Jan 10 2012

Kahi’s Review Forum

Published by at 10:14 pm under Review Forums

Kahi: “At the moment, [I’m writing] a novel. Its about a world where superhumans have long been the cause for conspiracy and secrecy, but have recently entered the public eye in the last decade. While the world is adjusting to these superhumans walking among them, a mutant is discovered that has the ability to sense and create oil. The governments of the world all take interest in the mutant, and are prepared to enter into another World War to have such a valuable skill on their side.”

 

Target audience: “I’m not sure what the target audience would be…I’m suspecting male teenagers would be the primary audience for this sort of thing, but there is a chance that an older audience might find it interesting, as well as a female audience.”

 

“’Don’t sugar-coat your advice, but please try to be polite.’ While this is my first time posting something like this on an open forum, I really want to know what others think about this premise/idea.”

17 responses so far

17 Responses to “Kahi’s Review Forum”

  1. B. McKenzieon 10 Jan 2012 at 10:16 pm

    The idea sounds interesting. The (main?) character’s superpowers are more of a MacGuffin than something that would be hugely helpful in a particular battle. I’m intrigued by the premise, although the characterization is a bit of an enigma at this point.

  2. Cuddleson 10 Jan 2012 at 10:28 pm

    I like this idea a lot. Especially if your protagonist (male or female? name? codename?) is the one who can generate oil. I could imagine the character using the power (generating oil; I’m not sure how useful it is to “sense oil” if you can materialize it) in a lot of different ways, beyond lighting stuff on fire (blinding people, forcing them to inhale it and causing brain damage, etc.).

    I also like the idea of metahumans as “coming out” to the world, because it’s a nice way of splitting the difference between an alternate history where superheroes have effected the world in the past and a world like our own suddenly forced to deal with these superpowerful new people.

    And then there’s the fact that you could give this a bamf title like Petrolkinesis or something. In any case, what kind of plot structure are you thinking about? Do you have any other characters? Details! Details!

  3. Wingson 11 Jan 2012 at 9:44 am

    I really like this ability and the repercussions it has on the universe. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this novel.

    – Wings

  4. Kahion 11 Jan 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Sorry about the lack of details; I was trying to condense the entirety of the plot into a few sentences and that was the most I could condense it into.

    The more detailed story is this:

    A fifteen-year-old boy (his name is a placeholder at this point, but lets call him “Nicholas” for the time being) discovers that he’s a mutant when his powers manifest in the middle of his classroom. The boy is caught on tape with one of the student’s iPhones, and the the resulting YouTube video goes viral, altering his presence to many people around the globe.

    With the oil market being such a valuable resource, people start calling him the “Miracle Child” with the hopes that his powers can help America have a huge advantage over the rest of the world in the oil market and perhaps bring it out of the recession. This is made more clear when the boy naively remarks on live television a while later that he can in fact sense oil as a byproduct of his abilities.

    However, the other countries of the world don’t want to see their markets go down, as America is a very high paying customer and if they have their own resource, not only will they lose a tremendous amount of profit, they will also have a large competitor that has a tremendous advantage over what they can accomplish.

    At the following United Nations meeting, the other nations argue that the Nicholas and his powers should belong to the world instead of just to the United States. They state that such a powerful asset cannot be handled by one country alone, and that Nicholas should instead be used to help the world as a whole. The United States counter that he is a US Citizen and rightfully belongs to them. They state that they see it in their best interest to not only sustain his rights as a human being, but to make sure that he isn’t taken advantage of by some other country. Things start reaching a fever pitch, and there is rumor that a war will break out if the mutant isn’t handed over to them.

    To make matters worse, terrorists have sent a message to the United States government threatening another attack like 9/11 if Nicholas isn’t handed over to them. The resulting backlash makes life more miserable for him, as people start debating if it is worth the lives that could be lost by this attack to save this human child.

    To protect him, Nicholas is shipped over to the primary superhuman detention center, otherwise known to the general public as Area 51. Here, he is guarded alongside several other superhumans that the government have taken into protective custody.

