Years ago, I saw the PBS adaptation of Ursula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven, set in Portland, OR (of course! Ursula’s a home girl.) The story’s protagonist, George Orr could alter reality with his dreams–a thought-provoking concept. Near the end of the movie, after being exploited by a doctor for the good of humanity (and for the good of the doctor), George wondered aloud, “What if everyone can do what I do and reality is constantly being altered?”
That got me thinking about what we collectively believe is normal and what is abnormal. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? Just today in my mainstream grocery store, I saw a magazine I’d never seen before called, “Fifty Shades” and in smaller type below it was written, “Of American Women who Love the Book and Live the Life”. Since when did the BDSM lifestyle as depicted in Fifty Shades of Grey make the jump from being a titillating look into how “those people” live to being shelved next to Better Homes and Gardens and Running magazine? Just goes to show how fragile and transient “normal” really is.
This got me wondering what our reality would be like if superhero powers weren’t so rare (and nothing whatsoever to do with my recent release, Prometheus Unstitched about a superhero, nothing at all.) What if superheroes were so commonplace, they formed a guild or union to capitalize on those powers and prevent abuse by the public and each other?
What if superheroes were more like rock stars with many tiers of fame? You’d have your top of the heap supes like Superman and Spiderman but also legions of lesser superheroes who might be little more than do-gooders with stupid human trick abilities.
We’d see superhero groupies–women who follow the heroes around looking to bag one for a night or two, maybe even sell her story and some lurid photos to the National Inquirer. “My Secret Weekend with Fantastic Man!” or “Granite Man fathered my baby!” Gloria Allred would be a busy, busy woman.
Imagine if the superheroes all had their own websites touting their abilities to serve mankind. Imagine a world where superheroes were brands and those with highest brand recognition received the greatest rewards for their efforts.
Superheroes wouldn’t need disguises. I’m sure they would all love being able to get rid of those stuffy masks and cowls, not to mention the lame glasses Clark Kent wears. No more hat hair, though Wonder Woman’s headband is super cute and I’d hate to see it go.
So, if superheroes were commodities, so too might be those who supplied and served them. Picture Batman outsourcing his gadgetries to various munitions companies. Alfred could run a superhero butler academy.
On the flip side, imagine if you were one of those who made your living serving this group of starlets. You’d probably get pretty tired of all the posturing. Sure, you’d like to ride the coattails of the successful ones, but there would only be only so many A-list supers.
Because superheroes by definition are supposed to protect and to serve, most likely the federal government would regulate and support most of them financially, probably a unique branch of the military (Superhero Forces) or Homeland Security. That said, I suspect the top dogs would prefer to freelance for the filthy rich. If they were independently wealthy like Bruce Wayne (Batman) or Tony Stark (Iron Man), they might serve altruistically for a while but I guarantee one would eventually run for President or at least governor.
Until one day, George Orr wakes up and there are no more superheroes…only middle-aged women who write books about BDSM and become billionaires, laughing all the way to the bank.
Lila Shaw is a very poorly paid, middle-aged writer of erotic romance. She succinctly describes her latest novella, Prometheus Unstitched, as: “1 grouchy costumer + 1 superhero with credibility issues = sexy, tongue-in-cheek romantic romp.” Lila also writes romance and humorous essays under the pen name of Claire Gillian. She lives in the Portland, OR area with her superhero husband, The Silverback, and their two teenaged mutant ninja spawn.