An Entertaining Superpower?

What if you could grant people whatever they say that they want? Only for one day, 24 hours, but you could wave your hand and hey presto! The person getting what he/she wants would not know that there was a time limit.

The idea occurred to me after reading a climate activist talking about how terrible all fossil fuel things and petrochemical things are, and how much better society would be without all that icky oil, gas, and coal. But no nuclear, because Godzilla or something. The person was vague on that point. Wind, solar, tidal generators, geothermal where it wouldn’t interfere with the environment, no hydropower (aside from tidal generators). So my evil little mind said, “Hmm, what if this person got what he/she/whatever claims to want?” It would probably cure him/her/whatever, at least for a moment. I giggled at the thought of what the sudden disappearance of elastic and other synthetic fibers would lead to. (Not kind, I know.)

That might be true for a lot of wishes. “I want to win the super lottery!” And the taxes, and the threats, and the people pestering you for money?

“I want to be President of the US?” OK, what if war starts, or a hurricane is attacking the East Coast, or the Big One hits California or Hawaii, or. . .

“I want world peace!” What kind of peace? Graves are very peaceful. Might want to specify a little more on that one.

“I want my heart’s desire!” Are you certain that you want everyone to know what it is you truly long for with all of your being? Think hard on that one.

“I want a McClaren!” Based on what seems to happen with that kind of car and new owners, I hope your life insurance is up to date and you have really, really good medical insurance, too.

The more I thought about it, getting what you say you want, even for only one day, could well be one of the most terrifying curses in human existence.

19 thoughts on “An Entertaining Superpower?

  1. “”I want to win the super lottery!” And the taxes, and the threats, and the people pestering you for money?”

    Nickelback addressed that issue. 😎

    “Hire eight bodyguards who like to beat up ?ssh?l?es!”

  2. It could be a good story, but only if it’s done realistically. The Monkey’s Paw I hated, because it cheated— it wasn’t granting wishes, it was very carefully poisoning them. If you’d wished for chocolate chip cookies they’d have poison in them.

    But a realistic “look at the up and down of getting what you wish”? Maybe some emphasis on getting stuff without working on it feeling hollow? Or the *creepy* of MAKING someone love you? (saved by the wisher being creeped out– and behaving decently, which really does make the I-wish-she-loved-me person take a second look at him?)

    That would be a neat series.

    • That was the point of the story, though. That Fate is a stone-cold b**ch, and trying to change it through magic is destined to end in disaster. (As was explicitly stated when the monkey’s paw was introduced.)
      Recall that there was no external negative effect to the last wish. Fate was appeased by wishing things would return to the natural course.

      • The point of the story that came through was “wishes will go badly because the author is going to make them horrible,” not “consider your wishes carefully.”

        Nobody is going to be persuaded to avoid sweets by poisoning the sugar, they’ll just know that a specific person poisons sweets.

  3. Babylon 5 touched on this, in “A View from the Gallery” – one of the maintenance guys wishes he could be out there in the space battle, and Byron grants him a few terrifying seconds of the fighter-pilot experience. Suddenly he perceives his regular job a lot more favorably.

    • My first thought was Mr. Morden in Season 1, going from character to character and asking “What do you want?”

      Vir: I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up at your lifeless eyes and wave like this. [waggles fingers] Can you and your associates arrange this for me, Mr. Morden?

      • Ah, yes. Were some unfamiliar genie to show up and grant me a wish, I’d probably tie him up forever waiting for me to come up with something safe, there being pretty much nothing I want that a supernatural being could grant.
        A known, annoying, likely dangerous genie? Yeah, I’d hope to be as creative as Vir. Being me, I’d probably just wish for him to go away and leave me in peace.

  4. Modest wishes could be quite nice.
    “I wish people would stop bothering me”, and it wears off after a day?
    Yes, please.

    Actions of others have the potential for beneficial effects, but there’s a huge underlying morality component that’s likely to bite you (hard) if you don’t respect the heck out of it.
    The wish for broad releases of information could be pretty safe, so long as it’s information that the public has a right to. Truth is objectively good, hiding it is objectively bad, and genies don’t like to go back in bottles.
    “I wish all the information Trump publicly ordered declassified and released was actually released.”
    “I wish all the information about 2020 election shenanigans were publicly and widely released.”
    “I wish we knew what Dr. Fauchi knew, and when he knew it.”
    “I wish we knew about all the corruption within or affecting our government.”

  5. I take the attitude that anything offering me wishes does not have my best interests at heart.

    Paranoia FTW.

    Kung Fu wizard story I’ve been obsessively following has spirits bound into objects, which the author says were inspired by genies. So far, we have seen three on screen that we know fit the description. Most frequently seen one outright kills a lot of the people who touch it. So far, we have had two or three survive handling the dangerous component, who were very careful, and didn’t think anything that offended it too badly. There’s another one, similarly dangerous, that was briefly brought out to dispose of a greedy idiot. Third one was a spirit less able to be proactive about defense, and had been unwillingly used by wielders, and at least one of the last two wielders was pretty evil.

  6. Chuckle Chuckle

    Jack Chalker had a “magic lamp” (in the first of his River Of Dancing Gods series) that fulfilled your wish in “interesting” ways.

    For example, one of the characters talked about getting “filthy rich” and the wizard replied “knowing the lamp, your treasure would be found in a cesspool”. 👿

    Oh, the “magic lamp” had another interesting trap. You only got One Wish but you made a second wish, it would come true but you would be the new “Slave Of The Lamp”. 😈

  7. For “I want to be President of the US?” – maybe instead of granting the wish for the immediate day, grant it for, say, Day 1228 of the term? And let the voters have the experience, too, and know why and who.

  8. For that matter, imagine being the person who has this wish-granting power. How long would you stay sane yourself, offering this gift to human after human and seeing 99% of them waste it in appallingly stupid ways?

    The thing about genies and wishes is that what you get depends as much on the genie as on the phrasing of the wish. If the genie wants to play nice, you should be ok, unless you make a really really stupid wish. OTOH, if the genie wants to screw you, it’s probably gonna find a way to screw you no matter how carefully you phrase the wish.

    A few years ago there was an anthology called “Aladdin: Master of the Lamp” packed cover to cover with Aladdin/lamp/genie short stories. Every kind of genie you could imagine, with every possible approach to granting wishes. Some of them had positive endings. Many of them didn’t. And a few, it depended on your point of view. One of my favorites was about a lawyer, subspecies “Hollywood/celebrity”, who tried to out-lawyer a genie. It didn’t end well for him.

    • Yes. I’m not overwhelmed with excitement by this development, for a number of reasons. I read (and write sci-fi). I know how this story ends. 😉

      But I’m also the one who watched the New Dr. Who episode about the creation of the cybermen, looked at all the people running around with Bluetooth™ headsets and ear-pieces, and shivered a little.

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