Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Worldbuilding Wednesday: Tiger-souled humans and mad scientist werewolves

Wherein I take some time to expand a concept of mine and see how far I can take it. I have something like 50 pages of story ideas (just the ones I've sorted, moreover) and this will be an exercise in seeing how much potential they have. 

The initial idea that I'm building this from is that our protagonist is a human with the soul of a jaguar... No, let's make that a tiger. That feels better. Yeah. I don't do enough with tigers lately.

So, human with a soul of a tiger. Shapeshifting is possibly, but it is really painful and against the natural order. Of course, having a mismatched soul like this is also against the natural order, but when you break one thing it's easier to break another.

Maybe folks like this, with mismatched souls and such, can break the rules in other ways. They might have to explore and practice to figure out how to do it, but it's possible.

Let's go with an Old Man Coyote for another character. Sometimes he's clearly the antagonist, and other times our protagonist just isn't sure. Sometimes villainous, maybe, but that doesn't always align with when he's the antagonist. But he's got the soul of a coyote, and he's a tricky bastard.

What about on the other side of the line, though? What about an animal with a human soul? Let's go with a human-souled wolf. A werewolf. It was smart, and it could figure things out. It wanted to get into the right kind of body, and at some point along the way it got into magic. It tried to put its soul in a human vessel but to date has only succeeded in grafting fragments of its combined nature to humans, spreading parts of its mind and personality and making them lesser versions of itself. They can change shape too (maybe some can only do it in part).

To date. These wrong-souled folks are immortal. They can't die. The universe doesn't process them right.

I think that we have our big antagonist. The head werewolf is replicating zemself, so there is no dissension in the ranks. Our protagonist is going to be facing an enemy that is smart and (haha) unified. I wonder if some sort of zombie effect can be achieved by biting people or whatever. If so, there needs to be a reason why the Big Bad doesn't just bite everyone and have done with it. It is possible that the plot is about the Big Bad finally deciding to do just that, but... Even so it would be best if there were some sort of limitation.

What does it mean to have a soul of one sort over another, though? How does "the natural order" distinguish between the various species of big cat? Where is the line between black and white rhinoceros, or is there one?

The universe probably runs on Plato. The fact that there are Forms will probably be important somehow. The "Bad Stuff" (if indeed there is out-and-out Bad Stuff at all) will probably be perverted Forms. Which, um, might include even our protagonist, even if our protagonist is "fighting for the side of Good" or whatever. Like nuclear waste dumped in a river, our protagonist is both the result of some kind of pollution and the cause of further damage just by existing.

And/or, whether the universe actually is a simulation, it can easily be considered in such terms. The universe "tags" things in order to keep track of them and interact with them properly. Most people are tagged as "human" and most tigers are tagged as "tiger" but our tiger-souled protagonist is somebody who's been given the "tiger" tag. Now, for the most part this tagging system doesn't make itself relevant, but the incongruity does confuse the universe, to personify it for a moment, and that's where problems can creep in. Essentially, there's... some confusion going on in the World of Forms, as Plato would put it.

I wonder if there are non-human beings who are physically non-human (maybe even a plant!) but because of Tagging Weirdness everything perceives them as being human. Or humans who are physically human but for the same reason are perceived as being non-human. A talking dog or plant character who is actually a human with some Tagging Weirdness, maybe.

The main purpose of this exercise, as mentioned in the beginning, is to see how much potential is in a particular idea. I... don't really think that this one is for me. But do you like it? Like everything that I'm posting on this blog, this idea is in the Creative Commons. If it's shiny, then be a magpie. 

Questions to answer: 
  • The creator of the werewolves used some sort of magic in order to get this stuff done. So, what's magic like in this setting? How does it work? All "manipulation of the soul" stuff, or something more? 

Edit [10/19/2015]
  • Souls, or whatever is used to "tag" beings, get reused after a being's death. Souls are usually reset between uses, but sometimes they don't get reset, and that's when you have, say, a tiger-souled girl. It's a bug in the program, and probably prevents the soul from being reclaimed properly. And if the wipe was messed up, it's likely that there are other problems as well. 
    • If I discard this idea, then another possibility is that souls are differentiated from each other along a gradient.
  • Souls are more like hardware than software, empty computer disks that carry consciousness. "You, as an individual, are the programming on that soul." Improperly-wiped souls may be able to get snatches of memory, bits of personality and thought processes, from their previous lives. 
  • Underling wolves probably only have partial shapeshifting. Weird-werewolf-zombie-apocalypse thing is probably part of the Big Bad's master plan. Perhaps he's trying to force a reset, becoming a kind of virus so that he can mess up the whole system and force its creators to shut everything down.
  • The more that a mis-souled person uses zir condition to manipulate glitches, the more buggy ze gets. 

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