It's the not so distant future. Some bizarre event (perhaps a global catastrophe) rains down from the heavens to strike an unsuspecting Earth. It passes, leaving the shattered fragments of humanity that remain to rebuild their lives, thankful that it is all over.
But is it over?
Some time later, about 10-15 years (or just nine months) after the Event, people start to notice a few strange things about at least some of the children now being born into the world. Their hair and eye color doesn't match that of their parents. Odd powers may start to manifest. Telekinesis, teleportation, setting fires with their minds... these things come easier to them than riding a bicycle.
Or perhaps their powers are a lot more subtle in nature. Perhaps the only power they were granted was the ability to see extra-dimensional space-vampires or to pilot a Humongous Mecha of mysterious origin, and now those children are the only ones who can stand between humanity and an otherworldly threat which has cropped up and is now seeking to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
Perhaps the children themselves are the threat which seeks to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
If all of the children are good, you can expect them to be recruited as soldiers or pilots by a shadowy government agency which seeks to protect humanity. (At least, that's what they'll claim to be doing. There's no guarantee that they won't actually try to use the children in their own plot to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.)
If some of the children are good and some are evil, expect them to be pitted against each other at some point. The good children may be recruited by The Government and placed in a military institution or Wizarding School where they'll be trained on how to use their powers. Expect the evil children to be recruited by a psycho Cult Leader, who plans to use them in his plan to, you guessed it, bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
If all of the children are evil, expect them all to be on the same side and to be damn creepy. More often than not, they'll have wicked powers and much higher intelligence than normal humans, meaning that most conventional forms of fighting will have no effect on them. In most cases, it will require nothing less than a Heroic Sacrifice to take them out.
This often appears a type of Meta Origin in superhero and superhero-like stories. It also often creates an entire generation of Superior Successors.
- Although drugs were involved, all the powerful psychics in AKIRA are explicitly young people, or awakened to their powers at young age.
- Alive: The Final Evolution invokes this trope, but doesn't actually use it — the space-beings thud into and apparently fuse with human beings, upon which most of them promptly and joyfully commit suicide. The few who have strong enough will, in some fashion, to survive, get superpowers instead. The persons involved can be any age — the oldest shown was an old blind man — but the main focus is on the new tykebombs, so it plays out a lot like this trope.
- The Diclonius of Elfen Lied, which can intentionally infect normal humans so their children will inherit the mutation.
- The Twilights of Gangsta. are the children of those who used Célèbre, a drug that enhanced strength, speed and agility and was used during wartime. Twilights inherit these traits but are most often affected by genetic, mental and physical deficiencies and are not particularly long-lived (hence the name).
- Gilgamesh features super-powered children born from embryos exposed to Applied Phlebotinum.
- Gundam's Universal Century timeline has the Newtypes, humans who developed Psychic Powers as humanity started to live in space colonies instead of the Earth's surface.
- In My Hero Academia, about 5 generations before the story began, a baby born in China became the first known occurrence of a Quirk-user after they started emitting light. Some time afterwards, a majority of people were born with Quirks, leading up to the present time where about 80% of the population have Quirks.
- NEEDLESS takes place after World War III in which those born within the "Black Spot" gain superhuman powers.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, only children born after the apocalyptic Second Impact can interface with the titular robots. The actual reason WHY it has to be children born after Second Impact is never made clear, though with the secret of the Evas they're piloting containing the souls of their dead mothers, it might be better not to know at all.
- Please Save My Earth features the reincarnation of a group of alien scientists after they all die when their civilization ends, and focuses on their lives as typical Japanese teenagers.
- s-CRY-ed takes place in a future rocked by a geographical uprising, which has left 1% of the newborn children with the ability to manipulate matter at will and create "Alters", strange creatures that do their bidding. The number rises as the series progresses, evidently a side effect of continued tampering with the power of the other side, which started the whole mess.
- Children from Toward the Terra born naturally on Nazca are all Type Blue and grow incredibly fast. They all share the same slightly sociopathic mentality, which connected with their actions doesn't score them many points with the other Mu.
- A Philippine comic called Batch 72 has an experimental drug dumped in the water supply of Manila, producing thousands of superpowered kids.