    That’s mostly the background for the story itself. The focus on the novel, while dwelling on these current events, is really based on Nicholas and how he views this happenstance on his life. He’s become the world’s most sought-after mutant overnight, and he knows deep down that all the flowery words about him being used to “help the entire world” or his country’s insistence on “upholding his rights as an American citizen” are really just dwelling on how he can help their country instead of him as a person. Or in other words, everyone views his powers as more important than himself.

    Its not exactly the sort of the usual “superpowers make my life miserable” angst that a lot of teen superheroes typically go through. Nicholas doesn’t really mind his powers as much as he minds the attention its given him. The fact that World War III might start just because of what he is weighs pretty hard on him, but he can’t really do anything about it. Its beyond his power to change, but what happens will have a large impact on his life anyways.

    Anyhow, the plot then goes underway when a group of superhuman mercenaries attack the Area 51 base and try to kidnap Nicholas. He escapes with help from several other detainees, but is forced on the run, especially since the United States finally makes the decision to hand him over to the Nato.

    That’s the general gist of the story so far, so any thoughts or comments would be pretty helpful.

    @BMac: True, I didn’t think about it about mostly being a MacGuffin before. Is there a way I can avert that, or is it something I can still work with? Also, the characterization is one of the things I was having trouble with initially; I’ve been reading this site for a long while and came up with some things, but I wasn’t exactly sure where to go with it. I’ll post what I have later on.

    @Cuddles: Thanks for the comments. Though there have been a few instances of superhuman activity in the past of this universe, they have all be covered up and in fact are the reason several conspiracy theories exist today (i.e. Area 51). The superheroes have only come into the public eye since 1998, although they really grew in number after 9/11. The title name especially is great, and I hadn’t thought of inhalation as a means of power usage yet. Great ideas, I’ll be sure to use them.

    @Wings: Thanks.

    KH

  5. Milanon 11 Jan 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Kahi,

    I love the premise, the super-power of producing oil. It would be truly a McGuffin if it was “producing energy”, since he could perhaps be simply plugged into the grid. Oil is a much more complicated item. The USA consumes around 20 million barrels of oil per day, around a quarter of the world’s total. If the hero is generating volumes of this magnitude then it could get messy… you could have conflicts tied into many themes that already play around the oil industry today. Is this oil additional, or being sucked from existing reserves around the planet? What does OPEC think of this? Will he contribute to global warming? Does he care? Perhaps he is pulling out the oil that always gets left behind underground, ‘recovery factor’ for oil in place is typically around 25%. If he pulls it all out he could be quadrupling the world’s oil resources. Crude oil (even refined oil) is quite toxic, so many ways that could impact the story on a personal level. By looking at the nature of oil, the power could easily be more than a McGuffin.

    I love this because my own attempts to write are exploring the impact of a personal super-power with global influence, so I see all kinds of wonderful complications. Some sort of theme of turning a world issue into an individual’s issue, for the individual to decide. I hope he’d get it wrong before he gets it right 🙂

  6. Anonymouson 12 Jan 2012 at 7:21 am

    You have said what the various governments want to do with Nicholas’s powers, but what does he want to do with them?

  7. Kahion 12 Jan 2012 at 11:33 pm

    @Milan: Thanks tremendously for all those good suggestions and facts; I’ll be sure to take them into account. Honestly, I never really thought all that much about where the oil itself was coming from, and that suggestion about the “recovery factor” was really helpful with all that.

    To answer your questions, OPEC, at the moment, is afraid of losing even more of the market share that they already have. I was originally planning to have one of the mercenary units be traced back to it in some way in order to have more realism, but I figured that it would be risky at best if this actually, by some happenstance miracle, ever got published.

