Recently, a short story I wrote was accepted into an anthology which will be published by Damnation Books in March. Entitled Corrupts Absolutely? and edited by Lincoln Crisler , the concept was just too awesome to pass up. Based on the famous quote from Lord Acton concerning absolute power corrupting absolutely, the stories in this book explore what would happen if every day people found themselves in possession of superhuman abilities. The characters in these stories aren’t necessarily altruistic souls inspired by an unswerving belief in write and wrong; these characters are haunted and damaged, beautiful losers who struggle with the same dilemmas many of us do in our daily lives. It was meant to show a more realistic view, in my opinion, of metahumans and exactly what they might do with their powers.
It was also the perfect avenue for an idea that had been rolling around in my head since six months or so prior to the call for submissions. Life in comics is usually pretty balanced with things coming in pairs: you have your hero and their secret identity, a power offset by a weakness… and, of course, you have your supervillains. In the real world, there’s really no such thing as a supervillain. People rob gas stations, they rape and mug, and some really do see crime as a viable way to make a living. Yet even with organized crime, the mastermind at the top of the food chain is just some guy trying to turn a buck. He doesn’t give a damn about world domination and is content with the power associated with his position.
This is one of the themes I explored in my short story, Mental Man. In a lot of ways, media dictates how people live their lives. A celebrity wears a dress from a previously unheard of designer and suddenly that line is all the rage; advertisements tell us what’s "cool", what we can’t possibly live without, and the public responds accordingly. Book, film, and restaurant reviews influence what people read, watch, and even eat. In light of this, I thought, someone would superhuman powers might look for guidance in the only place they really could: comic books. And comic books dictate the world follows Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every superhero, there is a supervillain.
So what exactly would happen if that variable were removed? If there was no yin to the hero’s yang, so to speak. In our daily lives, many of us already feel as though our talents are being wasted or that we’re not living up to our full potential. To someone with metahuman powers, solving common crimes would be like completing a search-a-word puzzle in Highlights for Children when what was really craved was the New York Time’s crossword puzzle.
Corrupts Absolutely? will be available in March and I, for one, cannot wait. With contributing authors consisting of Joe McKinney, Cat Rambo, Weston Ochse, and Tim Marquitz (among others), I am in really good company with this book and am excited to see what dark avenues these other writers take their stories down.
Watch for this one, people. You won’t be disappointed.