Superpower Outage

Once upon a time, an author sat down and dashed off a quick little flash fic about some gender-indeterminate teenager and superpowers and shocking family secrets.

It took practically no time to write, and the author didn’t have any plans for the story beyond ‘The End’. She certainly couldn’t have predicted that the story would one day, and for some while, have a place in an online literary magazine (before said magazine vanished from the ‘net, as these things sometimes do). Or that the short story’s protagonist would make a reappearance as the narrator/one main character of three in a NaNoWriMo novel. Or that, having basically bid farewell to the idea of pursuing traditional publishing, the author would go on to someday produce a gorgeous paperback (and e-book, currently available for preorder via Amazon and Barnes & Noble) all by her independent lonesome.

And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.

And that novel is “So Super Dead”, to release on September 25th.

And that short story where it all began is, as of now, no longer missing from the internet, because never mind that defunct magazine – you can read the story right here, right now, in this blog post! Even though (full disclaimer) I would have you remember that this story and its world don’t entirely line up with the upgraded version you’ll get in the novel, because the flash fic was just typed up out of the blue with no rhyme or reason apart from from ‘start talking and see what happens.’

…Which, upon reflection, is truly the Nicky-est of story-making methods.

That having been said: Guys, gals, and assorted superheroes, I present to you…

Superpower Outage

So Super Dead 09 - Copy

(Also, since we’re throwing it back this far, here’s the cover idea I put together to go with “So Super Dead” back when it was just a NaNo project waiting to happen.)


“Nicky, there’s something we have to tell you.”

I flicked my eyes from parent to parent. I’d known something was afoot for a couple of hours, now. They’d been jumpy from the moment I came home from practice, and all though dinner. They kept looking at each other and at me, whenever they thought I wasn’t paying attention. Like I’m not gonna pay attention when they act so fully suspicious, right? It was just as well they decided to sit me down on the couch and say whatever they planned to now, before my head exploded from the suspense.

“Okay…” I said. “So tell me.”

“Nicky, honey,” Mom began. “You know all those superpowers you’ve been noticing lately? The speed and the strength and invisibility and flight and teleportation and telekinesis and communing with dead plant matter, and all that?”

“Ye-eah…” I nodded, like “go on”.

“I suppose you’ve been wondering why you don’t have any powers like that.”

I had wondered.

“Well, Nicky, the fact is…” Dad hesitated a second before blurting, “You’re not like the rest of us.”

Well, no kidding. I mean, the whole personal power outage thing had made that glaringly obvious. All the other kids had at least one. “And if all the other kids jumped off a bridge,” I can just hear some parental voice saying, “would you want to jump, too?” Actually, yeah. Just last week, practically every friend I had had gone bridge-jumping, to see how close to a fatal ker-splat they could come before flying or teleporting or asking the ghost of a grapevine to whisk them out of harm’s way, and I totally hadn’t been allowed to go along. It stank to high heaven.

“So what’s the difference that’s screwing me over?” I asked.

Mom and Dad shared yet another look before Dad cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and laid down the big shocker: “You’re human.”

“I KNEW it! I— Wait, what?”

“You’re a human, sweetie,” said a teary-eyed Mom. “I’m so sorry, we should have told you years ago…”

“What the heck is a human??” I shouted.

“It’s basically like us,” said Dad, “except that you don’t get to do anything cool.”

“Oh, Dear, really,” Mom reproved. “Humans can do cool things, too. Sort of.”

“Like what?” I asked, totally shaken. I mean, what up?! Drop this kind of bomb on me while I’m in the midst of my volatile teenage years, why don’t you! There had better have been some good news on the way.

“Well, humans can, um… they can… create stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Y’know. Art. Paintings and books and music; lovely stuff, all.”

“We – well, you – can make that stuff, too,” I pointed out. “Grandpa made that 4D rock opera experience for your anniversary last year, remember? With his mind.”

“Ah, but you wouldn’t simply be creating with your mind, Nicky.” Mom’s eyes were shining with optimism, now, in addition to tears of sympathy for bursting her freak child’s bubble. “You would actually have to go through a lengthy, frustrating, soul-wrenching creative process! You would have to physically paint the paintings, and write the books, and—”

“Alright, and that’s supposed to be better how?”

“I hear it’s more satisfying,” Mom said brightly.

“I hear it’s more work,” Dad muttered. “I hear it’s a lot of time and effort for a usually disappointing end product.”

“Dear, you’re not helping.”

“No, you know what?” I snapped. “It’s fine. I’m glad Dad’s telling it to me straight. It’s about dang time. How long have you guys known about this, anyway?”

Mom went back to sniffling, so Dad answered, “Ever since we found you abandoned in the mall parking lot as an infant. Whoever dumped you there left you this.”

He reached into his pocket and extracted what looked very much like a cell phone.

My voice trembled. “What is it?”

“What does it look like? It’s a cell phone.”


“There’s a number programmed into the phone’s speed-dial,” Dad told me, placing the phone in my hand.

“Did you call it?”


“Um, why not?”

“We thought we should leave the decision of whether or not to call that number up to you,” Mom wept. “After all, it’s your tale of mysterious origin, not ours.”

Fair enough, I supposed. I eyed the cell phone in my hand, my emotions a-swirl with doubts and desire. You see, I’d always wanted a cell phone, but I’d been hoping for something a little more trendy; this old thing from like a decade-and-a-half ago wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind.

Obsolete tech of lameness aside, though, the moment of truth had come. Time to figure out where I came from, and who my family was, and how in the world this thing called a human had ended up amongst real people, as I apparently had.

I pressed the speed dial button, and brought the phone up to my ear…


“Hey,” I said. “Who’s this?”

Why don’t you know? You dialed.”

“Well, look, no need to get touchy. I just got handed this phone a minute ago, alright? I don’t know who this number belongs to.”

May I ask who’s calling?

“Nicky Elbochen-Jones,” I answered. “…Your child?” I guessed.

Not muddy likely,” said whoever I was talking to. “I died a virgin.”

“You’re DEAD??”

Yeah, why? Who’d you say you are, again?

I threw my hands up in the air in glee, accidentally throwing the dinosaur of a phone across the room and not giving a rat’s tail about it. “I CAN TALK TO DEAD PEOPLE!” I crowed. “I’m not a human freak after all!”

“Oh, yay!” said Mom, giving me a huge hug. “Your father and I must have simply jumped to the wrong conclusion, before. You’re simply a late bloomer.”

“We should have had more faith in you, Nicky,” said Dad, clapping a hand to my shoulder.

I just grinned. Dead people whispering trumps dead plant whispering nine times out of ten. Wait ‘til the kids in my neighborhood got a load of this!


The End! …Or rather, The Unforeseen Beginning.

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

The ghost: Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.

The killer: The reality of TV star Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, is not the kind one lives to tell about. He’ll do whatever it takes – and take out whomever he must – to keep his secret safe. If only he could get his dead conscience to quit haunting him…

The talker: Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.

So Super Dead” – coming so super soon!

“Superhero” or “What Separates the Batmen from the LarryBoys”

From “The Avengers” to “The Amazing Spider-Man” to “The Dark Knight Rises”, movie-goers are certainly getting their superhero hookup this summer – to which I say, huzzah! And I’m not alone. Mainstreamers, diehard nerds, in-betweenies chillin’ in the gray area (like myself), most everyone loves a superhero. But not everyone can agree on what, exactly, a superhero is.

My faithful dictionary defines the word as “a figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime”. But does that tell the whole story? Or is there more or less to it than that? Just what is it that puts the “super” and “hero” in “superhero”?

I’m very glad you asked. (If you didn’t actually ask, I don’t have to know, just nod and claim the credit.)

“And when everyone’s super… no one will be.” – Syndrome
Superpower Points: Gadgets only. Doesn’t count.
Hero Points: He couldn’t even defeat the killer robot he created and sicced on the city in a villainous act of staged heroism. You can’t fail much harder than that.

Power to the People

Superhuman: “Above or beyond the human; preternatural or supernatural” or “beyond ordinary or normal human ability, power, or experience”.

If just any old person could do it, it wouldn’t be considered super. Spider-Man skittering up walls? It wouldn’t impress any spiders, because they can all do that. But for a human, that’s pretty darn extraordinary.

So my apologies to Batman, Iron Man, and their crowd, but those guys are not technically superheroes. They are fabulously wealthy people with incredibly dangerous toys, and they use those toys (and, in the case of Batman, mad ninja skills) for the side of right. Commendable, absolutely. But not the sort of thing you’d need a just-shy-of-lethal dose of radiation to accomplish.

“Everyone’s a hero in their own way.” – Captain Hammer
Superpower Points: Some measure of super-strength and
physical invulnerability, I believe. Fill me in if I’m missing something,
“Dr Horrible” fans.
Hero Points: Only if humanity’s in dire need of a super jerk/doofus.

The Hero Blog Land Deserves (If Not the One It Needs, Right Now…)

Hero: “A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.”

By previous definition, not everyone can have superpowers; but anyone can be a hero, if they’ve got a hero’s heart. If they’re willing to stand against the bad guys for the little guys, even if they’re little guys themselves (à la Steve Rogers before he became Captain America). If they’re man, woman, or freak enough to take on impossible odds in the name of all the good in this world worth fighting for (thinking of you, Samwise Gamgee). Heroes lay down their own safety so they’ve got their hands free to put up their dukes, but more than that: They do it for the right reasons.

I’ve yet to be convinced that the Incredible Hulk counts as a hero. Oh, he’s undeniably super; the green skin, single bounds over buildings, and smashing prowess pretty much let that cat out of the bag. However, when you seem to spend as much time chasing the good guys as attacking the bad guys, that doesn’t look like heroism; that looks like a loose cannon that we can only hope fires in the direction we want more often than it fires on us. A little righteous anger in a hero can be a good thing. Blind, roaring rage, not so much.

“I am that hero!” – LarryBoy
Superpower Points: Is being an animate cucumber a superpower? Debatable.
Hero Points: Check! He’s risked his wellbeing in the name of public veggie safety on multiple occasions.
Theme Song Bonus Points: CG or 2D animation version – either one is catchy.

That, as I see it, is what makes a superhero. What are your thoughts?

Which heroes (super or otherwise) are your favorites?

Where in the world were the rest of New York’s superheroes when the Avengers were battling Loki ‘n’ ‘em? (Don’t tell me the X-Men, Spidey, and the Fantastic Four were all on vacation at once!)

“Denied” or, in My Case, the Happy Opposite

From the Wilderhark world of “Still Broken” comes a new fairytale of magic at sunset, “Mercy Denied”. More than used to her music inspiring minstrel admiration, Princess Viralei views her latest marriage proposal as anything but extraordinary. The consequences of her refusal, however, will prove to be precisely that.

            (Reader/writerly types, what think of the mini-blurb? ^^)

            I submitted this short story to online speculative fiction journal Luna Station Quarterly (whom, you may recall, facilitated the two-way honor of publishing my drabble this past December), and rather than choose “to give a refusal to [my submission]; turn [the story] down or away”, they accepted the tale for their latest issue! And that issue is now available to be read online here (and is also, I believe, downloadable on PDF)! …Or, if you’d like to skip straight to my story, I’m fine with that, too. (:

            In other joyful acceptance news, the latest issue of Digital Dragon Magazine (more online spec. fic.) also includes a short story of mine – a humorous piece (completely out of the minstrel vein, just to mix it up) entitled “Superpower Outage”. If you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it, that’ll mean double fun points. Come on – you wouldn’t want to deny yourself that. (;


A word I’ve grown to love more and more.

            First off, you’ve got dictionary definition one, “the creative imagination; unrestrained fancy”. As a multimedia artist (author, musician, visual artist, poet…), I place high value on lovely creative abandon. Then there’s definition five, “an imagined event or sequence of mental images, such as a daydream, usually fulfilling a wish or psychological need”. I’ve always enjoyed a good daydream – my night-dreams have had their moments, too, but their track record is inconsistent – and I suppose my friendly get-togethers on the immaterial plane qualify as this sort of fantasy, too (though we’ll pass on speculation as to the nature of my psychological needs for now, if that’s alright by you).

            But when I hear the word “fantasy”, my first thoughts will lean more in the direction of definition 4a: “Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements.”

            As it happens, fantasy didn’t particularly appeal to me during my childhood. Not that I was exposed to a great deal of it anyway, my parents having preferred to keep my green little mind away from media flirting with the occult until I was mature enough to consciously form beliefs. Still, my dad had read me Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” and subsequent books in the series; I’d seen BBC’s “Chronicles of Narnia” films, and eventually read the books, too; goodness knows there were fairytales galore, both in picture-book form and brought to me by the Disney Animation Studios. But with the notable exception of Disney, things relating to the supernatural, the paranormal, and the magical simply didn’t grab me the way mysteries, historical fiction, humor (including joke books and comic strip collections), and magazines about dogs did. I practically blush to admit this, but… I still haven’t read Harry Potter. (I know, I know…!)

            I’m not sure when the turnaround happened. I don’t think there was any clear, defining moment when I read That One Book or saw That One Movie and suddenly loved fantasy with all my heart. I guess it was just one of those things that changed along with me as I grew up.

            I’d already been writing for a while before the change took place. Actually, I’d been writing since my mother taught me how to form letters and turn them into words, (homeschooler shout-out!), but I didn’t start thinking half-seriously about eventual publication until I was twelve or so. My first series of I’ll-be-generous-to-Past-Me-and-call-them-“books” followed the zany misadventures of a bunch of kids around my age. Categorizing the stories as “realistic fiction” may be a bit of a stretch (would a park district ballet teacher really let a production of “The Nutcracker” get that far out of control?…), but nobody had superpowers or anything like that, so we’ll let the matter lie.

            A later incarnation of the series, written in my latter teens, actually did feature an initially unexplained singularity: The narrating girl and the psychotic boy who loved her – as part of a love triangle that I’ve long thought has uncanny similarities to “Twilight” (pure coincidence, of course, since the books had yet to set the craze rolling and I highly doubt that anything of mine served as inspiration for Stephenie Meyer) – had the ability to converse with each other telepathically. Why I thought I could get away with that without involving fantasy, I’m sure I don’t know. It wasn’t until much later in the game that I discovered how the mental communication was happening (let’s just say it involves evil elves), and it was at about that time that I started to get the idea that maybe writing stories meant to resemble reality as we knew it wasn’t my cup of tea.

            At around age twenty, I set my old works aside and wrote my first full-fledged fantasy, complete with shape-shifters and an epic quest and a whole bunch of words my spell-check simply had to learn to recognize. (Ah, very good – I see it hasn’t forgotten “maedym”. Attaspell-check.) After that came the novel about the teenaged boy who saved the world in his sleep with little more than a sword, a savage unicorn companion, and a whole lot of attitude; this eventually morphed into a four-book saga, and yes indeed, it’s on my “To Publish” list. And then, of course, there were “The Wilderhark Tales”, which served as one of the springboards for “Ballad”, there was the book about the talking fox, there’s my unfinished tribute to Greek Mythology (ah! Greek Mythology – is that where it all started?)… and there’s the whole rest of my career ahead of me.

            I can’t tell you what all I’ll come up with next, or after that, or after that, or after that… But gosh knows it’s fun to fantasize about.