Archive for January, 2008

Jan 31 2008

Schedule of the Day

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

One of the Google searches that brought someone to Superhero Nation was “what do alligators do all day?” Agent Orange, our resident mutated alligator, provides his daily schedule.

1 AM: I respond to a WMD scare in Surf City. (It was just a death ray).

2: A purported representative of the British government calls, asking for urgent help “to stop an impending act of anti-supervillain activity.” Terrorist! I hang up.

2:30: Britain reports that Doctour Nefarious just carried out “anti-supervillain activity” at Big Ben. The reports don’t mention which supervillain he acted against, but I’m betting Jihad Joe or Paingod.

2:35: I call the Ministry of Defense and ask them to pass along my congratulations to Nefarious for turning on his evil compatriots. They swore and hung up on me. (And they wonder why we declared independence).

3: A genetically-engineered slime monster attacks Surf City. Dr. Darpa suggests that a salt-spray will kill it, but he doesn’t mention that salting it will send slime shooting for blocks in every direction.

3:10: Showering.

3:30: Still showering.

3:45: I get dressed. I’m feeling dangerous today, so I reach for a black tie instead of my usual navy blue.

4: I brush my teeth. (Yeah, I brush my teeth, too—it just takes more time).

4:30: Still brushing.

4:45: I check my voice-mail. IRS Agent Percy Leguin called again to complain that the Office of Special Investigations is doing too much “showboating,” by which he means investigating crime that Americans actually care about. The bitch insinuates that OSI agents couldn’t handle IRS work.

5: A citizen that incorrectly filled out a 1040-DX Schedule ECQ gets a very special no-knock home visit about why filling out a proper 1040-DK Schedule FIS is important. I’m sure it’s a mistake he won’t make again.

6: Downstairs, I encounter Agent Black and Captain Carnage discussing female-mammals. For reasons unclear to me, talking about mammalian matters makes Agent Black pathologically forgetful. Unsurprisingly, as soon as he sees me, Black mentions that he’s forgotten his ammo. When I offer to go find some for him, he smiles. (I’m so helpful).

6:30– I come back with the ammo, but Black’s gone. (Mammals). I’ll find him later.

7– As part of the ongoing Friendly Skies program, I get a free ticket to New York. Having a uniformed federal agent on a plane tends to terrify mammals, so I just told anyone within earshot that I was just scamming a first-class ticket. That calms them down considerably. (Mammals).

7:45– Mike is also on the plane with me! He is conspicuously surly and says that “I’m going to carpet-bomb your neural nodes if you ask about the Gators game again.” I don’t remember having spoken to the mind-wiper earlier today. I decide that until Mike gets unsurly, he doesn’t deserve to talk about the Gators.

8– On my way to the office, I stumble upon two gunmen attempting to rob a Caribou Coffee. They are not successful.

8:05– Waiting for NYPD.

8:10– Still waiting.

8:15– I assume that I’ll be here a while. I ask the cashier which species of caribou they have on hand. I’m especially partial to Rocky Mountain caribou, but even Alaskan elk are better than whatever else you can find in New York.

8:17– The cashier admits to me that Caribou Coffee does not actually sell caribou. I make a note to inform the Better Business Bureau of bait-and-switch advertising– they lure in unsuspecting customers with promises of caribou and then sell them coffee instead. (Mammals). Two NYPD officers walk in; I trust that they will take care of this criminal cesspool of deception and lies.

8:45– I reach the local police station and start filling out paperwork related to the coffeeshop arrest.

10– Still paperworking.

10:30– A detective asks me if I’d like some coffee or something. Unless coffee means caribou, no.

10:45– A captain interrupts me. Space slugs are clogging the Hudson again. I tell him that I’m still doing paperwork, but he calls my bluff by offering to handle the paperwork himself. I ask which way it is to the Hudson.

10:55—Goddamn. This was a new suit.

11: I walk down to the Office’s New York branch. Raul, our lobby guard, starts quizzing me with questions designed to weed out potential shapeshifters.

