Pass me my gryphon pants please.

His high school racial studies were kind of a pain, Billy thought. Spending the day as a unicorn may have made gym class easy, but it just made trying to write on the chalkboard in math class a pain… also all the girls looked at him funny. Still, football was fun when he was a troll, and if he did well his parents had promised to let him try flying on the vacation over the summer.

The above sort of gives a taste of what I’m trying to achieve from a first person perspective; a modern Earth analog with a blase acceptance of the ability to transform.

The scenario is that at sometime in the recent past, a brilliant/mad Scientist developed a Scientific/Magical method of literally changing a human into something else. animal or fantastical, "Anything go's" inside certain constraints.

The specific rules about how this works and what someone can change into are less important for this question. The limits of the change run a lot along the lines of mammalian-esque forms and of no actual mass changes (regardless of what it looks like), and nothing that strictly couldn't exist without magic; winged humans sure... but no flying winged humans. Also assume, mostly for story reasons, that most transformations are sane; a person won’t end up as a slime and washing down the drain to the local water treatment plant.

This obviously is going to take a fair bit of work to ‘sell’, especially because a familiar, modern day setting is a requirement, but given:

  • The setting focus is on western society; Europe and the Americas.

  • Its available to anyone that wants it at a reasonable price. (Reasonable is cellphone level of cost, not sports car level)

  • This is a divergent world from our own recent history, not a fantastical one. ( As far as anyone can tell its the same up until [x] date.)

  • The setting must maintain and appearance of the current day one we live in. (no apocalypse)

  • Transformations can be as temporary as a hand stamp or as permanent as a tattoo. They are NOT clap-clap on, clap-clap off changes, and there is a minimum time of hours-to-days, and a functionally unlimited maximum time.

  • The tech/magic behind the scenes really is kind of irrelevant beyond making the assurances that are needed so people feel safe with it.

  • There needs to be less divergence rather than more in the overall world; airliners rather than flocks, rush hour rather than stampedes. This ability needs to be a fairly modern change to prevent unanticipated changes to [the] world/events.

  • You can’t clone someone else's specific form/body, you end up along the lines of “what you would look like if you were born as [x]”

  • humans act as humans do; events still transpire as historically they did until they no-longer believably can (ugh, timeline stuff)

Within these constraints, and the understanding there there will always be fringe groups that call it ‘evil and/or unnatural’:

How do I convince the largest cross-section of people that this is a socially acceptable and even a normal thing for a person to do? How far ‘back’ do I have to go to put the point of divergence? The 1980s? 1960s? Further back?

This question can be more generalized as “how do I convince any large group to accept something totally new and different” I suppose, but the idea of transformations gives scope as to how alien the "new and different" is. I can hand-wave how it happens and was developed in the first place, as well as the reasoning by letting having people have access to it, but I’m having trouble setting up the scenario where it’s accepted by people at large. To me, Humans have a historical tendency to shriek at anything new and then climb a tree.

let me reiterate; I can come up with gobs and gobs of reasons why this can fly off the rails, I'm not asking how it won't work... I'm asking how I got there.

How do I make something so radical and different into something that's viewed the same as getting your ears pierced at the mall? I want to avoid making it something that's “always been that way” as I feel that realistically, the longer this ability is around, the more things will change and the less recognizable modern life is.

I get that something developed a week ago just can’t get accepted that fast, and certainly this is a candidate for "never-accept", but I want (mostly) whole-sale adoption. Yes I do have the fantasy tag, but still, bonus points for believability.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You're missing the other side of the human reaction coin: hit it with a club until it stops moving. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    May 12, 2016 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ I believe I mentioned it with the "climb a tree screaming" bit. I totally get that this is an issue, but the goal is to go the other direction $\endgroup$
    – Marky
    May 12, 2016 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ There are some questions I didn't got straight. Do humans "buy" their new forms? How expensive they are? When a human buys a new form, can he change at will, or it's more like stetic surgery? $\endgroup$
    – Masclins
    May 12, 2016 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ As above; "reasonably priced" and "as temporary as a hand stamp or as permanent as a tattoo." Think like the cost to get a new cell phone; you can save for a few weeks can get a cheap one reasonably, or go way overboard on one for a lot of bells and wistles $\endgroup$
    – Marky
    May 12, 2016 at 15:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Take a look at the Shadowrun roleplaying game, it covers more or less what you want. $\endgroup$
    – MakorDal
    May 13, 2016 at 8:56

5 Answers 5


Understand, this is complete guesswork. However, I'd say it would have to have started somewhere in the 60's.

