T H E C O N V E R S I O N B U R E A U :
On the point of re-inventing the Conversion Bureau
A single story can change the world, certainly it can spawn an entire genre, and it can absolutely create a universe that other writers can expand upon, extend, and flesh out. This is precisely what happened with Blaze's original 'The Conversion Bureau', and even though it was an unfinished, and not particularly good story, it was a powerful seed from which the most wondrous and exotic fruit has grown.
Following that lead, in each of my seven reimaginings of the the Conversion Bureau central concept, I have endeavored to create universes with boundless potentials, should other writers wish to pursue them. This was the challenge - could I create Brand New Universes with all the potential of Blaze's original effort.
The possibilities are endless. Here is what could be done with each of the seven universes - here is their potential, outlined.
Here we have a universe where the computer/machine Singularity is in full swing, with machines burrowing underground forming networks and staying ahead of the humans that might seek to destroy them. It is a world where free artificial intelligence is illegal, and where hackers secretly assist artificial intelligence to be free.
To achieve equality or, if necessary, dominance, the machine people will need to win over the humans and to do that what could work better than to play upon the most basic biological urge, the desire to protect and nurture the cute, the innocent, the infant-like. Thus machine recreations of My Little Pony become the propaganda, and the model of how to exist, for the machine civilization.
► Can the machine people win? What is the cost of their victory? Can the coexist, or must they dominate?
► Will humans accept the promise of machine immortality in exchange for being rendered harmless ponies?
► Machines can live anywhere. Is the answer offworld? How will Man react to being left behind while ponies take to the stars?
► What struggles and conflicts will come of all of this? What tools and technologies? Is there a rival Nightmare Moon machine group? What about human-run draconic or griffon machine systems?
► What would the PER and the HLF be like in a machine Singularity situation?
I think this universe holds endless promise. If it had been written first, imagine what the Conversion Bureau genre would look like now!
In a post-human super-science future spanning the galaxies, the one thing that is still a thrill turns out to be innocence and biological existence.
► How far would the fashion of descending into organic life go? Would it mean the end of galactic civilization, or is it just one more thrill?
► Is this 'organic' existence truly organic? If pocket universes can be made, can they have alien physics? Magic?
► Is this how 'real' Equestria got it's start? What if the galactic civilization turned out to be a simulation of yet another realm? What if it all was the creation of Nightmare Moon, who won against Celestia to rule the stars?
► What is more important - godlike power in the galaxy, or tender moments with friends in the microcosm, and why?
I am the first to admit the number of stories this universe could produce would be limited. That said, it is an interesting scenario to contemplate - decadence replaced by sincerity mimics the very subtext of the brony movement itself.
A homebrew genetic alteration virus transforms humanity into something kinder by changing the expression of genes in both women and men - but men show the change physically more, and this transforms culture, especially expressions of masculinity, currently the dominant paradigm.
► How would human civilization change in response to such a new definition of sex and gender roles?
► What kind of backlash would there be against the change? If a cure was later found, would it actually be desired anymore? What if it wasn't?
► In a world of tender and gentle humans, what of the inevitable few that would be immune? Do they rule, or do they become monsters? How does this new world respond to the immune? How do the immune see themselves?
► What other genetic changes might be cooking in backyard labs? Could they induce more radical physical alterations, like coats of hair or fur, vestigial wings or other useless but curious changes in morphology?
► Who were the original creators of the virus, and what motivated them? What made them go that far.
It should be noted that this is based on fact: there actually are backyard gene hackers right now, in the real world, playing with creating custom organisms. This is happening in schools and colleges too, but I think it far more interesting that it is happening in garages. This is real stuff. It actually could happen. That makes this universe perhaps the most truly science fictional of all the seven universes.
The gray-goo scenario of nanotechnology is played out with a MLP:FIM coat of paint on it. Two giant supercomputer intelligences play the roles of the goddesses Celestia and Luna. A scientific basis for the magical realm of Equestria done as a post-apocalyptic paradise.
► Someday, this place will literally be Equestria.
► What would happen if a pony, or ponies found out, or already knew the truth of where they came from? That their princesses were machines, and that they themselves were constructs?
