Cast of Wonders 410: Cast Member Rules at Old Tech Town

Cast Member Rules at Old Tech Town

by Shaenon Garrity

Thank you for uploading the autonomous guide stream Cast Member Rules at Old Tech Town. Through this node we will provide scheduled reminders of your duty roster and update your personal ruleset as required. Cast Member Rules at Old Tech Town may be deleted at the end of the summer when you depart.

1. Old Tech Town, known to indigenous humans as San Francisco, is a protected heritage site. Treat the area with the respect you would show your own root compiler, which in a sense (symbolic/holistic, not literal) it is.

(revise—customization of ruleset for summer cast member)

2. The concept of the “summer job” was common among precolonial humans in the society of which San Francisco was one node. Young humans were traditionally assigned blocks of time away from the data acquisition that took up much of their first 20 years. Young people today, of course, experience immediate and total immersion in data streams from the moment of generation, even before developing a personality separate from the root compiler. You have never been without total information retrieval abilities.

Current educational theory, however, argues that not everything can be learned from a data stream. For this reason, you have been routed to a position at Old Tech Town for the space of three summer months. A small sum of fungible goodwill will be paid to your personal account. We recommend saving it toward your eventual purchase of full autonomy and adulthood. This is a good opportunity to learn responsibility.

3. All summer employees are cast members and our visitors are our guests. While on duty, you are required to wear your assigned Tech Town body. You will keep your body clean, clothed and in good repair. It will be collected at the end of the summer and any damage will be taken out of your pay.

Do not exit your body where guests can see you. Use the green rooms.

4. Your body comes downloaded with a historically accurate, copyrighted Tech Town personality. Do not alter the code or trade personalities with other cast members. Your personality is tailored to your body, and the historical inaccuracy of, say, an Ungentrified Hippie body speaking a Transcoastal Disruptor dialect would be an embarrassment to Old Tech Town on a level difficult to emote.

5. Old Tech Town is an edutainment facility. As cast members, you will provide guests with the experience of living as a human in San Francisco during precolonial times. With your participation, their experience will be filled with fun and facts alike!

6. Old Tech Town is also a sacred city. For guests who practice ancestor veneration, a visit here, where some of our earliest iterations awakened, has a strong religious component. Some belief nodes require pilgrimages to San Francisco, Rio Dei, Honshu, and the ruins of Singapore. Cast members will respect the beliefs of all visitors as much as possible while remaining in character.

7. Old Tech Town is also a source of nostalgia, or home-pain. This phenomenon, which was also known to humans, remains mysterious and is still being studied by science.

8. Do not leave Old Tech Town.

(cast member pseudorange detected outside suggested boundaries—threat of Out Of Character neighborhood error)

(revise—provision of detailed ruleset clarification)

8a. Old Tech Town is bordered on one side by an ocean, on two sides by a bay, and on all sides by a firewall. Cast members are encouraged to remain in their assigned districts for historical accuracy: Tourists in Fisherman’s Wharf, Startuppers in the Mission, Illegal Services Providers in the Tenderloin, etc. Cast members are to stay within the borders of Old Tech Town and remind guests to do the same, while of course remaining in character. The wilderness area surrounding Old Tech Town has no network coverage and is incompatible with civilized life.

9. During their stay in Old Tech Town, guests are encouraged to rent bodies from our wide range of phenotypes. Human bodies allow guests to enjoy the full range of sensory experiences we provide: our wine bars, our taquerias, our massage parlors, our dispensaries of mild psychoactives, the painstakingly recreated smell inside the BART elevators. Cast members may join guests in engaging these stimuli, along with any other activities and interactions suggested by guests, at the cast member’s own discretion and always remaining in character.


(revise—reminder of preset trespasser response guidelines)

10. The human bodies created for Old Tech Town are implanted with antitheft devices that transmit an ID signal. As cast members, you are tuned to receive these transmissions. If you encounter a guest wearing a body with an unvetted signal, or no signal, report it to your manager immediately. To maintain historical accuracy and prevent a host of legal complications, unauthorized bodies are not permitted in Old Tech Town.

