World building: How do you play?

Have you seen the newest Monopoly game, the electronic banking edition, where players swipe their debit cards to pay for property, taxes, etc…   What did you think?

My gut reaction—Yikes, playing with credit card look-alikes, how can that be good for raising kids?  The rational me reaction—No  surprise. Play mirrors life.  Hard to imagine that our grandchildren will even remember money.  Instead of buying Boardwalk with the roll of a square, plastic die, children playing Monopoly of the future may take a holographic site tour of Martian biodomes and have to calculate Martian-Earth exchange rates to create their intergalactic real estate empire.

And what about sex?  (Where are you going with this Sabrina, you ask.).  Toys depend upon and help shape our sense of touch (e.g. teddy bears, scrabble letters, monopoly pieces, baseballs etc…). They involve the hands and body by definition and develop our sensuality and sense of play.  So if play all happens through a remote, will sex in the future need one as well? Actually, if you look at current game control design, yeah, over there, hmmmm.  And then there’s the joy stick.  Anyhoo, I’ve digressed enough.

Children’s toys and games don’t often find their way into grown up entertainment. When they do show up, they’re not really about having fun.  In Star Next Generation Unification II, we meet a 24th century toy—Vulcan language dice, used by the Romulan Unificationists to teach their children Vulcan. Keeping the unification dream alive, toys are a political statement.  And these were Spock’s toys as a child which explains an awful lot. I adore Spock and the Vulcans, but let’s face it, they’re not a hell of a lot of fun.  Toys will tell.

Designing toys and play is fun part of world building even if they don’t actually show up in our final drafts.  I’ve found when I get stuck with a character, delving into their childhood–how they were parented, how they played, the toys they used—can breathe life into their personality and quirks and drives.

So how about you, any examples of other worldly toys you’d love to get your hands on or toys of the future you know are coming down the pipeline?   You are invited to play along.

Siri and Me: Adventures with My Iphone

I ripped through the packaging to get at my new iphone, latest model, all the bells and whistles.  A brand new toy, one that has a name and talks back.

Siri was home and she is amazing. You can ask her to look up and call a number, research information on the net, distinguish among all the Jills logged in my phone.

As much as I love her, two things have my eyebrows hitting my hairline.

I have this overwhelming need to address “her” by name.  Call my mom, Siri.  Get me directions to the Deli, Siri.  What’s the difference between a biome and a habitat, Siri?  Is this normal?  It’s a phone–a  smart phone okay–but still a gadget.  Has the age of sentient machines begun and am I giving in to the inevitable?

My daughter, on the other hand, relates differently.  Let’s listen in.   “Find. Information. On. Penguins. For. My. Homework.”  Note she didn’t say Siri but made damn sure Siri got every word.

Will. We. All. Talk. Like. This. In. The. Future?

What. Do. You. Think?

A is for Aeryn

Welcome to day one of the kickass women of sci fi and fantasy hall of fame in the A to Z Blog Challenge.   Its a great first day because it kicks off with one of the best in the genre–Aeryn Sun.

She’s a soldier’s soldier, a battle hardened, battle weary babe  you’d want guarding your back or planning your attack strategy in the Farscape universe or anywhere else for that matter.  Initially amoral, devoid of feeling, her character’s arc is a long and arduous one to friend, lover, mother, and compassionate leader who puts the peace back in the peacekeepers.  Never quite warm, but worthy of song, story and admiration, Aeryn ranks top of the kick ass lady list.   And she does figure out how to put up with and love John Crichton, no small feat.

Kudos to Claudia Black, who made her real and captured her strength, vulnerability, and intelligence.

While Aeryn tops my list for A, there were a lot of contenders:

  • Artemis, Athena and the Amazons–gotta love the power and hedonism of mythological goddesses and female warriors.
  • Arwen Undómiel, the Elvish princess in Lord of the Rings, whose story is more than appears in the Trilogy.
  • Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, nuff said for her place in the female kick ass hall of fame.
  • Amy Pond,  Dr Who’s  dynamo of a sidekick who saves the universe more times than I can count.

Any favorite As you want to share?  Who’d you put first?

Mom, Can I Keep It?: Targs, Tribbles and Other Non-Terrestrial Pets

I want a Targ, one of those a boar-like creatures with other-worldly tusks. Lt. Worf raised one.  It would make one terrific watch beast and I could gate him in the backyard and turn him loose on the excess squirrel population although I doubt that  would be enough food or exercise.  I’m sure I’d have to snag a deer hunting license and pack him up for periodic hunting trips.  My one complaint- he wouldn’t be very snuggly.

I love pets, on my couch, in my lap and through my books.  Pets inject warmth and empathy into worlds, stories and people.  Yet in science fiction and fantasy, our non-biped, non-humanoid friends are always more than cuddly fur balls.  They show up as:


  • Evil sidekicks—think Salacious B. Crumb, Jabba the Hut’s Kowakian monkey-lizard, nibbling  C-3PO’s eye out;
  • Sapient buddies, guardians and alter egos—our furred, scaly or feathered partners in crime.  Saphira in Eragon comes to mind.
  • Pure nuisance—Tribbles anyone? (Actually my cat fits here too, don’t let the picture fool you, my daughter dressed him up to enhance his cuteness.)
  • Electronic sidekicks such as K-9 or R2-D2; and
  • Superheroes in themselves, remember Krypto, Lockjaw and the pet avengers?

So where are all the loving, hugable pets out there in other worlds?   Something that curls up on a bed and demands affection but doesn’t outsmart you at every turn or need a hunting license to feed ?  Does science fiction by definition push the question of sapience, consciousness and the ethics of how we treat other life, even when it poops in the basement and rips apart the furniture?

What’s your favorite non-terran pet?  Any other role pets play that  I left out?