My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Gregory A. Wilson to talk about his paternal hilarity.
A quick perusal of previous My Superpower entries on Skiffy and Fanty reveals one essential truth: like rappers, for whom every other rapper is a sucker MC afraid to step to the mic and face the miraculous madness (I’m patenting that, by the way — it’s got just enough street cred to work), many contributors to this guest column are anxious to claim that their superpowers are more badass than everyone else’s — even when they involve creating apparently self-deprecating yet still awesome powers like (I quote) “a Non-Event Sphere” where nothing happens, or (again I quote) being “selectively stupid.” So I wish to go on the record and say, right at the outset, that my particular superpower is not likely to trump anyone else’s. You may well have this superpower yourself, and it may even be more powerful than mine. I may be the sucker MC (I’m certainly afraid of the miraculous madness). It’s not broadly applicable or particularly useful outside of one specific context. But within that context, my superpower is completely MC-style legit.
I am funny as hell. To my six year old.
It’s true. My daughter thinks I am a freaking riot. It started when she was old enough to understand concepts of creatures besides herself existing in the world, and I began to point out the rainbow giraffe which was waving to her in the car next to us. Said rainbow giraffe would also appear, quite at random, when we were walking into a restaurant, or going to her preschool, or singing the potty song. Later it was accompanied by other rainbow animals: the rainbow rhino, the rainbow zebra, the rainbow kangaroo. That all of these creatures were rainbow-colored was convenient, as rainbow has always been her favorite color (“why choose one, Daddy?”), and their arrival was always perfectly timed, always accompanied by a smile as I told her she had just missed seeing them. My daughter, also a smiler, soon began to realize what was going on and started announcing the arrival of the rainbow animals herself. “Daddy, you didn’t see the rainbow giraffe, but he brought the mail and waved. Daddy, did you see the rainbow elephant? He started to shovel the snow but it was too cold, so he left.” All this accompanied by delightful giggles — my daughter’s superpower is that she has the best giggles in the world, by the way, so all the other sucker MC daughters can step — and big smiles.
So much of what my daughter and I do when we’re spending time together, besides talk and smile and frown and cry and hug and read and run and jump and play and just be, is tell jokes. She loves my knock-knock jokes and makes a million of her own, but somewhere along the line missed the idea of tying the answer with the question — so “Knock-knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad to see me?” becomes “Knock-knock. Who’s there? Blueberry. Blueberry who? Blueberry you glad to see me?” followed by more superpower-style giggles. And she’s gotten her friends into the act, preparing them for visits to our house with “my daddy is the silliest daddy ever. He’s super funny, and he tells great jokes. Daddy, tell a joke! Daddy, the rainbow giraffe! Knock-knock! BLUEBERRY!” Her friends — who, blessedly, are also around six years old — have decided that I must indeed be the silliest daddy ever, and laugh uproariously.
How this ties into my writing on a daily basis is less clear. If I were a stand-up comic, I’d probably have an inexhaustible supply of jokes. But it would have to be for an audience of kindergartners, because although my friends also think I have a good sense of humor, the rainbow animal / knock-knock rotation has a limited shelf life once you past puberty (and probably well before; I’ll get back to you when my daughter reaches middle school). And besides, I’m not a stand-up comedian; I’m a writer, of speculative fiction no less, which — unless you’re Terry Pratchett or James Morrow or, completely accidentally, Newt Gingrich — often seems to be unusually desperate to prove its own Serious Worth. So I have to, reluctantly, keep those jokes to myself, unless and until I hit it huge with the six year old market. Call it YYYYA.
Yet I must admit that despite the in-applicability of my superpower to anything else — and the fact that it’s no doubt fleeting, as it feels like yesterday that I held my daughter and felt my breath taken away, when today I watched her ice skating and waving to me as she held hands with her friends — I’m okay with that, just like I’m okay with the idea that I’m not the only one who has it. I create worlds for a living, after all, the silent maker behind the scenes. To be recognized for comedy godhood, even if only for a very brief period of time and even if only by my daughter, is a feeling I would not trade.
Miraculous madness. Sucker MCs can step.
Gregory A. Wilson is currently an Associate Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches creative writing and fantasy fiction along with various other courses in literature. His novel The Third Sign was published by Gale Cengage. With Brad Beaulieu, he is the co-host of the podcast Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans, a show which discusses (and interviews the creators and illustrators of) speculative fiction of all sorts and types. He lives with his wife Clea, daughter Senavene — named at his wife’s urging for a character in The Third Sign, for which he hopes his daughter will forgive him — and dog Lilo in Riverdale, NY.