Saturday, May 16, 2009


So I was playing around with a character lately with a superpower that's described as "absorbing information from people around yourself and using it to adapt mind and body to the form best suited to the task at hand". Essentially, shape-shifting combined with a weird form of psychic powers that instantly learns skills from surrounding bystanders. Also, ridiculously overpowered, ultra Mary Sue/Gary Stu that comes from being skilled at quite literally everything, plus being able to use any other superpower. Terrible character to write a story for, clearly, but since nobody is going to read it, who cares?

Anyway, character (who shall henceforth be referred to as Shippy) lives in a world with multiple superpowered beings, and a sliding scale of heroism vs. villainy. Shippy spends most of the time fighting (perceived) villains under a multitude of different identities, and is in general one of the good guys. But, one of the few things all supers have in common is an intense aversion to "power collectors", or people with the ability to learn new powers, for the obvious reason that, left to their own devices, they become extremely dangerous demigods. Shippy takes the utmost care to hide zir ability from the rest of the world, which of course being able to change form and personality at will makes quite easier. Problem is, zie becomes completely unable to keep any sort of memento of who zie was before. Not recognisable appearance, scar, necklace, ring, anything, because any of those would allow tracking. Result: A person whose only claim to having been someone else before is memory, and since memory can easily be altered in this world, that's not much.

In a needlessly long internal monologue, Shippy analyses what it means to have an identity, concluding than in zir case the only constant is the ability to have no constant. And even that cannot be Shippy's defining feature, since other power collectors exist. Essentially, zie is not a single thing. Only a chain of vaguely connected someones, with no real defining feature to join them all. In the end, just to drive the point to the ground, zie finds another power collector, Saffy, and through the use of a variety of abilities make sure they both have the combined memories and abilities of each other.

Now I've already spoiled the ending, so I'm not going to write it. Wasn't planning on it, really. But, given all this, I ask myself and the hypothetical you who might be reading: There's two separate identities, with a distinct past in which one was Saffy and the other was Shippy*. At present point, that being story ending, does it makes sense to say they have a different identity?
I have some thoughts on that, but they'll have to wait until later.

A few notes:
Thanks to Shivahn for reminding me of this and for inspiring the follow-up, if I remember to write it.
Names were created solely for the purpose of this article, which is why they suck. I didn't exactly put a lot of thought into them.
And if you have to wonder why I keep using zie/zir, it's because that is the only set of epicene pronouns I can more or less stand to use. I should really start getting used to them, they fulfil a very obviously useful role, but they feel too alien to me.

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