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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

GUEST POST: How do you hurt Superman? by S M Reine


If your name is Lex Luthor, you're probably thinking about a green rock that saps the superhero of his powers, and it's true that kryptonite is one way to inflict physical damage on Superman. But that's a dull story, reducing the conflict surrounding a powerful, godlike creature to a round of fisticuffs. And what hurts Superman physically doesn't destroy him. He's not driven by a sense of self-preservation; he would readily martyr himself for a good cause. No, Superman's true vulnerability is his love of humanity, his love of Lana and Lois and Jimmy and the Kents. He is deeply human at his core. Take down the people he loves, and you can shatter Superman.

Although I'll always be a Bat-fan at heart, the idea of spinning compelling stories about an invulnerable character like Superman has always intrigued me. He might deflect bullets with his chest, but Lois Lane can't. It's that gaping flaw that has made Superman one of the most beloved comic book characters in America's pop culture history.

But how could you hurt a godlike character that doesn't have Superman's deeply moral core, who wasn't beloved by the Kents as a child, who cares little about what's right and a lot about his goals? Normally, that's how you would design someone like Zod, fellow Kryptonian and villainous sociopath. He has all the same power but is driven by selfish needs. His goal is to restore Krypton, with no regard for the billions of lives that restoration would end.

Yet if you make an amoral, all-powerful character's goals conveniently align with what's “right” most of the time—even if not for the sake of rightness—you end up with an antihero that could destroy everything just as easily as she saves it. Elise Kavanagh has the Superman powers without the Clark Kent upbringing. She's driven by selfish need. Fortunately, her selfish desire is to create a world that's safe for her to live in undisturbed, and consequently safe for the rest of humanity, too. But if her safety came at the cost of the world—well, that wouldn't be her problem!


When I decided to write The Descent Series and its follow up, The Ascension Series (a dyad much like two standalone seasons of a TV show), I wanted to take this idea to its entirely unreasonable maximum. The series are a long journey for Elise from reluctantly heroic exorcist to a godlike character always on the brink of destruction, and in order to build a world that can challenge “amoral Superman,” I've had to construct enemies and conflicts on an epic level uncommon to urban fantasy. As Riley once mused on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “What's the plural of apocalypse?” Once you've threatened to destroy the world—or, in the case of The Descent Series, once you've killed God—how do you raise the stakes after that?

What results is a big-scale war story about Heaven and Hell on Earth, with Elise at its crux—who, as benefactor of demon powers, is never quite on either side. Each book is a few degrees crazier than the last one, and it's marching toward an intense, balls-to-the-wall climax that can only happen on the scale of gods. I really enjoy getting to toe the line between epic and urban fantasy. It gives me the freedom to write the kind of huge stories that I used to love in my comic books as a kid, with a bit of a twist.

If you'd like to see how Elise Kavanagh goes from exorcist hiding from God to a god in her own right, you can start with The Descent Series Collection #1 (available for free on Amazon)—the first three titles of The Descent Series, which is where the mythology begins. They're currently free to download on most major vendors (Smashwords, B&N, Amazon UK). I may not be a bald multi-billionaire tycoon, but I've broken Superman more than a few times, and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I have.


Official Author Website

AUTHOR INFORMATION: S. M. Reine was born in the midwest, has lived overseas for a few years, and came back to the United States to settle down in beautiful, barren Nevada. She always wanted to be a writer from a young age, and wrote her very first book when she was twelve. She loves watching movies (of all kinds) and later discussing them. She also loves video games and her current favorite game of the week is Kerbal Space Program.

NOTE: Lex Luthor picture courtesy of Villains Wiki. Author picture and Descent series omnibus picture courtesy of the author.

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