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"This was a test campaign used in 1947 to market a new product. The product was a drug, a tranquilizer called 'Ephemerol'. It was aimed at pregnant women. If it had worked it would have been marketed all over North America. But the campaign failed and the drug failed, because it had a side effect on the unborn children. An invisible side effect."—Darryl Revok, Scanners
It's the not so distant future. Some bizarre event (perhaps a Global Catastrophe) rains down from the heavens to strike an unsuspecting Earth. It passes, leaving the shattered fragments of humanity that remain to rebuild their lives, thankful that it is all over.
But is it over?
Some time later, about 10-15 years (or just nine months) after the Event, people start to notice a few strange things about at least some of the children now being born into the world. Their hair and eye color doesn't match that of their parents. Odd powers may start to manifest. Telekinesis, teleportation, setting fires with their minds, these things come easier to them than riding a bicycle.
Or perhaps... their powers are a lot more subtle in nature. Perhaps the only power they were granted was the ability to see extradimensional Space-Vampires or to pilot a Humongous Mecha of mysterious origin, and now those children are the only ones who can stand between humanity and an otherworldly threat which has cropped up and is now seeking to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
Perhaps...the children themselves are the threat which seeks to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
If all of the children are good, you can expect them to be recruited as soldiers or pilots by a shadowy government agency which seeks to protect humanity. (At least, that's what they'll claim to be doing. There's no guarantee that they won't actually try to use the children in their own plot to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.)
If some of the children are good and some are evil, expect them to be pitted against each other at some point. The good children may be recruited by The Government and placed in a military institution or Wizarding School where they'll be trained on how to use their powers. Expect the evil children to be recruited by a psycho Cult Leader, who plans to use them in his plan to, you guessed it, bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
If all of the children are evil, expect them all to be on the same side and to be damn creepy. More often than not, they'll have wicked powers and much higher intelligence than normal humans, meaning that most conventional forms of fighting will have no effect on them. In most cases it will require nothing less than a Heroic Sacrifice to take them out.
This often appears a type of Meta Origin in superhero and superhero-like stories.
Anime & Manga Edit
- Neon Genesis Evangelion is the prime anime example, with the "children being recruited as mecha pilots" variation. The actual reason WHY it has to be children born after Second Impact is never made clear, though with the secret of the Mechas they're piloting...it might be better not to know at all.
- More specifically, they had to be in utero during the Second Impact event.
- Weren't the EVA pilots chosen because they had traumatic childhoods? I've also heard that only teens with a massive desire for isolation would be compatible, but I also heard that same thing about the strength of the EVA's AT-Fields...
- Seeing as the EVA need to contain the souls of the pilot's mother to work this might not have much to do with the children.
- Gilgamesh features super-powered children born from embryos exposed to Applied Phlebotinum.
- S-Cry-ed takes place in a future rocked by a geographical uprising, which has left 1% of the newborn children with the ability to manipulate matter at will and create "Alters", strange creatures that do their bidding. The number rises as the series progresses, evidently a side effect of continued tampering with the power of the other side, which started the whole mess.
- NEEDLESS takes place after World War Three in which those born within the "Black Spot" gain superhuman powers.
- Please Save My Earth features the reincarnation of a group of alien scientists after they all die when their civilization ends, and focuses on their lives as typical Japanese teenagers.
- Gundam's Universal Century timeline has the Newtypes, humans who developed Psychic Powers as humanity started to live in space colonies instead of the Earth's surface.
- The Diclonius of Elfen Lied, which can intentionally infect normal humans so their children will inherit the mutation.
- Although drugs were involved, all the powerful psychics in Akira are explicitly young people, or awakened to their powers at young age.
- The "Whispered" of Full Metal Panic possess a psychic connection with an undefined future, which "whispers" the secrets of "Black Technology" directly into their minds. From time to time that connection can be established between individual Whispered. Every Whispered was born on December 24, 1981 (1984 in the anime) between 11:50 and 11:53 PM Greenwich Mean Time.
- Children from Toward the Terra, born naturally on Nazca are all Type Blue and grow incredibly fast. They all share the same slightly sociopathic mentality, which connected with their actions doesn't score them many points with the other Mu.