    Global warming’s a bit of an interesting topic: Nicholas’s initial view of the whole thing was more of a “out of sight, out of mind” view. It does get brought up to him later on, and although he does contemplate if it does, he doesn’t really worry about it all to much. Before this happened, he was getting kind of sick of hearing about it so much in the news and at school, and he privately thought that it’s more exaggerated than people make it out to be, so when it turns out he might directly affect it, he does think about it for a bit, but then resolves to just use his powers anyways.

    Hmm…on your comment about the oil being toxic effecting him on a personal level: do you mind clarifying a bit about that? I sort of have an idea of where you’re going with it, but I’d like to make sure.

    Again, thanks for the comments and suggestions, I really appreciate it.

    @Anonymous: Nicholas’s motivation isn’t too clearly defined in his mind. The world he lives in isn’t as superhuman-paranoid as, say, the Marvel Universe is to the X-Men/mutants, so he isn’t completely ridiculed or rejected for having powers persay. While he does catch flak later for the whole “World War III / 9/11 2.0” thing, people with powers aren’t really treated as outcasts or anything. He’s a bit of a showoff, so that’s probably what he’d do with his powers if none of the media attention happened. Just get more popular in school and the like.

    Once he does get to be famous, though, things change a bit. At first, he wants to use it to run his own oil company or something of the sort and make some money off it, but after he sees the controversy he’s caused, he really just wants to back away. All the media coverage, while he enjoyed it for making him popular in the first place, starts to go sour on him and he begins to resent that he ever got so popular in the first place.

    What he basically wants to do is just make everybody forget this ever happened, or go back to the time where he actually was famous and popular. Maybe finish school and make some money by generating some oil here and there, but not be the center of attention in such a negative way as he is now.

    On another note, does someone know of any other noun/synonym for “superhuman” that I can use? “Superhuman” sounds a little ehh to me, really. Something like “metahuman” or the like…

  8. Wolfdude131on 13 Jan 2012 at 1:09 am

    I’ve heard Metahuman used a lot. I’m sure Homo Superior is copyrighted.

    Maybe some sland terms, like Capes, Supes, and stuff like that… but it prolly wouldnt apply here because he isnt a hero.

    I figure most people would use Superhuman because its common in our day and age, but in a world where a whole lot of people have powers, it might be offensive to those without by subtly saying they’re not as great.

    I’d go with MetaHuman, or just Mets/Metas for slang.

    Or you could do a different take and call them Omegas?

  9. Milanon 14 Jan 2012 at 9:50 am

    Hi Kali,

    The toxic aspect might be like Cuddles describes, the affects of petrol sniffing, or more serious sickness from ingesting, eg. if a place is flooded with oil. Oil has lots of toxic compounds like benzenes (and other aromatic compounds) that have short term and long term effects that are bad.

    It’s not clear yet how Nicholas manifests the oil. But I thought – if for instance he can spray oil from his hand, like a firehose, then a firehose generates up to 300 gallons per minute. That is around 7 barrels. So the firehose effect would take 2,000 days continuously to generate the daily consumption of the USA. In order to significantly impact the world oil scene, the power would need to scale way beyond the firehose. Perhaps by being duplicated, or by being like 2,000 firehoses (gulp) or by mobilizing oil, which can then be produced conventionally (taking advantage only of improved recovery). A kind of catalyst.

    Superdudes could be referred to more mystically, as Enigmas or Phenoms, obtusely as Specialists, or really anything that ties into how they got their powers, if people knew. A word that conjures up distrust, if desired, or heroics. Guardians, Saviours, Messiahs, Prophets… them’s loaded words!

  10. B. McKenzieon 15 Jan 2012 at 1:09 pm

    “It’s not clear yet how Nicholas manifests the oil. But I thought – if for instance he can spray oil from his hand, like a firehose, then a firehose generates up to 300 gallons per minute. That is around 7 barrels. So the firehose effect would take 2,000 days continuously to generate the daily consumption of the USA. In order to significantly impact the world oil scene, the power would need to scale way beyond the firehose.”

