Category Archives: The Idea Mill

The Idea Mill #32

The articles are pouring in rapidly now. We had a drought of decent grist for the mill for months. This time I am holding five new articles. This post will address three of them, and I’m fairly sure the next Idea Mill won’t be long in coming.

For the new readers of these posts, I set a bunch of push feeds to send me articles that relate to my interests. Some of them get pretty repetitive, but some of them feed my Muse. These can lead to new stories, or morph into elements in those stories. I share them here in hopes of kicking your own Muse in the pants.

There is an added bonus of that small slice of reality. I like to base my speculative fiction in as much reality as possible. That way, when I ask for a leap of faith, it’s isn’t a death defying jump. Weaving a few of these things into a story helps set the stage for that leap.

Here we go. Our first article is a strange medical phenomenon. It seems a man became a father. A DNA test proved he was not the father, which is something that happens. What is weird is that his brother fathered the child. (Also been known to happen.) Where it goes completely off the rails is that he has no brother.

To make this even better, the baby was conceived in-vitro. This adds all kinds of intrigue and blame to a story. The poor woman was impregnated by someone else’s sperm. Except that isn’t the case here. It turns out the man is a human chimera. At one point, he was a twin. His twin brother was “absorbed” and fused with the remaining fetus. The father of the child is an amalgamation of two different people. The parts that father babies actually belonged to his secret brother.

The article gives hints of others in similar situations. It even gives some interesting possible physical indicators that can play right into character descriptions. Read the story here.

This alone would make for a great family drama. “You’re not my father,” takes on a whole new meaning from a bratty teen. Because of who I am, I would take it in a different direction, somewhere out near the Twilight Zone. Have the guy go through the stages of grieving. Let the brother assert himself in a split personality kind of way. Maybe the brother is a better man, a better provider, a better lover. Drive the poor guy into a deep hole. Find a way to let readers know the poor guy is being absorbed, just like his brother was.

What would you do with it?

Next we have The Radium Girls. The United States Radium Company was a highly successful business about a hundred years ago. They made clocks, watches, and gauges for aircraft. Their claim to fame was the fact that the numbers and pointers glowed in the dark. This was the result of radium based paint. The Radium Girls were factory workers who applied the paint.

I remember the old-timers in my family being deathly afraid of wristwatches that glowed in the dark. This is because radium is a deadly radioactive substance. The Radium Girls were told it was safe, and encouraged to lick their paintbrushes to obtain finer points for detailed work. The girls even played with the paint, applying it to dresses, fingernails, etc. I can just see one of them painting a radioactive seam up the back of her legs to simulate nylons of the day.

Of course, this didn’t end well. It led to a giant lawsuit, destruction of the company, and a whole lot of pain and suffering.

The fact that this happened, means the research material is out there somewhere. Here is the article, but it’s one of those clickbait style things. This builds a solid foundation for that leap of speculative faith we were just discussing. Want to write a superhero story in a dieselpunk environment? How about Radium Girl? She cleared the trenches in France, and cured trenchfoot all at the same time.

There have been some radioactive assassinations in fairly recent history too. Maybe you prefer more of a radioactive Unibomber type story. Radium could be a basis for that too. Glow in the dark chocolates anyone?

We’re going to wrap this up with the most dangerous object on Earth. It’s called the Elephant’s Foot, and it’s a blob of material from the Chernobyl meltdown. Spend 300 seconds around it, and you have two days to live. This thing is so hot it melts concrete and sand. Hey, it will get less dangerous over time. In 100,000 years maybe they can paint watch faces with it. Read the article here. I should mention the last two articles have some interesting photos.

This is like a gift to thriller writers. Someone making off with this thing, or even a piece of it, gives you an automatic maguffin for your super spy to chase after. You wouldn’t even have to sell the dangers very hard. You can start right out kicking ass and bedding babes on your way to preventing a nuclear ice cream truck from driving through the city. Spreading radioactive love as it drives past schools and call centers. (Okay, maybe park it overnight by the call center, and a timeshare office too.)