- Captain Britain: Jim Jaspers from A Crooked World has Reality Warping powers that in large enough bursts have a side-effect of inducing this. The children affected are called "Warpies", and their mutations are so unstable that they don't live very long, often exploding very early in their lives. An X-Men issue deals with a Jim Jaspers from a parallel Earth whose only apparent power is reality jumping, the fallout from which causes an entire town in Africa to have similar baby booms.
- Rising Stars has exactly this premise: "In 1969 in the sleepy midwestern town of Pederson, Illinois, a flash of light in the heavens heralds the coming of the 'Specials', 113 individuals who are blessed with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men."
- The premise of The Umbrella Academy; the same year "Tusslin' Tom" Gurney knocked out the space-squid from Rigel X-9 with a flying atomic elbow "...forty three extraordinary children were born to mostly single women, who had shown no signs of pregnancy, in seemingly random locations around the world." A wealthy entrepreneur tracked down and adopted seven of these children to raised them as a superhero team.
- The idea with the "Century Babies" in WildStorm's The Authority and Planetary is that they represent various aspects of the century in which they are born, but they're actually born in the last century. For example, the 20th century babies were born in 1900, the last year of the 19th century. This point is raised when Jenny Sparks dies at the end of 1999, and it's claimed that it's humanity's collective consciousness that defines the relevant years, even if they're mathematically wrong.
- The original explanation for mutants (the "Children of the Atom") in X-Men was as a side-effect of atomic bomb testing. Later stories stated that while it wasn't the cause of the X-gene (mutants have been around since ancient times), it did cause it to manifest in a larger percent of the population.
- The Alarmaverse: In Twilight Sparkle and the Strange Case of Old Res, as an aftereffect of the Great Bloop: "And, during the following June, July, and August, every foal born to Pasture citizens had red eyes and a silver mane. These 'Bloop babies' were unusually long-lived, but otherwise normal ponies."
- Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: The new Pokémon world has bloodliners, humans with Pokémon-related powers and abilities. They used to be quite rare, until sixteen years prior to the beginning of the story, their numbers went from around ten in Unova, to thousands, most of them being female. This increase has been referred to as the "Bloodliner Baby Boom Generation".
- The end of It's Alive, which revolves around a baby mutated in the womb by an experimental fertility drug, has the parents of said infant find out that another mutant has been born in Seattle. The sequel, It Lives Again, picks up this plot thread, as the corporation that produces the drug tries to cover up the resulting mutant baby boom.
- Inverted in Logan, as a major part of the plot concerns the fact that mutants have stopped being born due to the use of GMO food to suppress the mutant gene in developing children. Played straight with Laura and her "classmates", who were genetically engineered to create loyal soldiers with the X-gene. It didn't work.
- In Looper, it's stated that about 10-15% of the population has a mutation called "TK" (telekinesis) that allows them to move objects with their mind. At first, it's stated that it's essentially Awesome, but Impractical, as most can't do much besides levitate coins, but it becomes a bit of a Chekhov's Gun once it's revealed that someone is powerful enough in it to use it as a deadly weapon.
- Minority Report has the addicts of Neuroin giving birth to the Precogs, who can see the future — especially murders.
- Scanners is about a wave o' babies (not literally) with Body Horror-tastic Psychic Powers. Revok, one of the children of the original boom, is plotting to start a second one, and then create an army of evil scanners and Take Over the World. And he probably could do it. Maybe he does. David Cronenberg says that the sequels aren't considered canon.
- Perhaps the first screen media example: Village of the Damned (1960), based on John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos (see below), in which an entire town loses consciousness for a day, and finds out later that all the women have become pregnant during that time. Followed in 1963 by Children of the Damned, and then remade, again as Village of the Damned, in 1995. Thailand also made a movie version, 1994's Blackbirds at Bangpleng, which uses the same device, but has the children as less intrinsically evil.
- Henry Kuttner:
- The 1953 novel Mutant has the "baldies", bald telepathic humans who were born after a nuclear war and subsequent fallout.
- In the short story "Absalom", increasingly smarter children are born every generation. There is a problem with the older generations being envious and afraid.
- Several of F. Paul Wilson's stories or novels feature folk who were born soon after an influx of 'Otherness' into our world. Some are grotesque Body Horror mutants, while others are only minimally deformed, but possess an inborn attraction to the Otherness that makes them potential sleeper agents for it.
