My Games

Thursday, May 23, 2024

A Carnival World of no Prisons

This was drafted as far back as February, but I recently watched the original Wicker Man and it was really good and reminded me of this post. Also spiritually connected to The Apologists. It's another thought experiment / worldbuilding thing, just exploring ideas.

A world where the prison system has largely been replaced by a practice of public shaming and light corporal punishment.

Except where shame would not be effective, removal of bodily autonomy is kept to a minimum after the completion of the mandatory Carnival.

While some question the cruelty of the shaming and humiliation, or the stigma offenders carry well past the end of their sentencing, it is efficacious and minimally disruptive to both society and the individuals.

Periods of sociopolitical polarity or apathy threaten the efficacy of this system.

Carnivals usually involve some kind of poetic punishment, up to a certain physical and psychological threshold. Systemic bias and corruption are sometimes reflected in the nature and degrees of the events. For the most powerful, the events may even take on an heir of celebration, an effective soft power attack against the state, making a joke of the whole affair.

Some of the Roles in this new system (Jobs has become a loaded term) include:
  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Carnival King
  • May Queen
  • Fool (aka Punch)
The Carnival King in Yellow of the city-state of Gorgonesia is a notable example of how this system can catastrophically fail.

Not actually no prisons but it makes for a better title.


  1. This excites me on to fronts: weird celtic folklore and attacking penal systems! A great worldbuilding angle.

    Are you familiar with Mikhail Bakhtin? Worth a scan for further inspiration regarding the carnivalesque/misrule (in the folk tradition, not general misrule).

    The connection back to The King in Yellow is very satisfying, too!

    1. Unfortunately I no longer have any memory of where Gorgonesia came from but I'm 100% sure it's a reference to something, but ya I think Carnival King in Yellow may have come from a similar line of thinking as King in Giallo which we discussed on the server a while back.

      This started more as a generic non-penal setting loosely inspired by my vague memories of Foucault's Discipline and Punish, and the Celtic Carnival stuff came in after the fact.

      I'd like to piece some of these ideas together like this, The Apologists, some of my other recent-ish posts, doing more worldbuilding of ideologies and alternative political systems and such. So often you'll get these worlds that are visually or ecologically or technologically distinct, but ideologically under-examined.

      Along those lines, even though they did it in a different way, the Wicker Man movie also still has me thinking about the Sacrifice stuff we've discussed, I still intend to do something with that eventually. I want to read Bataille at some point, and also read more into ancient or indigenous practices around sacrifices.

      Another thing the Wicker Man reminded me of, and it's unfortunate that there's almost no way to talk about this now without it sounding like a statement, but there were a few moments in the movie where the Star of David was shown in association with Paganism, and of course the Black Sabbath (not referenced in the movie but similar idea). Sim Kern has talked about this association, how modern notions of Paganism and fantasy black magic are inextricably linked with anti-Semitism, so I don't know how much of that actually bled into cross-culturalism or if it's just in the iconography, but it would be interesting to explore that too, but ya that's a whole other matter.

    2. I think the star of David/Remphan/hexagram only became adopted as a specifically jewish symbol in the 17th century, before that being a general symbol used by just about everybody at some point.

      & re: the black sabbath, it's more an inversion of the catholic mass than anything really anti-semitic - debasing communion and so on. If jewish people were accused of attending the black sabbath I have not yet seen it.

    3. My main point of reference on this stuff is some stuff Sim Kern has talked about and this book:

      But ya it might be more complicated than that.