- Alive the Final Evolution invokes this trope, but doesn't actually use it--the space-beings thud into and apparently fuse with human beings, upon which most of them promptly and joyfully commit suicide. The few who have strong enough will, in some fashion, to survive, get superpowers instead. The persons involved can be any age--the oldest shown was an old blind man--but the main focus is on the new tykebombs, so it plays out a lot like this trope.
- Rising Stars by J. Michael Straczynski, has exactly this premise: "In 1969 in the sleepy midwestern town of Pederson, Illinois, a flash of light in the heavens heralds the coming of the 'Specials', 113 individuals who are blessed with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men."
- The original explanation for Mutants (the "Children of the Atom") in X-Men was as a side-effect of atomic bomb testing.
- The premise of The Umbrella Academy: The same year "Tusslin' Tom" Gurney knocked out the space-squid from Rigel X-9 with a flying atomic elbow "...forty three extraordinary children were born to mostly single women, who had shown no signs of pregnancy, in seemingly random locations around the world." A wealthy entrepreneur tracked down and adopted seven of these children to raised them as a superhero team.
- The "Century Babies" in Wildstorm's The Authority and Planetary. Though in this case, the writers Did Not Do the Research. The idea is that they represent various aspects of the century in which they are born, but they're actually born in the last century. For example, the 20th century babies were born in 1900, the last year of the 19th century.
- This point is raised when Jenny Sparks dies at the end of 1999, and it's claimed that it's humanity's collective consciousness that defines the relevant years, even if they're mathematically wrong.
- A Filipino comic called Batch 72 has an experimental drug dumped in the water supply of the Manila, producing thousands of superpowered kids.
- Perhaps the first screen media example: 1960's Village of the Damned, based on John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos. Followed in 1964 by Children of the Damned, and then remade, again as Village of the Damned, in 1995.
- Thailand also made a movie version, 1994's Blackbirds at Bangpleng, which uses the same device, but has the children as less intrinsically evil.
- David Cronenberg's Scanners is about a wave o' babies (not literally) with Body Horror-tastic psychic powers. Revok, one of the children of the original boom, is plotting to start a second one, and then create an army of evil scanners and Take Over the World. And he probably could do it. Maybe he does.
- Minority Report has the addicts of Neuroin giving birth to the Precogs, who can see the future - specially murders.
- It only affected a small group but in The Girl With The Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts, a group of women that tried an experimental fertility drug gave birth to children with silver eyes that had Psychic Powers. Their powers grew stronger if they worked together and a pair could push another remotely.
- The Midwich Cuckoos, a 1957 novel by John Wyndham, in which all the women in the village of Midwich simultaneously become pregnant with alien children who all shared the same uncanny appearance and had the ability to mentally manipulate people.
- Wyndham's earlier story The Chrysalids is something of the sort from the viewpoint of the children as their telepathic powers emerge.
- In a similar example, Wilmar Shiras's fixup novel Children of the Atom (first part published 1948; whole novel, 1953) is based on the notion that after an accidental release of radiation at a nuclear power plant, several dozen female employees give birth to Mutants that are absolutely normal in every way except that all of them have IQs of over 300.
- ...and are they evil?
- The implication was that they're all quite conventional Christians -- except for one or two, and even those Learn Better. (One of the characters says she knows there are people who don't believe in God, but she can't talk about them because she's been forbidden to use the words "crazy" or "stupid".)
- ...and are they evil?
- In Garth Nix's novel Shade's Children, during "The Change," everyone over the age of 14 suddenly disappeared and the mysterious Overlords appeared from nowhere. Children born during or after the Change had "Change Talents," basically Psychic Powers.
- Those who survived the Change got them too; there are multiple characters (one during the main story and at least one more in flashback) shown to have Change Talents who were definitely born before it.
- Arthur C. Clarke's Childhoods End -- sort of. Aliens show up shortly before a bizarre new generation of humans appears, but they didn't cause it. The human race is evolving on its own, as others have before, and the aliens are here to make this as painless as possible.
