How is story formed???

This morning in the shower (formerly my favourite place for musing about random shit, though rapidly being supplanted by my bike commute) I was pondering something a teacher said about XLR cables and gender changers, and I got to thinking about what sort of lifeform would be male at one end and female at the other, and if that existed, what role would something play that was female (or male) at both ends? Next thing I knew, I had a fairly complex society imagined, with line marriages and rites of passage and institutional oppression and all that good stuff* (* not actually good stuff). And of course I started thinking that I should write something. The problem is, I have this world but no story to go in it.

Last time this happened, it was a complex alternate history of convict-era Australia, where the French invade in 1802 and the resistance is formed of the former NSW Corps and some of my favourite bits of the Royal Navy. But, hilarious as it would be to make Macarthur and Bligh team up to fight crime the French, I don’t actually want to tell that kind of “yay! colonialism!” story, and so all my detailed worldbuilding sat and gathered dust for a good long while.

I can’t remember which of our summer house-guests it was (anatsuno?) who suggested that I simply tell another story — one that I wanted to tell — set in that world, with all the military invasion stuff as background rather than foreground. It was excellent advice, and the story that I subsequently started to write is definitely the better for it.

So, what about this world with the gender stuff I was thinking about? I’ve got the background, but what’s the actual story? I randomly wondered what a police procedural would be like, and started building something around that on the bike ride home. It’s turning out quite interesting in my head, but that was a genre chosen more or less at random, which seems like a rather hit-or-miss method.

Do any of you have this worldbuilding-first habit? If so, how do you find the damn story?

When Alice Met Bob

The night before last, I had a dream that O’Reilly Media were making a Hollywood film — a romantic comedy, to be exact — about public key cryptography. The lead characters were called Alice and Bob, and they met cute by bumping into each other on the street and dropping the USB thumbdrives that had their private keys on them.

I’m suspect you could actually make a good story out of this, albeit a bit of an over-didactic Doctorow/Stephenson-esque one, since you’d have to ram in quite a lot of techno-cultural exposition along the way if you wanted it to make any sense at all.