Re: Superpowers.

1

TV Tropes has a long section on "required secondary powers." Like how Superman also has the power to make huge things not collapse under their own weight when he pulls them out of the ground.

Invisibility seems like something that really needs a lot of required secondary powers: the power to also make your clothes invisible, the power to also be invisible to cameras and infrared, the power to make people not notice it when you bump into them by accident in a big crowd... but if you really have all the secondary powers covered, using it to find out what people think of you seems far less interesting than high-stakes espionage. Selling secrets to the highest bidder sounds cool.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:07 PM
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I'm trying to remember which podcast I listen to had the "which superpower would you pick" conversation quite recently, but anyway, they made the obvious point that invisibility is a creep's superpower and that flying is totally the right answer. Or at least a much less creepy answer.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:11 PM
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The origin of the flight or invisibility thing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:12 PM
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My actual superpower is putting events in chronological order. Mostly because I find myself constantly rehearsing the order that events occurred, when daydreaming. Recently I texted a college friend because I believed her baby had been born in 2006, but that caused a whole bunch of inconsistencies, and I couldn't square that circle. I was immensely relieved to find out she was born in 2007.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:14 PM
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I don't know what it says about me that "super healing" has often seemed like the most attractive superpower -- I don't have any particular health complaints, I just feel like the ability to throw off nagging injuries and illness is something that would come up far more often than most superpowers.

But, if I had to pick a more dramatic superpower I'm sure I could do so . . .


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:14 PM
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"Ability to set worldwide labor conditions".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:15 PM
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Fantasy: send me back to 1932, and give me teleportation, with the ability to carry things. Kill or kidnap 50 people, and save 100 hundred million lives.

That's all I got. I have read enough horror stories about the personal consequences of healing power not to wish that on anybody, including myself. I guess if it was me or nobody, I'd have to take it, and do my best before I went mad and mean.

I suspect I would need a small cult-army to protect me from the rich fucks.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:16 PM
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Didn't see 5. My healing power is curing others by Touch.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:17 PM
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Oh man. In the high school essays, there were a whole bunch of people who were going to explain to Hitler or slave-owners that what they were doing made baby Jesus cry, and then a whole lotta suffering would be avoided. We kept joking that we needed an "adorable" category in the grading rubric.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:17 PM
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No one picked telekinesis? Telepathy/mind control? Super strength? Shape changing?

Disappointing.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:17 PM
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It was only about 5 students. This wasn't the essay portion.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:19 PM
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Er, 4.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:20 PM
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4 is about 5


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:22 PM
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I have an admissions committee meeting tomorrow morning. Now I'm tempted to lobby for "What's your superpower?" to be one of the interview questions.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:24 PM
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I'd most definitely go with shape shifting. I'm a bear! A walrus! A tub margarine!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:24 PM
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As someone familiar with that wonderful sound of deadlines flying by, I'd take stopping time. It has a lot of required secondary powers: time doesn't stop for me, objects somehow maintain their temperature and other usual physical properties, air remains breathable, etc. Not aging during the time-freeze would be great but not required, but lacking it means a lot of hard choices--I could spend a year on my own reading a bunch of books/write some awesome code/relax, but that's one less year of life actually lived.

(Yes, I would use what's essentially an infinite-energy device to be a slightly better middle class drone. Shut up.)


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:24 PM
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Being able to go completely without a sleep?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:25 PM
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16: There's a Nicholson Baker novel about a guy who has that power. I think he uses it to feel up women. I only read the first few pages.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:28 PM
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16 I would use what's essentially an infinite-energy device to be a slightly better middle class drone. Shut up.

I know, right? I'm thinking "I could write so many more papers!"

Maybe I want a time-turner, meaning that on this quiz, I am Hermione Granger.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:28 PM
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To have the power to give yourself any number of additional superpowers you want, obviously.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:28 PM
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Yeah, fair enough, that's probably the weakest superpower sufficient for my needs. Wouldn't be as fun, though.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:29 PM
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Stopping time would imply being able to go without sleep, since you can stop and snooze whenever you want. Stopping time would be marvelous. Be able to stop and think or rest or learn anything, or cook dinner or go jogging on demand. Does the internet work when time is stopped?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:29 PM
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Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a lot of fun, and it deals amusingly with issues of the sort that Cyrus raises in 1.

(They made a not-very-good movie of it with Chevy Chase.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:30 PM
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I don't think the obsession with secrecy and spying is just a function of being obsessed with what other people think of one; it's also a function of being, suddenly, hyperaware of how much deception and pretense there is in society and how many things that seemed one way, in childhood, are actually another, and that a lot of this seeming-ness was achieved with a lot of subterfuge, by adults. One of the marks of adorableness in little children is how they are so often guileless observers and truthtellers ("out of the mouths of babes," etc) but the flipside of that is that one of marks of growing up is learning how to be anything varying from discrete to deceptive. That's a lot of social pressure to place on a mind that still has a lot of frontal lobe development to do, and the desire to have an advantage in understanding the system is probably much more tempting when dealing with baffling systems is and overwhelming part of your "job," which, arguably, it is for teenagers "growing up." I've noticed in myself that I vacillate towards preferring such superpowers whenever I have to deal with/learn new and dysfunctional social and institutional systems, and only once I have equilibrated with them do I go back to wanting things like flying, super-human strength, super healing, under-water breathing, photographic memory, and x-ray vision. I really want the latter two b/c then I wouldn't lose things so often.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:31 PM
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Where did the "a" come from in 17? I was proofreading a letter written by a Russian guy earlier, so maybe I'm still inserting articles willy-nilly.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:31 PM
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22: Also teleportation (within the bounds of available forms of transportation). Driving down a packed highway of time-frozen cars would probably be annoying, so you might need to get a motorcycle.

Non-functioning internet and fast aging are the only weaknesses.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:32 PM
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I could spend a year on my own reading a bunch of books/write some awesome code/relax, but that's one less year of life actually lived.

