Building Beyond: Orca You Glad to See Me

• 6 min read

Building Beyond is an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary. Let’s give it a try, together.


You are a freelance image consultant. You have been hired by orcas to help them repair their image among the seal and penguin communities.


Jo Ladzinski was born in Poland and currently lives in Chicago as a wordsmith. They create graphics and copy for a host of different companies (like VoteRunLead and Kaleidocast), and by night, they’re an artist who loves hitting things with their black knight sword in Dark Souls. They also spend their time swinging kettle bells, running, writing, rewriting, bullet journaling, or curled up over their Kindle learning from other authors. They cook gluten-free and listen to mid-naughts European techno and anime soundtracks.

Executive Summary and Background

The Killer Whale, Orcinus orca, has an image that has been tarnished among seals and penguins and their bobs and huddles, respectively. These “wolves of the sea” use their feeding times to teach their young about different hunting strategies and to bond with their young. As they are often seen in large groups of already titanic mammals, it is recommended that the penguins and seals respect them as such. The orcas by themselves aren’t a menace, but disrespect from lesser mammals and avians has made them audacious in ways that have put strains among these communities.

The Patagonian orcas love running aground and grabbing seals off the shore. This activity is for the procurement of food, much like seals’ and penguins’ deep dives. Sure, the orcas don’t have to come so dangerously high up on shore, but it is also recommended that the Patagonian seals stay either on land or on sea. No half measures. The orcas sure don’t take any. Make it difficult, and the orcas will find something else to do.

Orcas also have set feeding and breeding grounds. They don’t really go anywhere else. Transparency in these locations can make it easier for penguins to avoid them. That way, they can, for lack of better phrasing, avoid playing shitty games and winning shitty prizes. Take seals in non-Patagonia. They will wander into orca territory in time for meal times--which also means play time. The other seals then have to watch in horror as their relative has more in common with a beach ball than another sea creature. Orcas also hunt in groups. If individual penguins cannot spot a pod of whales within their immediate vicinity, it is not because of orcas’ subtlety.

In order to improve their image to these communities, two positioning statements will reinforce the perception of orcas as fearsome beasts not to be trifled with. The focus, however, will be on inter-community dynamics and physical attributes without focusing on behaviors that can be interpreted as douchebaggery. This new perception will be “fearsome” rather than “assholes.”

Positions to Consider

Positioning Statement 1: Not to Be F*cked With

To penguins and seals, orcas are the carnivorous sea mammal that are not to be f*cked with because of that satisfying size difference, large teeth, set breeding grounds, relatively large pod sizes, and using meal times as opportunities to bond with their young.

Orcas are carnivorous and toothed; they will not be switching to plant matter or phytoplankton any time soon. They are large, with dorsal fins twice the height of most penguins. Bull seals cannot hope to match them in size or aggression. Shifting the image from “violent bullies who have too much fun with their food” to “inherently scary murderous carnivores” will hopefully spread the message for the seals and penguins to stay away.

The downside of positioning is this: if a penguin or seal feels brave or desperate, there is not much about it that can dissuade them from playing with metric tons of toothed aggression. Orcas have strong familial ties. It is recommended that penguins and seals pursue the same.

Positioning Statement 2: Wolves of the Sea

To penguins and seals, orcas are the carnivorous sea mammal that can also be called “wolves of the sea” because they hunt in packs, have a matriarchal alpha, and take care of their young as a unit.

This positioning is another take on the inherent danger of orcas. It cannot be more clearly stated that the image has to be reinforced, not changed. Whales are already huge, orcas already have teeth, put these things in a group together and you have an absolute unit of things that shouldn’t be messed with. Penguins and seals are also familial communities for whom the group unit is important. Keeping these groups together internally but externally separated ensures safety and well-being for all.

The orcas will need to seek out new solitary targets. Do not distract them from the entertainment that is the great white shark or the perfect sustenance that is the giant squid.

Project Payment

A shark tooth and a squid beak for every spared seal and penguin should suffice. I need more earring materials anyway.


Ryan Boyd is an editor, writer, podcaster, and musician who lives in Southern California. Bother them on Twitter at @ryandroyd.

Gailey: Why would the orcas want their image repaired? Have they changed anything about their actions, or is this strictly a matter of optics?

Ryan: The orcas need their image repaired because one specific orca, whose name is only pronounceable via whalesong but which translates in English roughly to "Frank", got fantastically drunk after a boat containing a shipment of wine sank off the coast of Spain. He ate an entire family of penguins in one go. Orcas eat penguins and seals regularly, but there's a delicate balance – you don't go annihilating a whole family like you're going through the drive-thru at Jack In The Box at 3 in the morning. As a result of Frank's bender, tensions between orcas and the penguin and seal communities have been at an all-time high, with both groups waiting for the next time an unstoppable aquatic killing machine gets soused and decides to commit whale crimes.

Gailey: What form of payment do you anticipate from the orcas?

Ryan: Orcas' primary form of currency revolves around whalesong – they pay their debts by singing a single perfect note audible only to the payee which, once heard, can heal the body and cleanse the soul (or possibly impart a kind of malware that will only let you have dreams about krill for the rest of your life.) In exchange for my PR campaign – Where There's a Whale There's a Way – the orcas will give me a whalenote that will make it so that I always look 15% better to myself in the mirror than I actually do in real life. It won't improve my appearance, but it'll give me a little boost, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Gailey: What manner of reception do you think your campaign will receive from the communities you're trying to reach?

Ryan: Initially, the penguin and seal communities are going to make rude gestures and scoff every time they see something from the Where There's a Whale There's a Way campaign, but it's going to grow on them entirely because of how cornball the whole affair is. The whales will get to be graciously embarrassed by the campaign. It'll be like I'm their embarrassing whale dad, bragging about them to the other kids, and the whales will be able to commiserate with the penguins and seals about it.


My orca rebranding scheme would be involve total image saturation. Every major arctic television network would be paid to work orcas into their shows in edu-tainment story arcs about how actually, orcas only eat bad seals and penguins, and it's hard on the orcas! They go home to their pods at night wondering if they're really making a difference in the world. The scheme would also involve bribing local arctic newspapers into running features about orcas spending time giving back to seals and penguins by giving them gifts of spelt and herring.

All of these possibilities are just beginnings. Jo's strategy is the start of a story about direct, honest admiration of predators by their prey. Ryan's approach is the opening of an examination of substance abuse in cetacean communities. My scheme is guaranteed to be successful, resulting in a long-running stream of daytime procedurals about tough-but-fair orcas with complicated backgrounds, who just want to do right by their families by targeting and decimating seal and penguin communities.

How would you go about repairing the orca's image among their prey? What is the orca's goal in pursuing this new image? Would you feel good about your work?

Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.

That’s amazing.


If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to this newsletter. The subscriber community is a wonderful and supportive one, and we’re spending 2021 finding new ways to stay connected and share experiences.

No matter what you do, please find a way to support Asian American and Pacific Islander communities as they face ongoing targeted violence in the US. There are some resources here to get you started. Click here as well, to find ways to support Black people and communities, who continue to fight for justice and equality.

In the meantime, care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.

—Gailey

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