Princesses for Planetary Peace began as game design notes early in the summer of 2010. It was towards the end of my experiment in self-employment as a game developer. My major project had been wrecked in a (surprisingly literal) act of kaiju. I had an unsuccesful Facebook game published I didn’t know how to market. I had written a complicated first act of a complicated choose-your-own-adventure work that I thought was unsellable, an “Asimovian robot punk” musing on essentially depression and self-employment called A Robot Fugue. I was spinning for possible pitches to investors to get some sort of budget. I remember two big pitch ideas from this period, and SPACE PRINCESS ONLINE was the more pie-in-the-sky, would need a full production team, of the two ideas. 1 (Or so I felt at the time.)
The elevator pitch was essentially: something deep and complicated like Eve Online, but clothed in Lisa Frank pastels, and sold to the Farmville crowd. Back-stabbing feudal politics and hard-ish sci-fi underneath a beautiful crust of dress-up games, and unicorn decorations.
I liked that idea of something easy to start, but scarily deep under the surface. I wanted to explore that useless distinction between a “hardcore” game and a (“filthy”) “casual” game, by intentionally attacking the gray spaces in between. (These are spaces I like to play in, too, having spent a lot of time in MMOs like Puzzle Pirates and Free Realms.)
At PAX in 2009, I had the privilege to be asked by some good friends to join a panel discussion on the deep conversations of the accessibility of the hobby and profession of videogames, its diversity, its maturity, and so forth. At the time, I felt like I helped make some small positive contribution to the discussion (as an ally), and I remember coming out of that panel discussion with some hope to the future of videogame culture, and maybe even future employment.
In 2014, we saw this “cold war” of discussions, distressingly, become scary culture war. I don’t recall the exact details all that well, but in the summer of 2010 I remember feeling some anxiety about it. Some of that was certainly funemployment and depression and impostor syndrome at work; some of that is probably social media conversations better forgotten.
The core of Princesses for Planetary Peace was written relatively quickly (for me) in that head space. It remains one of the short stories I’m proudest of, and I’m glad it wears its political heart on its sleeve. As it has collected dust on my hard drive, I recall wondering if it would remain relevant. (Events in 2014 were maybe to should have taught me that it may remain relevant forever.)
This is the one short story I felt important enough to me to workshop it. I even submitted to several publications at the time. I got nothing but rejections back.
At ConGlomeration in 2012, the story inspired its own cover art. This got into my head that the story needed to be expanded to novella or novel length to truly earn that cover and approach the effort to appropriately buy the reproduction rights to use that cover. There are about ten thousand words written towards that effort, and some interesting notes. It has some new characters I’m fond of, and some pacing decisions that I still don’t feel I’ve solved, and some weirdness I’m not sure I have the skills to sell. I also am still not certain the story wants to be much longer than a short, if expanding it doesn’t break some of the things that are good about it.
Here in 2017, I have been posting fiction publicly for nearly eighteen years; fifteen of which have been to this domain name. This story is seven years old; I’ve been blogging about it for six. It struck me that 2017 was as good a time as any to post it, and I realized I really wanted it posted. It’s an important short story to me and it is easier to talk about if I can just link right to it.
According to my notes my last editing pass on it was sometime in 2013. This story is important to me and I respect the power of a good editor (and briefly played a copy editor on TV, though not a very good one, though I blame my deadlines for that). For such vanity reasons, I hired friend, freelance (RPG) editor, and a co-host of the All Games Considered podcast, Carol Darnell, to do a professional edit for this story. Carol did great work and I really appreciated her suggestions and feedback; please assume any remaining faults in the short story are my own from circa 2010-2013.
Maybe as my skills grow I’ll finally finish that novel expansion. Until then, please enjoy this short story.
At the time there was a brief interest by local investors in the AR space, though mostly with respect to healthcare (and essentially what became the pedometer-focused and terribly boring “gamified wellness” space). So my “pragmatic” pitch at the time was an AR approach to something like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? to promote things like tourism. With AR sort of trending again, maybe I should make a fresh pitch deck. ↩