Interesting. Where...ahhh

The Slackularity ...mentions the superpower of desire control. Someone reminds the commenter that Buddha invented that technology long long ago.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:33 PM
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I assume you wouldn't age while time was stopped. There's another secondary power. Because it would suck to be old and decrepit in ten years' time just because I decided to walk to work and read and sleep too much.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:34 PM
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1: what mechanism of invisibility would render you invisible to human eyes but not to cameras? (I mean, let's forget about the silliness of asking about the mechanism in the first place.) And of course you would only need to make your clothes invisible in certain climates. If you lived in La Jolla, no problem!

As far as the post, there are surely reasons to favor invisibility over flight (which also requires a host of secondary powers) other than wanting to know what other people really think about you. You could want to spy on people for voyeuristic reasons. You could want to acquire goods without paying for them—this wouldn't require you to be able to make things that you touch invisible as well, since you could just hang out somewhere until everyone else left, or something similar. You could want to find out what people or organizations think about things other than you. (Wouldn't it be great for actual spies, or investigative journalists?)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:35 PM
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The Buddha is definitely one of my top three favorite South Asian Bronze Age superheroes. Do you think he could beat up Batman?


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:35 PM
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Anyhow, invisibility is way better than flying, so much so that it's ridiculous. I would invisibly go into a bunch of corporate boardrooms and then insider trade, thus making myself a billionaire. Then, I would invisibly cause harm for my enemies. Next stop, Halfordismo. Flying gets you, I dunno, maybe some fun and you can avoid airports.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:35 PM
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I feel obligated to mention Fade, Robert Cormier's book about a kid who discovers that he can turn invisible. Those who have read I Am the Cheese or The Chocolate War will be unsurprised to learn that he does not use this power to fight crime or even have wholesome experiences that leave him feeling good about both humanity and himself.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:35 PM
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Wait, none of you watched the fine fine television show that was Out of This World, 1987-1991, where Evie did froze time routinely?


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:35 PM
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And of course you would only need to make your clothes invisible in certain climates. If you lived in La Jolla, no problem!

Please. What if I want to go jogging?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:36 PM
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30. He named his son Obstacle.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:36 PM
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The ability to return to earlier points in my life with my memory intact. You can keep your optimistic, forward-facing powers; I'm all about fighting regrets.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:37 PM
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Also, regarding no Sleep, have any of you read Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress? It really made me want to not need sleep anymore.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:37 PM
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33: Of course we did. She had to go to the roof to talk to her dad, the alien. Does that mean she thoroughly thought through all the implications?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:37 PM
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31: but also you can probably feed yourself from all the flies you'd inadvertently swallow.

I remember Out of this World!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:37 PM
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Based on 24, Ile may have already read it. Or perhaps she was Robert Cormier all along.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:38 PM
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I think I read it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:38 PM
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37 - But they get secondary powers! Needing less sleep without getting the, what, incredibly long lifespan and perfect health seems less useful. Also, as noted in the original novella, babies who don't need sleep = hell on earth.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:39 PM
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I mean Gyges' ancestor, for instance, wasn't just interested in finding out what people thought about him.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:39 PM
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Anyway, heebie's rationale for rejecting invisibility as a superpower is totes adorbs.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:40 PM
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I would invisibly go into a bunch of corporate boardrooms and then insider trade, thus making myself a billionaire.

This seems like a slow, tedious route to becoming a billionaire, if you can choose any superpower. "Now I must fly to Memphis and spend the week invisibly kibbutzing at a fracking conference." Why not choose the ability to control the stock market with your mind?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:41 PM
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Can't we just choose "being a billionaire" as our superpower?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:43 PM
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Isn't that just regular power?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:44 PM
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31:Wouldn't shape-shifting, including maybe personality and memory absorption, iow, the ability to perfectly impersonate anybody else, like Gates or Obama or Putin, be even better?

I better go before I get started. I watch anime, ya know.
Creating weird superpowers is a commercial industry in Japan.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:44 PM
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I would definitely choose smelling amazing all the time.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:46 PM
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33: I did not see that, but thinking back to it I think there was a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror where Bart and Milhouse had a time-stopping watch.

For get-rick-quick usage: You could fake pretty much any sporting event you wanted to: causing an interception, a horse to appear to move faster, etc. Might require secondary powers defining the sort of state you can leave the world in. You could break into anywhere you wanted to. You could, uh, teach yourself petroleum engineering, do a lot of geological mapping and buy mineral rights on the cheap.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:46 PM
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I just wish I had more guides than just Al, appearing in the form of a hologram, on this journey.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:46 PM
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45 -- Well, being able to control anything you want to with your mind is way better than invisibility, true.* But if the choice is invisibility vs. flying, invisibility is so much better than flying that it's not even close.

*You can actually give yourself this power IRL, by choosing to live entirely in a fantasy world.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:48 PM
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I would definitely choose smelling amazing all the time.

I never knew you didn't.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:48 PM
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I assume the Treehouse of Horror bit in 50 is a reference to the famous Twilight Zone ep.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:48 PM
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53: but I mean even better than I already do. A pleasing scent no matter the sniffer.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:48 PM
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32. Fortress of Solitude was a pretty good novel about wish fulfillment and superpowers. Genies and demons have been offering wishes and granting them for a long time. I'm usually unhappy if I'm vividly imagining a better life.

That said, obviously flying over invisibility, because it would then be possible to get away from other people. Shape-shifting would be spectacular also.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:49 PM
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For people choosing flying, how does it work? How fast do you fly? Are you impervious to the effects of air rushing by you? How high do you fly? What about atmospheric pressure, temperature, etc.?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:50 PM
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Steven Gould's Jumper series has been really good about exploring secondary effects of a super-power, in this case teleportation.

I think teleportation would be the best, assuming various secondary powers (mainly not materializing in the same space as other objects/displacing what ever is there). Time travel would be great too, but then you've got all the causality and location-in-space issues, so you're talking about a gallimaufry of secondary powers just to keep out of the Negative Zone or whatever.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:50 PM
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54: You're right; its plot description sounds very familiar but I'm not sure if i've ever seen it.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:51 PM
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obviously flying over invisibility, because it would then be possible to get away from other people

This may be literally the most moronic thing said, ever. Team Invisible all the way.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:51 PM
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*You can actually give yourself this power IRL, by choosing to live entirely in a fantasy world.