I’ve done my part for radioactive murder. Reference Practical Geology in my second Experimental Notebook. Maybe granules of this thing make a good catalyst to create lush green worlds out of distant space rocks. We fire them off today, and by the time colonists arrive it’s a garden of Eden. Maybe Radium Girl brings it to life and she and her blob save humanity from the terrorists. What would you do with the Elephant’s Foot?

Part of these posts involve me coming up with a shtick using all the stories. I’m thinking thriller today. Our hero’s mother was one of the original Radium Girls. This caused a problem with her pregnancy, and our hero has the pale markings of a human chimera. Maybe he has two different colored eyes too.

After a long military history, he settled down and started a family, only learning of his chimera status after his child was born. This leads him down a rat hole of self doubt and split personality issues. He’s recalled into service when terrorists get their hands on the Elephant’s Foot. He embarks on a global chase for the maguffin, all while battling with his internal brother, who turns out to be the extra manliness he needs to save the day.

What would you do with these snippets of history and news?

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The Idea Mill #31

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.

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The Idea Mill #30

It’s been a long time since I trotted out an Idea Mill post here. Honestly, the feeds I got weren’t that awe inspiring lately. I also got busy with my own writing projects.

I checked my folder, and some of the things I earmarked really weren’t up to snuff, so I went looking.

All authors need inspiration. I get mine everywhere, but I use push feeds to send me news of things that are more my style than what the Kardashians might be up to. When I get a few decent ones, I assemble them into one of these posts. The hope is that one might inspire your next bit of fiction, or enhance something you’re already working on.

Let’s start off with Congress and the Military. You could write any number of horror stories just on those two words, but I found an article. A bill apparently moved from a sub-committee toward the floor of the House that would split the United States Air Force in two. The Air Force would remain, and the new group would be called The Space Corp. It hasn’t happened yet, but the fact they are discussing it lends all kinds of swagger to all those space military stories out there. You can read more here. The military hasn’t done this since the Army Air Corp was turned into the Air Force in the first place.

Let’s throw in the job announcement at NASA too. The one for Planetary Protection Officer.

The timing is ripe for one of those ground floor kind of stories. Maybe set the stage with top secret information that something is out there, and we need protection from it. Then introduce your first group of cadets and start outlining. Can’t find a threat? Let’s give honorable mention to this flying bat-monster over Chicago.

This is a well worn trail, and we all know it. Today, you have a point for some research to add a degree of realism to the piece you create.

Our next story is about unsolved languages. Apparently Facebook’s robots created a language of their own to interact with each other. The punchline is that we don’t know what they’re saying to each other. That could be a story all on its own, but a researcher brought us this cool article about Researching Lost Languages.

To me, this article has more interest than the Facebook news. Robots with a secret language is another well worn trail. There are all kinds of ancient languages out there that we’ve never been able to crack. Without the Rosetta Stone, we may not have cracked hieroglyphics. Other ancient languages don’t have a handy Rosetta Stone lying around. There is even a wonderful Nazi tie in that adds a veil of evil to the whole thing.

An ancient language researcher would make a neat character. It has shades of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones all at once, particularly with the Nazi tie. Maybe we wind up cracking one of these languages, and find out something that we really don’t want to know.

The last one involves a revelation that blood from young animals can slow down the aging process in older animals of the same type. This all started with dental research in the 1950s. Dentists are evil enough to make decent bad guys. Ever seen Marathon Man? It even had a Nazi tie in.

The research led to sewing lab rats together, and intentionally wounding the older of the pair. An unstitched rat was given the same wound. The one with access to young blood healed faster and better. There is even more potential in this research because the article delves into modern stem cell potential. To get more information, read the darned article.

I think I’m going to borrow from this one myself. I still have that Grinders novel I want to get to, and it fits right in. This could fuel any number of mad science type stories. It lends credence to some kind of Lady Bathory tales too. Need a modern day Fountain of Youth, maybe you just found it.

Just for fun, I try to come up with a corny story that uses all these elements. That young-blood story is going to be rough, but I’ll try.

The Men in Black captured a flying bat monster over Chicago. (Extra credit for using him) They tried to communicate with him, but couldn’t understand him until they found a researcher into ancient languages.

