Greg Stolze’s Progenitor (Arc Dream Publishing, 2010) originated with a thought experiment conducted by the author on the RPG.net forums in late 2008, growing from there into a 380-page alternate history of the last third of the 20th Century. The book provides a setting for Wild Talents, a tabletop roleplaying game where players portray characters with superhuman abilities, dice are rolled, and foes are vanquished (or not.)
What sets Progenitor apart from other gaming material, however, is Stolze’s commitment to examining the consequences of his premise, resulting in one of the best recent examples of world-building. Any writer assembling their own speculative-fiction setting has something to gain from examining Stolze’s work.
Miriam Black knows when and how you’re going to die, but she doesn’t care.
We meet the protagonist of Chuck Wendig’s novel Blackbirds (Angry Robot, 2012) in the act of stringing a man along in a motel room while she waits for the aneurysm that she already knows is coming to take him out. She then robs his corpse and goes on with her night. Not the most sympathetic introduction.
At first blush, Miriam seems to descend from a long line of cooler-than-morality urban fantasy heroines, flipping a firm middle finger to the world while drinking and fucking her way through the seediest of truck stops and roadside bars. It’s only when a chance encounter causes her to question the truths she believed about her strange ability that she reveals the pain that comes with knowing the exact manner of death of anyone you touch.