This is obviously absurd. If you live entirely in a fantasy world, you aren't actually controlling everything with your mind, you're just deluded.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:51 PM
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It has to be admitted that Halford is 100% correct on the flight/invisibility breakdown.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:52 PM
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If you're sufficiently in the fantasy world, does it..even matter? </woah> </dude>


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:53 PM
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OBVIOUSLY


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:54 PM
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61 -- True, not as good as the real thing, but you could get something like the feeling of the mind control power by just being extremely deluded. I guess being ultra insane could give you at least the feeling of having pretty much any superpower.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:54 PM
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62: Definitely. And contra 56. people can still find you when you fly! You have to file a flight plan! No such problems with invisibility.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:54 PM
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Oh, I've remembered the podcast. It was Harmontown. But Sifu is right, that Hodgman TAL was great.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:55 PM
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I thought that flying dreams were pretty common. Skiing is an approximation, hint, the best part there is not the other skiers. Or swimming underwater.

Being invisible means what, meetings that you win? Getting to figure out the right thing to say?

Please enjoy.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:55 PM
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I'd choose flying just because I think it would be a lot of fun.

Also I could win a bunch of Gold Medals at the Winter Olympics pretending I was just really good at doing flips in the air. Except that I probably still wouldn't be able to ski or snowboard.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:56 PM
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Obligatory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fg_cwI1Xj4M


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:56 PM
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Invisible sounds so dull. Enjoy your BOREDroom meetings, zing!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:56 PM
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Probably the absolute worst part of being invisible would be all the doors that wouldn't open for you because the electric eye wouldn't pick you up.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:58 PM
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36 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:58 PM
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66. oh?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 3:59 PM
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Probably the absolute worst part of being invisible would be all the doors that wouldn't open for you because the electric eye wouldn't pick you up.

Not the worst reason for that to happen.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:03 PM
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I'm on team flying. Isn't the point of the TAL episode that it's a straight introvert/extrovert breakdown? The uses of invisibility that Halford describes sound tedious in the extreme. You have to figure out where and when these meetings are, and then you have to listen to what all these boring people are saying, and then you have to figure out how to use that information. (Not to mention whether your notepad or recording device gets to be invisible.) The time machine for sports bets seems like a lot less work.

The worst superhero gadget would be an Invisible Car.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:04 PM
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So your secondary powers include imperviousness to vacuum, extreme heat, and high-frequency EM radiation? That seems like that's a bit more than what you need for just flying. That'd be pretty cool, but still probably not as profitable as invisibility. Maybe if you consider helium mining?


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:04 PM
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I know. Wanting to be able to be invisible implies that there are other people out there doing interesting things that are not available to you. But my guess is that nearly all of the things people are doing are very dull. Why would I want a power that lets me watch dull things without participating? Porn and Twitter already exist.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:04 PM
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If you're invisible, and you excrete, at what point do your excreta become visible?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:05 PM
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76: seriously, invisibility-aided larceny sounds like a much easier way to get rich quick.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:06 PM
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Thank you for the SUPER-PWNAGE, 71!


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:06 PM
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80: Well, for just taking things, sure.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:06 PM
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76: Interestingly, it doesn't seem to be that way: lw wants to have flying for an introverted-souding reason.

If you're going for the quick buck could just stop time and riffle through people's pockets. But try to have some dignity.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:07 PM
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I would have thought that Megan, of all people, would be alive to the prank-playing possibilities of invisibility.

I'm beginning to think that the basic dividing line between being for or against invisibility as a super power comes down to already having or lacking the greatest superpower of all, IMAGINATION.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:07 PM
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How much do you think a billionaire would pay for a flying ride? Or, if you object to the personal-services field, how much do you think a billionaire would pay not to be dropped?


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:08 PM
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The problem I always have with Time Travel is that the Solar System is moving at 220 km/sec.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:09 PM
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76: Interestingly, it doesn't seem to be that way: lw wants to have flying for an introverted-souding reason.

You mean the psychological theorizing peddled by This American Life was overly simplistic and pat????


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:09 PM
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Add "point of reference stabilization" the secondary power list.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:10 PM
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Sure, larceny, insider trading, whatever. Then you can literally buy a hang glider or something and get the thrill of flying anyway. It's like I'm surrounded by idiots.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:10 PM
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87: "peddled" kind of puts the thumb on the scales, there.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:10 PM
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87: Sorry, I stick to PlanetMoney for my simplistic and pat explanations (in that wonderful NPR "we can figure this out" voice).


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:11 PM
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The second plan in 85 sounds pretty risky. Is the billionaire going to hand you cash mid-flight?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:12 PM
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I'm probably not strong enough to carry any but the scrawniest billionaires while flying, and I'm not even sure about them.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:13 PM
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For both invisibility and flying, assuming basic secondary powers, there are some amazing arbitrage opportunities. You wouldn't even have to steal things if you didn't want to.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:18 PM
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40: Actually I've only seen Chocolate War, the movie, and when I was in 6th grade, which I think was too soon. I've though of reading it.

42: yeah, that is definitely a case where the secondary powers were kind of just tacked on.


Isn't that just regular power?

Isn't that Batman?


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:22 PM
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84: this reminds me of the time I was in a large circle of small children at a public library event and the librarian asked, "What is the biggest nation in the WORLD?" and I piped up, "The USSR!" and she was very annoyed and said, "No! The ImagiNATION," and I basically refused to go to any public library events there almost a whole year.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:25 PM
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Flying could be fun, but for the "get me there quick" part I'll take teleportation.

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:28 PM
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I've never had a flying dream, and I'm not at all convinced of the appeal. Telekinesis, or teleporting, would be useful. Breathing underwater might be good too (and various secondary powers of resisting pressure).

I just watched the first episode of Heroes with the boy. He didn't think that having your reflection come out of the mirror and kill people was a brilliant superpower.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:33 PM
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Pardon me for commenting before reading the thread, but no one in Texas would choose flying, because they know it would be about thirty seconds before someone shot them out of the sky.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:33 PM
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Another comment before reading the thread! It would be awesome if you could kill people just by deliberately thinking it. I just made your heart stop! Sorry about the aneurysm!

