Paragons - Next Gen
The Wave was an event without precedent in human history. No other moment has so redefined the nature of the world and the future of humanity (and parahumanity). So it’s something of an understatement to say popular culture around the world has gone paranormal-crazy. People around the world are positively obsessed with the living gods who walk amongst them, with all the good and bad that implies. The paranormal is the driving force in popular culture, drawing everything else along in its massive wake.
Traditional magazines and newspapers have found a great deal more to report, and discuss, in the wake of the Wave. Print news coverage of paranormals, or stories involving them in some fashion, is almost continuous. Print publications try to make up in depth and accuracy what they lack in speed and immediacy compared to online venues. They’re only partially successful, since a great deal of the facts concerning the paranormal remain unknown or in dispute. The best they can usually do is provide in-depth information about the paragons themselves, and investigative journalism has come under fire in a few cases for invading the privacy of otherwise ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
Journalists involved counter that the public has a right to know, especially when someone with the power to level a city block might be living in their midst. Book publishers have tell-all accounts of the Wave, individual stories about paragons, and endless books of theory and speculation on the paranormal pouring into bookstores or waiting in the wings. Biographies and books by known paragons top the sales charts as people hunger to know everything they can about these new icons.
The existence of real, live people with superhuman powers has led to a massive revival in the comic book publishing industry, but also an equally large change in focus. Readers are far more interested in “reality comics” based on real paragons and their supposed “adventures” (or other activities) rather than stories about fictional superheroes, repackaged and retold for the umpteenth time.
Readers both young and old snap up these stories—in both older, traditional art styles and Japanese-influenced manga—as fast as they’re published. The shift to “timely” reality comics (often based on real-world events) has also revived the monthly publication of comics magazines, which had been flagging compared to book-length graphic novels.
Naturally, comic book publishers seek to license hot new paranormal talents to publish reality comics about them, and such comics are typical elements of a widespread marketing campaign involving paragons. Comic publishers and creators are even called upon—by the paragons themselves or the companies that sponsor them—to provide designs and inspiration for paranormals, from costumes to “code-names” and more.
With the decline in popularity of fictional superhumans, major comic book publishers have hit upon a new idea: Licensing their properties to real, living paranormals! After all, if you were a paragon with amazing athletic abilities and the power to stick to walls, would you rather build up your own “brand identity” or associate yourself with one of the most famous in the world? The idea has proven popular and has the potential to tremendously revitalize existing comic properties, while bringing in considerable licensing income. There remain some concerns over finding just the right “fit” for an existing character identity and just how much (if at all) such characters should be tailored to their new “wearers.” Publishers are also considering the eventuality of having to transfer a property to a new licensor, much like having a new actor play a popular, long-running role.
FILM & TELEVISION
With the appearance of paranormals, the line between “news” and “entertainment” in the public broadcast media has become almost non-existent. People watch 24-hour news channels in hopes of seeing exclusive footage of their favorite paragons, catching all the current gossip, and just finding out what incredible new things have happened in the world today. The new Paragon Network provides continuous news coverage of all things paranormal. In fact, so many people spend time glued to their televisions (or online news feeds, or both) that a certain amount of “news fatigue” sets in after a while.
Paragons are the hot new topic for all kinds of television and film. The biggest explosion is the immediacy of “reality TV” dealing with the paranormal in some form or another. In Japan, the Mighty Miracle Guardians are a Transnational Guard field-team that has its own reality show, their exploits and adventures followed by cameras and a full production team. Allegations abound that much of the drama outside of the actual super-heroic crime-fighting that the Guardians engage in are manufactured by the production company in order to make the show entertaining, but the fact remains the show is a massive hit in Japan and for years has led to interest in similar programs elsewhere in the world.
Story-driven television and conventional film are somewhat slower to catch up, although Hollywood is rife with proposals for vehicles based around this or that aspect of the post-Wave world, from dramas to situation comedies. The potential for casting paranormal actors is there; people able to do their own stunts and “special effects.” The formerly unknown actor Mark “Masque” Doucette has a promising career ahead using his paranormal ability to change his appearance to imitate famous people (depending on the resolution of pending court cases claiming violations of personal intellectual property and “human copyright”).
The Wave has brought the Internet into its own as a medium for news and information, and a great many people get their up-to-the-minute updates on what’s going on from online news feeds, blogs, podcasts, and similar resources. Indeed, with ubiquitous digital cameras and Internet-capable cell phones and the like, a good deal of the “reporting” about the paranormal comes from ordinary people who happen to be in the right place at the right time (or wrong time, as the case may be). They capture images the traditional news media is to slow to get.
The number of websites and blogs dedicated to paragons grows exponentially, with popular sites having millions of hits daily. Paranormals are by no means immune to this phenomenon; in fact, some of the most popular sites are those run by paragons, or featuring them speaking in their own words to the public.
As much as the Internet is a source for information, it’s also a source of misinformation. In particular, the “origin chaser” subculture has its primary home online and at various websites. In spite of attempts to shut down, or counter, such things as spark party networking sites and the like in the interest of public safety, authorities have been only partially successful. The ’net is jammed with various scams claiming to make people into paranormals, cults for or against paragons, and end-less theory and speculation about the Wave and what it all means, much of it uninformed at best, paranoid ranting at worst.
In the years since the Wave, Paranormal artists are only beginning to explore the potential of their powers for art. In addition to artistic savants (or those who claim to be savants), some paragons can create or perform art beyond the capabilities of others.
Paranormal singers could potentially hit and sustain notes beyond the human range of hearing, although such music has a limited appeal to human audiences (some “ultra-soprano” overtones might be audible in the performance to human ears). More likely, paragon songsmiths could have music with paranormal effects, from bliss- or hallucination-inducing to emotion controlling! While some “special effects” can draw an audience, others are more likely to attract paranoid suspicion.
Even just the accusation of “paranormal mind control” could damage the reputation of a popular performer. How do you prove fans love you for your work and not because of some hidden power? Still, paranormal musicians have tremendous potential as “novelty acts,” especially if they’re any good at music. They’re likely to earn the attention of music promoters, agents, and publishers looking to set them up on tours and market them like any other paranormal commodity.
The potential for paranormal performance art is considerable and largely unexplored. Paragons can achieve performances normal people can only imagine, from aerobatics to fire-and-light shows, to realistic illusions where anything is possible. Exhibitions of paranormals simply “showing off” what they can do are hugely popular, either broadcast or—especially—live and in person. So long as they’re confined to spectacular “special effects” and “magic tricks,” paranormal performance pieces are likely to go over big with potential audiences. It’s when audience participation enters the mix that trouble arises. People become skittish about the idea of “undue influence,” so performances where a paragon directly affects the emotions, perceptions, or (worse yet) physical being of the audience make people nervous.
They make promoters and venues nervous, too, given the tremendous potential for liability. That said, there’s still an audience for paranormal performances involving things like mental projections, emotional manipulation, and the like, especially among thrill-seekers, paranormal groupies, and spark ravers. Such things tend to remain underground due to the risk factors involved.
In addition to savant levels of skill in drawing, painting, and other visual media, some paragons can “paint” with light, or sculpt rock or metal with their bare hands. Others can use pigments to reproduce images with photorealistic accuracy and some paranormal works of art even seem to have a “life” of their own, making them a kind of Paratechnology: Animate statues, paintings that talk, drawings able to alter the emotional state of the beholder, and so forth. As with other manifestations of paranormal power, exactly how the things happen remains unknown; they simply do.