The researcher discovered he was speaking one of the ancient languages, but he needed time to interpret it. In the mean time, the Space Corp is formed and the first volunteers join up.

Eventually, the threat is revealed. Bat Monster is a spy, and the researcher recovers his communication kit. This allows eavesdropping on the invaders.

Our Space Cadets, (I hope they call them Space Cadets) ship out. They are going a long ways, so they have to be in suspended animation. Part of the process involves the Cadets donating their own blood as part of their revival process. The blood of eighteen year old Cadets will help reanimate the thirty year old soldiers when they arrive. Then, of course, they have to battle the hideous bat monsters.

How’d I do? More importantly, what will you do? Did you find a useful story element here? Maybe an entire plot?

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The Idea Mill #29

We haven't visited the old Idea Mill for some time. To be honest, I've been busy, and the articles haven't really caught the attention of my Muse. I finally have three, so it's time to truck them out again.

For my new readers, I use push feeds to get the kind of news I want to read. This pushes archeology, cutting edge science, and even a few creepy feeds directly to me. I bookmark those that have some merit and share them here. There is an Idea Mill category in my sidebar if you want to skim the old ones.

Our first article is about a ship called the SS Baychimo. In 1931 she got stuck in the ice. This was the last time she had a crew. That didn't stop her from sailing the arctic without a crew. She was spotted for years, and there were several attempts to salvage her, but she was having none of it. She was last seen in 1969. I'll let the article do the math, and it says 38 years. You can read more here.

I like this, because it happened. It isn't some fantasy idea concocted by an author, and it lends real credibility to any ghost ship fiction you might want to write. You could give her a personality and write a kids book about her finishing her mission without a crew. You could also haunt the crap out of her and it's a perfect setting for a horror story. Isolation is a must for a good horror story, and hundreds of miles at sea is pretty isolated.

This one almost didn't make the list, but I decided to add it at the last minute. It's about gene splicing and designer babies. For you deep researchers out there, there are some great scientific terms that would be a great place to start your research. Read all about it here.

Let's face it, superheroes and their supervillains are all the rage right now. This seems like a great backstory for those characters. Maybe you prefer a different spin and develop a world where everyone is tall and attractive. Messing with nature could lead to unintended consequences. I have a bulldog for crying out loud. They are famous for the health issues associated with overbreeding. Take this to a human level, and perfect specimens might be more susceptible to health issues from pollution, or the common cold, or can't process sunlight into vitamins.

Finally, this one is more of a story element than something that would drive a whole plot. (In my mind. Your mind might be better.) There is a liquid that people can breathe in. It sounds pretty high tech, but it's called perfluorocarbon. I did a bit of digging, and found out it's also used in makeup and as a potential artificial blood. Read all about it here. Apparently it carries oxygen really well.

The first thing that comes to my mind is Mr. Freeze's wife in her liquid filled tube to preserve her life. Luke Skywalker went through some of this too. I have a need in a future story for a situation like this, and may have to use the word to explain how it's done. Thank God, I have it saved forever in The Idea Mill. Maybe it would make a great preservative for those deep space journeys to another planet. You know, the ones that take twenty years.

So part of these posts involves me outlining a corny story using all three. Let's see where this goes.

In a planet filled with designer perfect people, someone discovers the SS Baychimo. By now it is an archeological treasure to be explored and preserved. Unfortunately the researchers catch some ancient disease like Measles from the wreck. Their immune systems are compromised and any of the ancient vaccines aren't going to work. Make sure to make a political statement one way or the other about vaccinations. Doesn't matter to me which way, but this kind of story should make a hot-button point.

With a looming shortage of perfluorocarbon to preserve the dying, someone needs to act fast. This is where the second class citizens, produced the old fashioned way, will come into play. They are heartier and can work around the sick and dying with less risk. They are on the verge of a vaccine that will save the day. They've been treated like second class citizens for centuries, and there is some doubt about whether they will act, or simply let nature take it's course and rid them of the designer population.

