The Idea Mill #25

The articles have piled up once more, and it's time to visit the old Idea Mill again. There are a lot of new followers of Entertaining Stories, and for you these are intended to inspire your imagination. Maybe you'll see something to include in your next speculative story, maybe it will inspire a whole series. Again for the new folks, there is a category in the sidebar if you'd like to check any previous posts.

Our first article involves monkeys and evolution once again. We had one where the theory was that a species of baboon had trained a species of wolf to help them in foraging.

This time capuchin monkeys are banging rocks together. Probably not huge news in itself. They use the rocks like tools to get minerals or food. The interesting part is the monkeys create concoidal flakes from the process of striking the rocks together. Archaeologists are questioning some of their evidence of early humans, because monkeys are creating something that had been attributed as being solely human activity. You can read the article here.

That's interesting, and calls into question the source of some early flaking activity, but this is a speculative fiction blog. It isn't a huge leap of the imagination to have one monkey start using the sharp flakes he creates. Before too long, monkeys enter the stone age. Sounds like a good basis for a lost world type story to me. Imagine exploring a place where arboreal monkeys rain down spears tipped with flint heads upon you.

Maybe it doesn't fuel an entire story. Maybe scientists spend the summer documenting this unusual activity only to encounter something worse. Maybe they find other signs of early human activity, like using the flint to make fires. It might make a great story similar to a mashup of Watership Downs and Lord of the Flies, where the monkeys make teams and fight for dominance.

The second article involves a sunken German submarine from World War One. This thing is on the bottom of the ocean, just off the coast of Scotland. There really isn't too much remarkable, but it's pretty interesting. The interesting part is that some of the crew survived. The captain said they lost the ship when they were attacked by a sea monster. Read about the discovery here.

Now I'm reasonably sure the guy is full of crap, but why not make it part of a story? You could take it as is, or make the statement into the catalyst for an adventure to look for evidence of a sea monster. Heck, it's close enough to Scotland to make the Loch Ness Monster part of your story.

Finally, this article was sent to Lisa Burton, my assistant, by Planetary Defense Command. The Commander is friends with Lisa on Facebook, and he thought we would like this article. It's about a dedicated train line to carry the dead, and their mourners, to the cemetery. (And back, you know, for the mourners at least.) It seems that London, like most old world cities, was running out of places to inter the dead. The line was met with some resistance, because horse drawn hearses were the preferred method of the day.

They acquired a massive amount of land outside the city, but it was too far for funeral processions and horses to deal with. Thus, the train line. The article is full of good period specific information about storing and shipping the bodies too. Even the photographs are wonderful. It would make a good setting in your Victorian crime novel. Characters who work along the project would also be very interesting. I can see detectives from Scotland Yard riding along to catch a Jack-the-Ripper type character. Maybe your character is one of the caterers who work at the cemetery to feed the mourners. It seems like the perfect setting for a ghost story too. Ghost trains, haunted stations, modern apartments built in the old buildings that still have ghosts in them. Maybe a grave robber ring. There are so many possibilities.

It's a great article without any fiction. It includes the Nazi bombing that put it under, and how automobile hearses replaced it. Thank you Commander for this great article. Do yourself a favor and read it here.

This is the place where I outline a corny story that includes all the elements. Submarines and sea monsters I can weave into a lost world with stone age monkeys. German subs and sea monsters, can work into the haunted railroad with sailors trying to escape by stealing the train. I just don't see how I can get stone age monkeys and a haunted railroad into the same story. Maybe I can borrow the London zoo, but I'm not feeling it. I'm running up the white flag on this one.

Tell me in the comments if you can figure out how to do it.

What kind of stories would you use these elements in. Maybe you like your advanced primates on another planet, or your funeral train is a spaceship to bring space pioneers back to Earth for burial. Let me hear it folks.


Filed under The Idea Mill

29 responses to “The Idea Mill #25

  1. Time travel, Craig. šŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 1. Humans have died out and monkeys evolved to take our place. An expedition finds a lost colony of humans. Humans turn out to be scarier than the monkeys ever dreamed.

    2. Nessie the Nazi Eater. All I need to say here.

    3. The train is still active and bringing bodies to be buried. Yet now it travels around the world to those who believe or follow the rules for the train to arrive. The cemetery is now seen as a special resting place that the living never go to. A lone conductor runs the train with a handful of ghosts. Now he is training his replacement while someone appears to try and take over the train for evil deeds.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I had read about the cemetery train a while back, though I cannot remember where I saw it. I have been mulling over story lines on that one for a while now…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Funny you should mention Nessie, she’ll be part of my next silly intro story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OK, here’s my shot at your idea mill story:

    WWI is dragging on, and the bodies are piling up. The Allies decide that burying them all is taking up too much farmland which is necessary for the war effort. So, they take the bodies by ship to one of their African or Asian colonies, where a railroad transports them to a cemetery deep in the unusable jungle. One of the bodies sent off on a ship happens to be the Kaiser’s son, so he dispatches U-boats to capture the ship and return his son. A U-boat catches the ship just off the colony’s coast, but as they are boarding, they are attacked by a sea monster and the ship slips away. The U-boat is sunk, but the surviving crew makes it ashore in some of the ship’s lifeboats which were knocked off during the struggle. The sailors hijack a train and head for the cemetery, but are ambushed along the way by spear-flinging monkeys. They recover the Kaiser’s son, and improvise some spear-proof chain-mail armor to protect them on the return journey. The last German falls dead with a look of surprise on his face as an arrow punches through his armor.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You stumped? I can’t believe it. But all of these were interesting. This is one of my most favorite regulars on all of the internet. Keep up the good work. I’ll keep coming back just to be intrigued…even if you can’t give me a story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • These are all interesting tidbits. For those of us who write things a bit more “far out” they’re gold. Any one of these would make a great short story, and the train could fuel an entire novel. I’ve used some of these as elements inside stories. The one you sent me fueled a partial outline that may get written eventually.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Great prompts here Craig, thanks. I recently saw a programme that looked at sone odd chimp behaviour. They seemed to individually visit a tree and throw a stone at it. They went through all the different possibilities: tools, territory, displays. Eventually it was concluded that this was the site of an event – thunder storm or death perhaps – and the chimps were visiting as a ritual. The rudiments of religion perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The monkeys are akin to Planet of the Apes. Loved the horse-drawn hearse tidbit. Imagine hooves clomping along a dark, desolate road, the slivered moon lost in the clouded mist.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Sea monsters! I knew it! My husband sat here and tried to tell me that it would be easier to explain a sea monster to command, rather than admit he screwed up, but I believe!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m not even going to conjure a story, but I’m tucking this info away for later. The submarine and the train are too good not to weave into stories. I’ve done a lot of reading about ghost submarines šŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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