11:05: “Raul, I am coated in slug slime. Let me in immediately or you will regret it. “What does the 5th amendment say, sir?” “Here’s the abridged version. No person shall be deprived of life or limb without due process of law. Without due process, Raul.” He lets me in.

11:45– Still showering.

12 PM: The University of Florida calls. They want help creating a tagline for Albert the Florida Gator’s new clothing line. They like “Prepare to Get Swamped” but think that “Chomping Your Ass Since 1908” sends mixed messages.

12:15: They don’t like “Be a Gator, Not a Hater” either.

12:30—I walk down to the cafeteria and find… Agent Black! I hand him his ammo. He gives me a confused look. He has not only forgotten his ammo, he has forgotten that he has forgotten it. I swear! He’d forget his tail if he had one.

12:35—“He’d forget his tail if he had one.” Aha! I’ve stumbled onto the reason that Agent Black doesn’t have one.

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Jan 30 2008

Community Guidelines

Published by under Superhero Nation

Hello. Are you interested in getting professionally published?  We’d love to look at your work, but please keep these guidelines in mind.

  1. Writing talent is not required, but a good writing attitude is.  Please don’t get defensive or angry about comments you receive.  Apply what you want and move on.
  2. If your post is longer than 500 words, please try your best at spelling, grammar and punctuation.  If we’ve done multiple revisions of your work and yer stil wriing lyk ths, we’re probably going to move on to prospective authors with more potential.   At that point, I would suggest taking a basic writing class or hiring a book-doctor.  (At $10-12 per hour, I’m a distinctly cheap book-doctor and Cadet Davis charges about $15-20).
  3. We have a fast turnaround time, usually about a day.  If no one responds within a day, feel free to leave a reminder post.  Please don’t leave more than one reminder a day.

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Jan 30 2008

You know things are bad when…

Published by under Comedy

the one person that has ever gotten to Superhero Nation by searching for Human Resources superheroes bounces.

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Jan 30 2008

Jeopardy!

Published by under Jacob Mallow

I just took the Jeopardy test. I don’t think that I did well enough, but I did better than what I imagine was an abysmal performance last year. There was one science question (“this plant reaction rhymes with soto-synthesis”). The many questions on literature, the theater and movies were the trivia equivalent of a kick in the teeth.

Americans living west of the eastern time zone can participate on Wednesday and Thursday. Central/Mountain states at Wednesday at 8:00 PM CST/7:00 PM MST and Pacific Coast states (including Alaska and Hawaii) on Thursday 8:00PM PST.

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Jan 29 2008

Quote of the Day (1/14/08)

Agent Orange: This has been troubling me for weeks: humans are obviously tail-deficient but claim to have a “tailbone.” Why is that?

Agent Black: Beats me. Whenever something about mutated alligators confuses me, it’s usually just because we’re hundreds of millions of years ahead of you evolutionarily.

Orange: …!

Orange: Tails are really useful. You’re jealous you don’t have one.

Black: Quoteth Calvin to Hobbes: they’re neckties for the ass.

Orange: Neckties that can strangle someone, an important distinction.

Black: I’m sure there’s scientists somewhere that deal with random shit like this. Just call one of them. And, while you’re at it, a psychiatrist.

The next day

Orange: Reptologists are friendly and helpful, like their area of research. They can answer any reptilian question, like why crocodiles are alligator-rejects.

Black: I thought your question was about humans.

Orange: I’m getting to that! I called several mammologists and I’ve concluded that mammologists are part of a vast conspiracy to conceal the truth about mammalian “tailbones” from reptiles.

Black: …

Black: They obviously didn’t do such a good job concealing the truth if you uncovered it anyway.

Orange: I was far too clever for them. I asked one what mammalogists were good for besides wasting oxygen and she blabbered about providing “mammo-grams.” That response was so inane that I knew right then it was an attempt at deception.