How about it, you guys. Do any of these kick your Muse in the rear? Maybe you prefer a vat of designer babies, preserved in perfluorocarbon, being shipped to a distant planet. Their spaceship is called the SS Baychimo. Someone discovers them a thousand years later, and they're all still alive. What would you write based upon one of these?

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The Idea Mill #28

It’s been a while since we visited the old Idea Mill. I stockpile articles I found interesting until I have enough to make a new post. These are the kind of things that can fuel your next story, so I share them hoping to get your imagination working.

I wait for three, but as so often happens, I found the third and a fourth one on the same day.

Our first article involves a kind of mapping, using historical excavation, aerial photos, and more into a virtual reality map of an historical site. This time it is part of the Plain of Jars. During the Vietnam War, it was bombed heavily and is still dangerous to explore and work around. They’ve been able to determine burial rituals were part of the purpose of the jars, but not much more…yet. Read the article here.

This one interests me, because I used burial jars as an inspiration for parts of The Cock of the South. There is a lot more mileage in this story. Maybe you want to write a science based story about merging all the data into virtual reality, and learn something amazing – like discovering the debris field from the crash of an ancient spaceship. Maybe you want to write about the time of the jar builders, similar to what I did. It lends itself to a great treasure hunt story, similar to Indiana Jones. The unexploded ordinance can add some real tension to the tale too.

Moving on, we come to the decline of pollinators around the world. This could lead to famine of global proportions. Someone has built a drone that could replace, or supplement, the work of honeybees. Read the article here. At about $100 each, the price of food could rise dramatically.

There are so many possibilities here. Obviously a bit of science fiction could work. Maybe someone hacks the drones to only pollinate the crops of those who pay protection money. I can just see the super rich, drinking mead as a way to demonstrate their dominance over the rest of us.

Maybe someone weaves a few spy drones into the pollinators. Maybe you just want a bit of urban fantasy using one of the four horsemen. Why should Death and his pale horse be the only one to get page time?

This next one won’t fuel a complete story, in my mind. It does add some neat elements to weave into something larger. It seems Toyota is working on an interactive window. This window has zoom features, and you can draw on it. It appears to have some educational value, like teaching kids to name certain things that pass by. Here is the video I saw:

I immediately saw some kind of urban sniper team using this. The guy in back zooms the window and it calls out distances so the guy in front can take the shot. It wouldn’t be hard for a military squad to draw on the glass to illustrate entry points for a coordinated attack of some kind either. It would be pretty easy to take it further and make it do more things. Add some spy quality infrared and look inside buildings, etc.

Finally, we have the last “wild” Indian. It seems a nameless man wandered into town in 1911, after living his entire life in the wilderness. They named him Ishi, and gave him some kind of consultant’s job. He taught some folks at a university about the ways of his people, and they documented them for posterity. Here’s the article.

There have been any number of stories about someone being raised by wolves, or being the last of their kind. This gives some amount of credibility to those stories. Some fiction could take it as a tragedy, or as an uplifting kind of story. Maybe Ishi learns our ways and advances some huge project in a way that modern minds never thought of. Maybe he delivers some herbal cure for one of our dreaded diseases.

I try to make up some kind of corny story using all the elements to keep these fun. Here goes nothing:

The mapping project for an ancient site reveals it to be the debris field for an ancient alien crash site. More information lies deeper in the jungle, but that location is full of unexploded ordinance, and is off limits to everyone.

Our hero sneaks a couple of spy drones into the swarm of pollinators working nearby, and after the drones start working he directs them away to scope out the site. He uses his special glass window to calculate coordinates of the likely places for deeper understanding, and possibly some undiscovered alien science.

The wealthy computer industry controls the area, by controlling the farmers. They will have no problem convincing the farmers to shoot trespassers on sight.

Only the last surviving native of a virtually extinct race can lead our hero into the crash site and reveal something wonderful to the world. Maybe its a cure for colony collapse disorder the aliens kept in their records. That gives the wealthy computer guys a reason to keep people away.

How about it you guys? Does one of these articles fit with your current project? Would you include something like this in a story? What might one of these articles inspire you to write?

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The Idea Mill #27

It's time to revisit the old Idea Mill. This involves a selection of stories I've gleaned across the Internet, and feel like they could make some great speculative elements in your fiction.