- John Wyndham:
- The Chrysalids is something of the sort from the viewpoint of the children as their telepathic powers emerge.
- In The Midwich Cuckoos, all of the women in the village of Midwich simultaneously become pregnant with alien children who all share the same uncanny appearance and have the ability to mentally manipulate people. This was adapted into film multiple times — see above.
- Central Passage by Lawrence Schoonover had the American government trying to rebuild after a brief nuclear war, and worried about the potential threat of some oddly mutated children, including the main character's son. A postscript reveals that the mutants eventually took over. They call non-mutant humans "helots" — the term the Spartans used for the slaves on whom they periodically declared war as an excuse to murder them.
- Childhood's End sort of fits. Aliens show up shortly before a bizarre new generation of humans appears, but they didn't cause it. The human race is evolving on its own, as others have before, and the aliens are here to make this as painless as possible.
- Wilmar Shiras's fixup novel Children of the Atom (first part published 1948; whole novel, 1953) is based on the notion that after an accidental release of radiation at a nuclear power plant, several dozen female employees give birth to mutants who are absolutely normal in every way except that all of them have IQs of over 300.
- In Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio (and sequel), the human race undergoes a disease called "Herod's Flu" because it spontaneously aborts fetuses — and then the mothers become spontaneously pregnant again. It turns out non-coding introns in human DNA occasionally induce a mass evolutionary change, in this case to adapt us to better live in an information-rich world. This is a case of surprisingly plausible Evolutionary Levels, because Bear shows his work. However, the whole concept of "non-coding" introns has now had to be re-examined as Science Marches On.
- Charlie McGee in Firestarter was the child of two college students who both joined a double-blind drug experiment for pay and then later married. However, the drug gave them both paranormal abilities, and Charlie has developed powers of her own by the start of the book.
- The "Whispered" of Full Metal Panic! possess a psychic connection with an undefined future, which "whispers" the secrets of "Black Technology" directly into their minds. From time to time that connection can be established between individual Whispered. Every Whispered was born on December 24, 1981 (1984 in the anime) between 11:50 and 11:53 PM Greenwich Mean Time.
- It only affects a small group, but in The Girl with the Silver Eyes, a group of women who try an experimental fertility drug give birth to children with silver eyes who have Psychic Powers. Their powers grow stronger if they work together and a pair can "push" another remotely.
- Gone has a portion of the population (all children, because the book starts the moment that all adults and people over fourteen 'poof') develop psychic powers because 13 years prior, radioactive fallout was scattered after the nearby nuclear plant was hit by a meteorite, later discovered to have been the arrival of an evil alien, which needs the powers of one of the children to free itself and create a new body.
- The "blue" children in Manifold: Time.
- Midnight’s Children has 1001 Indian children with low-level superpowers. The connecting thread between them all is that they were all born at midnight on the day India gained its independence.
- In the Parable of the Sower books, a drug designed to cure mental degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's winds up giving the kids "hyper-empathy syndrome", which causes them to hallucinate feeling the pain of others.
- 16 years before the start of Shade, by Jerri Smith-Ready, there was the Shift, and all children born after the Shift can see ghosts (while the minority who could see ghosts pre-Shift have lost that ability). Ghosts also seem to have changed, becoming purple in color and sometimes going insane and causing sickness in all post-Shift children. The protagonist was the very first person born before the Shift, and she ends up meeting the very last person born before the Shift. Both the First and the Last have special powers.
- In Shade's Children, during "The Change", everyone over the age of 14 suddenly disappeared and the mysterious Overlords appeared from nowhere. Children born during or after the Change had "Change Talents", basically Psychic Powers. Those who survived the Change got them too; there are multiple characters (one during the main story and at least one more in flashback) shown to have Change Talents who were definitely born before it.
- Star Trek novels:
- The X-Men/Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover novel Planet X has a group of Human Aliens who, at age twenty-two, begin exhibiting destructive powers. They are revealed to have been genetically engineered as potential Super Soldiers by aggressive but lazy aliens.