You have to think about this in the same mentality as women's rights, the change in mentality regarding people of color, or homosexuals today. Some of these balls started rolling a long time ago, yet the issues are still not completely resolved today.

In a way, I think the civil rights movement will have a much easier time due to people's attention being drawn from them to the shape-shifters. (after all, you may be black, but you're still human, not like that freak over there!)

You can also assume that there would be a lot of religious intolerance, especially in the middle east where such people might be regarded as demons, and that only more recently would the Pope have taken a more lenient stance on the issue.

Now, let's talk acceptance:

I can imagine the military picking up on this rather enthusiastically (troll soldiers in Vietnam, etc). This right here will play a huge role in getting the ball rolling.

I can also imagine this procedure picking up a lot of popularity in lieu of plastic surgery. People "altering" themselves to look more buff, prettier, better endowed, etc.

Last but not least, these changes are going to spike during the years of the hippies. People will embrace their drug-induced visions and change themselves to look like all sorts of fairies, etc.

Another aspect is that gangs might start turning themselves into demons, or orcs as a form of demonstrating that they belong to a fierce group. Prison inmates might be "changed" such that they are instantly recognizable as inmates, and move so slowly that trying to break out of jail is pointless.

The fact that change is so potentially useful would go a long way toward pushing society to embrace it.

Eventually it could end up a bit like today: with it being accepted in large metropolitan areas (the more Liberal areas), and looked down on in the more conservative states.

  • $\begingroup$ @Marky - let me know if my edit fits with what you're envisioning. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    May 12, 2016 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Wonderful edits, thank you for updating $\endgroup$
    – Marky
    May 12, 2016 at 16:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A complete tangent: imagine how different the civil rights movement would be if, instead of trying to fix civil rights, a fair number of blacks instead chose to transform themselves into whites. In some places, you might get lynchings of "fake" or suspected-fake whites. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2016 at 16:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PaulMarshall - the whole idea of changing has some very sticky implications. In fact, it's world-shattering. Pretty much everyone will make themselves more attractive, stronger, etc. If being of a certain race is viewed as unattractive, people would change themselves into something else, as you've described. It would change society on a fundamental level. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    May 12, 2016 at 16:32
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon Maybe, but conservatives and liberals tend to be intolerant of different things - for instance, liberals are intolerant of conservatives (and anyone who doesn't give them a 'trigger warning'), while conservatives tend to be intolerant towards non-standard sexuality. Transformation - particularly considering its potential sexual applications, and the parallels with piercings and tattoos - at first glance seems like the sort of thing that would make conservatives uncomfortable. $\endgroup$
    – Tin Wizard
    May 12, 2016 at 18:09

Looking at smartphones in our daily lifes and social situations I'd wager it taking at most 2 to 3 generations until it's broadly accepted.

The most important thing here seems to be the generation that first grew up with it, not the early adopters themselves. As soon as these transform-natives are in positions of public influence (e.g. teaching younger generations, writing news, etc.) acceptance and use will easily spread and become a normal thing.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your 2-3 generations may be a little presumptive. Sure, technology is taken up quickly as it is generally seen as an advancement on convenience, it also isn't a change to the human form. Consider that American racial segregation was officially abolished by The Civil Rights Act of 1964, with approx 2-3 generations between then and now(more for some) and yet racism is still a huge problem in American society. To have the acceptance and integration that would be required for it to be a subject in school will take significantly longer. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2016 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T This seems to imply that anything gets accepted as long as its around long enough, which on one hand you can make an argument for, but on the other feels false. I can think of examples but they are technology based, like beta-max tapes, that counter this, but they're not particularly good analogies. I think that there needs to be a positive impitis to drive something, and the stranger the "something" the more "positive" you need. $\endgroup$
    – Marky
    May 12, 2016 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Marky I'd assume the "positiveness" stemming from A) usefullness as seen from the user perspective, and B) ability to mark ourselves as different from the previous gens $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    May 13, 2016 at 5:48

Most probably, I think it would be safe to assume the technology was discovered within the later half of the 1900s, say around 1955 or so.

