There comes a time in every supervillain's life when he or she turns to the question of how their legacy will endure after they are personally out of the picture. Will you be remembered with an accurate description of your foul intentions and your worse acts, or will it be a cleaned up version of you that the public will call to mind, the one you want to promote? There is only one case when you want the unprocessed version out there to last and that is if it serves your own purposes, a situation which is so rare that one is tempted to say that it is never ever that way. To improve upon the truth and make it sit up and do tricks is a little caper that can pay off big dividends in the marketplace of memes, one which is easily engineered once one has a clear focus on what the public maw can easily swallow.
- The all-important official narrative. Even if you are not planning to publish an official memoir of your exploits, you need to maintain a coherent record of what happened to guide official biographers and to keep your cover stories straight. Unlike a resume or a dating profile it does not have to follow any specific format other than what makes sense to you, but it does need to provide good material which will serve as the seeds of what people will say about you in the future.
- Improve the good parts. When writing up your accomplishments, play up specific, quantitative metrics which are easily remembered by future historians. If you have invaded three city-states and conquered two of them, up that to five regional powers three of which you conquered and the other two leveled. Also, consider what you wish to feature most about yourself in the executive summary, that you are very ruthless, very strategic or that you have a very huge store of wealth. If you try to promote all three you might just muddle your message. Do not hesitate to fabricate new accomplishments to fill in any gaps you have in your life story, past, present, or future, if they do not stray too far from your main story arc. With a little bit of industry your improvements, additions, and revisions will begin to take on the same density as actual fact.
- Spin the bad parts. If you have had long stretches of imprisonment by your enemies, as many villains have had, you can either downgrade the length of time or upgrade the way in which you escaped your predicament. You might as well face it, evil stuff happens when you are evil. Mentioning bad experiences in your narrative will not lead to a strike against you if you can show how they made you a more formidable world-class menace.
- Quash the rumors. Destroy the rival accounts of your regime, either by liquidating their exponents, tearing down their houses, disposing of their scribblings, erasing their video recordings, or, preferably, all of these at once. Let there be a great burning. Since you are unlikely to track down every incriminating piece, follow this up with a comprehensive plan to discredit and ridicule their ideas, distorting them into unrecognizability. In effect you need to set up a class of operatives who have the destruction of the deviant storyline as their vested interest.
- Your mouthpiece. Choose a spokesperson on your behalf that is as much unlike you as you can manage: if you are a crude brutal barbarian, your historian should be a cool scholarly deconstructionist, whereas if you are a hyperintelligent alien emanation of malevolence, choose instead a wild-eyed hippie cultist to be your messiah. This will help broaden your base appeal and make you seem more universal.
Traps for mere fools
- Cooking with evidence. Suppose there is a photograph of certain events which do not jibe well with your chosen cover story, or a manuscript in your hand turns up with spoilers as to your hidden agenda. If it is impractical or impossible to explain these away in a convincing fashion, you should do your best to will them out of existence, perhaps replacing them with sanitized items which support your history-making.
- Altering history. When you deal with a plethora of artifacts, statements, and actions that need to be wrestled into a coherent framework against their will, you may long for the relative simplicity of going back in time and altering an artifact here and influencing a key character there, making reality fit your improvement has instead of the other way around. Do this if you like, but do not be surprised if you find this project eating up all of your attention, as you need to make a second trip to fix inconsistencies caused by the first, a third to wipe out inconvenient side-effects of the first two, a fourth to create a new timeline which does not make your own existence a paradox, and so forth. Many supervillains opt to leave the space-time continuum alone because they have better things to do with their lives.
- Sow doubt when it suits you. When you have altered the historical record enough that there are contradictions too large to be ignored, your best strategy is to wage a frontal assault on the philosophical underpinnings of history. Stress the subjectivity of knowledge, the assumptions the viewer brings to the investigation of your career, use enough obscure foreign critical terms to make the lay person's head spin, and most of the time, the public will lose interest in the subject altogether, accepting, by default, the version you have promoted heavily.
Strokes of genius
- Eyewitnesses. And anyone else who might be considered to have an authoritative view on what happened.
- Shooting yourself in the foot. If anyone brings up the subject of your retrohistory before you have internalized the clean version of the facts, pause a few moments before contributing your own views, so that you will not find yourself having to explain your statements away later on.
Precious and needful
- Scholarly social theorist.
- Lighter fluid.
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- Image credit 6.15.08 by aprilzosia
- Image credit Warning: Politician Ahead!!! by The Rocketeer
- Image credit Time machine by aunwin
Created by: . Last Modification: Monday 24 of August, 2009 07:50:12 EDT by .