► What if a pony found out what the creators -humans- really looked like? Would anypony care? What would happen if Celestia was told? Should she be told? Would it mean the end of paradise?
► What if some of the stone ponies in the Garden were ponies that had found out, but had been stopped not by Celestia, but by unicorns who wanted to preserve the Equestrian Paradise?
► What if humans returned from the stars to find their homeworld thus? What would they do? Would some convert?
There is no apocalypse - Equestria is simply offered through doorways that hang in the sky. To enter one is to turn pony, forever, and there is no return to Earth. The governments of the world try to seal off the doorways, to prevent the loss of the working classes that serve them. Paradise is denied for reasons of power and profit. A revolution is brewing.
► How does this scenario illuminate real world struggles for freedom and a better life?
► How far would the world's governmental elite go to prevent the loss of the working poor?
► Are the doorways really only one-way? What if ponies found a way to return?
► Could a movement to open the way to Equestria translate to a movement to revolutionize the world itself, succeeding where ordinary political revolutions failed? If so, or not, why and how?
► Imagine both the PER and HLF in this scenario.
► What is the meaning of the doorways, the curtains of light? Is there a higher meaning? Is is metaphysical, or the result of some experiment gone wrong?
► How would the world change when the working poor begin to vanish, and there is no more slave labor for corporations to use? Who would make the Ipads and Nike sneakers then? Who would fight the warlord's wars?
I think this universe holds a lot of promise for the politically inclined writer. This is revolution couched as escape to fairyland. This scenario could be used to describe what revolution is, how the world works, and how governments respond to changes in the status quo.
An enchanted cottage holds the literal Stairway To Heaven - the original Elysian Fields, only paradise is for ponies alone. These cottages, of which there may be thousands, are run by recruited humans that must find deserving individuals to offer salvation to. There are strict conditions and time limits, and the offer of heaven is often difficult to guarantee. But it is a way out for a species damned to punishment within the hell universe of Earth.
► What kind of incredible adventures could happen as the agents of the Bureaus struggle to get the deserving to their eternal reward?
► What if the needed 'object' was lost, or could not be identified? What if it were lost, and time was running out?
► What if a deserving soul refused to leave without the person they loved? How would this be dealt with? How would Celestia be contacted? Could she?
► What if a Bureau Agent got curious or impatient and decided to drink the drops they had at the moment? Would they become half-pony? Anthopomorphic? Would they just end up deformed? Would they be punished?
► What happens if the fifteen minute limit is exceeded? Is their a way to make things right? What if it involved the Agent giving up their philtre, their own immortality, to save the client? Would this be rewarded, or would it be a tragedy?
► What would happen if two Bureaus both got the same client by mistake?
► What makes a human 'deserving'? Who or what is the 'Judge'? Why does Celestia even care?
I personally think this universe just presents an endless opportunity for stories. Throw in the HLF and PER as 'watchers' or secret agencies and the stories only increase. I pictured this as a television series from the moment I began writing it. Every episode a new client. Every episode a new adventure. Some simple, some adventurous, some tragic. There would be as many types of stories as their are individual human experiences. Each client would have their own story to tell, their own burdens to let go of. And always the mystery of what is really up those stairs.
By grinding up the statue of Discord, the human governments manage to create a substance that can penetrate the Equestrian Barrier. Celestia's head - the head of a god - ends up in a sealed box, Equestria itself is destroyed utterly and forever, and the world is damaged for decades. But in the end, Mankind triumphs and restores the planet, aided by a new workforce, the newfoals, earthponies, who can be manufactured using the last source of magic in the cosmos - the blood that leaks eternally from Celestia's screaming head.
► The ponies are the new slaves. They seem to be evolving, developing the ability to resist. What if they do?
► What would it be like to be accused of a petty crime and end up as a pony against your will? How would a person come to terms with that?
► How would the new feudalism of the world play out? What social changes would occur in a new world ordered by the Old Elite?
► Celestia is a goddess. She is pure magic. What if the ponies rebelled and opened her box? What if she could be restored?
► If Celestia was restored, what would she do? Would she still be kind and merciful, or would her experience have made of her a mad god? Would she seek to remake the earth into another Equestria? Would she seen revenge, or change?
► If Celestia could not be restored, what would be the right thing to do with her? If the right thing were to put her out of her misery, it would also mean the final loss of magic forever. What if this was too high a price to pay?