Exclamation point!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:36 PM
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100.1 use of exclamation points unnecessarily is usually painful--but rarely fatal.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:42 PM
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14: We had an ice breaker thing at one of my former team's meetings. The question was: what superhero would you be? My team leader really like Harry Potter and decided to argue that he qualified as a superhero.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 4:56 PM
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Doesn't flying just sound like more fun than invisibility? I mean, invisibility is the practical choice for all the life-of-crime, espionage reasons, but flying would be great. I'd want it aerodynamic -- wings, pretty much, with whatever superpower cheating necessary to make them work like a medium size raptor. And a way to make them go away when not in use.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 5:09 PM
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100: Death Note

Hugely popular manga, novels, anime series, two movies, three tv movies.

Don't go to Wiki, they have spoilers

Notebook, write the name while visualizing the face. Thirty minutes they die.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 5:17 PM
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Not over Texas! This is the problem I have with this discussion: every superpower makes me think of an easier way to achieve the same end. You want to spy? Then have vision/hearing over infinite distance, through all obstacles. You want the fun of flying, then have the ability to stimulate the pleasure center of your brain (I guess you'll also need superpowers of discipline). Really, being able to discreetly kill people is the way to go. The guy being a dick to the waiter? Oh no, should have seen that stroke coming!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 5:19 PM
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Notebook, write the name while visualizing the face. Thirty minutes they die.

This is no good for getting out of speeding tickets.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 5:19 PM
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Shape shifting is better than invisibility for nefarious purposes. I'm the president! I'm Bill Gates! I'm a potted plant!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 5:21 PM
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I'm an eagle hunting small children with meat attached to them!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 5:23 PM
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Actually, maybe I'd want the wings with cheats to make them work like a pigeon-size-bird, rather than a hawk. Less speed, but much better stunts.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 5:28 PM
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I wouldn't want flying without invisibility, or something effectively similar. It's the Texas problem, plus the paparazzi problem.

If you think about it it's impossible to teleport without traveling through time and vice versa, so asking for either and expecting to get the other too is fairly reasonable. Then, whether it's preferable is just a matter of how time travel works in your universe. Branching alternate timelines? Fixed destiny? Each has their own problems, but I can definitely imagine some models in which I'd want time travel as a power.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 5:59 PM
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104: The Criminal Life of Archibaldo De La Cruz (Luis Buñuel, 1955)


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:04 PM
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105: (I guess you'll also need superpowers of discipline).

I know some people who'd be happy to indulge you in this for reasonable hourly rates.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:06 PM
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110: If all you want is teleportation, you could restrict it to light speed to avoid paradoxes. That should be good enough for most day-to-day uses.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:08 PM
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being able to discreetly kill people is the way to go

I'd prefer remote humiliation to boring old murder. I want the ability to make people suddenly shit themselves or projectile vomit.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:08 PM
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114: fine just add: "half to death" and hit them up later for the finishing move


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:12 PM
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114: Who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men? The Brown Note knows.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:19 PM
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I want the ability to make people suddenly shit themselves or projectile vomit.

Invisibility, and access to a few simple drugs, can get you there pretty easily.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:21 PM
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In the realm of modest and therefore to me seeming somehow more plausible superpowers, I've long said that I'd like the power to pickle things with a glance and also the vindictive power to put a cap in someone's ass: not in the conventional colloquial sense, but causing a bottle cap to manifest in the ass crack of my victim. This seems to me to strike a nice balance of instant gratification lashing out that would really hurt and be profoundly disconcerting! with not doing too much irreversible harm.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:31 PM
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Gosh, I'm just not as vindictive as you assholes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:33 PM
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maybe epic extemporaneous rhyme?


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:35 PM
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119: As the bottle-cap said to the bishop.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:37 PM
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The cap in ass power was originally conceived as a road rage amelioration device.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:44 PM
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122: related might be remote continuous wedgies


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:47 PM
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If a bottlecap appeared in my ass while I was driving, I don't think the cars behind me would be better off.

I'd like rescuing lost things as a superpower. The Baghdad museum, the Library of Alexandria, the Canadian ecological libraries, apparently not the UK archives but whew. To... some pocket universe? That I could take one person at a time to, or one thing at a time out of? This becomes melancholy even before one thinks of the people not saved. (I liked Kage Baker's Company novels a lot, especially the early ones.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:49 PM
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healing factor, not slowed aging.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:52 PM
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I'd like the power to pickle things with a glance
Be careful what you wish for, Midas.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:57 PM
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123: Very sound.

126: Yes, I should go with "on demand."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:58 PM
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Otherwise, oh god, I'll be the pickling Cyclops! And he's such a dick.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:58 PM
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Honestly none of you are thinking big enough to even deserve a superpower. I'm out there with a plan to change the world and all you folks want to do is pickle things and have some fun in the air.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 6:59 PM
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If you pickled the world's largest cucumber, that would change the world.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:00 PM
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130: go hiking, stop at a vista. bam! pickle forest!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:09 PM
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130: look out the airplane window flying over the ocean. bam! pickle plankton!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:11 PM
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re:114:
I'd prefer remote humiliation to boring old murder.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:12 PM
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I want to know odin's runes, then.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:16 PM
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none of you are thinking big enough to even deserve a superpower

I'm talking about the power of life and death, and you're saying, "Dude, think of all the meetings you could attend."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:38 PM
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Honestly none of you are thinking big enough to even deserve a superpower.

Right. Superpower: mind control. Telepathy.

I see AcademicLurker is on the right track way up in 10. Maybe others are sensible in this direction as well -- I haven't caught up with the thread.

There's also something to be said for instant healing, general imperviousness to harm or ill.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:43 PM
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The mind control power is to be used to right what's wrong with the world, obviously: to make Ted Cruz say in a press conference that he's conniving, amoral, and self-aggrandizing, or to make people acknowledge that they don't know jackshit about science and are mostly afraid, or say out loud that it's actually just that they don't like those people.

Hm. What about the power to make people speak the truth? Hrmmm. Could go wrong. But with great power comes great wisdom, and one would use this power selectively. Might need a team.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:56 PM
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I obviously read way too many fairy tales as a kid; my imagination always balks at the "something for nothing" part of getting a superpower and I start thinking of what dread calamity would strike me if I foolishly asked for more power than humans are supposed to have.

