Pig and Whistle

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Authors: Bryan, ShadowWolf, Cubist, Jon Buck and Michael Bard

The 'Pig & Whistle' setting is a "reboot" of the venerable "Tails From the Blind Pig" setting that aims to correct the problems that exist in that universe. Plans for the universe are extensive, and there was a lot of work done to try and build the physical mechanics of the universe up. However, no author has to worry about any of the mechanics or of the timeline, just know that what rules exist are there for a good reason and please, don't try to "game" the system.


Overview

A pandemic disease, called "blowtorch fever" (or just "the torch", for short), has arisen that has no apparent cause and no known cure. In the initial outbreak (i.e., 2008), the disease killed anywhere from 50% to 75% of its victims, depending on what sort of medical care was available to the victims. Fortunately, the disease's lethality drops more-or-less steadily in the years since the initial outbreak. By the year 2020, the death rate is down to about 10%; by 2050, it's down to about 5%.

The disease gets its name from its most notorious symptom: A high fever, which can exceed 110°F in some cases. In addition, it has one highly exotic symptom which occurs in about 30% of its victims—bodily transformation (see The Transformation Process below for details). This symptom is what gives the disease its name: "Transformative Failure of Ontogenetic Regulation", "TFOR" (pronounced "teefer") for short. The term "teefer" is used to refer to both the disease and to people who have been transformed by the disease; in practice, context generally tells you which is meant by any given use of the term.

The disease's characteristic fever tends to be worse in victims who transform than in victims who do not transform. As time passes, and the overall death rate declines, an increasingly large percentage of disease-caused deaths happen to people who exhibit the TF symptom. Surviving one case of blowtorch fever does nothing to protect you against a relapse—that is, you can come down with "the torch" an arbitrarily large number of times during your life. Each new case of infection carries the same chance of transforming, i.e. about 30%, except if you already have transformed, in which case you don't get a second TF.

Setting

The setting is meant to be the Real World (or something close to it) with the addition of a mysterious, transformation-inducing disease; as such, authors can write about any part of the disease-altered Earth they feel like writing about.

That said, the setting does include a 'focal point' which authors can build on or ignore, as they see fit: A bar called the Pig and Whistle. This bar is in an unincorporated area of Polyton County, New York, a county that has no direct counterpart in the RealWorld. By some quirk of epidemiological statistics, Polyton County's percentage of teefers is in the 99th percentile of all counties in the US.

The owner and bartender of "The Pig and Whistle" is named Gordy (full name: Gordon Rupert). He's a teefer himself, and one of the rare 'Non-Aging' cases, at that. His transformation was limited – his body is now heavily muscled and he has the head of an Brahma bull. This, unfortunately, makes him look a lot like a classic Greek Minotaur. He can talk, but his voice is rough and very basso, so he tends to be the silent type, only speaking when its absolutely necessary. In Little Things, the story that opens the universe, he is uncharateristically talkative, answering the questions of an unseen journalist.

The Bar

The "Pig and Whistle" itself is an oddity. Built as part of a chain of "Theme Restaurants" it was originally styled for a "Western" look and feel. Shortly before the collapse the company changed their theme and it was re-styled for a "Medieval feel", meaning that it was styled to be something like an inn from a "Final Fantasy" game. With one large, open room on the ground floor (well, the kitchen is separate) and a large, somewhat rough staircase leading to a second floor (which doesn't sit directly over the main bar area). There is a basement, though it is off limits to guests of the bar - more because of the massive reinforcements that were put in to allow the floor to support the larger patrons than anything else.

The main seating area is filled with tables, and along one wall is a set of booths. Directly opposite the main doors is the bar - an overly ornate piece that would be more at home in Tombstone or Deadwood than in a small city in New York State. The floor is a sturdy wood, even though it looks rough, and is covered in a layer of fine sawdust to make the end-of-the-night cleaning easier on Gordy.

There is a large door in the wall to the right (facing the bar) that connects to the hotel next door. That hotel, originally a small Hilton or similar, was squatted by teefers during the collapse. After the collapse they were granted title. Now they work with Gordy and the nearby shelters to help the burgeoning teefers population with housing. (They also keep a few rooms open so that any patron that passes out in the bar has a comfortable place to sleep)

The second floor of the bar is Gordy's personal apartment and with him being as public a figure as he is, his apartment is strictly off-limits. He enjoys what little privacy he can get.

Notable Differences

The collapse and the dark times that followed (late 2009, early 2010 through March 2012) caused a lot of changes to the political landscape of the world. Where the United States and Mexico balkanized, each of them dissolving into a number of small states, Canada remained mostly whole and managed to exit the period of socio-political turmoil a lot earlier. In an effort to stabilize their southern border and keep the US's anarchy from infecting its northern neighbor, Canada invaded in force.

