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8:01pm on Thursday, 30th January, 2020:



Paracosms are imaginary worlds that people invent for their own amusement. Most children create them, as do a few adults. Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings is a well-known example of a paracosm.

My brother and I both created paracosms when we were growing up. Sometimes we did so separately, sometimes together, sometimes in parallel. Most were short-lived (a few weeks of a Wild West world), but some were periodic (one involving racing cars on a track; one to do with the Lego characters we created) and some were long-term. Any and all of these could lead to spin-off activities; because of the Lego one, for example, we used to make Lego safes that in the end had nothing to do with the paracosm.

The long-term paracosms were the most impressive. There were three that I created jointly with my brother: LCI, the Football Game and Paper Aeroplanes. These are what I'm going to write about here.

Well, actually I'll write them up separately, because otherwise this is going to be a very long post. What I will say for the moment is that creating paracosms ultimately led to my own books and game-world creations, and it was something I never grew out of. My brother did grow out of it, though, because when you start applying critical thought to what you're creating it can stop being fun and start being science and engineering. That's fine if you like science and engineering, but not if you're more of a people person, which my brother was.

Let's start with LCI, then, as this came first.

LCI was my brother's invention. The acronym stood for "Little Cudgie Island".

So, Cudgie was the name of a small, toy bear that my brother was given (along with a much larger bear called Kowali) when one of his friends emigrated to Australia. Kowali was so called because it was a koala bear, only because my brother was only 5 years old he pronounced it Kowali; I don't know where the name Cudgie came from and I don't think he did, either.

We wanted to make our house be its own separate country, because that sounded as if it might be fun. We got all the toys together and they elected Cudgie as their leader. Because of this, we called the country Little Cudgie Island, or LCI for short. LCI sounded much better, and was useful because when we got older it was embarrassing to use the full acronym (and indeed still is...). It would be brought in as a narrative framework when toys were having arguments or exploring or being introduced to new toys. However, it was also a game in and of itself. If one of us suggested "let's play LCI", we both understood this to mean that we'd be playing with our toys to expand and enrich the history and fiction of the LCI world (not that we'd have articulated it like that — we were only kids, after all).

We had outposts of LCI elsewhere. LCM was Little Cudgie Mainland, which is where our maternal grandparents lived. LCM was rebellious and would sometimes attack LCI (usually led by Kowali, who was an eminently beat-upable toy). We kept this paracosm going until my brother (who was two years younger than me) reached secondary school, whereupon it petered out.

I remember being somehat alarmed when I was at school, aged 10: a couple of my friends asked me what the letters LCM stood for. I stalled, because I didn't understand how they could have known about LCM; fortunately, they worked out that it meant Lowest Common Multiplier before I told them it was Little Cudgie Mainland, so my reputation was spared the damage that my revelation would have dealt it.

All sorts of activities span off from LCI, including creating our own currencies (a bad idea, because my brother would buy things off me but never sell things to me) and requiring passes to enter various rooms, most notably our own bedrooms. The passes got very extravagant, and we wound up with so many that in the end we made "anything passes" that were like joker passes that could be used in place of any other pass. We eventually stopped with those, too, because when we had friends round and they had no passes, we had to make ones for them. We also used to create tangible objects to use in LCI, and invented a company each to manufacture them. Mine was called BCL ("Bartle Co. Ltd"); my brother's regularly changed its name, but usually included his name (Roy) in it somewhere.

LCI would feature in stories we told ourselves. We discovered that you didn't have to play with toys to create the stories, you could just say what you would be doing if you'd got the toys out. The toys themselves were essentially props: the world was in our heads, we merely projected it onto the real world when it suited us to do so.

The reason I mention this is that it's remarkable how many people who are known for creating imaginary worlds started out by creating paracosms with family members. The Brontë sisters (along with their brother) created several paracosms; C. S. Lewis (along with his brother) also created some; Robert Louis Stevenson (along with his cousin) created two. Some grew out of it, but some didn't.

I'm one of the ones who didn't.

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