That said, flying over invisibility mostly because I can't think of many situations in which I'd be comfortable using invisibility. It feels like lying.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:57 PM
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Parsi wants to be Wonder Woman!

I don't know what power I'd want.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 7:57 PM
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with great power comes great wisdom

Now that's a hell of a required secondary power! If I get great wisdom along with whatever else, sign me up for the whole set.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:03 PM
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"super healing" has often seemed like the most attractive superpower

That Wolverine stuff would definitely be a contender. I'm totally on team Halford re flying vs invisibility.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:06 PM
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Grate power: the ability to grate cheese and/or carrot down to nothing without ever scuffing your knuckles or fingertips.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:06 PM
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I think if one were picking for selfish reasons some form of telepathy or mind control would be a top contender. But it seems unlikely that it could reliably be used for morally acceptable purposes, even if the possessor started out with good intentions.

Maybe if it also worked on the possessor (that is, if it incorporated "desire control," 27.3, as a secondary power)? You could start by making yourself altruistic and incorruptible and go from there. (At which point the obvious narrative twist is that anyone who did so would conclude that the power should never be used on anyone else.)


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:18 PM
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Now that's a hell of a required secondary power!

This did make me laugh. But of course it's not a required secondary superpower: it's just a required moral responsibility. Hence the need for a team. No one stands alone, and all that.

Someone mentioned upthread the ability to select your power on an as-needed basis. There's something to be said for that. There was a character in the TV show Heroes who became able to do that, though as I recall, he had to touch someone with that power in order to take it, until he next touched someone else.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:19 PM
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Superpower? Fiddlesticks! You're not even slowing them down!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:19 PM
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47 is the same thing as throwing a brick through the window of a synagogue.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:26 PM
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It feels like lying

OMG is this the lamest response ever or what. You know, shooting laser beams from my fingertips that could set people on fire would totally feel like both murder and arson, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be an awesome power to have.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:26 PM
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The ability to always pick produce that will meet your tastes and timelines. Oh, or maybe the ability to always choose the fastest line at checkout!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:27 PM
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147: ask cyclops how it felt, you monster.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:28 PM
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I observe that this is all very far afield from the OP's discussion of the 18-year-old interest in spying on people.

I confess that I watched a flick with Keanu Reeves the other day in which alien spheres landed on earth, and our dear Keanu played the chief alien who was there to determine on behalf of a confederation of galactic civilizations whether humans should be allowed to continue to destroy this lovely planet. Answer: no. But then of course his opinion of humankind was changed, because we can change! We can change! Don't kill us! We love! We'll change! Yeah, right.

This is why I want telepathy.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:30 PM
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146: throwing a brick through synagogue windows is your regular power?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:35 PM
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I would like to be able to turn anybody into a boat for exactly one hour.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:36 PM
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Into a dolphin, Sifu. Geez. They should be put in water first, obvs.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:39 PM
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You and the Tzarnaev kid.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:40 PM
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Who wants to turn somebody into a dolphin? Why would that be cool?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:42 PM
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154: oh man it would have been tragedy on top of tragedy if that boat was actually, like, his aunt.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:43 PM
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I used to fantasize about the time-stopping power in 16 (particularly in the context of deadlines), but there were just too many physics problems for me to take it seriously. If no other particles are moving except me, wouldn't I experience the world as at absolute zero? If there is heat, then particles are moving, and isn't that basically time? etc. etc. It gets very complicated when you try to play it out.

In high school, and still to some degree today despite my status as boringly partnered, I used to fantasize about having the ability to inspire wild lust and passion in women at will. I guess that's somewhat embarassing to admit but there it is. Think about though guys, isn't that a lot more fun than flying or being invisible? Wouldn't you mostly use those other powers to get laid anyway? Why not cut to the chase?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:45 PM
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155: Because killing and eating a *person* is wrong.


Posted by: Apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:48 PM
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No, I would use any power to destroy my enemies, set them on fire, and achieve mastery. Then I could get laid. But the first part is important.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:48 PM
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157.2: yes, the tasp! This could meld my wedgie power with oudemias bottlecaps and oggeds humiliation! And! And! One of odin's runes!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:49 PM
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I'm a lover, not a fighter. The conquer the world part just seems like an extraneous burden.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:50 PM
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Wouldn't you mostly use those other powers to get laid anyway? Why not cut to the chase?

The "cut to the chase" power was already outlined by ogged in 105. Why bring the poor girl into it?


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:53 PM
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Poor girl.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 8:59 PM
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This thread is hilarious. I don't have much to add, but I've always been in favor of invisibility over flying; for one thing, with invisibility nobody knows that you have a superpower, which makes it much easier to do cool stuff with it. Flying is pretty obvious.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 10:03 PM
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I would like the ability to jump worldlines at will. (Required secondary: enough precognition to avoid jumping into lava, a hail of bullets, etc.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:00 PM
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Invisibility scares me. I'm sure it'd be better at first, but I'm not sure I have the self-control to handle it without it somehow ruining my life in the long run.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:11 PM
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But, see, if it looks like you've destroyed your life you can just stay invisible forever! No one will know!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:13 PM
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No one picked telekinesis?

I think I wanted this one as a kid. Once in a while I try moving things with my mind just in case. It would be a stupid thing to be able to do and just not know it.

A friend said he wanted the power to turn things into cake and I've always thought that was the very best answer.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:24 PM
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Ugh, stopping time reminds me of an episode of...I think it was Amazing Stories where this guy could stop time and I don't remember what else happened except at the end he had to stop time because nuclear missiles were falling. Possibly I'm making this up. Nucleophobia killed about a decade for me.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:27 PM
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169: It was the '80s Twilight Zone; that's the first thing I thought of when I saw this thread. Also it was a woman who had the power to stop time, sexist.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:29 PM
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And of course Wikipedia has an article on the episode. (Which was directed by Wes Craven?!?!)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:31 PM
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You guys are such Gen-Xers.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:33 PM
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I was thinking maybe I'd want the power never to have to sleep, because think of all the things you could get done! But, then, sleeping rules.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:34 PM
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Hm, I just googled up all of that information but you had already posted it.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:34 PM
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172: Because of the omnipresent fear of nuclear annihilation? Or Wes Craven?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:36 PM
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175: Mostly the former.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:40 PM
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Don't make me quote the little story in Generation X about nuclear war. I, uh, still feel really warmly toward that book though I haven't tried reading it in a decade.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:41 PM
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Nuclear war went away and then got replaced with environmental catastrophe. Just this evening I read an article about how we probably have twenty years left until the shit seriously hits the fan.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-18-14 11:42 PM
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Heebie's right. Invisibility is the wrong answer because the only things it's useful for are immoral. As an IP lawyer Halford is by definition an amoral monster, so it's not surprising that he doesn't notice that.

