Monday, May 4, 2015

Worldbuilding a setting

I have been thinking, off and on, about a setting where only women have superpowers.

My point was to increase female character representation in games, but then I realized that men could still build a suit of powered armor, or train obsessively, or be a robot or an alien. In the end, only women can have what we used to call "radiation accidents."

So the point I thought I would be making doesn't apply. Still, let's see if this might be a playable world with anything different about it, and you'll probably learn more about my assumptions and prejudices than anything else.

Oh, wait: one type of man might have powers--XXY males, but a very rare subset of those. (Klinefelter's syndrome.) You could easily do a "first man with powers" story using that as the sting at the end. Klinefelter's is about 1 in a thousand, and you multiply that scarcity by however frequent powers are... It would be really rare.

It's common for superpowers to show up about World War II. If only women can be born supers or transformed into supers (presumably the necessary genes are on the part of the X that's missing in men, and it's a rather complex recessive to boot), then powers probably only show up on the home front. Radiation accidents are probably restricted to women who have gone to work--the Rosie the Riveters, so to speak. I assume that WWII would have gone pretty much the same as it did in our world, until the end, when the desperate Germans might put the uberfrau into the fight.

Spies might have powers; espionage organizations are less squeamish about using whatever is available. 

The presence of the female exceptions might spur the occurrence of the male characters--gimmicks, for instance. 

I'm going to hope that if there are women who can bench press tanks around, there might be a bit more equality for women. So there are early gains for women that displace the Women's Lib movement: the fact that the men can say, "Well, these women are special" means that they can still oppress the majority of women. So the Women's Lib movement shows up later...say, the last part of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s...even though they make strides earlier and have less of the Donna Reed image. Say that The Adventures of Steeletto was a 1950s show, starring a female paragon and her male handler. (Steeletto and Captain Reed got married by season 4, in 1961.)

There might be some interesting men versus women teams, though: all gadgets and training against "real" superpowers. Because I don't think your political stance is determined by your sex, there'd be pro-government super teams and anti.

This delayed onset of true liberation for women means that by 2015, women are starting to be effective in the business world and show up in politics. (Maybe one of the female senators first elected in the 1970s is a formerly-active super.) On the other hand, I suspect it would be more in-sync with gay liberation. Except for the possibility of increased damage (can you imagine if tear gas in Ferguson triggers someone's super genes?), I don't see race relations as being better.

Maybe it's a failure of imagination on my part, but I don't see the world as hugely different than it was in the 1990s in our timeline. Technology might have moved ahead--we have all those men doing gimmick stuff. Medically, pharmaceutically, the FDA would surely have mandated testing on women as well as men: the government would want to know if the new drugs were going to trigger a wave of supers, for instance. I think we'd be ahead on medicine that way.

Magic would probably stay referred to as witchcraft, because only women could do it. 

It does mean that there would be little chance of Superman pretending to be a human: the mere existence of powers would say that he's not a genetically normal human. There might be some interesting fallout there. 

What do you think? Am I way off base? Have I missed something obvious?