- Another TNG novel has a bunch of genetically enhanced Augments plotting to produce a Bizarre Baby Boom by infecting normal humans with a virus that rewrites their reproductive DNA to bring the kids up to the Augments' level, thus resulting in a Utopia of perfectly healthy, super-genius supermen who are neurologically incapable of violence. Since the ST-verse has a strict No Transhumanism Allowed policy, preventing this is considered a happy ending.
- Vorkosigan Saga: In Ethan of Athos, telepath Terrence Cee has inserted the telepathy gene into every one of the female genetic samples sent to the exclusively male-populated planet Athos for their reproductive machines, intending to cause one of these. Unusually, protagonist Ethan eventually decides this is a good idea for everyone involved and rolls with it: with genetic samples having already found their way into the hands of imperialist and generally nasty powers, and Terrence as proof that telepaths are possible, it's only a matter of time before cloned and indoctrinated telepath minorities become government tools. The only way to counter this danger to human freedom is with a race with a free telepath majority.
- Wild Cards: Though it's not limited to children, those born carrying the Wild Card virus far outnumber the original overt infectees (especially since most of the original group drew the Black Queen and died).
- In Xanth, the magical nature of the land is such that anyone born there has a magic talent, but no one from Mundania is lucky enough to have one. So, a regular occurrence in the history of Xanth was that a wave of immigrants will come in from Mundania, have kids, usually having married among themselves, and discover that all of their kids have their own magic talents.
- In The Boys (2019), super-powered people started to be born around 50 years ago in the US. Everyone claims that it's because they're been "chosen by God", a claim supported by the Vought Corporation that sponsors many of the superheroes. In fact, Vought injects newborns with Compound V, sometimes with their parents' consent, which is what gives the kids their powers. Compound V can also be used to empower normal humans, while giving it to adult Supes acts like super-steroids (with the same negative side-effects).
- In Fringe, some children (including Olivia) were given a drug (made by Massive Dynamic) back in the early 1980s. It was meant to enhance their minds. It worked a little too well in some cases, but it also had some unpleasant side effects on several subjects.
- The Outer Limits (1963): In the episode "The Children of Spider County", several people born around the same time in the same county have grown up to become geniuses.
- In Supernatural, there is a variant: Sam and a bunch of children from his generation were given Demon blood by Big Bad Azazel when they were six months old. This gave them a variety of creepy Psychic Powers when they reached the age of 22 — and were intended to be members of Azazel's army in an ill-defined plan. Turns out Sam is supposed to be the vessel for Satan himself, and Azazel's a master of the Evil Plan for having run his plan without a hitch (even his death really didn't put a dent in it).
- In The Umbrella Academy (2019), forty-three woman who were not pregnant that morning randomly give birth to babies, all of whom have some superpower of some sort. The series follows seven of those children who were adopted and raised as siblings, one of whom is powerful enough to end the world.
- The X-Files: In the episode "Small Potatoes", a number of women are giving birth to children with tails, because they've used a fertility clinic where a mutant works as a janitor. He then used his Humanshifting abilities to impersonate the husbands and impregnate the wives.
- Ravenloft: In Arthaus's 3E products, calibans are supernaturally-mutated humans, altered in the womb by exposure to magic, curses, or the malignant influence of hags. Metagame-wise, they take the place of half-orcs as potential PCs, orcs being unknown in Ravenloft.
- Shadowrun: Unexplained Genetic Expression (UGE) was the Technobabble term concocted by scientists of the setting to try to explain how babies all over the world were suddenly being born as elves and dwarves. The term lasted until dragons started showing up in the skies again and the effect tapered off once magic stopped spiking and the number of metahumans had reached sustainable levels.
- Spirit of the Century: All the player characters and their major opponents were born on the first day of the century and have a special link to some aspect of the century's communal mindset as a result.
- The superhero MMORPG City of Heroes features an NPC named Fusionette who is one of the Nuclear 90, a group of 90 children who were born in the same year who have superpowers involving nuclear fusion. So far she is the only one of The Ninety to show up in the game. Most or all player characters are also suggested to be the result of a different Bizarre Baby Boom, according to the related books, specifically one tied with the most recent opening of Pandora's Box after World War I.
- In Mass Effect, biotics (people who can manipulate the mass of objects) are the result of in-utero exposure to Element Zero. A couple of spills resulted in most of the early human biotics being concentrated in a few major cities. Eventually, Cerberus stops relying on accidents to create super soldiers. Plus, Element Zero only works in a small percentage — a majority of the people will go through life with no abnormality at all, and most of the rest end up with brain tumors.
