So, let’s talk allergies.
Allergies are interesting and often underused in fiction. A fact I find intriguing, given the whole preoccupation SF tends to have with genetically-engineered super-predators and super-humans. Almost all of whom are supposed to have super immune systems that no virus or bacteria has a chance of cracking.
…So why don’t they have super allergies?
No, hear me out. The immune system is a carefully-engineered work of biological paranoia, ready and armed to the teeth, seething with the desire to rip anything identified as not-self to itty, bitty shreds. And then eat them, often dousing them with hydrochloric acid, bile salts, and hydrogen peroxide in the process. Your red blood cells are often good for six months; your average white blood cell only lasts three days because it’s programmed to self-destruct before it can do too much damage. “Too much damage” being defined by going after something it only thinks is not-self. Which is just scratching the surface of auto-immune diseases that make people’s lives all too horrible. Look up multiple sclerosis and ALS for what happens when your immune system starts going after the nervous system, for one. It’s a nightmare.
And that’s a bog-standard immune system. A super-human immune system ought to be much, much worse. Hyperactive white blood cells and a bloodstream pumped full of antibodies to anything that comes down the block should make an individual more prone to the body attacking itself. And while your average person tends to need multiple exposures before allergies really kick off, a superhuman ought to be extremely prone to allergies to the oddest things that they’ve only encountered once.
Meaning your genetically engineered superman might need a bandolier of plain old everyday epi-pens, if he wants to live long enough to use his super-reflexes. Yikes.
On the other hand, in a good fictional world this might explain vampires and werewolves. Some works (Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly in specific comes to mind) present traditional banes like hawthorn, silver, and garlic as causing reactions similar to allergies; a vampire who even handles them breaks out in a rash, or has skin and flesh burn. At the very least banes generally prevent a supernatural creature from healing damage it would ordinarily shake off. I can attest that an allergy-aggravated immune system does not heal well, no.
Do your monsters and heroes have allergies? Can they build up a tolerance, or make a misstep and suddenly have life-threatening reactions? What do they do to make their lives easier, or less miserable, or even just simply survivable? If you’re a vampire hunting other vampires, it’d be useful to have enough tolerance of hawthorn to drive home a stake… or maybe you need the industrial-strength rubber gloves, and have to dispose of them with every kill. Eep.
This post brought to you courtesy of (checks calendar, sighs) mold and oak pollen season. (Aaaaa-choo!)