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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, August 16, 2014


In Part 2 I've defined "potency" as a "dynamicity that is not a dynamicity," one that I applied principally to works of the uncanny. I believe that this will be the dominant use of the term in my system. By virtue of this logic I can assign greater potency, say, to the Durango Kid as opposed to Roy Rogers, even though the two characters have equivalent levels of power and appear in narratives that are almost identical, and the only uncanny element is the former hero's masked identity.

However, as I have experimented with categorizing many types of marvelous protagonists, it's come to my attention that some of them, too, are distinguished only by a type of potency, one dependent on the conditions of their temporal placement.

Mark Twain's 1899 A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT is among the earliest novels in which a man travels to a time not his own, and uses the knowledge of his own time-period to advance himself.

To an extent the same process is true of Wells' 1895 THE TIME MACHINE, though there are fewer examples of the Time Traveler using his knowledge of the past to enhance his survival.

Now, neither of these works is directly relevant to my project of categorizing combative types in fiction, for these are not combative works.  But both the Twain novel and the Wells work have influenced combative works, and therefore they also influence the questions of what powers and/or potency those works' heroes possess.

The 1966-67 teleseries THE TIME TUNNEL is one of the more unqualified combative works in the oeuvre of producer Irwin Allen. Two uncommonly athletic young scientists, Tony Newman and Doug Phillips, become victims of the U.S. government's "time tunnel" experiment, so that both men find themselves hurled willy-nilly from one time-period to another. Not every episode contained a big concluding battle, but Newman and Phillips frequently used both their fists and their futuristic knowledge against such adversaries as the ancient warriors of Troy, King John and Billy the Kid.  If one were evaluating them purely in terms of what "powers" they possess, Doug and Tony would be entirely naturalistic. However, the knowledge that they bring from their own time into other times confers on them a strategic "potency" as well.

Nor is this process unique to examples of people from our time traveling to times past. In the 1986 teleseries OUTLAWS, five men from the American Old West-- a sheriff and four relatively noble "outlaws"-- are unceremoniously transported to America in the 1980s. Like Newman and Phillips, the outlaws have no special powers to help them survive in the modern world, though the former westerners acclimatize well enough to start their own detective agency. Unlike Newman and Phillips, the outlaws generally don't have any special knowledge derived from their time that helps them in the alien time-period.  However, their status of being men from another time-period confers upon them a marvelous "potency," given that they view everything they see in the 1980s through a 1880s perspective.

At present this seems to be the only way in which I am likely to apply the concept of potency to the category of the marvelous. That doesn't mean I won't find other applications, though.

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