- In UFO: Aftershock, there are human children who are born with unique abilities, such as Psychic Powers or the ability to adapt to robotic implants. These children are instantly rejected, giving rise to the Psionic and Cyborg tribes.
- X-COM: Apocalypse introduces genetic hybrids of humans and the sectoids of the first game. They're some of the best soldiers you can recruit in the game, because of their high level of psi stats and lack of real drawbacks. They have no sinister motives, since the aliens that intended to exploit them were wiped out almost a century earlier, but are still discriminated against by the people and government of Mega-Primus.
- In the backstory of Drowtales, it's mentioned that the children of the Dark Elves who went underground were changed, losing the color in their hair, having darker skin and discolored mouths due to lack of nutrition. The elves saw this as a sign that they were to go extinct, and by the time the story starts they have all but vanished and been replaced by the titular drow. On the other hand, drow who live in surface colonies, taking full advantage of the greater bounty of resources available, eventually give birth to dark elf children.
- FreakAngels: Though the big end-of-the-world event doesn't happen until they're all 17, apparently. And they caused it, albeit accidentally while defending themselves from a Government Conspiracy who were hunting them. The story takes place six years after the event.
- A series of comics by one 'Enigmatic Envelope', creatively titled The Impregnation, takes this trope very literally. A young Japanese schoolgirl wakes up heavily pregnant after eating some new, possibly genetically engineered, type of instant rice. Said pregnancy is apparently literally contagious, with any woman who so much as gets close to her (schoolmates, her doctor, random passers-by on the street, pop idols, the freaking PRIME MINISTER) instantaneously ending up in the same state, and the same happening with anyone who gets close to them, as well. This, understandably, sends Tokyo into complete chaos, as everyone scrambles to figure out the situation as the number of conceptions grows by the day.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: The comic's world had a The Magic Came Back episode after the Rash appeared. Magery runs in families in Finland and Ensi, who was a baby bump at the time of the outbreak, is mentioned to have been one of the first Finnish mages. This implies magery suddenly started appearing in Finnish children born in the early post-Rash era.
- Strong Female Protagonist has a world-wide storm that occurred during the (female, strong) protagonist's gestation and granted some percentage of her generation puberty-activated superpowers and deformities.
- The premise of Twin Dragons is that sixteen years previous one in one thousand births began to produce "hybrids" with varying degrees of animal traits. The protagonists, of course, are fraternal twins who ended up with dragon traits.
- Afterworld: Some children are born okay after The Disappearance. Some... aren't. Her aunt adopts the ugly ball of flesh anyway.
- Due to an explosion caused by the titular character in The Amazing World of Gumball, it's explicitly stated that future generation of children will look weirder than they do. That's really saying something considering that the town of Elmore is full of talking donuts, Reality Warpers, sentient everything and a few Eldritch Abominations thrown in for good measure.
- In The Dragon Prince, it is stated that the dragon prince Azymondias can only be born in the eye of a storm.
- "Thalidomide children" were born in early 1960s. Maybe as many as 20,000 children were born with birth defects (mostly phocomelia — a disorder which causes stunted limb growth) because their mothers had consumed thalidomide, at the time prescribed as an anti-emetic, during pregnancy.
- Another anti-emetic, diethylstilbestrol (also called DES), caused birth defects including reproductive tract conditions such as "T-shaped" uteruses in baby girls between 1941 and 1971. In some cases, DES also caused some rare cancers, and the effects could be passed on to the children of those exposed. DES is quite important in the modern history of American tort law — all American law students read some of the cases — requiring several developments respecting the statute of limitations (unlike thalidomide, DES defects were generally not discovered until the daughter grew up and found out she couldn't have children), assignment of liability in mass torts (DES was a generic drug, meaning that it was typically impossible to figure out which exact company made the pills that caused the damage), and the use of expert testimony.
- On a cultural level, the original, real-life Baby Boom was seen as this by many among the older generations, as the values of the children of that generation, forged by the prosperity of the postwar Western world as opposed to the World Wars or The Great Depression, were so seemingly alien to their elders that the term "generation gap" came into widespread use in The '60s.