Giving a character a supernatural, or otherwise extraordinary, power is a classic. It’s used so often it’s a cliché set-up for a wide range of genre stories. There seems to be two basic “origins” of these powers. One, it came about naturally — Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse character is born with her mind-reading ability. Or, two, it’s a metamorphosis with a specific cause, like Spiderman’s spider bite. This can be an accidental transformation or an intentional change. I’d say that the most famous of the intentional variation is H.G. Wells’ “Invisible Man.”
When I was researching candidates for additional novellas in my Candy’s Monsters series I read it and, as with Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll & Hyde and Poe’s short stories, I had to strip away the layers and layers of stories and movies based on the original tale. I had two immediate responses to Wells’ book — the 1933 film starring Claude Raines was significantly closer to the original than I’d anticipated, and no new, fresh, interesting approach to the story jumped out at me. This is not to say I won’t come up with one, eventually. I just didn’t have a EUREKA moment.
Still, it did get me thinking about enhanced senses and the downside of being so far outside the range of normal. I’m particularly fond of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and her mind reading episode is a case in point. At first it’s fun to hear what people are thinking until the constant hum of internal monologues begins to drive her crazy. Wells power-mad scientist goes down the same road in his invisible state. He feels superior and disconnected at the same time.
Given the opportunity would you take the risk and experience a supernatural power? Would you want to pass through walls, hear the thoughts of people around you, fly, become invisible, predict the future…. Would you gamble on surviving the downside of your new power?