It’s been a long time since we visited the Idea Mill, here on Entertaining Stories. I’ve kept my eyes open for articles, and they haven’t been all that good lately. In typical fashion, I always wait until I have three – but two good ones show up at the same time, leaving me with four.
If this is your first visit to the Idea Mill, I have a category in the sidebar where you can check out the previous posts. I use push feeds to send me news about things that might help my fiction. Think of them like Muse food. I can’t possibly use them all, and maybe something will bring your own Muse to the table.
Our first article involves humans returning to the moon one day. Scientists have long speculated there might be underground lava tubes on the moon that would make a great location for a human colony. A team of Japanese and American scientists proved the theory, and they even identified a suitable location.
In speculative fiction, you can always change things up to suit yourself. Maybe you want Mars instead; shouldn’t be a huge leap of faith. Maybe you want some basis for a fantasy where one of your races lives in underground colonies. This could be a starting point for your research.
I really like the image in the article that shows a huge underground cell holding a city the size of Philadelphia with plenty of room to spare. If you think of Earth’s atmosphere as being similar to an ocean, then why couldn’t you fill the entire cell with oxygen and allow the inhabitants to moon-hop without space suits? I think I could sell that in a story. If you get plants to grow, they might even help with the oxygen. You can read the article here.
That giant cell where the people must live is also a perfect setting for horror of some kind. Help is a long way off, and you can’t just run away.
Our next one involves a new finding that the squirrel fur trade may have helped spread leprosy in medieval England. I think what amazes me the most is the idea there even was a squirrel fur trade. I mean squirrels never seemed to make much of an impact on the red carpet decades ago when fur was in fashion. Marilyn Monroe never posed snuggled inside a squirrel fur stole and nothing else. I can see trade like this spreading diseases way back then. They didn’t have some of the regulations, FDA, and other folks watching over them.
Need a fantasy character who hasn’t been done to death? Tired of burley woodsmen and handsome princes? How about a squirrel fur trader? How about a bunch of orphans who catch squirrels to survive? Could there be a fur trader’s guild in your fantasy city? Maybe even a guild war when opossum fur starts becoming more economical?
Learn about the spread of disease by squirrel fur trading at this site.
Our next article involves an idea that’s been floating around for a long time. Mosquitos carry a lot of diseases that are harmful to humans. They are also hard to control using current methods, because the old methods were so devastating to the environment. When I first read about this, the idea was to introduce a deadly mosquito venereal disease into the larger population in hopes that it would kill them all off. That idea never went away, it seems. Today it’s back with a new hair-brained basis. The FDA has approved a method of using sterile male mosquitos to introduce into the wild. In theory these would mate with the bad mosquitos (apparently the bad ones are always females) leaving all the eggs as duds.
Now, if this could actually happen, repeated treatments could lead to an extinction of the bad mosquitos. Their method cracks me up, though. They will produce these mosquitos in a lab, then hand separate the males from the females, before boxing them up to ship to areas where Zika and yellow fever are prominent.
If they’re going to use labor to hand separate the mosquitos, I almost think they’d be better off to send that same labor into the swamps with fly-swatters. Anyway, you can read the article here, then we’ll speculate about it.
Maybe you caught on to the term in the article about weaponized mosquitos. If they can manipulate the little buggers to this extent, it isn’t much of a leap to turn them into biological weapons to use against humans. Some of this might even play into my next novel that I’m going to call Grinders. (I need to give it some thought.) Maybe you write thrillers, and can pit the CDC against a terrorist cell utilizing weaponized mosquitos to carry out its evil plans. Maybe you want to project this out a few years and have the Endangered Species Act trying to protect the now-endangered bad mosquitos. It could be CDC vs the Endangered Species Act, while the terrorists are getting away.
Like I said, I hold some of these articles for months, then always seem to get two at the last moment. This time is no exception, so we have one more. Where the mosquito article bordered on mad science, this one moves right in and sets up shop. Scientists have been merging human and rat brains in a laboratory. They even have a cute name for the human parts called organoids.
This one plays right into my Grinders novel, and I already have rats involved. The article explores the idea of ethics and rights if the animals are part human, and questions what kind of consciousness they might have. I’ve got news for them, all animals are conscious to a degree. They all protect their babies, understand the need for food and water, and many are much more incredible.
Writing a courtroom type story that’s reflective of the Scopes Monkey Trials, one where eventually a rat testifies, seems like low hanging fruit to me. It could be good, but it’s just not what I write. I can see a plague of intelligent rats causing all kinds of problems. Maybe they set up street gangs and start taking lunches from school children. They form organized raids on restaurants and bakeries. Maybe they even fight back by using swarms of biting rats to kill those who oppose them.
It wouldn’t take much of a stretch to use other species if you have the science behind this project. You could go all Michael Chichton on the story. Read the article right here.
One of the fun parts, and it gets harder with four articles, is to rough out a story using all the articles. I have space, a medieval fur trade, and two modified animals to deal with…
A colony of humans is living on the moon in a fully functional underground city. They are dependent upon Earth for many of the things they need for survival. These people are dependent upon a line of super intelligent rats to help them delve deeper into the lava tubes. The rats can explore places we cannot go, and assess whether it’s worth digging through to the next area.
It’s cold on the moon, and the rats want something warmer than their natural fur. A shipment of squirrel fur arrives from Earth, and a cottage industry is born – making fur coats for rats. The fur is infected with a virus that is deadly to humans. The best hope is in the form of modified mosquitos that will transmit a cure for the disease. However, the cure is deadly for the rats.
While the ship carrying the cure is on its way, the rats rise up to destroy the humans before they can destroy the rats.
That’s it, some ideas to kick your Muse in the pants; check. A corny outline to have some fun with; check.
I’ve got to say the last two have me thinking, and I think the Research Sirens are on their way to the writing cabin.