- In Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio (and sequel), the human race undergoes a disease called "Herod's Flu" because it spontaneously aborts fetuses--and then the mothers become spontaneously pregnant again. It turns out non-coding introns in human DNA occasionally induce a mass evolutionary change, in this case to adapt us to better live in an information-rich world. This is a case of surprisingly plausible Hollywood Evolution, because Bear shows his work.
- Except that the whole concept of "non-coding" introns has now had to be re-examined as Science Marches On.
- Wild Cards; though it's not limited to children, those born carrying the Wild Card virus far outnumber the original overt infectees (especially since most of the original group drew the Black Queen and died).
- The X-Men/Star Trek the Next Generation crossover novel Planet X has a group of Human Aliens who, at age twenty-two, begin exhibiting destructive powers. They are revealed to have been genetically engineered as potential Super Soldiers by aggressive but lazy aliens.
- Another Star Trek TNG novel has a bunch of genetically-enhanced Augments plotting to produce a Bizarre Baby Boom by infecting normal humans with a virus that rewrites their reproductive DNA to bring the kids up to the Augments' level, thus resulting in a Utopia of perfectly healthy, super-genius Supermen who were neurologically incapable of violence. Since The ST-verse has a strict No Transhumanism Allowed policy, preventing this was considered a happy ending.
- Henry Kuttner's 1953 novel Mutant has the "baldies," bald telepathic humans who were born after a nuclear war and subsequent fallout. Wonder if Stan Lee read it?
- It was a common trope at the time, that one book was just following the already well-established mutant trend of postwar Atomic Age sci-fi. Stan picked it up by osmosis from a large number of sources, particularly "Children of the Atom", seen above.
- Kuttner also has a story called "Absalom" where more and more smarter and smarter children are born every generation. There is a problem with the older generations being envious and afraid.
- The Salman Rushdie novel Midnight's Children has 1001 Indian children with low-level superpowers. The connecting thread between them all is that they were all born at midnight on the day India gained its independence.
- In Xanth, the magical nature of the land is such that anyone born there has a magic talent, but no one from Mundania is lucky enough to have one. So a regular occurrence in the history of Xanth was that a Wave of immigrants will come in from Mundania, have kids, usually having married among themselves, and discover that all of their kids have their own magic talents.
- In Octavia Butler's Earthseed books, a drug designed to cure mental degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's winds up giving the kids "hyper-empathy syndrome" which causes them to hallucinate feeling the pain of others.
- Several of F. Paul Wilson's stories or novels feature folk who were born soon after an influx of 'Otherness' into our world. Some are grotesque Body Horror mutants, while others are only minimally deformed, but possess an inborn attraction to the Otherness that makes them potential sleeper agents for it.
- Micheal Grant's Gone had a portion of the population (all children, because the book starts the moment that all adults and people over fourteen 'poof') develop psychic powers thus far because a meteorite hit the nearby nuclear plant 13 years prior, scattering radioactive fallout. Now discovered to have been the arrival of an evil alien, which needed the powers of one of the children to free itself and create a new body.
- Central Passage by Lawrence Schoonover had the American government trying to rebuild after a brief nuclear war, and worried about the potential threat of some oddly mutated children, including the main character's son. A postscript reveals that the mutants eventually took over. They call non-mutant humans "helots" -- the term the Spartans used for the slaves on whom they periodically declared war as an excuse to murder them.
- In Ethan of Athos (in the Vorkosigan Saga universe), telepath Terrence Cee has inserted the telepathy gene into every one of the female genetic samples sent to the exclusively male-populated planet Athos for their reproductive machines, intending to cause one of these. Unusually, protagonist Ethan eventually decides this is a good idea for everyone involved and rolls with it.
- Ethan's logic is impeccable and has a moral basis. with genetic samples having already found their way into the hands of imperialist and generally nasty powers, and Terrence as proof that telepaths are possible, it's only a matter of time before cloned and indoctrinated telepath minorities become government tools. The only way to counter this danger to human freedom is with a race with a free telepath majority.
- In Shade, by PC Cast, 16 years before the start of the story there was the Shift, and all children born after the Shift can see ghosts (while the minority who could see ghosts pre-Shift have lost that ability). Ghosts also seem to have changed, becoming purple in color and sometimes going insane and causing sickness in all post-Shift children. The protagonist was the very first person born before the Shift, and she ends up meeting the very last person born before the Shift. Both the First and the Last have special powers.