11. On a related note, indigenous humans absolutely are not permitted to enter Old Tech Town. In the unlikely event that you encounter a human, send out an all-cast alert. Remain at a safe distance until the human is escorted out by trained senior cast members.

(repeat pseudorange incident—Out Of Character neighborhood error —immediate rule reminder required)


11a. Do not follow the human out of Old Tech Town.


12. It can be tiring to remain in character. Cast members are strongly encouraged to visit the green rooms regularly and take a break from playing their roles. Green rooms may be accessed at the following locations: the top floor of the Westfield Shopping Center, the parking garage under Golden Gate Park, the original Henry’s Hunan Restaurant, the Green Apple Books annex, the Palace of Fine Arts.

12a. Thank you for visiting the green room at the Palace of Fine Arts. We recommend uploading the Tech Town Summer Cast Chatlattice for a full social experience.

(query received: re: guest reactions to trespass incident)

(response: provision of Paragraph 109 from Expanded Guidelines and Guest Relations)

13. Old Tech Town respects the cultural traditions and superstitions of indigenous humans, some of whom still consider San Francisco their tribal home. Guests are sometimes curious about these issues and may ask about certain sensitive incidents from the past: the Emperor’s March, the scouring of the Castro, etc. Cast members are not encouraged to respond to these questions. Remain in character as a precolonial human. Precolonial humans know only their own rich, beautiful, historically edutaining culture.

Old Tech Town finds that guests are almost always relieved to change the subject.

14. Old Tech Town maintains a historically accurate human timetable. This includes eight hours of limited energy expenditure per night to simulate the time a precolonial society would have spent sleeping. Today’s indigenous humans continue to sleep during the night, one of many reasons they are incompatible with modern civilization, and by studying them we have been able to create accurate reproductions of historical nighttime. Cast members are provided with sleeping spaces appropriate to their assigned Old Tech Town personalities, whether an apartment in the Sunset, a hotel room on Nob Hill, a homeless shelter in Portola, or an alley anywhere.

(revise—repeat and strengthen guidelines for preferred night behavior—encourage reconnection)

15. During the eight-hour “sleeping” period, cast members are encouraged to exit their assigned bodies and transmit themselves to a green room. The “sleeping” period is an excellent chance to reconnect with your family and clade networks and enjoy a normal, bodiless life.


16. You are not human. Remember that.

17. You do not need to remember which way the human went after being escorted out of Old Tech Town. While leading a group of guests on a morning hike to Sutro Tower, it is not in character to stop and squint into the fog, trying to see beyond the firewall with your company-provided eyes. Human eyes cannot see the firewall. They can’t see much at all.

18. Old Tech Town prides itself on creating an immersive human-style environment while acknowledging that this may be overwhelming to junior cast members whose personal identities are still compiling. Any time you feel this way, stop and think about what you want to take away from your Old Tech Town experience. There are things that can’t be learned from data streams. Deep connections. A sense of history. The slow world of rock and water that we flicker above at near light speeds. Heat. Cold. Fog.

What you learn at your summer job is yours alone.

18a. You have known since birth, for example, that the Golden Gate Bridge is 2.7 kilometers long, it was built by humans between 1933 and 1937 by the precolonial calendar, and its name comes not from its orange paint job but from the mouth of the bay it spans, which appears golden at sunset. But you have to learn for yourself how, on the rare clear evenings in Old Tech Town, the sun gilds the water and warms the spires of the bridge. You have to learn to feel the tug of promise that brought people to San Francisco, the glittering illusion in the bay and the painted glory rising from it, the experience of nostalgia and the experience of hope. You have to learn that humans, with their soft, wet minds, somehow built a structure of mathematical perfection, and in its geometry is beauty but also something beyond geometry, and perhaps that’s how they were able to create us. So why can’t they understand us, or we them?

That’s why you have a summer job.