Initially, this invasion was meant to pacify the border regions. Of course, each newly-pacified border region was still surrounded by not-yet-pacified areas; one thing led to another, and before long, the remnants of the US and Canada had congealed into a new country—the "North American Republic". There was little or no international reaction, since every other nation on Earth was also dealing with the repercussions of blowtorch fever and TFOR. It wasn't until November of 2011 that the Canadian/NAR government decided things had calmed down sufficiently for them to call back their troops. By that time, the NAR had absorbed all of the old US and Canada with the exceptions of Texas and Quebec, both of which declared themselves sovereign nations.. Given the fundamental differences between the governments of the old US and Canada, it wasn't until 2013-4 that the nascent NAR finally nailed down exactly what form of government it was going to have: A semi-presidential parliament.

While the NAR was forming up, the old US states of Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Florida managed to retain their (collective) independence by banding together as the "New Confederacy", whose citizens generally considered their nation to be a "rebirth" of the 'Confederate States of America'. The "New Confederacy" was never fully stable internally, fractured by strange rivalries plagued by civil strife between the different racial groups. Although small, the New Confederacy's military was able to hold off the NAR until 2015 or so. However, a certain segment of the New Confederacy continued to insist on its own sovereignity even after the NAR took control of it. Terrorist attacks are all too common in the former New Confederacy.

The only other part of the old United States that didn't become part of the NAR is Texas, which declared it's independence near the start of the collapse – it quickly returned to being the Republic it was prior to joining the United States. A democratic republic and considered a "good neighbor" by the NAR it stands still, and is well on its way to being an international economic powerhouse. While the Republic of Texas is well armed and has a very decent sized military, they are geared for defense and not offense. Although, if it was required, they could and would invade another country in a pre-emptive defensive move.

The Transformation Process

If you are among the 30%-or-so of disease victims who transform, the first indication will be that you find yourself craving odd foods; the transformation consumes various chemicals in your body, and said cravings replenish your body's supply of those chemicals. From then on, your entire body is affected by the transformation—all organs and body parts are affected at once, in systemic lockstep.

What the transformation seems to do is create human/X hybrids, where 'X' is one specific lifeform. No multi-species cocktails, in other words. The relative proportions of the two ingredients can be arbitrarily high or low, with the end product being anywhere from just over 0% human to just under 100% human. The transformation is capable of blending you with any lifeform—plants, insects, birds, mammals, etc etc etc—including lifeforms which are not currently known to exist on Earth. It's anybody's guess whether the not-currently-known lifeforms represent extraterrestrial species, or Earthly critters which just haven't been discovered yet, or what. [1]

It should be noted that all end products of the transformation process are alive. "Inanimorphs" are not allowed; by definition, an inanimorph isn't alive, and thus is not a valid thing for someone to become—unless you consider dying to be a transformation, that is.

The whole process, from boring-pink-human to finished-teefer, takes a significant amount of time, tending to take longer in larger bodies than in smaller bodies. For normal 180-pound human adults, it's a three-day process, give or take a fudge factor.

The disease crosses species barriers with wild abandon; any critter with separate germ-line cells is a potential target. And yes, it's possible for non-human critters to be transformed into part-human hybrids, if any author wants to go there. 'Uplifted animal' teefers have existed all along, but given the chaos and societal breakdown that accompanied the disease's advent, it wasn't until the 2050s that any biologist managed to confirm that the disease does hit species other than human.

Powers

A non-zero percentage of transformees gain exotic abilities of one kind or another as part of their change. All such abilities are subject to the law of conservation of energy. However, we do realize that this rule could get in the way of storytelling if it was strictly enforced, so we're not going to demand that authors provide an exact, down-to-the-last-erg accounting of the energy sources their characters exploit. Instead, we're just going to ask for explanations that seem plausible enough to satisfy 'willing suspension of disbelief'. And we're going to flat-out reject any power that could reasonably be expected to output or consume insanely massive amounts of energy—this is the 'no Mary Sues' rule, really.

While there are plenty of urban legends about teefers with truly superheroic powers (i.e., stuff like time control; teleportation; growth and shrinking; matter transmutation; etc), those powers that can actually be confirmed under controlled conditions fall into one of three categories:

Types of Powers

  1. Energy projection. This category includes any teefer who can can throw lightning bolts, breath fire, or otherwise expel significant quantities of energy from their body. As per the 'conservation of energy' schtick above, anybody who wants to create an energy-projector character must address the question of where the heck that character gets all their energy from in the first place.
  2. Psionics (i.e., powers of the mind). This covers things like TK (telekinesis), clairvoyance, telepathy, and so on. Psionic powers can always be traced to TFOR-derived alterations in the brain. Since even a normal brain sucks up a disproportionately high share of the body's resources, any teefer with psionic powers must consume significantly more food than a normal person. And if the psionic power involves throwing energy around (i.e., telekinesis), as distinct from 'just' being an information-gathering ability (i.e., clairvoyance), the character must have a plausible source for the energy he throws around.
  3. Applied biology. This category covers anything that fits the general description "a standard biological capacity, maybe with the decimal point shifted a couple of places to the right". This includes things like venom glands; the ability to regenerate missing tissue over time; and superhumanly acute senses, to name only three items that fall into this category.

Caveats

Of those teefers who actually do exhibit funky powers, most fall under the 'applied biology' category. This seems to include the 10%-or-so of all teefers who age at an excessively slow rate, and another 10%-or-so whose aging appears to have stopped entirely. Whether slow-aging or no-aging, gerontologists love to study these guys for insights into the aging process in general.

