Friday, November 28, 2008

The lightbulb game

A fun thing I tried with different races from my stories. How many _____ does it take to change a light bulb?


A whole flag, but they’ll get bored halfway and start juggling the bulb. Then they’ll quarrel about who gets to keep the pieces.


Just one. She shoots all the Glores from a safe distance, steps over the bodies, changes the bulb and requests payment.


Three: one to change the bulb, one to reflect that in the past, they were elite bodyguards rather than changers of bulbs, and one to divide the metal parts of the old bulb equally for them all to eat.


Only one, as long as he has a monkey familiar to do it.


None; they can see in the dark.


None; they can glow in the dark.


Two: one to thank the dragons for giving them the light of truth that will never fail, not even in their darkest hours, and one to order a slave to change the bulb.


One; she reverses time to the point where the bulb was still lit, sits back and waits for admiration.

Iternans (Outward Way)

One; he uses telekinesis to remove the old bulb and fit the new one in.

Iternans (Inward Way)

One; he used psychic coercion to make the first Iternan change the bulb.

How many of the races or species in your work would it take to change a lightbulb?


colbymarshall said...

Well, since I don't write fantasy and my characters are regular humans, it would only take one. I think.

JH said...

This is a pretty cool writing exercise even if you never write about fantasy races. If your writing involves worldbuilding to any degree, like even if you just have made-up nationalities, then coming up with the stereotypical answers to this joke about them can give you a good starting point for characterizing them.

Marian, you might recognize these:

Alvans: Only one living, but he'll need a few of his mummified ancestors watching his back to make sure he doesn't get shivved.

Il-Jypt: Two; one to order some Geltean peon to do it for her, another to call up a few of his mummified ancestors to make sure he doesn't get shivved while changing it.

Irers: The free and enlightened workers of the Commonwealth recognize that one man alone does not labor to change the bulb; rather, he is bolstered by every Ireen hand he has ever shook, and so in fellowship, the whole of society is needed to change a lightbulb.

Mankers: Four; one to smuggle the bulb in, another to act as a go-between and deliver it to the third, who actually changes the bulb, and the fourth comes up with aliases for the other three so even if one is captured by the Ireen Army, he can't give the others away.

Kauls: One, although he'll make sure you know which master in the Guild of Maintenance Laborers taught him to change bulbs, at which point representatives of the Guilds of Glassblowers and Metalworkers and Factory Hands will chime in to claim credit, but none of them are willing to credit the wealth of the Kaulish colonies across the seas and the native serfs who collect it for them.

Kerns: One to ask, "what's a lightbulb?," another to get the answer from the third, who's likely a druid because one will be needed anyway, to give permission for a fourth to make the trip out of Kernew to Kymree to buy a lightbulb, bring it back, and change it. So four.

Kymrers: Two; one to actually change it, another to make sure their pals in Kernew are kept up-to-date on this "lightbulb" business.

Astirs: Two; one to distract the occupying forces of Alva with amusing prattle demanding the lands of Tultin back now that Astira is part of the Empire, so the other can actually got some work done without being horribly oppressed.

Braesers: Three; one to liaison with their "advisers" from Alva so they can be sure that their "allies" are on board with the lightbulb changing plan, a second to requisition a lightbulb from Astira as "war indemnities," and the third to change it.

Marian Perera said...

GunnerJ : interesting. Your answers are mostly to do with political structures and societal norms, and mine are to do with biology and magic. :)

I'd like to try this for other races in fantasy. For instance,


At least a hundred. What, you don't see a hundred bulbs?

Marian Perera said...

Colby: you can play this game with almost any profession. For instance, how many PhD candidates does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but it will take him over five years to do it.