    One possibility is that the key aspect of his power is the ability to find and/or extract huge deposits of shale oil much more easily than we can do with current technology. Currently, the world is estimated to have something like 1.3 trillion barrels of oil in reserve, but there are another ~3 trillion barrels of shale oil. The problem is that extracting shale oil is phenomenally messy and costs much more to extract than oil does. Maybe he has an ability to get shale deposits out much more easily than current technology can? Oh, by the way, about 62% of the world’s 3 trillion barrels of shale oil are on American territory and most of that is on land already owned by the federal government. The U.S. is sitting on at least 7 Saudi Arabias worth of shale oil (maybe more depending on how much Saudi oil reserve calculations are politically inflated). I could imagine that the U.S. would be helluva interested to see if this kid had any chance of making it substantially easier and/or cleaner to extract shale oil. Russia and Brazil also have a lot to gain if they could get the kid on board. Ecoterrorists and/or terrorists funded by traditional oil producers (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, etc) would have a huge vested interest in killing him off before he could do so.

  11. Cuddleson 16 Jan 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Kahi, I would not worry about the whole MacGuffin thing if I were you, because I feel like your idea is atypical enough to successfully subvert the trope. Specifically, your approach is unique because rather than focusing on the MacGuffin as just an object to be attained and used (a la Lord of the Rings or any Indiana Jones film), you have the MacGuffin as a character, which is much more interesting, carrying much more immediacy and dramatic tension than the former model.

    Also, you might want to look at the Marvel school of assigning superpowers, particularly in terms of assigning weird side-effects and limitations of the power. The idea of pressurizing the petrolkinesis like a firehose is an especially brilliant idea…particularly if your protagonist finds a blowtorch somewhere along the way (make it happen!).

    Another note on names: I’m not sure if this sounds too punny to you (my personal aesthetics happen to be very pulpy), but you should at least check out variations of the name Peter (Petro, Pietro, Pedro, Petrus, et cetera [Wikipedia has a huge list of these]) because they kind of sound like Petrol and could establish natural mnemonic recognition in the reader in a more or less subtle fashion.

  12. Cuddleson 16 Jan 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Question: By “oil” do you mean crude oil or gasoline? This is important because if you writing a car chase scene and it was crude oil, your protag could either create an oil slick or just use it to black out the windshield of the pursuing vehicle. On the other hand, if he produced gasoline, he would not only be even more desirable to those who want to use him as a natural resource, but he would also represent the possibility of rendering the entire refinement industry obsolete.

    His abilities would also represent an increased reliance on fossil fuels (as opposed to cleaner energy), so the ecoterrorist angle would also be extremely awesome.

    However, the idea of guys like Al Qaeda wanting the protagonist would be a bit less feasible because people like them probably deal more with weapons and explosives than fossil fuels. Aside from using the fuel themselves, they might not be able to get as much use out of him because it would most likely involve trade and there is not quite as much of a natural resources market for international terrorists (because no one likes them).

  13. B. McKenzieon 16 Jan 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I agree that a terrorist organization probably wouldn’t care all that much about having him on board (although some relatively dumb terrorists might think he’d make a great human shield). However, an oil-producing state that funded the terrorist might. If a terrorist decided to kill the kid and/or kidnap him, I assume it’d be because a country or a major nongovernmental actor (like an oil baron or an environmentalist) was giving the orders/money.

  14. Linebylineon 17 Jan 2012 at 3:28 pm

    First-time SN commenter and (as of yet) non-writer here, so get your grains of salt ready.

    Question: Can he cause oil to move, or just cause it to appear? If he has a sort of telekinesis over oil, then the whole concept of yanking oil out of shale deposits like B. McKenzie mentioned would really take off. (I think there are also oil sands that present similar problems.)

    Even if that telekinesis only works on oil he’s created, that gives him basically a whole secondary superpower in the ability just to manifest objects (made of oil) and move them around. That can get rather overpowered if you let it; I’d impose some limitations (e.g. he can’t make a giant hand out of oil and grab people because his telekinesis can’t make the oil solid enough to hold on).

