Random Telepathy Ideas

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So if anyone’s ever read the late Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower series, the basic idea was that this girl had a psychological problem that gave her perfect empathy.  She felt any pain she saw.  Being a Butler story, the end result was that she founded a religion that was basically the golden rule, since, for her, “do unto others” WAS “do unto you”.

But, I mean, lots of people can see the pain they cause to others, and they can see the pain in the world, and it doesn’t affect them.  They know the pain in the world, and they’ve felt it themselves, and that just makes them want to inflict more pain on others.  And I’m not talking about over-the-top violence, either; it’s the minor pains that fill the world.  The passive aggressive comments, the road rage, the smalltown cop power trips.  The love that dare not speak its name, a love scared not by violence but by tiny ostracisms.  Puppy mills, decreasing funding for failing school systems, watching American Idol while Darfur burns.

People are not inherently good, and the problem is not that people just aren’t aware enough of the pain that they cause.

So what would happen if someone could feel the pain felt by others?

Well, I think that some people with that ability wouldn’t decrease their hurtful behavior at all.  If someone pissed you off, really pissed you off, wouldn’t you like to be able to feel exactly how much your words hurt them?  If you were bitter enough, the ability to feel the knife you twisted into others would be just a proof of what you’d done.  It would be vindication.  It would make our everyday sadism into something that masochism, and vice versa, in a feedback loop of bitterness.

So that’s your “Everyone Sucks” version.  Now for your trash sci-fi version.

There’s a government supersoldier project.  They’ve made cyborgs who are more machine than man, they’ve got genetically engineered freaks who can ooze under doors and into sleepers’ ears.  Their soldiers have firepower, the ability to carry the most violent diseases without suffering themselves, the tasty Stouffer’s I’m eating… sorry, ran out of soldiery things and got hungry.

So one day the supersoldier scientist dudes figure out how to give the soldiers telepathy.  Only, it turns out to be empathy, and the only thing a soldier needs less than feelings is other people’s feelings.  Time to cancel the project!  Thing is, these soldiers can tell that they are to be “canceled”, and some of them escape.

So then you’ve got some soldiers who can’t stand the pain they see around themselves, and some who can stand it… and some who like feeling it.  And, of course, our hero (though not necessarily our viewpoint character) is someone who can’t stand to see the pain some of his fellow soldiers are causing, loose in the world, and feels duty-bound to stop it.  Only, of course, every bit of pain he causes to the soldiers he must take down, every blow he deals them, is felt equally by himself.

You could do a LOT of fun things with this.  For instance, how would someone react if causing pain to others were the only way he COULD feel pain, who’d been designed not to feel pain (cyborg, genetic freak, what have you).  How about someone who was a reverse empath, a broadcaster of his own pain instead of a receiver of others?  (Basically an emo rocker, but I digress.)  What sorts of forces would the supersoldier project people send after them?  How would they differentiate between our hero and the others?  Would they differentiate?

Some food for thought.  Could be an ongoing series.  Could be fun.

Okay, on to write something else.

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2 Responses to “Random Telepathy Ideas”

  1. Sonja Says:

    ….I’d read it. :p

  2. Sebatinsky Says:

    Yeah – the ideas are as good as you’d expect for something that came from riffing on Butler’s ideas. Some of the more quality Sci-Fi out there – largely because she writes her characters so much better than most Sci-Fi authors.

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