Black: Uhh, a mammogram is

Orange: Not merely a unit of mass, it’s British mass. And the problem here is not that I have too little mammalian mass (British or otherwise) but rather that humans have a dishonestly marketed bone. Perhaps if y’all got a few repto-grams, you might have a real tailbone.

Captain Carnage walks in.

Captain Carnage: Am I interrupting something?

Black: No, I think it’s almost over.

Orange: Yours is a very wacky species.

No responses yet

Jan 29 2008

Story of the Day: Stingy College Students

Published by under Comedy

I attend a university whose many strengths definitely do not include a high wealth-to-tipping ratio. How stingy are students here?

Six strangers got into a van from the airport to campus. It cost $3 each. We all handed over a $5. Four people asked for a dollar back. I was really taken aback by that outlandish pettiness, so I handed over a $10 and took no change back, more to make them feel bad about themselves than because I’m innately generous.  After I tipped, two of them asked for another dollar back.

Understandably, few cabbies do the airport-to-campus line, even though the trainstop there produces a lot of cab passengers. So there’s often some jostling to get to the cabs. I’m not much of a jostler– my bag is heavy as hell– so I didn’t even try to go for the first wave of cabs.

One of the cabs started to drive away, jerked suddenly and pulled a 180 degree turn.

The cabbie rolled down his window, pointed wildly and screamed “YOU!” Then he made the girl in the passenger seat get out to make room.

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Jan 29 2008

Heroes got sued

Published by under Commentary,Heroes

The gist of the lawsuit is that Heroes supposedly ripped off a preexisting plotline that where an artist painted the future and included the (possible) destruction of two New York City landmarks.

If this lawsuit works out, I’m going to sue every romance publisher because they’ve all ripped off a story I wrote last year where a guy and a girl struggle through adversity and finally get together.

(Wait a minute…)

I’m not sure I can think of a superhero story set in the real world where a New York landmark isn’t endangered. In fact, superhero stories are probably more likely to endanger NYC landmarks than romances are to show guys and girls getting together, because some romances are tragedies).

As as for the supposed ripping-off of a superpower (painting the future), again pretty much every superpower is a direct and blatant ripoff of something that’s already been used. Some of the superpowers used on Heroes are…

  1. Superstrength

  2. Regeneration

  3. Flying

  4. Mind-reading

  5. Time-travel

Groundbreaking stuff there!

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Jan 28 2008

Deadline! Deadline!

Published by under Journalism

The lede for my article today is “Notre Dame has many Resident Assistants, but very few that can make a defensive tackle cry.”  (Our dorm pet was, for some reason, listed in the directory as an RA.  Unfortunately, he recently passed away and I’m writing an article on him).

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Jan 28 2008

Overheard at the Sports Desk

Published by under Comedy,Commentary,Sports

The [NY] Knicks need to let Isiah Thomas go. To quote Ozzy Ozbourne, the Knicks have been “going off the rails on a crazy train” for the past four years, and Thomas is the conductor. It’s time to cut this ride short.

–Mr. Andrews

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Jan 28 2008

Scenelet of the Day

Agent Orange and Agent Black step onto an elevator in the lobby.

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Jan 28 2008

Seen Online

I got a kick out of this quote.

“A few years back, I suggested a new rule that no male writer should be allowed to write a female protagonist unless he had dated a woman at least once in his life.”

That’s fine, but that’s probably why there are so few (clothed) females in comic books.

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Jan 28 2008

Comic Book Glossary

This is a glossary of terms related to comic books. (See the Superhero Nation-specific glossary here).

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Jan 27 2008

Nooooooo!

Published by under Agent Orange,Comedy,Guns

Sigh. Apparently the Office of Special Investigation’s Agent Orange is not the only federally employed Agent Orange. It appears the FBI also has one. The OSI’s Agent Orange, the free-wheeling reptile, has more.

