Science review: RadiationI didn’t think I knew very much about radiation, but I’ve suddenly become full of insight since a freak accident in which I was saturated by gamma rays, leaving me with the ability to bend space/time thus altering the rules of probability and endowing me with the strength of a KGB-trained leopard. Well, and also I have been writing biographies of Marvel superheroes for a living.
Radiation is great for the underdog: it really helps them blossom, growing muscles and a desire to devote their lives to fighting crime. (Why so many policemen among the superheroes? Jobsworths, to a man. The world of post-radiation superheroism is a quaint place, rooted in the 1950s. Everyone is married or existentially tormented, and I had to delete, for noble moral reasons of word count, a breathless reference to Elektra’s habit of “loving for thrills!”.) For everyone else, it’s rubbish, because it gives people diseases and makes their hair fall out and then they die either of radiation sickness or because of choking on toast in the kitchen while reading an article about Chernobyl.
I read a book called Brother in the Land when I was quite small, about the aftermath of nuclear war, babies being born without mouths and dead cities and no one being kind to children because childhood is a luxury you can only have when no one has dropped a bomb on you recently (similar in this way to other luxuries eg dark chocolate, quilted toilet paper, Versace ashtrays etc). The book was full of radiation sickness, it was like the common cold in Shakespeare. All this was very troubling to me – I was far too young for the book, it was my comeuppance for having the intellectual equivalent of eyes bigger than my belly. To this day, when I see a particularly lurid sunset, I scan the horizon for accompanying mushroom clouds.
Radiation: On balance, not that great, but useful for manufacturing half-men half-beasts with the agility of an Olympic gymnast, the sheer brute strength of a Sumo wrestler and laser beams for eyes. 4 out of 10.