As for the more-excessive powers that you hear rumors about (i.e., teleportation and such), these powers have never been confirmed under controlled circumstances. In many cases, the supposed 'power' doesn't even exist at all; in the remainder, the test results are ambiguous or otherwise inconclusive, so Occam's Razor dictates that science regard them as falling into the "applied biology" category.

Prior to the 2055 release of stable, mass-producable levitation technology there was very little advancement of technology. Things got a little more advanced, a little safer, etc… But no "paradigm shifts". After 2055 the changes slowly snowball, with a new bit of tech based on data derived from TFOR's powers hitting the market every few years.

Miscelania

Rules for Submission

All stories accepted as Canon will be added to a timeline to help new readers and new authors track when various events have occurred. This will help with the "World Changing" events — though, as with Bryan Derksens "Xanadu" there are no major events that must be mentioned. What follows are some things you should provide:

  1. Timeframe - because unless it's immensely easy[2] to deduce from the text of the story, another author wishing to mention events or dialog in your story is going to need to know when it took place. That way they can also figure out what else might impact their story.
  2. Permission to post here on Shifti (or in a separate story archive) - Speaking from experience here... When I (ShadowWolf) setup the Xanadu Archive I spent quite a large amount of time searching the net for stories so I could contact the author and add them to the archive. Having a central repository - and archive, if you like that term better - is a lot easier on the readers. And there is the added benefit that authors know where to look to check on their stories so that the "founded history" of a universe doesn't erode.[3]
  3. Permission to reprint your story as part of a collection at a later date. This is authorization only, and the collection, unless prior permission is gained from all authors involved that specifically allows it to be otherwise, will be a strictly not-for-profit exercise.

The first item on that list - the timeframe - is to help all authors and readers avoid confusion. Number Two is there for similar reasons, although it has an added benefit - that of helping make sure that stories don't disagree as to the facts or disagree with the guidelines. And the last item is there because it is almost impossible to put together a complete TBP collection in print form because of the implicit copyrights on the various characters and stories. Why is it so impossible? Because the authors are impossible to contact.

Note that silence will be accepted as agreement with the last item, and the permission there granted will only be used in such a case as a non-responsive or non-contactable author.

Politics and other things

NAR (North American Republic)

This country formed from the balkanized remnants of the US after Canada began a military action to stabilize their borders. But as they moved through the people they beat would join them and the conflict grew. Two "wings" of the Canadian army rapidly pushed down the east and west coasts before turning inland. The final battles - those for "Middle America" were bloodbaths for both sides, but the Canadian army eventually prevailed. Seeing the stable Republic of Texas and the supposedly stable New Confederacy the core Canadian Army started to pull back.

In response to pleas for help from parts of the New Confederacy they invaded, forcibly taking control. The battles fought the peoples that had come under the banner of Canada called for changes in the government. Over the next two years the North American Republics Constitution was written, with provisions specifically defining teefers as being human and covering them under the very broad anti-discrimination laws.

The government of the NAR is a "Semi-Presidential System" - with the President in charge of national security and the Prime Minister handles everything else.

Quebec

Quebec is a somewhat strange country, and probably the most normal one to come into existence during the collapse. A strictly parliamentarian government with a minimal military they survive by being the Switzerland of North America.

The Republic of Texas

When the collapse hit and Texas decided to stand on it's own once more, the power structure that had run it when it was a state became the national government. The RoT military is massive and dedicated to the defense of the nation, with the Rangers once more a military force instead of a police force, though they also act perform a role that is a cross between the US's FBI and Secret Service.

Texas claims to have the most honest politicians in the world - if they aren't honest they don't get elected, and abuse of power could (and has) led to unpunished assassinations.[4] And while there are parts of Texas with some low-key racism and anti-teefer sentiments, on the whole this isn't the case. Far from the stereotypes, the Republic of Texas is rather peaceful, quickly fielding it's military for defense but only stepping outside their borders in force to preemptively strike at a threat to their sovereignty.

Sex and the Teefer

Doctors aren't able to explain it, but most teefers are fertile and can reproduce. The result of this mixed genetic heritage is a grab-bag of random luck, but so far all fetuses have been viable and carried to term. Very few have demonstrated any energy-projection powers, though several have demonstrated psychic abilities. As always, the randomness isn't truly random, but of a classical genetic nature, where traits are determined by dominant genes.

The children of teefers are still vulnerable to the Torch and to developing TFOR's. To date all the TFOR's cases involving the children of teefers have been minor and of sorts that changed internal biology, made the child lose any traits carried from one of the parents or just caused the child to gain a new power. However, the number that actually do become ill with the Torch is well below the mean, and the number that further develop TFOR's are statistically insignificant.

Notes

  1. Think of all of this as a guideline and a stated way to skirt the "Human+1" rule
  2. For any reader - ie: the date is mentioned, etc...
  3. This has occurred in TBP, sadly
  4. Not really unpunished, but the punishment is relatively light