beings are, on the whole, jerks. It’s not just the dictators you need to worry about, it’s the guy next door who’s getting more and more peeved with your kids running across his flower bed, or the woman at the store you prevented from cutting you off in the cashier’s line. If they suddenly had the power to do something to you, then unless there’s already a way to prevent or negate that (counterpowers don’t always do so), then you can bet they’ll be tempted to get even. Admittedly, not everyone would act on that temptation, but they’d feel it.

    And Jeff? I am one of those people you spoke of in the Angels/Demons item – and while comicbook levels of activity are flashier, if I read the scriptures correctly they’d also be a step down in involvement – most comic books don’t, after all, have massive armies on both sides waging battle every day. We simply don’t recognize it, even when we’re caught up in the results, because it’s not necessarily visible in the physical.

  14. Jeff Hebert says:

    @Ender: Yeah, “flashy” is more what I meant there. Super-hero comics are many things, but subtle is not really one of them.

  15. Wade says:

    I voted humans with powers. Hey, do you watch Heroes? Just wondering cuz of the “Brave New World” thing.

  16. Jeff Hebert says:

    I watched the first season of Heroes and liked it, but quit on season 2 after just a handful of episodes. Haven’t gone back to it since, the pacing and scripting and acting in TV dramas just leave me cold, mostly — lots of standing around in poor lighting talking in hushed tones. Why does everyone in TV Land growl their lines all the time? It’s annoying.

  17. Gero says:

    As a huge fan of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I would have to go with portals to alternate realities…

  18. Worf says:

    @Wade: I watch Heroes and I have to ask: How did you get Heroes from “Brave New World”? That always takes me to the book of the same name by Aldus Huxley…. An interesting take on cloning and governmental social control. Something that probably would happen if most of these scenarios came to pass

  19. Wade says:

    Its because the latest episode was called Brave New World.

  20. J says:

    Either of these would be good for me as long as I had the ability to teleport so i wouldnt have to drive to work.

  21. Gene says:

    heroes had amazing potential at season one. But it went down hill rapidly after that. I gave it up through season three, but couldn’t stand to watch four.

    I would have ended season 1 with a bigger battle. A couple more deaths, and Peter/Sylar flying up, locked in battle, and exploding over New York. Then, in season 2, Peter would return, but be exposed as a villain towards the end….when he kills his brother the senator on national tv…. paving the way for Season three where the powered folk are wanted. Blah blah blah. Instead of the soap opera we got. šŸ™

    Potential. Heroes had it. But squandered it.

  22. Wade says:

    Heroes is my favorite show on TV right now. Sure its had problems, but it deserves better ratings (critics wise and viewer wise) than it gets every week. For a fair review of every episode, go to Otto Berkeley at herosite.net. I know it sounds like he’d be biased, but trust me, he’s not.

  23. Gene says:

    @ Worf, No, No refinery on the back yard. Neighbors keep complaining about the smell šŸ™