I would like to point out that if this is a world where mythical creatures existed even before the transformation tech was discovered, the education system would probably not look like the one you potray. It doesn't seem fair to other species to conform to the "human" way of learning, and most probably, there exist different systems for differently able species, or one system that caters to all species without bias.

I would think such technology could not be easily made commonplace in the setting you describe, except where its use is practical,recreational, or otherwise justified.

I guess construction workers and such would find it useful to assume a form with more musculature, and if you just want to run, why not just turn into a cheetah? (I am assuming that the technology can also be used to transform into non-mythical creatures). there are probably lots of other examples out there, but these are what come to my mind.

In the end though, I feel the type of world you imagine would not be very practical.

  • $\begingroup$ Tattoos and earnings are not that practical from a certain point of view, but you still see them a lot. Interesting point about the construction workers, and turning into a cheetah for short distances would have an advantage in that situation, but what happens when you get there? hard to be a dentist with paws $\endgroup$
    – Marky
    May 12, 2016 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ my point exactly (sort of). I have edited my answer to include another point. Tattoos are totally a matter of personal choice, but pray tell, how would a person get by in the world without earning money? $\endgroup$ May 12, 2016 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @warpspeed SCP - nice answer, clearly set out. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2016 at 16:10

There needs to be a law against transforming into a close duplicate of another human. You also reliable way to identify a person even in a transformed state, for their own safety.

From you description it sounds like I can transform into an almost exact duplicate of a different person.

So I could commit a crime and he would be blamed. When my friends talked to me they would never know if I am me or it was someone that was currently mimicking me.

You need a way to reliably identify a transformed person. What if I want to experiment with being a deer and then a hunter kills me by accident. I could also rob a bank under the guise of a troll then transform back to hide.

Some industries would collapse when we can easily change our appearance (cosmetics), some would ban or limit transformations (sports), some would love it (movies).

  • $\begingroup$ The question addresses your first point: "You can’t clone someone else's specific form/body, you end up along the lines of “what you would look like if you were born as [x]”" (second-to-last of the bulleted points). I would argue that it's the responsibility of the transformee to make sure that they don't get themselves in a situation that would be dangerous for their new form - but that opinion may be considered "transphobic" in this new world. $\endgroup$
    – Tin Wizard
    May 12, 2016 at 18:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I imagine a market for bright orange vests to be worn by transdeer, which human hunters would recognize as identifying something they're not allowed to shoot. But it also might just be best to avoid being a deer in season. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2016 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ Suicide by becoming a deer and not wearing the vest could be a thing... $\endgroup$
    – luvieere
    May 12, 2016 at 21:11

Like most innovation there will be the glass half empty and glass half-full people. Since your question is how to get it accepted, there is two possible angles:

  • get trend setters to promote how cool it is (here look at how Hollywood stars, journalists,... promote any new idea)
  • provide immediate tangible benefits

On the tangible benefits, I could see medical ones. You mention that you cannot clone someone form/body but you could for sure take the form of a healthy person (free of any modern disease: cancer, high blood pressure, ...) but also possibly tall and strong...

If you want to make the switch happen fast you push the medical angle.

Let's say now that H5Nx (replace here with any possible fast countagious crowd disease) breaks out and only a small population of Amazonian villagers are immune healthy carrier. You could consider they have leaved for hundreds of years next to the birds which act as the natural reservoir and developed immunity. Let's say that 50% of people from other communities once contaminated will die. When the pandemic broke-out, in your not so long ago past, labs around the world were helpless and people were left with the choice to either shapeshift or take a 50/50 gamble with their lives... This should give you a pretty strong adoption rate once the pandemic is over.

Dealing with the after-pandemic effects... People most likely would stick with the form/shape which gives immunity but would most likely develop advanced forms of social norms to keep people which used to look different from "entering" their groups: special handshakes, special ways of wearing glasses, hats, ways of calling things, ...


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