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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Consenting Frisbees: "Let's Build A World" at Wiscon 2012

I moderated "Let's Build a World!" again this Wiscon. It's a game-show style interactive comic worldbuilding exercise, and always a lot of fun (here's a writeup for the 2008 edition; there have been other writeups, but TSOR is not revealing them). Lacking a flipchart, we once again used pizza boxes as writing surfaces (you can always find pizza boxes in the con suite!) and bummed magic markers from childcare. Shoot, did I remember to return the magic markers? I sure hope so. Otherwise, uh, sorry, childcare.


Rachel Kronick kindly jotted down the results of this year's worldbuilding extravaganza -- featuring an organic Dyson sphere filled with wandering stars, ruled by cats who worship distraction and regard goal-orientation as heresy, and threatened by the Catpocalypse. Her notes follow after the cut.

(As Rachel remarks, certain themes were repeated from previous years, despite, I think -- or because of? -- a pretty low overlap in attendance... perhaps next years' moderator should ban cat ruling classes?)

Asterisks indicate things suggested; check-marks indicate suggestions that made muster, through everyone in the room voting (either "yay!" or "meh!").

Ben noted that this panel has worked best when we allow ourselves to be a little silly.

✓* Dyson sphere
✓* Stars in all different rainbow colors
✓* Stars move randomly
* Stars colonize other stars
✓* Dancing with the stars
* Characters with [lost this suggestion]
✓* Constellation in shape of kitty-cat that moves randomly -- lolconstellations
* It's gears all the way down
✓* Star puddling [stars puddle towards different parts of the Dyson sphere]
✓* Nyan-cat constellation

voting -- Ben: "I like the consensus!"

* Incinerating
✓* Warm
✓* Puddling-driven
✓* Choreography-based
✓* See & taste ambiance
✓* Seasons of the year: waltz, tango, salsa, lambada, the time warp, etc.
✓* Weather forecasting as prestige occupation
✓* Time travel only possible during time warp season
✓* Mood-altering atmosphere
✓* Sacred chocolate atmosphere

Nearly every suggestion here made it through! It was like we'd all been there already.

✓* Dancing your child's future -- dance of destiny
✓* Synaesthesia of taste and angle
* Magic *and* tech -- each individual picks one
✓* Good magic tastes vanilla, bad tastes coconut
✓* Edible computers
✓* Flying cars, flying tires that have to be convinced to go back on
✓* Fuel: purrs from lolcats
✓* Everything is sentient -- and very irritating
✓* The most magical of people are the priestesses who are cat ladies
✓* Ambidexterity is most valued
✓* Poptarts as communion wafers
✓* Lead and follow in dance -- ✓most spells can only be cast backwards in high heels

Again, nearly every suggestion made it through.

If you want to make coffee in the morning, you first have to convince your coffee maker that making coffee is in its interest. You possibly need to convince the coffee, too.

This was where our first band name came up: Poptart Communion.

Geography & species
✓* Special sacred fields where poptart ingredients are grown
✓* Organic dyson sphere
✓* Different ears and tails -- dog people, cat people, etc. -- depends on where you're born
✓* Giant wandering cats that get treated like sacred cows
* Every kind of biome
✓* Cat herders
✓* Giant cats with fire-breathing or wings who are disinterested
* Catnip kudzu -- as an underground polemical movement
✓* Never anger the firebreathing car during disco season
✓* Life-cycles of cats
✓* Holy cat-litter deserts
✓* The Dyson sphere is sentient
✓* Plates that move very slowly
✓* The Dyson sphere is still growing -- it follows the same life cycle as the cats -- the sphere as the ultimate life stage of the cats!
✓* The coming Catpocalypse -- with non-stop vacuum cleaners
✓* What are the dog-people doing? they're on the outside of the sphere -- practicing for the Catpocalypse -- the terrierists -- digging lots of tunnels

Getting to work in the morning is difficult here. First, you have to convince your car and your tires to cooperate. Then you have to hope that a giant wandering cat doesn't decide to flop down in your path. And you have to hope that the Dyson sphere isn't feeling persnickety. So much more tempting to just lie down in a convenient starbeam.

Sports & ethics
✓* Bouncing balls & laser-pointers -- distracting opponents with cat toys
✓* You teach your kids to bat at yarn from a young age
✓* Running randomly at high speed -- the Kittynapolis 500 -- very hard to do color commentary, because it's almost impossible to tell what's happening
✓* Do the claws come out or not?
* Marriage is a sport
✓* After every major decision, catnaps must be taken
✓* No sport can involve any sort of fetching or retrieving -- the dog people play fetch on the outside of the sphere
✓* Cornerstone of cat ethics is not having a goal
* If everything is sentient, then you can't catch a frisbee
* Frisbees might have lesser rights --
✓* Rebelling teenagers play fetch and play frisbee with their right hand
✓* Putting your butt in someone's face is a high form of flattery, but you have to avoid sniffing
* Greeting: rubbing your leg against someone, backwards in high heels
* Heresy: that you can dance away the Catpocalypse; only chocolate can get rid of it
✓* Insanity is immersing yourself in water -- the lakes are full of nervous fish people
✓* How many names do the cats have?
* Dog sympathizers hang out at watering holes
* The accidental finish is fundamental to cat ethics

Yes, sports and ethics are one thing. The question of whether or not the claws come out is fundamental to cat sportethics.

And now, a story
As with previous years, we polished it off by coming up with a story set in this Nyan-cat-worshipping Dyson sphere. First, the characters:

* Protagonist is a young cat who is destined to become a crazy cat lady
✓* Other protag is a human who is completely allergic to cats
✓* Young cat develops unlikely friendship with dog person
✓* Dog antag who is trying for the Catpocalypse
✓* Human antag who is allied to dog people
✓* Spaceship lands and becomes sentient and won't leave
* Humans land during kittynapolis 500, but no one notices

Now, the plot (which we didn't have time to vote on, so everything made it through):

Act I
Start with dance of cat person and dog person -- young cat person performs explicit dance
Allergic human pounding on spaceship, which won't let the human leave
Ship renames itself "Chekhov's Gun"

Act II
Humans travel to the Kittynapolis 500 and are bamboozled
Synaesthesia freakout for main character
Dogs dig as the plate tectonics shift, heralding catpolalpyse
Priestesses doing booty pops
Antagonists meet and plan Catpocalypse

Antagonists are succeeding, Dyson sphere is destabilizing
Insane allergic human has breakthrough in communication with cats (probably due to synaesthesia)
Crazy cat ladies force and trick dog antagonist into fetch dance to avert Catpocalypse
Dog and cat allies perform special dance to bring chocolate to the great Nyan-cat
Lots of dance numbers
Massive dog die-off due to chocolate, but averted by the rainbow kitty

Somewhere, somehow, it all ends. But probably accidentally, as having a clear goal would go against cat principles.

I was surprised how similar this world was to the last one I'd seen: cats as the rulers, dogs as the underground, giant visibly moving tectonic plates, etc.

And finally, the band names:
Nonsensical Chase Scene
Poptart Communion
Consenting Frisbees

Posted by benrosen at June 5, 2012 12:26 PM | Up to blog
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