For those who want to kick the Muse a little harder, The Idea Mill is a category in my sidebar. Being as this is the 27th edition, you can probably find something to use in one of your stories.

The first story involves a chemical cocktail that settled over London. The amazing part is that it happened in 1952. There was a smaller event documented in the 1960s.

Basically, it was cold. An inversion settled over the city, and everyone lit their coal stoves. I'm a few years (okay decades) removed from high school chemistry, but I know temperature and pressure can influence the outcome.

I dug a bit deeper, and found where scientists were able to duplicate the process in a lab. It appears the perfect cocktail left behind a cloud of sulfuric acid. Officially 4000 people died, and it may have been as high as 12,000 because not all deaths were immediate. The city officials didn't even know it was happening until the florists ran out of flowers for funerals.

One of the reports that stuck with me involved a movie theatre that gave refunds because the patrons inside the building couldn't see the screen because of the cloud. Read the article here.

I'm shocked that this went on in the 1950s and 1960s. To me this screams steampunk, which calls for a Victorian setting. I'm relatively certain this happened then too, but probably wasn't as well documented.

I don't know about your areas, but inversions happen all over the American West. I think you could probably tailor this to some kind of chemical warfare. It might lend itself to a mad scientist story pretty easily. It might even make a good origin for your superhero story.

Out next story should get filed under the “What Me Worry,” category. It appears that scientists have recovered a 17th century strain of smallpox virus from a Lithuanian mummy. My understanding is the goal is to determine when smallpox first jumped from animals to humans. Read this story here.

Okay, I understand the curiousity of scientists, but I'm an author. What could possibly go wrong? It's my job to make something go wrong. The obvious idea is that an older strain isn't influenced by the vaccine. These things mutate and evolve rapidly. It gets loose and kills people on a global scale before your CDC hero can come up with a solution.

This one can also be the basis for a biological weapons story. It plays right into some kind of zombie tale for those who love them. You can easily change the settings to make things more creepy. Maybe a catacomb type environment where the mummy is discovered.

Finally, we have a dinosaur discovery. This one involves a small Dino called coelurosaurus. Scientist found a tiny section of its tail preserved in amber, and this section has feathers. The feathers aren't flight worthy and it seems like they are more like marabou feathers used in boas. Traces of color are still there, and it seems likely that blood is available too. Here is one of many stories I saw on this one. Link.

Obviously, this could lead right into a Jurassic Park type story. But what if it led to designer pets and a battle for the coolest Christmas present of the year. Add in some militant animal rights people, a patent battle, perhaps a greedy Kentucky Colonel type who thinks they're finger lickin' good, and you have a story.

So part of the Idea Mill shtick is for me to rough out a corny story using all three elements. Let's see what I can come up with:

It's the Christmas season, and colorful coelusaurs are the must have gift of the season. The patent battle is settled, and Dino Labs is mass producing these pets to meet the demand. Meanwhile, across town scientists are researching the ancient strain of smallpox virus. It gets loose on the city, just as the biggest inversion in history descends. The polluted cocktail mutates the virus into something unstoppable. People start dying by the thousands. The coelusars are not completely immune to the disease, they get sick and their eggs are mutated.

Soon the city is overwhelmed with new and nastier dinosaurs, and the humans are too sick to fight back. One brave Kentucky Colonel has a solution, and his solution is finger lickin' good. Eating the Dinos provides an immunity to the virus, but getting one isn't as simple as it sounds. The Dinos think we're finger lickin' good too.

I think that outline fits the traditional bill for these posts. What would you do with one of these elements? Tell me in the comments.

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The Idea Mill #26

Sometimes the articles come faster than others. I've seen it take months to get enough articles for an Idea Mill post, this time it took about two weeks.

For all the new followers, I get these articles from various sources and share them here. They are a great source of inspiration for those who write speculative fiction.

