When do superheroes sleep?

I was going to trumpet that The Dismal Tide got two more four-star reviews on Amazon, but I’m sure you’re tired of seeing posts about all our good reviews. Luckily, one of them gave me an idea for this blog post about the Irregulars’ sleep schedules.

Reviewer Sean C. Duggan wrote, in part:

I still like the realistic touches for vigilante justice in terms of securing equipment, avoiding authorities, and dealing with injuries, although I do find myself wondering if lack of sleep will come into play (somehow, the teens in the story manage a full day of school as well as nights of crimefighting, without finding themselves dozing off during classes).

So, when does Pittsburgh’s favorite teen superhero team manage to sleep? Are they getting enough shut-eye?

A thumbnail sketch of Torrent looking exhausted, resting his head on his hand as he yawns.

Yes, even vigilantes get sleepy.

Believe it or not, this is one of the thoughts in the forefront of my mind while writing the Irregulars books.  Even in books with superpowers, invading Martians, and supernatural perils, it’s important to keep one foot grounded in reality, otherwise the complete lack of verisimilitude will undermine the reader’s suspension of disbelief. So it was important for me to know if Torrent, Corona, and the Mysterious X actually would be able to fit in 40 winks after a hard night of adventuring. There were other things teenagers would have to be concerned about as well, like their parents asking nosy questions about what they’re doing out til the wee hours of the morning, or prohibiting them from leaving the house. All of these things are serious constraints on their vigilante activities.

Readers of The Dismal Tide will know that Corona was able to evade her father’s watchful eye by joining up while he was out of town on a remote job assignment. Likewise, you can already see that, although Sebastian’s parents expect him to be out late without supervision, they (or at least his mother) is starting to get concerned about it.

But, so far at least, none of the preceptors at Saint Bonaventure Academy has caught any of our heroes napping through the school day. How come? Part of the answer is relatively prosaic: if you follow the schedule of their vigilante patrols, they occur mostly on the weekends. The major exception to this rule is in the “Nighttime in the Switching Yard” chapter, which takes place on Wednesday. Their tussle with the GPRA goes down early enough in the evening that Eva is even able to get home before her comparatively early curfew (no doubt fibbing to her dad about an emergency late shift at the Allegheny Grill).

The other answer has to do with the peculiar (to most of us, anyway) nature of their school. There are hints throughout the book, and I fully explain in the appendix, that Saint Bonaventure Academy is run along Sudbury School lines–a sort of “unschool” where the kids are basically in charge of pursuing their own academic interests. The preceptors are there to guide and facilitate their studies, not your typical instructors that run classes according to a schedule. The students have enough freedom that if they needed to slip off to a quiet corner of the school grounds to catch a nap, they could probably get away with it, at least for a little while. Of course, their parents would eventually hear about it, and they wouldn’t be happy about their children sleeping away their tuition. The bigger benefit to their sleep schedules comes in the length of the school day: most of the students at Saint Bonaventure go home by 1 PM. The school grounds stay open into the evening for special events, athletics, and for anyone really wrapped up in a project, but the “official” school day ends just after lunch. In Chapter 8, “Three’s Company”, I allude to this  by showing Sebastian having finished a workout and settling in for a nap by 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Lest anyone think this sort of schedule is pie-in-the-sky fantasy, I got the idea from a number of homeschooling families I know. Their school day usually starts around 8 in the morning and goes til lunchtime, and they get plenty done in that time. This student-centered approach to schooling and extra leisure time (along with the typical four-day work week mentioned in the appendix) is just one of the many reasons why Ascension Epoch is NOT A DYSTOPIA!

(If you don’t know who the East End Irregulars are, that’s a good sign you should pick up a copy of After Dark and The Dismal Tide.)

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