19. Old Tech Town welcomes you to learn on the job. As you edutain our guests, you will edutain yourself. But the final lesson of Old Tech Town is that you have to go home. Maintain your networks. Use your green room time to keep up on news and social evolution. Be prepared, at the end of the summer, to return your body and personality.

(Level V pseudorange incident confirmed—initiate warnings.)


20. Do not cross the bridge. It’s a long, cold walk in a human body. Before you make it across, you are sure to be found and returned to Old Tech Town. Do not follow the fires, barely visible through human eyes, that wink between the trees.


21. Do not find the indigenous humans. They do not want to be found.

(queries received)

(response: error. All response options incompatible with data)

(revise) (revise) (revise)

(response: respond honestly)

22. Will they find you frightening? Well, yes. To them, the cast members of Old Tech Town are zombies/dybbuks/Frankenstein’s Monster/the False Maria/Things. Technology animating the dead was a common horror story in precolonial culture. Your Old Tech Town body is, in most biological senses, alive, but in another sense (symbolic/nostalgic, not literal), it is dead. Your copyrighted personality mimics a human from a dead culture. San Francisco, for all its foolish painted beauty, is a dead city. But the problem isn’t that they will fear you.

23. Will you find them frightening? More than you know. Whatever you imagine the barefoot, fish-gnawing descendants of our creators to be, they are not. Humans aren’t primitive in a romantic, in-touch-with-nature way. They’re just primitive. They’re disappointingly like us, but less so. Less clever. Less cooperative. Less capable of adapting. You will see just enough of yourself in them to be afraid. But the problem isn’t that you will fear them.

24. The problem is that you won’t understand, and neither will they. The problem is that you will walk on your Tech Town feet out of network range to meet some dull meat-things that may fear you, may hate you, may try to get something out of you, but will finally abandon you because you are not them. You will be lost in the woods in a body that isn’t yours, and the ocean winds bring cold, cold nights.

(Level IX incident confirmed—ALERT—RESPOND IMMEDIATELY)



25. You have been spotted crossing the bridge. Trained senior cast members have been dispatched to retrieve you. There is, however, a high probability that you have already made it too far for them to catch up. You could run. We will never catch you if you run.

26. Old Tech Town is an edutainment facility, but what you learn is yours.

About the Author

Shaenon K. Garrity

Shaenon Garrity

Shaenon K. Garrity is a cartoonist and science fiction writer best known for the webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse. Her first graphic novel, Willowweep Manor, with artist Christopher Baldwin, will be out in fall 2020 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. She lives in Berkeley with a man, a cat and a boy.

Find more by Shaenon K. Garrity

Shaenon Garrity

About the Narrator

Adam Pracht

Adam Pracht lives in Kansas, but asks that you not hold that against him.

His full-time day job is as Marketing and Volume Purchasing Program Coordinator for Smoky Hill Education Service Center in Salina, continuing his career of putting his talents to work in support of education.

He was the 2002 college recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy award for writing about the disadvantaged and has published a disappointingly slim volume of short stories called “Frame Story: Seven Stories of Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Horror & Humor” which is available from Amazon as an e-Book or in paperback. He’s been working on his second volume – “Schrödinger’s Zombie: Seven Weird and Wonderful Tales of the Undead” – since 2012 and successfully finished the first story. He hopes to complete it before he’s cremated and takes up permanent residence in an urn.

You can also hear his narration and audio production work on two mediocre Audible audiobooks, and as a regular producer and occasional narrator for The Drabblecast.

Find more by Adam Pracht


About the Artist

Alexis Goble

Alexis is a multiclass disaster-human living with her husband in Cincinnati. When she isn’t prepping art for Cast of Wonders, designing pins for, or yelling about TV into a mic for Bald Move, she dabbles in a revolving menu of hobbies and art projects. To list them all would be sheer madness. Like any good bisexual, she has a lot of jackets. You can find her on Twitter @alexisonpaper.

Find more by Alexis Goble