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There Before You Know It

The Fall of Doc Future

By W. Dow Rieder 

3 Jun, 2021

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The Fall of Doc Future by W. Dow Rieder is an online superhero novel. It was serialized between 2012 and 2013.

Those closest to Doc Future can tell something is wrong with the super-genius. Never one to share his problems with the intellectually inferior — and as far as Doc can tell, everyone is his intellectual inferior — Doc is unwilling to publicly acknowledge the toll that his prophetic nightmares are taking on him. Ridding himself of them would deny him the means to foresee world-threatening crises before they happen, so he must find some way to live with them. 

As it happens, while Doc is a bright guy, self analysis is tricky. Doc does not fully understand his own problems.

Among Doc’s many concerns, the fact that his adopted daughter Flicker might cause a planetary scale apocalypse. Flicker is a speedster who can approach the speed of light. How closely she can do this is hard to test, due to the havoc she causes at near-light speeds. She does her best to limit the environmental effects of her powers on Earth. Nevertheless, high speed travel can dump megatons of heat along her path, and can be mistaken for nuclear attacks by the ill-informed. If she weren’t careful or if she made a conscious effort, she could scour life from the planet. Doc has seen futures where she has done so.

Flicker’s concerns are more immediate. She would like a boyfriend durable enough to have sex with her without risking life-altering, potentially fatal, injuries. Having settled on metahuman musician Donner as a good bet, she launches what is to her a protracted campaign to apply careful behavioral analysis to the challenge of wooing a somewhat reluctant Donner. From Donner’s non-speedster perspective, of course, the methodical effort takes place over a simple conversation. 

Flicker’s best friend Dr. Stella Reinhart has set her cap for Doc. Like Doc, Stella augmented her own intelligence. She emphasised different aspects of cognition. Thus, her mind is a death trap for mind controllers and body-thieves, and Stella’s perspective on mental architecture is quite different from Doc’s. Nevertheless, she is his equal. Whether Doc will react to discovering he has an equal with glee or an orbital death ray is a question that fills Stella with a certain level of trepidation.

Convincing Doc to see her as an ally is crucial. Doc’s cognitive framework is flawed in ways impossible to perceive within said flawed framework. Without help, Doc can look forward to devolving back to merely human levels of intelligence — or worse.

Meanwhile, Flicker is discovering aspects of her past heretofore unknown to her, discoveries that may set her on the path to destroying not merely worlds but entire universes.


Thanks to Flicker’s transatlantic race to save Stella from being run over mid-phone conversation, the reader discovers the UK, at least, has functionaries whose task it is to politely request superhumans not break the planet, inadvertently trigger WWIII while averting traffic mishaps, or perhaps worst of all, upset high-ranking ministers. Stella’s past, on the other hand, reveals that factions exist whose approach is to force compliance from irritable godlike individuals living amongst the mortals. Team Polite Request has a much lower fatality rate than Team Force Compliance. This is not entirely surprising. 

One hopes the degree to which pitiful humans are outmatched by beings like Doc, Stella, and Flicker is a state secret. After all, knowing one could be snuffed out without recourse were such beings to give way to a momentary pique is not comforting knowledge. There’s not much the puny mortals can do about it. Gods make bad neighbours. 

Most of the characters approach life’s challenges as a series of intellectual problems to be solved. Consequently, there is quite a lot of discussion in this lengthy work. Given the carnage that results from hasty reactions — Stella isn’t being overcautious when she worries about getting an X‑Ray laser to the face if she alarms Doc — it is probably for the best that, when possible, characters do their best to carefully think their way through situations, rather than embracing Marvel’s stock method of having supers punch each other through buildings on the path to compromise. Not that there isn’t a lot of action in this comic — worlds will live! Worlds will die! — but calm rational discussion plays a much larger role in this than in most superhero fare. 

Lots of novels and comics about superhumans/superheroes, lots of RPGs about same. All of which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that no one with any sense would want to live next to them, but they do make for diverting reading (or roleplaying). 

The Fall of Doc Future is available here.