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Jan 27 2008

Why Gators and Myspace weren’t meant to mix

Published by under Art,Comedy

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Jan 26 2008

The next time someone says…

Published by under Comedy

“who do you think you are?”, slit your eyes at him and announce that you’re Batman.  It works every time.

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Jan 26 2008

Wait a minute! (Story generators make me feel stupid)

 

I’ve been using some random story generators. Usually I like laughing at how strange these get, but almost invariably I get something that’s uncannily like my writing and it makes me feel bad. The worst is that it usually starts off far enough away that you can laugh at it, but then it inches more and more towards Superhero Nation.

 

The story is about a secret agent who is in debt to an artificial life form. It starts in a large nation on a war-scarred planet. The story begins with someone giving a test and ends with smuggling. The side effects of faster-than-light travel play a major role in the story.

 

This is an action adventure. The story is about a crazed football fan who is actually an alien entity. It starts on a dying planet. The issues surrounding first-contact with an alien species is a major element of the story.

The story is a screwball comedy about a secret agent who is best friends with an investor. It starts in a solar-system-spanning nation. The effect of technology on humanity is a major element of the story.

This is a tale about confusion. The story is about a lawman. It takes place in a global empire [hey!]. The story begins with someone questioning authority.

 

This is a story about questing. The story is about a starship security agent and a dispirited CFO [close enough]. It starts in a solar-system-spanning technocracy. The story ends with someone writing a book.

 

Writing Challenge Generators

 

The story is set in a ghetto. The story takes place ten years in the past. The story must have a drug cartel involved in the middle. The story must have a cube appear in the end. A character robs someone.

(What do you think this is, Everybody Dies?).

 

Character Generators

 

Note: not all of these are gramatically correct. Deal with it!

 

The upper-class fop is on the run from a government conspiracy run by wacky but innocent football players. [Lash].

 

The rare good member of an otherwise irredeemably violent race somehow manages to be a superhero. [Agent Orange]

 

The morally ambiguous brilliant scientist is driven insane by their strange powers and needs a friendly alien to find meaning. [Jacob Mallow]

 

The wacky yet emotionally detached chemist who is given superhuman powers in an illegal scientific experiment and is just this side of crazy [Dr. Berkeley/Catastrophe]

 

The philosopher is a secret horror in the shadows of society that works as an assassin against The Man. [Gigas]

 

The loveable cop meddles in things Man was not meant to know. [Agent Black]

 

The gung-ho military officer is forced by a government conspiracy to only pretend to be incompetent. [Captain Carnage]

 

The beautiful nerd girl no one notices because she has glasses who is a softy at heart and whose scientific endeavors have guided the heroes on their quest with weapons of mass destruction. [Dr. Darpa]

 

 

The friendly bureaucrat acts as an assassin against the forces of darkness. [Nope. But I’m thinking about it now.]

 

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Jan 26 2008

Name Generators

Published by under Art,Comedy,Superhero Nation

I came across the Dragon Name Generator. You type in a name and it gives you a “totally original name.” I typed in Agent Orange and got (I kid you not) Bucky the Flaming. Agent Orange responds.

 

&*(# you and your Wisconsin football too. I’ll give you flaming Bucky.

 

There are many things we can say about Wisconsin football… none of them publishable

 

“He was like that when I found him, officer.”

Any “Dragon Name Generator” that gives overwhelmingly mammalian names like Bucky is highly dubious.

 

Then I put in “Jacob Mallow,” just for kicks. It gave me “Lady Predash the Weak.”

 

Acceptable.

 

I also approve of the Singapore Idol Stagename Generator, which turns Agent OJ into the appropriate “Quick End” and Courtney McMaster into “Empty Vessel.” However, it turns Captain Carnage into “Disco Boy.” To its credit, that is only a few letters away from the correct “Destruction Boy.”

And I also enjoyed the Science Fiction name generator, but its Alien Name Genator is awful. Its Cyberpunk feature is far superior, not least of which because it spat out Clockwork Orange once. >”-[ [ [ [ ~~~ (that’s a smiling alligator in case you couldn’t tell… nimrod).

