We Are Multiple Man

written by David Steffen

What superpower would you choose? Most classical superpowers are awesome for combat, but not all that practical in day-to-day activities. Super strength? Guess who’s going to get asked to help everyone move. Fireballs–handy in limited context, maybe, but modern life doesn’t require a lot of fire-lighting on a day to day basis. Metal claws–wouldn’t need to hold pocket knives but you could never get through airport security.

For my everyday life, I would definitely pick the power of Jamie Madsen, aka Multiple Man. Jamie has the ability to create perfect duplicates of himself, each of which is intelligent and has free will. There’s some limit to the amount of how much he can split, but the limit is quite high–something like 50 when he was in X-Factor and more as he masters his power.

Just think of how much you could get get done! If you have kids, you wouldn’t need daycare. Not only that, but if you have four kids, you could have one of you to watch EACH of your kids to give them personalized attention so watching four kids wouldn’t even be stressful. While you do that, you could also work to bring in money. Or more than one job simultaneously. Another one of you could head out to get groceries. Another one could be off taking vocational training. Or learning to paint. Or going on vacation. That’s only ten–you’d still have another 40 to go if you wanted to. Then at the end of the day, bring all of yourselves back to dinner, merge them all together again, and have a nice dinner with your family, reintegrating all the memories together as you spent all day one-on-one with ALL of your kids and got all the chores done (and went on vacation to unwind). That would be the coolest thing ever.

Unfortunately, I think I’m a little too old to expect sudden onset superpowers.

But that got me to thinking–just an ordinary human being has something kind of like that. Of course you don’t have multiple bodies, but more of a multiplicity of mind. Have you ever gotten together for a social gathering where you have people from work and neighbors and family members, and you find it awkward as you don’t know how to behave among them all together? In a very real way, that’s because you are a different person at work than you are with your family than you are with your neighbors, and the awkwardness comes because those different people don’t know how to integrate.

Everyone does this. They’re a different person when they’re being a father, or a son, or a brother, or at work, or as a customer at a store, or whatever. It’s not a result of dishonesty, but of compartmentalization–the traits that fit into that social group or environment dominate in that group.

So we’re all superpowered, really. The human mind is an amazing thing. Maybe as amazing, in its own way, as being able to spawn up to 50 bodies. Though, if someone knows how to make that happen, I’m in.


Based somewhat on Codex post:

I find it interesting (and sometimes disconcerting) how the human mind can compartmentalize or facetize and approach each differing circumstance or situation in such a different way so that in a way you’re a completely different person.

Engineer David is not Dad David. Writer David is not Engineer David. Grinder-Admin David is not Gamer David. Dad David is not Husband David (though those two are of course more closely related genealogically than some of the others). We all wear many hats. Some of us, like my good friend Bartholemew Cubbins, wear entirely too many hats and sometimes find it difficult to remove them or to pick the one appropriate for the occasion.

When I’m wearing any of those hats, I can of course remember wearing the other hats, and I can remember what I was thinking when I was wearing those other hats and what was important to me and what was frustrating me and what drove me. But at the same time, those other Davids can seem completely foreign (until I become them again). It can all work out if they tag team when they’re supposed to, if the more unsocial Davids can be kept away from people.

I can see how that kind of mental adaptability can be a survival trait that comes out of natural selection. I can also see how mental health problems including anxiety disorders can arise when something in this three ring circus of mental and social arrangements gets out of whack.

–This aside brought to you by Woolgathering-Philosopher David when Engineer David is supposed to be in charge, because that’s how he rolls
(To be clear: not saying I have an anxiety disorder, not crying for help, my mind is wandering and I decided I wanted to put the words somewhere)


Use the metaphor of Multiple Man and my musings that it would be awesome to be able to split into different bodies to be able to get everything done, but how it’s amazing how we can already kind of do that in a mental fashion.

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David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David is also the editor-in-chief here at Diabolical Plots. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on BlueSky for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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