Live-Action TV Edit
- In Supernatural, there is a variant: Sam and a bunch of children from his generation were given Demon blood by Big Bad Azazel when they were six months old. This gave them a variety of creepy psychic powers when they reached the age of 22--and were intended to be members of Azazel's army in an ill-defined plan. Turns out Sam is supposed to be the vessel for Satan himself, and Azazel's a master of the Xanatos Gambit for having run his plan without a hitch (even his death really didn't put a dent in it).
- In Fringe, some children (including Olivia) were given a drug (made by Massive Dynamics) back in the early 80s. It was meant to enhance their minds. It worked a little too well in some cases, but it also had some unpleasant side effects on several subjects.
Tabletop Games Edit
- In Arthaus's 3E Ravenloft products, calibans are supernaturally-mutated humans, altered in the womb by exposure to magic, curses, or the malignant influence of hags. Metagame-wise, they take the place of half-orcs as potential PCs, orcs being unknown in Ravenloft.
- Inverted in Dungeons and Dragons' sahuagin, evil humanoid fish-people at war with aquatic elves. If sahuagin communities exist too close to elven colonies, a handful of sahuagin children hatch out looking exactly like aquatic elves. These "malenti" are usually killed as weaklings, but those which prove strong enough are raised as spies and used to infiltrate elven enclaves or human coastal settlements ... hence, the inversion, as it's the bad guys exploiting their own mutants instead of forcing mutant births upon someone else.
- Unexplained Genetic Expression (UGE) was the Technobabble term concocted by scientists of the Shadowrun Verse, to try to explain why babies all over the world were suddenly being born as elves and dwarves. That lasted until dragons started showing up in the skies again.
- The superhero MMORPG City of Heroes features an NPC named Fusionette who is one of the Nuclear 90, a group of 90 children who were born in the same year who have superpowers involving nuclear fusion. So far she is the only one of The Ninety to show up in the game. Most or all player characters are also suggested to be the result of a different Bizarre Baby Boom, according to the related books, specifically one tied with the most recent opening of Pandora's Box after World War I.
- In Mass Effect, biotics (people who can manipulate gravity) are the result of in-utero exposure to Element Zero. A couple of spills resulted in most of the early human biotics being concentrated in a few major cities. Eventually, Cerberus stops relying on accidents to create super soldiers. Plus Element Zero only works in a small percentage - a majority of the people will go through life with no abnormality at all, and most of the rest end up with brain tumors.
- X-COM: Apocalypse introduces genetic hybrids of humans and the sectoids of the first game. They're some of the best soldiers you can recruit in the game, because of their high level of psi stats and lack of real drawbacks. They have no sinister motives, since the aliens that intended to exploit them were wiped out almost a century earlier, but are still discriminated against by the people and government of Mega-Primus.
- In UFO: Aftershock, there are human children who are born with unique abilities, such as psychic powers or the ability to adapt to robotic implants. These children are instantly rejected, giving rise to the Psionic and Cyborg tribes.
- Freak Angels (read it here), though the big end-of-the-world event doesn't happen until they're all 17, apparently. And
presumablythey caused it. The story takes place six years after the event.
- In the backstory of Drowtales it's mentioned that the children of the Dark Elves who went underground were changed, losing the color in their hair, having darker skin and discolored mouths due to lack of nutrition. The elves saw this as a sign that they were to go extinct, and by the time the story starts they have all but vanished and been replaced by the titular drow.
Real Life Edit
- Some New Age circles believe that the coming of the Age of Aquarius has caused the next generation to be "spiritually gifted". Thus, the "indigo children" phenomenon.
- "Thalidomide children" born in early 1960s. Maybe as many as 20,000 children were born with birth defects (mostly phocomelia - a disorder which causes stunted limb growth) because their mothers had consumed thalidomide, at the time prescribed as an anti-emetic, during pregnancy.
- Another anti-emetic, diethylstilbestrol, caused birth defects including reproductive tract conditions such as "T-shaped" uteruses in baby girls between 1941 and 1971. In some cases, diethylstilbestrol also caused some rare cancers, and the effects could be passed on to the children of those exposed.