 

One response so far

Jan 26 2008

I feel safe in New York City!

Comic book readers have often wondered what is it about New York City that causes so much bizarreness to happen there.  Superhero Nation finally answers this question by turning to the New York Historical Society.

Which leads us to our quote of the day.

 

In 1626, either the Shinnecock or Canarsee Indians sold present-day NYC, a spirit-cursed mosquito pit, to the Dutch for $24.  One of the strongest misconceptions in American history is that it was the Indians that got swindled.

— Agent Orange

No responses yet

Jan 25 2008

Quote of the Day: 1/25/08

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.
–Diogenes

Sir? I still need to see your passport.

–an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement official

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Jan 25 2008

Ninjas and Olive Garden

Published by under Comedy

I was doing a search for Smokey Bones and came across this comic devoted to Olive Garden.

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Jan 24 2008

Quote of the Day: 1/24/08

“Maybe this world is another planet’s hell.”

–Aldous Huxley

“More like our sanitarium.”

–Paingod

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Jan 23 2008

Another ESPN Sportscenter Ad

Published by under Comedy,Sports

Charlie, come out and getcha whoopin’.” Also notable for someone cheating on Mr. Met.

It’s not new age mumbo jumbo.  All of his wisdom is golf-course tested.”   Also notable for the funniest use of a prop in any television ad.

Adam Sandler’s a star now, and no one had heard of him until I beat him up in Happy Gilmore.”  Also notable for Bob Barker winning World War II.

Don’t be a lollipop.

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Jan 23 2008

Quote of the Day: 1/23/08

A tree’s a tree. How many more do you need to look at?

–Ronald Reagan

Ohio and Stanford’s trees play football. About as well as you’d expect, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

–Agent Orange

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Jan 23 2008

Alligator Fact and Fiction

Our resident mutated alligator, Agent Orange, offers this look into the brutally competitive world of reptology.

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Jan 23 2008

Crikey!

Published by under Comedy,Football

I came across this ESPN commercial featuring a brawl between Steve Irwin and a certain Florida football mascot. It’s reasonably hilarious. Unsurprisingly, Albert the Florida Gator puts the screws to him in ~5 seconds.

Speaking of AFG, he has his own Myspace page.  Incidentally, Albert and his long-time mistress Alberta can be hired out for private events. Understandably, AFG doesn’t come cheap. Even his gesture gets its own Wikipedia page. Hell. Alberta costs $250 an hour. Speaking of the Gator Chomp, see also The Curse of the Gator Chomp, inflicted on players that mock the Gator Gods at their own peril. Sebastian “Worst First Round Draft Pick” Janikowski has never been the same.

Speaking of Gator Haters, we have this amusingly depraved comparison of Gator pep rallies to Nazi events.

At Florida, even mammals get in on the fun

Remember, it’s not a real party unless there are muzzles and reptiles in t-shirts.

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Jan 21 2008

Extra Quote of the Day

“The king died and then the queen died” is a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot.
E. M. Forster

“If you think ‘the queen died of grief’ is a plot, you wouldn’t last ten seconds in Surf City. The Queen iced her husband to claim control of the underworld. And now she’s got a deathray, probably pointed at a city Americans care about or Paris. That’s a plot.

–Captain Carnage

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Jan 20 2008

The Narrator Did Nothing to Deserve This! (Don’t Screw the Salaryman)

Published by under Comedy

On a whim, I was thinking about downloading the pilot to Bleach, which is a ghosts-and-spirits anime series, on Amazon.com.  (It’s free).  Some quick observations:

  1. The preview sounded bad.  I decided not to download a free episode.
  2. The preview sounded so bad that I actually felt bad for the announcer/narrator, who had to use his Always-Excited Announcer/Narrator voice to deliver lines like “But when she touches him with her sword, Ichigo absorbs most of her power and he too be-comes a Soul Reaver.”  The narrator gamely tried his best to put an unusual inflection on random words, to distract us from how inane the plot sounds, but you can tell.  You can tell that he was really thinking “Sweet Christ, even the Sarah Connor Chronicles wasn’t this bad.”

