Ramblings (pl. noun): talking or writing in a confused way, often for a long time
Bardlings (pl. noun): Ramblings from Bard

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How to Write TBP
Or, Introducing the TBP Archive
by Michael W. Bard
©2004 Michael W. Bard -- all rights reserved

Since shared universes currently seem to be in vogue within the TSAT editorial clique, I decided that I needed to have my own.

Unfortunately, I've determined that there is no easy way to create one anymore (see a previous Bardlings for further details). Therefore I've hijacked one. Brahahahahahahaha! Or, in other words, I have volunteered to create a master archive that will eventually contain all the stories set in the Blind Pig shared universe.

First, for those who aren't familiar with the Blind Pig universe (TBP for short), here is a brief introduction:

Basic Background: There is a primary assumption built into the TBP universe: life exists on Mars. In TBP, this fact was confirmed by soil samples brought to Earth by the Beagle II probe of 2001. Unfortunately, Beagle II exploded on re-entry. The Martian virus within its samples was released into Earth's biosphere, with horrifying consequences. In developed nations, 6% of Flu victims died; in the Third World, the death rate was over 30%. Within a matter of months, the virus was sufficiently widespread that any human being has an 87% chance of catching it sometime during his life. Symptoms are generally flu-like, and death is possible but rare. Fortunately, most Martian Flu victims recover with no lingering effects, but a few --roughly 8% -- are left with a gift, or a curse. In these few the virus mutates their genetic structure, changing their bodes. Some gained the characteristics of animals, others changed their gender, still others gained some control over their aging progress. And weirder things happened as well...

As the virus spread across the world it was finally isolated by Dr. Robert Stein, head researcher at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. Since then, the 8% of flu victims changed by the victim have gained a name for their condition: Stein's Chronic Accelerated Bio-morphic Syndrome, commonly known as SCABS.

How SCABS Works: The Martian Flu virus acts like a 'key' to the genetic history of the human race. As it mutates to live within an individual, it changes so that it can fit only one specific 'lock'. In almost all humans there is no suitable 'lock', and the individual simply recovers and remains human. For the rest, it opens the box and lets the genie out -- SCABS. In effect, the virus rewinds the evolutionary history of its host. It retraces the genetic tree of life that culminated in the human individual, going all the way back to the primordial single-celled organism, and traces a new path forward, down a different branch. And then it mutates its host to match the new path it has created.

SCABS Variations:

Animorphs: Individuals with the characteristics of animal species, either living or extinct. Seventy percent of those inflicted with this type are locked into one specific form; the remaining 30% can vary their appearance to some degree.

Inanimorphs: Victims are transformed into inanimate objects, but still retain the ability to move and think. Virtually all of them violate humanity's understanding of physical laws, simply proving how much we don't know.

Gendermorphs: Victims are transformed into the opposite sex. Ninety-five percent of this variation start as male. A few can toggle their sex as desired, but most are trapped.

Chronomorphs: Individuals with the ability to control the age of their body, and sometimes the age of other bodies. These changes are typically limited and of short duration.

Polymorphs: The blessed few, with the ability to change their form as desired, at will. Fewer than one tenth of one percent have this version of SCABS.

Basic Universe Rules:

Unlike some other universes, the rules within TBP are fairly simple, and there really are only three of them:

  1. SCABS exists and cannot be cured, even momentarily.
  2. The Blind Pig Gin Mill (and a lot of the stories) occur in a city that cannot be named.
  3. Don't step on other characters. As a general rule, if they have any significant speaking part, you should check with the creator.

And that's about it. In other words, you can't fix the world, you can't name the city the Bar is in (though it is in the eastern US), and you can't screw around with characters created by other people. Nice and simple.

The World:

TBP stories can be set in any year after 2002, when the Martian Flu made its unwelcome debut. 2002/2003 are known as 'the Collapse', when the Martian Flu first infected the human population. While Western civilization survived relatively intact, the rest of the planet more or less went to hell. The current 'leading edge' is 2041.

The Bar: The Blind Pig Gin Mill is the name of the bar where the first stories occurred. The city it is in is unnamed and must remain so (one of the few hard rules). The bar is owned and operated by one Donnie Sinclair, an animorph SCAB. He's a 640lb bartender with the head and internal organs of an extinct breed of wild cattle called an Auroch. Don't get him angry.

Why Write in this Universe?

As with other universes, one of the main reasons is that the cause of the transformation is already specified. The character got the flu and changed into whatever. Because of a backlash against technology, the world of 2040 is very similar to the world of 2004. Hydrogen-powered cars are a bit more common, computer technology is a bit faster and smaller, voice synthesis software is cheap and effective, but that's it. No brain/computer hardware connections, no nanotech, no aliens, etc. In other words, you can write a story using anything around today, change the date, throw in SCABS, and voila! Also, unlike Metamor Keep, the universe is fairly loose. There is no master continuity, no interlinking of stories, etc. This is good in that it's easier to get into, but also bad in that you lose a bit of the advantages of a shared universe -- in other words, there isn't a whole lot of shared plotting going on.

Why do I write in TBP? I started because I saw a flaw, namely that there was next to no technological development in 40 years, and had a solution which I proposed as a story: The backlash mentioned above (the idea being that since technology brought the flu, the average man in the street tends to distrust science). But then the character I'd created for that story was so interesting, I wanted to do more with her. There is a second character I've created, a chronomorph who ages in reverse with no control; this character was the product of a thought experiment about what it was like to know the exact moment of your death, and be helpless to change that fact.

Why should you want to write in TBP? Because, in my opinion anyway, a lot of the best writing on the TSA list has come about through TBP. It seems to bring out better writing as people are inspired by what has gone before. And, since the actual transformation is rapid and generally occurs whilst the victim is unconscious or incapacitated, it forces you to write about the consequences of the transformation, instead of just transporn. And, since there are hundreds of stories, there is a lot of examples about how to write about consequences to work from. And that will help make you a better writer.

The Archive: At press time the archive isn't quite ready yet, it should be up and active by February 5th, 2004. There won't be much fiction in it, but it will grow, and there will be at least the start of a writers guide. When it's up you will be able to find it here.

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