I would skip all of the choices, and just go for omnipotence. Then I could star in the shittiest, most anti-climactic comic book ever.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 12:36 AM
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Ogged's power to stop hearts would be improved by the ability to also restart hearts, and the ability to telepathically project the word "psyche!".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 12:41 AM
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6 and 179.2 are the only answers that have real appeal to me. 6 would just fix so many things that make the world a miserable and scary place. Ditto to 179.2, which would also allow me to include staying healthy despite not exercising or eating well.

I'm not being earnestly self-sacrificing or anything. The other powers just don't seem that interesting to me.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 1:57 AM
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I dunno, if you're going with 6 you might as well just expand it to "eliminate scarcity entirely," which I guess would fit well with 179.2 as well. But at that point you've pretty much moved beyond the concept of "superpowers" entirely.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 2:10 AM
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Super duper powers?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 2:24 AM
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157: I did think, seeing Bob's reference to "desire control", that the control of other people's desires would be quite an awesome superpower, especially from an evil world domination point of view. In many ways, people who really do dominate the world do so by manipulating other people's desires.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 2:28 AM
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Flying is far better than invisibility - my job already occasionally involves things that are slightly like flying, which are awesome but are marred by my fear of smacking into the ground and dying, which would no longer be a problem; it also occasionally involves sneaking around type things, which would be a lot easier if I were invisible, but I still wouldn't enjoy doing them very much.
I suppose that shape-shifting would get you both - if you wanted to fly, you could shapeshift into a pigeon, or a peregrine falcon, or a Lear jet. If you wanted to be invisible you could shapeshift into a tree or a rock or a vending machine. And if, like PGD, you wanted the ability to inspire wild lust and passion in women at will, you could shapeshift into Mutumbo.

The most consistent sort of invisibility is Matt Keller's; he didn't have the power to make himself actually invisible, but he had the power to make people stop being interested in his being there. So no worries about invisible clothes, making noises etc. (Spoiler: he found it very depressing.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 2:44 AM
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The trouble I have with all the "oh, with invisibility you could steal lots of money!" arguments is that I just think "well, if I had managed to steal a few gold ingots, what am I going to do with them? How do I turn them into stuff I actually want without spending months worrying about money laundering and exchange controls and tax evasion?" Stealing the money is only part of it; getting away with it is the tricky bit.

184: "desire control", like shapeshifting, will get you most of the stuff that other superpowers get you. Yes, I can't fly, but I can make people want to give me a ride in their private jets. Yes, I'm not invisible, but I can make people not want to notice me. etc. But they're all unethical uses; "desire control", outside a few applications, is a fundamentally immoral power to have. (Is it even ethical to make people not want to commit crimes? discuss.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 2:51 AM
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140: What if great wisdom comes with Cassandra's curse? You can know exactly what the right thing to do is in almost any circumstance, but no one will listen to you.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 3:28 AM
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Wouldn't shape-shifting, including maybe personality and memory absorption, iow, the ability to perfectly impersonate anybody else, like Gates or Obama or Putin, be even better?

bob, if it includes memory and personality absorption, how do you know you don't already have this ability? You could have decided yesterday to impersonate bob mcmanus (the real bob having gone on holiday or something) and you're doing it perfectly right now.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 3:47 AM
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If you are obsessed with what people think of you, mind reading is a far better bet than invisibility- less risky, because you're hidden n plain sight, plus you only need one supplementary, which is the ability to turn it off at will.

I'd go with time travel, past only would do, because I'm insatiably curious about shit that happened. Supplementaries: No effect on history; aging only in the present.

Also, Obstacle is a much cooler name than Astrolabe.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 3:50 AM
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TH White, Mistress Masham's Repose (very good, by the way):

"Well now, my dear child," said he, sitting down absentmindedly on a stack of books, which happened to be the missing set of Du Cange, "have you ever noticed that when something unusual turns up, you are immediately confronted with a moral problem? For instance, if you were to find yourself in the unusual position of Alice in Wonderland, who was able to make herself large or small at will, nothing would be easier than to rob the Bank of England. You would simply have to go in small, say about the size of a pin, and come out extra large, through the skylight or somewhere, with a few million pounds in your pockets. Moral problem: shall I become a burglar? Or if you found yourself in the unusual position of the Invisible Man by my young friend Mr Wells, nothing would be easier than to introduce yourself into the boudoirs of your acquaintances, in order to earn a handsome competence by discovering their secrets. Moral problem: shall I become a blackmailer?"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 3:54 AM
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Since this is already the thread where awesome books for young readers go (Fade! Misters Masham's Repose!!) it suddenly strikes me that Smearases's 178 explains the difference between the Hunger Games-type way-past-catastrophe dystopias and the nuclear annihilation YA of the '80s.

Teo's response also is probably part of what makes me uncomfortable identifying as a Millennial. My stress dreams to this day are just a variety of the recurring dream from when I was a child where the bombs were coming and I needed to get the neighbor children to safety even though it almost certainly wouldn't matter.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 4:58 AM
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What if you had the power to instantly draw a perfect image of anybody's foot? That's sure be an equalizer.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 5:02 AM
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||

Are we not men?
A: Not as many of us are. /NMM

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 5:09 AM
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187: Story of my life.