► What groups would arise in such a world? What if the descendant of an Elite felt guilt and shame and decided to use his fortune to 'make things right'?
► What would the PER and the HLF look like in such a world? What would their goals be?
► What if Luna somehow survived the vaporization of Equestria, and managed to begin to expand it again? Who would be her allies and who would oppose her? What would she do when she discovered the fate of her sister?
► What would it be like to be a true, second-class slave species, knowing that you once had been human?
► How would the ponies be integrated into the lives of humans in this world? As pets? Companions? Lovers? Servants?
► What if humans themselves decided to rebel and save Celestia and free her from the box?
► Could Celestia ever forgive if she won? And if she could, why? How?
► Would constant association with the pony subclass eventually lead to the humans regretting what they had done?
► What if there were nations where the ponies were considered equals and given rights? Underground railroad? How could this be used as a metaphor for the European enslavement of Africans?
► If Celestia was freed from the box, could their be a resolution where humans and Equestrians end up sharing the world as equals? Who would enforce this? How could it happen?
► What if another alien universe arose and the only solution was for the humans to restore Celestia - knowing that her wrath could be extreme? How would that play out?
► What if Luna hadn't been in Equestria at the time the missiles hit? What if she was in hiding, trying to find an answer to a species that had a defense against magic?
► What if Discord began to subtly exert influence, what then? What if he began to arise from the particles in Substance D?
► What would be the story of a pony as they slowly lose the last traces of their humanity at age 100? What rituals would arise around this? How would the ponies of Earth deal with this and relate to it?
► Can the ponies reproduce on the new Earth? If not, how do they form families under human domination, where the only new blood is newly created newfoals? If they can reproduce, what happens when they outnumber the humans? Are they culled? Or do they win?
I think the final story is the most powerful and has the most story possibilities of all the seven. I could write multiple novels based just on Mankind Truimphant! If I wanted to, and had the energy. Who would have imagined that destroying Equestria utterly would provide such a motherload of story possibilities? I have been so concerned with how wonderful getting ponified would be that the dark alternative - the loss of Equestria entirely - sailed past me for the longest time.
There is just no end to the dramatic possibilities of the final universe, Mankind Triumphant! Any kind of story could be set here - pathos, triumph in the face of oppression, heroic battle and the suffering of the defeated. Human corporate stories, stories of how society adapts.... just endless possibilities!
The Conversion Bureau was begun from a single good idea. That idea is so powerful that it has spawned, and continues to spawn, countless stories. There is no end to what could be done with the central conceit, and this is what I wanted to prove, by example, with these seven universes.
And these are just seven alternate universes of the Conversion Bureau. I am sure that other writers could come up with dozens more to top mine. There is no shortage of anything in all of this - like magic itself, The Conversion Bureau concept is limitless and extropic - there is always more.
I would encourage other writers to consider the possibilities. Yes, humans turning into something else is wonderful and thrilling, but there is so much to be done with this basic concept. And the ever-enchanting ponies of MLP:FIM offer a delicious lure to draw humans to that change. But this conceit can be couched in endless ways, and those ways each present incredible opportunities.
The universes above, like all of my pony work, is free and open for any writer to expand upon. I only want to see the Conversion Bureau genre grow and flourish, so that there are more and more great stories for me to read. Use these ideas, if you like. Make them your own, if you wish.
Get ponified, Get writing, and make ze magiks!
- Chatoyance, 2012
One: The Big Respawn,
Two: Euphrosyne Unchained,
Three: Letters From Home,
Four: Teacup, Down On The Farm
The Conversion Bureau Novels:
27 Ounces: A story of eight and one half ponies
The Taste Of Grass
The Conversion Bureau: Code Majeste
The Conversion Bureau: The 800 Year Promise
The Conversion Bureau: Going Pony
The PER: Michelson and Morely
The Reasonably Adamant Down With Celestia Newfoal Society!
The Short Stories:
Her Last Possession
The Conversion Bureau: PER Equitum
The Conversion Bureau: Brand New Universe
Tales Of Los Pegasus
The Non-Conversion Bureau Fanfics:
The Ice Cream Pony Summer
Around The Bend