    If he doesn’t have such a power, that might fit better with your idea of the primary conflict being over the oil market and world politics (rather than regular superhero stuff but with an oil theme). On the other hand, it means he wouldn’t be much help getting oil other than by just locating it, which doesn’t make the shale oil any more usable.

    Another question: When he creates oil, does he materialize it from nothing, or does he transmute other matter into oil? If he secretes it from his body somehow, that’s not really a third option: Either he creates it from nothing but the point of origin is on/in his body, or he is transforming something in his body (either matter or energy) into oil.

    The latter case would make for a rather lame power if you adhere to conservation of mass/energy, but you could be looser with it and just say he can only create oil on a full stomach, or it makes him tired, or something like that. It also opens up opportunities for problems to occur if he overuses his power, e.g. if his body starts eating itself to produce more oil.

    Just a few more things to think about, really. I’m not trying to suggest sweeping changes to your plot or anything.

    Sounds interesting so far. Good luck!

  15. B. Macon 17 Jan 2012 at 6:59 pm

    The idea of telekinesis that only works on oil sounds very interesting. The only red flag that comes to mind is that some authors might want to give it a cute pseudo-Latin/Greek name like petrokinesis. Please resist.

  16. Milanon 17 Jan 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Fuelmancy! Gasolimning! Hydrocarbitration! Oilbender!

    Ooh… Oilbender.

    But in any case, I think the plot should come first and the power be designed to accommodate. Even if Nicholas only generates small amounts of oil by whatever means furthers the plot, Baddies™ can be prone to hyperobolae. And plain old lying, which could complicate your plot lots of ways.

    “Sure, he only filled a gas tank, but what if we gave him a REALLY big gas tank?”

    “Who ever heard of ‘Small Oil’? This is gonna be huge!”

  17. RandomGirlon 19 Jan 2012 at 12:25 am

    Well. while everyone (and I) are interested in your oil-manipulator, I’m curious about thos other detainees that escape with “Nicholas”.
    Do any stay with him to try and give him advice for his powers, protect him, or maybe manipulate him for their own ends?

    How long was he in Area 51 and was it long enough that he develop any sort of relationship with other ‘powered people?
    This would be good to develop any detainees that fit the previous question, but also to affect his POV of the world an such around and after breakout time. You need to keep in mind that a character, especially the main one, is being put through A LOT. This stresses them and changes how they think in that moment. “Nicholas” might be a rather calm person (as I got from your plot and story basis), if slightly nervous over the whole people-and-countries-want-me-either-dead-or-their-little-oil-puppet thing, as say an average of his emotions, but given the situation you’ve put him in, if he does act like this, the reading won’t be that interesting.

    Is this going to end up being a Tour-de-America type story or more a proper cat and mouse game through towns, cities and suburbs as “Nicholas” tries to stay alive and with some amount of freedom?
    Again, the stresses thing. Travel is hard on a person and add running-for-my-life on top of it….
    Also, this could tie in to the shale oil thing if you go along with it. Area 51 might have been in a location where any oil deposites might be deep and far away, but while running, if he comes across a large shale deposit along the road (I can attest to the fact that, at least along roads in, if I remember right, Idaho, shale oil can be seen in the rocks right next to the highway) things can take a turn for the interesting for anyone behind him.

    Do any of the terrorist DO get their hands on a ‘powered person? Or even have someone join them?
    If your world is similar enough to ours, I would not be suprised if they had something like Marvel and DC for them. That can cause a few problems to how outed ‘powered people might act towards normal people. If you tell a person enough times that others will react a certain way due to something about them, the person is more likely to believe it once they start having to interact with others that bring that something out to the fore.
    Not saying have a team of super-terrorist chase after “Nicholas”, but just keep in mind other countires probably also have their Area 51 detainees (escaped or otherwise) that might be desperate for a pardon or wanting to just get back at the people that locked them up…

    Just trying to keep other story aspects from being forgotten in a round of “How Do My Powers Work!?”

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