I'm with Nick. Healing powers would rock.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 5:31 AM
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185: The unstated secondary ability for shapeshifting is being good at three-dimensional art. It's no good if you try to shape shift into Mutombo and come out as a misshapen blob. Who would want to sex that? Personally I'd be restricted to only transforming into bizarrely asymmetric ashtrays.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 6:08 AM
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190: One thing you really get from English literature in the period after the industrial revolution is just how much the concept of blackmail figured in peoples' minds. You'd think everybody had a corpse and a mistress in the closet. Or a corpse-mistress.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 6:26 AM
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195: even more of an issue if you are trying to shapeshift into a Lear jet.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 6:28 AM
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Not because they enjoyed necrophilia but because of limited closet space.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 6:35 AM
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197: Right, the technology would probably be more like a sophisticated 3-D printer, the "appearance" of a Lear jet. Or else you can become the jet, but not the fuel so you have to do it somewhere where there is a jet fuel dispenser; and then when you change back if you're not empty you end up with jet fuel in your abdominal cavity. Not to mention the hydraulic fluids.

All of this pwned by 1.1


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:07 AM
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A superpower we olds haven't considered: being able to telepathically control computers.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:12 AM
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If shapeshifting includes creating new mass you could best serve humanity by becoming an inexhaustible food source.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:12 AM
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168.1: Just tried. Still failed.

179.2: Sandman?

196: I guess it's because of the conflict between old and new money, a very class- and status-based society being forced to deal with social mobility, stuff like that? Who knows. Still, agreed, interesting. It is a bit weird to read some Sherlock Holmes stories and find that the most reviled villain isn't a particularly lurid killer, nor Sherlock's criminal counterpart Moriarty, but a blackmailer. (Also interesting: the show Sherlock turned that character into a near-clone of Rupert Murdoch.)


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:16 AM
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I can't believe this thread kept going after we established that "stopping time" was the obvious right answer.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:18 AM
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Stopping the blog is heebie's superpower.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:34 AM
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Apparently it's not foolproof.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:35 AM
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(Also interesting: the show Sherlock turned that character into a near-clone of Rupert Murdoch.)

I have to say I wasn't clear whether the vaults, letters etc. even existed.

The character was certainly foreign, and teutonic, but seemed to be a complete loner. Didn't actually remind me of Murdoch that much.

I always wondered whether the villain on Thunderbirds, "The Hood," was based on Murdoch, at least physically


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:38 AM
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If shapeshifting includes creating new mass you could best serve humanity by becoming an inexhaustible food source.

Or you could make millions by turning yourself into a block of precious metal, having someone else cut a bit off, then turning yourself back (the cut-off bit would remain precious metal).

"I shall call myself... GOLD-MAN!"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:40 AM
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"stopping time" was the obvious right answer

You'll continue to believe that right up until I make you shit yourself.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:40 AM
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203 -- Time travel is better than stopping time. But if it's a time stop you want, better Groundhog Day style where you can interact with other people during the stop, rather than a lonely silent Twilight Zone.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:41 AM
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cut a bit off [...] "I shall call myself... GOLD-MAN!"

What will you give me for this Gold-Man Sack?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:42 AM
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Time travel is better than stopping time. But if it's a time stop you want, better Groundhog Day style where you can interact with other people during the stop, rather than a lonely silent Twilight Zone.

I feel like we're talking past each other. I desperately want a lonely silent Twilight Zone.

Maybe this is a stage-of-life thing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:47 AM
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The most consistent sort of invisibility is Matt Keller's; he didn't have the power to make himself actually invisible, but he had the power to make people stop being interested in his being there

I have this power! But is it still a power if you can't control it? Probably not.

I guess it's fitting that I have no idea who Matt Keller is.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:48 AM
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Murdoch

I thought that he had overtones of a tabloid mogul, combined with an unkind personification of Google.

The English have been enthusiastic about both class and shame for a long time. Not that surprising that novelists would prefer blackmail over passion.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:50 AM
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212.3 - Larry Niven character, in "A Gift From Earth"; has the power but doesn't realise it, especially since it kicks in every time he gets nervous; he just thinks everyone finds him dull.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 7:52 AM
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207: I was assuming no atomic or chemical changes. Just different shapes of human flesh. Otherwise, yeah, you could give birth to one Lear jet after another.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:00 AM
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Maybe this is a stage-of-life thing.

It totally is. I am completely baffled by these weird creatures who don't want to sleep. But they probably sleep through the night as is.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:07 AM
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Charlie hasn't read all the really depressing time travel stories. Think something like Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself. A propos, how about a list of great SF superpowers destroying people's lives n a quiet desperation kind of way. Top of the list would probably be Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside (telepathy/mind reading).


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:11 AM
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The power I've often felt I could use was incremental size adjustment, like the old Marvel Giantman

My brother is proportioned and featured much like I am, although handsomer, and is about 5'10" I would love to have a slider on my belt to go from 6'3" to that size.

I'm not particularly huge, don't need to go to special stores to buy clothes etc., but have often felt being the biggest guy in the room is not what I'd prefer.

It's possible that at least in some populations my size would be only average. I'm often on the Northwestern Campus and every third girl, let alone guy, seems to be on a level with me.

When in junior high we moved from Columbus' working-class west side to Upper Arlington, I went from being among the tallest to only average height. This seems to have been more about maturation rate then adult size, since by
HS graduation I was back among the biggest. Still it was a taste of relative sizing, and I'd be hungry for more.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:12 AM
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I would like the superpower of instantly clearing ice out of gutters. Also, the power to fix soffits with my mind.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:18 AM
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217.last is magnificently depressing; I'd have to give a nod to The Green Futures of Tycho in the Time-Travelling (Juniors) competition.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:22 AM
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218: Weird. 6'3" is my ideal height, where you're generally the tallest person in the room, but not yet at the "do you play basketball?" height.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:25 AM
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(I'm 6'0")


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:26 AM
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216: Not that I don't want to sleep, it's that I don't want to need to sleep. I routinely sleep horribly and am groggy and tired all the time. It'd be nice if I could have that extra waking time--that time between, say, eleven and two thirty where I'm awake but am incapable of useful or happy thinking--be productive and pleasant. I'd also settle (ha, settle) for being able to fall sleep on demand and getting perfect sleep, but that's definitely a weaker power.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:30 AM
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218: Speaking of the relative sizes of people in Columbus, when I was recently on my Thurber-quoting binge, I almost noted this illustration on sizes of humans past and present from "The Day the Dam Broke."