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Jan 20 2008

Quote Set of the Day (January 20)

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.

–Friedrich Nietzsche

I save the day by wasting many, proving reptilian awesomeness. There, I only needed ten words.

–Agent Orange

You’re despicable.

–The Superhero Nation writing staff

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Jan 20 2008

Go figure

Published by under Superhero Nation

Today, the two cities leading the Superhero Nation readership board (in terms of total time spent reading today) are both named London.

And Texas claims the top spot among the states for individual hits today. Previously, only California, Indiana and Illinois have seized a day.  (Most of SN’s contributors are Midwestern, so networking goes farther there).

Speaking of SN contributors, Gainsville, FL has the longest average reader time today. Mutated alligators everywhere thank you for your support and hope to see you at the games next season.

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Jan 20 2008

Common Superpower Problems

If you’re writing a superhero story, don’t let your superpowers fall into these traps.

1. The hero’s powers can’t be used creatively. Readers really want to be surprised, so it’s very important that the powers be versatile. If your character is only superstrong, you can only surprise them by using different things as weapons.  That gets tedious fast. (Watch a Superman or Dragon Ball Z fight scene). Test your superhero against some of these situations. Can he get through them in an unexpected way?

  • Distracting a guard.  (Cliche:  mental control, illusions and possibly telekinesis).
  • Nonviolently subduing a guard or cop (cliche:  mental control and/or hypnosis).
  • Preventing a building from falling (cliche:  superstrength, telekinesis).
  • Getting past a locked door (cliche:  teleportation, phasing, lockpicks, blowing open the wall).
  • Finding a password (cliche: anything electronic or electrical, beating it out of a bad guy).

2. The character’s limits are hard to grasp. In Heroes, a head wound will permanently kill the regenerating heroes, but a nuclear explosion won’t.  Huh?

3. The character’s strength fluctuates arbitrarily. Most Superman cartoons feature two battles. Superman will lose the first bout (to raise the stakes) but he’ll win the second.  He hasn’t gotten any stronger, so why does he wins the second time? That usually feels unsatisfying.

4. The superpowers are hard to understand. Ideally, you can explain each hero’s powers in a brief sentence.  “He has spider-powers, like slinging webs and climbing and sensing danger” is OK.  “She can control the weather” is even better.  Please stay away from heroes that have many unrelated superpowers.  What’s the connection between eye-beams, cold breath, flight, superstrength and x-ray vision?  It sort of works for Superman because readers are exposed to him, but it is likely to ruin a superhero story that is completely new to its readers.

5. He’s overpowered. Superman is the best example of this. He can only have interesting fights with supervillains. (Theoretically, he could fight thugs armed with kryptonite, but Superman limping around isn’t much of a fight). If your character is completely immune to bullets and other common weapons, it will be hard for you to challenge him.  Also, humans are vulnerable and we relate more to (somewhat) vulnerable heroes.

6. The hero’s superpowers ruin the drama. In particular, time travel, reading minds, erasing memories, and resurrection are particularly bad here.

  • Time travel:  if your hero can undo anything bad that happens, nothing will ever be dramatic.  “Why doesn’t he just go back in time?”
  • Reading minds: surprise, suspicion and uncertainty are all dramatic.  A story about a psychic is all-but-unable to use any of them.  (To some extent, lie-detection suffers from a similar problem).
  • Erasing memories:  this is probably the lamest way to protect a secret identity.  It will also confuse readers because we can’t keep track of who actually remembers what.
  • Resurrection:  if someone can bring people back from the dead, death will become banal and the action will suffer.  “He died, big deal.  Why don’t they just bring him back?”  This is almost as serious as time-travel.

Did you like this article? If so, please do me a favor and share it on Stumble.

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