Let's look at the first article. It appears chimpanzees have a ritual. Nobody really knows what it means, but speculation is that it looks like religion. The chimps throw rocks at trees. It isn't limited to one animal or one troop. It usually involves the same tree, and occasionally there are piles of rocks found as if this has gone on for a long time. Read the article here (Link)

They say bigfoot likes to whack trees with a club. An article like this could give some credence to your bigfoot story. Maybe old BF is throwing rocks at trees instead. Maybe the chimps have a specific reverence for that tree. A tree church if you will. Maybe the rocks are prayers, or a tribute to an ancestor.

I'll probably do some assessment of my blog activities as part of the year ending. Various primates have been pretty prominent in the Idea Mill posts. From baboons who might be domesticating wolves, monkeys who may be chipping flint, and now chimps who may be developing religion. Seems to me the setting is ripe for some hyper evolution type science fiction.

This next article is the kind that shows up occasionally. Someone discovered a possible cure that we'll never hear about again. It looks like some wasps from Brazil have venom that kills cancer cells but not healthy tissue. This all involves some complicated way the cancer cells outer membrane differs from healthy cells. Basically, the wasp venom makes the membrane rupture and the cancer cells pop like tiny balloons. Here is the story (Link)

What can we do with this one? It sets the stage for a jungle adventure pretty easily. It also lends itself to a corporate espionage type story using rival pharmaceutical companies. Of course you would need a crazy wing-nut type character to expose it all. Nobody listens to him until the facts become overwhelming. Maybe you want to write about a desperate family trying anything to save a loved one. It seems to fit with an environmental warning pretty well too. Loggers are destroying the jungle, and there is a desperate race to save the wasps before the cure is lost forever.

There is no reason you couldn't write about a wasp wrangler trying to deliver a colony of lifesaving wasps to a new colony in a distant galaxy too. When his ship gets boarded the wasps get used as weapons against the invaders. It distracts them long enough for the wasp wrangler to get to the weapons vault. Good thing wasps eat meat.

Finally, this one is just friggin weird. It's called sokushinbutsu; the practice of self mummification. It was practiced by monks in Japan in an attempt to become Buddha. It involves eating a special diet of bark and twigs, restricting water intake to dry out your innards, and basically meditating in a box your friends bury in the ground. It only takes three years, but it doesn't work every time, presumably because the monk wasn't suitable to the mission. Read about it here (Link)

For the record, I will not be attempting this. No pizza, no beer, no wonder they wanted to die. It will probably become the next hot diet book: The Mummification Diet.

So what can we do with this one? I'm a little bit stumped, but maybe I'm just dumbfounded. What if it were a form of hibernation? A kind of stasis that could last for centuries. You just need a little time in the hot tub and some Doritos to come back to life. What about something like the terracotta warriors in China? Someone stashed away an entire ninja army, just waiting to put them into action. Lends itself to secret societies, covert plans, and some kind of takeover attempt for your hero to foil.

These mummies could fit right in to a fantasy world too. The creepy old temple where only a few caretakers remain. Treasure hunters show up and the caretakers put a few mummies in the shower to help them out. Why not make them Sleestack type characters?

So how about a story using all three? The last Idea Mill stumped me, but I might be able to come up with a corny story with these.

Your hero needs to retrieve a colony of cancer-curing wasps from the jungle. We're going to have to move the jungle to one that has chimpanzees. He discovers chimpanzees exhibiting ritual behavior, but only around an ancient ruin.

There is competition from a more ruthless competitor, and they use bulldozers to knock down the jungle in hopes of stirring up the wasps. Your hero learns the chimpanzee ritual is the secret to finding the wasps, and if he can figure it out he'll have more than enough wasps for his purpose.

Before he can figure it out, the competition pushes through to the ancient ruin. This awakens the sleeping mummies who begin a campaign to wipe out everyone that isn't a reverent chimpanzee. The chimpanzees show your hero the only way to avoid the killer mummies is to start the self mummification process himself.

The killer mummies pass him by, revenge is extracted on corporate greed. He gains enough time to solve the Chimpanzee riddles and walks out with a pocket full of wasps. At the end he'd kill for a bag of Doritos and a hot tub.

Okay, all three elements – check. Corny – check.

What would you use one of these stories to create? Tell me in the comments.

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