Monday, October 30, 2023

Five books that explore the drawbacks of a superpowered life

Tobias Carroll is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. He is the author of the short story collection Transitory and the novel Reel.

At he writes:
operating as a superhero or supervillain would, in fact, be incredibly hard. Some of that has to do with the logistics of, say, maintaining a secret identity or operating a mysterious island base. And some involve the challenges of living in harsher world than the shared universes depicted in comics from Marvel and DC.
Carroll tagged five "very different books that might make you reconsider the whole 'power fantasy' aspects of superheroing or supervillainy." One title on the list:
Starter Villain by John Scalzi

The story of John Scalzi’s Starter Villain opens in an unexpected place: the small town where former reporter Charlie is working as a substitute teacher and hoping to buy the local bar. It isn’t long before Charlie learns that his now-deceased uncle was, for lack of a better world, a supervillain — complete with volcano lair and genetically enhanced animal employees. Turns out the world of villainy in Scalzi’s novel has different gradations, and Charlie having something of an ethical backbone proves to be both a liability and an asset, depending on the situation.

For all that Starter Villain riffs on countless pulp tropes, from secret hideaways to secret societies, Scalzi has also spent some time thinking about how these things would work in a world reasonably close to our own — including the financial advantages of having a base of operations on a volcanic island and the challenges of negotiating a labor dispute with a group of profane dolphins with enhanced intelligence. Lex Luthor and Ernst Stavro Blofeld likely never had to wrangle with similar issues — but they might have missed out as a result.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue