In common superhero story variant, the mutant power descends upon the character as a fix to his or her flaw—the enraged Hulk as counter to the mild Bruce Banner, and so on. The idea for “Modern Powers,” as it occurred to me, was for characters to develop powers that, instead of making them more free, only trapped them further.
It seemed like the perfect way to get across one of the most tragic things about depression: that in the midst of it, people feel nothing they can do will help them out of it. Unhappiness often leads us to impotent fantasizing about a magic bullet, an impossible solution coming from some other place, rather than small, self-generated attempts to bring oneself up.
I wanted to bring out that fantasy in the story, and also the sense of inevitable doom each of the characters felt (even before their powers). Getting closer to actually drafting the story, I brainstormed a list of different superpowers and tried to pick the three most suited to the fantasies of people who felt helpless. There were a lot of other close calls. Mind-reading, in particular, almost replaced the invisibility... more »more »