We had to stun grandfather with the ironing board. Impeded as we were by the inert form of the old gentleman--he was taller than six feet and weighed almost a hundred and seventy pounds--we were passed, in the first half-mile, by practically everybody else in the city.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:34 AM
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223: Groggy comity! I think I want my actual superpower to be the ability to be productive and pleasant.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:38 AM
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218: And the premise of that story hinges on the topography of the west versus the east side of Columbus.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:45 AM
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Heh, yeah, I guess that's what I actually want. We've given up on the actually interesting powers and now we're just shopping from the superpowers clearance rack.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:46 AM
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I'm about 6'2 and I've always been pretty happy about my height - taller than most people but definitely not freakishly so.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:48 AM
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Ironclad willpower would be nice. The ability to focus relentlessly on the task at hand and not be distracted by things like the fact that people don't get that shape shifting is the best superpower ever.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:51 AM
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I've always thought that terrifying intelligence would be a Pyrrhic superpower. John Brunner's The Stone that Never Came Down posited that it would come with hippie-dippie empathy, which would surprise John von Neumann but would be nice, I suppose, but I suspect that the upside would be more like The Dark Fields/Limitless or Ted Chiang's "Understand".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:56 AM
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If you can shape shift, and you excrete, at what point do your excreta revert to their original forms?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:58 AM
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On the other hand, Amadeus Cho, the Seventh-Smartest Person in the World, seems to have a rockin' time.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 8:58 AM
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I assume that poop is just poop regardless of what shape you are in. You'd be a bear pooping human poop in the woods. Which would be the giveaway, the one vulnerability that allows your enemies to persecute you. Your achilles butthole.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:04 AM
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What sorts of enemies do you have, Toggie?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:10 AM
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Speaking of superpowers, this book, about the friendship between a golem and a jinni in NYC circa 1900 is A) very good and B) does a nice job tackling with "how much can you really take advantage of your powers, if you don't want to be discovered?". Although I'm only 2/3 of the way through; maybe the rest isn't as good.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:14 AM
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Don't make me quote the little story in Generation X about nuclear war. I, uh, still feel really warmly toward that book though I haven't tried reading it in a decade.

I resemble that remark (though I finally gave my copy to the Friends of the Library -- uh, last month).

A propos, how about a list of great SF superpowers destroying people's lives n a quiet desperation kind of way. Top of the list would probably be Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside (telepathy/mind reading).

Spider Robinson's "Two Heads Are Better Than One" (from Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is also about an unpleasant experience of Telepathy.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:14 AM
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John von Neumann was personally compassionate. Game theory was an idea, not an expression of ideology.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:18 AM
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234: The ones I fear are the coprophiles.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:19 AM
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235: I thought that book sounded good and gave it to my mom for her birthday. As with pretty much every book I give her, she said "It was good. But... different. But good!" I never know if that means she hates them all.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:27 AM
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Yes, it means she hates them all.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:28 AM
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The trouble is my parents buy every single crappy mystery novel the instant it comes out, plus basically every new movie on DVD, leaving me clueless about what gifts to give them that they won't already have.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:30 AM
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218: Again IDP is my opposite. My two older brothers are 6'3, and I'm 5'8. All those people who told me when I was a kid, that one day I would grow up and be tall like my brothers were lying!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:31 AM
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von Neumann was an interesting character. Some of the stories about him, like the crazy reckless driving, remind me of the smartest guy I know. But it seems like he was a lot flashier than anybody currently working at the In/stit/ute.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:31 AM
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I's hard to imagine a PhD defense these days where a committee member asks who the student's tailor is.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:33 AM
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241: Buy them liquor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:33 AM
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217: Dr. Manhattan is pretty darn close to omnipotent, and he seems kind of depressed most of the time.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:33 AM
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They don't drink.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:33 AM
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Thanos was basically omnipotent and he was even more depressed. And kinda whiny.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:34 AM
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247: Then you can drink it on visits.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:35 AM
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That's seen as less tacky than buying someone a book that you want to read and then borrowing it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:38 AM
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Very nice handblown glass or turned wood? Watercolor miniatures?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:39 AM
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248: Gift cards? I got my BF's mother a gift card to Etsy.

His father likes tools.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:39 AM
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I guess they drink occasionally. They very proudly reported what they drank when they went on cruises. Exotic things like... a daiquiri! Or a margarita!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:43 AM
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237 - I'm thinking more in terms of "If you say why not bomb tomorrow, I say, why not today? If you say today at five o'clock, I say why not one o'clock?"


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:46 AM
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Essear, have you considered renting a sloth for them?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:47 AM
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Exotic things like... a daiquiri! Or a margarita!

What about piña coladas?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:53 AM
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No parent wants their kids getting involved in their sex lives.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:54 AM
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257 to 255.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 9:54 AM
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230 Does the condition of the narrator of the title story of that Ted Chiang collection qualify as a superpower? If so, good or bad?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 10:02 AM
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unless they could persuade Kristen Bell to accompany the sloth.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 10:03 AM
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235: I know the author of that book!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 10:05 AM
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Does the condition of the narrator of the title story of that Ted Chiang collection qualify as a superpower?

No. She changes nothing.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 10:09 AM
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254: Me too.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 10:20 AM
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254: Me too.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 10:20 AM
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... Jack demonstrated.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 10:21 AM
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The spying/eavesdropping superpower reminds me of the passage in The Voyage of the Dawn Trader where Lucy casts the spell that lets her eavesdrop on her classmates and it turns out they are saying not very nice things about her. And Aslan tells her that the one friend who said mean things only did so because she was trying to stay on the good side of the other girl. That story may have influenced me at an impressionable age, because I still think that being able to spy on people to find out what they are saying about you behind your back would be a terrible superpower. I have certainly said unkind things behind someone's back that I didn't really mean (as well as unkind things that I probably did mean). But it would be very hard not to take that sort of thing to heart.


Posted by: Airedale | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 10:58 AM
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The Voyage of the Dawn Trader

Mythological arbitrage?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-19-14 11:08 AM
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