Note: Today is the one-year anniversary of my first blog post. Thank you to everyone who reads and supports my work. I am so appreciative of your comments, FB likes, tweets and messages. THANK YOU!!
When I was a kid, I loved to watch the Batman series on TV. It was deliciously kitschy and even as a child I recognized the cheese factor. It was highly entertaining and action packed, which I loved even then (these days I have no interest in a movie unless there are lots of explosions, car chases and shootouts. Rom coms, with the exception of Love, Actually, bore me to tears. Deep in my soul, I'm a fifteen-year-old boy). Anyway, back to Batman. I loved the show, but I had a major bone to pick with the creators. Actually, two, the first being that the bad guy always wanted to spend time gloating about the impending death and defeat of Batman, which allowed the Caped Crusader to effect his escape. In this, Batman is a lot like James Bond. I've learned to live with this trope. But it's the associated ploy that annoys me to no end; how is it that no matter how improbable the situation, Batman always had exactly right tool to save the day stashed in his utility belt? Have you noticed that? It's a deus ex machina of the silliest sort and it's a plot device that I despise.
It can be worse in paranormal and urban fantasy. Sometimes an author can decide to wave her magic wand and make all the protagonists' troubles disappear in what amounts to a puff of smoke. I am not a fan. I was reminded of this particular pet peeve as I was reading the latest in the Arcana Chronicles, Dead of Winter, and its main female character, The Empress, Evie Green, who seems to grow in power minute to minute (not really, and I loved the book, but the new-powers-all-the-time thing was wearing). I was reminded again as I whipped through Robyn Peterman's Fashionably Dead series starring Astrid Porter. Which in turn led me to think about Anita Blake, who is one of my all-time favorite kick-ass heroines. But all these ladies resort to the pull-a-rabbit-out of-your-hat trick when new, previously unheard of powers, that we've never seen before, and which have not been foreshadowed in any way, appear just when our fair damsels need them. Convenient, much? Drives me nuts. Or, it did. But then I got to thinking. The plot thickens. What I started thinking about was whether I was being self-righteously judgmental. Not that I would ever be like that. Well, maybe sometimes. Or maybe a bit more often than sometimes. I began to wonder whether it is really so unrealistic that new skills evolve over time to meet emerging needs and challenges. At one point, when Astrid, the Chosen One among the vampires, erupts with a new demonic power, surprising herself as much me, the reader, her mate points out that she is evolving, and that time will reveal new abilities as a matter of course. Which is true. As we grow and learn and evolve, we are all certainly capable of gaining new abilities and powers. After all, none of us is born knowing how to read or write or do math (I still can’t do math, but one never knows what new superpowers will emerge in the future!).I believe strongly in learning new things. All the time. I believe in changing it up, getting comfortable with new equipment, software, TVs and tablets, etc. I believe very strongly in continually challenging myself to do something new as often as possible and to get out of my comfort zone. I believe in making an investment of time and pain to keep myself sharp and relevant. I believe if we aren’t moving forward, we’re moving backward. And I believe that if we’re not making progress toward self-improvement, we are stagnating. And stagnation feels like death to me. Now, it’s true that there is a fine line between stagnation and contentment. And that there is an even finer line between necessary regeneration and sloth. But, wow, those lines are so hard to find. And I’ve got to say that I’d rather err on the side of moving forward with both barrels blazing than come to find out that I’ve become standing water that is inexorably evaporating.And I do understand that not everyone thinks the way I do (this is a good thing, I’m told by many who love me). But, honestly, I don’t really get it. Why wouldn’t we want to have new tools to use for the myriad situations life tends to throw at us? Batman had the right idea—a tool for every fool. Wait, no, that wasn’t it. A toy for every boy? No, that doesn’t work either. How about a solution for every challenge? An answer for every question? Is that a fantasy, more appropriate for mythical superheroes than for garden variety humans like myself? Probably. But I can still work toward that as my ideal. Nothing wrong with striving toward perfection, as long as we realize we aren’t going to get there in this lifetime.
So, new day, new trick. Just like Astrid and Evie and Anita. I could do a lot worse than be like them. Perhaps I will give my annoyance a rest, for today, and see the truth in this fantasy; where I believe that new powers are mine for the asking and the taking—provided that I am willing to work to get them. I’m going to strap on my handy, dandy utility belt—just like the Dark Knight—and I’m going to be extraordinary. Wanna join me?