Tag Archives: biohacker

The Idea Mill #23

It's been a while since I ran one of these out, but the news has been a little bit slow lately. I collect articles that pique my interest as a writer of speculative fiction. I have used some of the things from these posts, and might will use some of the stuff I bring you today.

Let's start out with the Tree of Death. The manchineel tree is a tropical plant that can even be found in Florida. This thing has more defenses than the acid filled creatures in Alien. It appears that everything about it is toxic; its fruit, sap, bark, leaves, everything.

It is written here that natives used to stake people out under the trees as a form of torture. The frequent rains would wash across the leaves and an drip onto the victims causing acidic type burns. Read the article I saw here.

From my point of view, this becomes a great murder weapon. Murder happens in all kinds of fiction and isn't limited to just mysteries and thrillers. It also lends some credence to any kind of alien environment you might want to create. These trees could also play into a global warming kind of story. They push their way north and south of the tropics to drive the people away as nature tries to recover some room for itself. Could be an interesting magical ingredient too.

The next section is a combination of two articles. Neural Dust is the name given to tiny implants into potentially human brains. There are two hopes, the first one being a way to treat some impairments like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The second part appeals to me, where it may allow some patients to control various robotic items. Here is the link to the first article.

The second article doesn't seem to come right out and name the technology, but appears to be the same idea. It puts a different spin on things with a warning about protecting our own brains from hackers. Here is the link to the second article.

These two really appeal to me, because I outlined a novel last summer about bio-hackers and grinders. I have a hunch these ideas will work their way straight into that book. (I just need to get finished with The Yak Guy Project.) It also fits right into something I was working on yesterday about a futuristic baseball league called The Enhanced League.

So what would you do with these? There are any number of mind control ideas that could happen. Need an innocent person to pull of the heist of the century, drop off the ransom, commit a terrorist act. Here's the reference point to make it work. It gives a whole new spin to date rape drugs, political puppets backed by corporate entities, or even a cyber-zombie outbreak when long term implants go wrong.

Finally, the US has authorized researchers to implant human stem cells into the brains of animal embryos. They've even dubbed the creations as Chimeras. Again, the hope involves various brain disorders and extends to growing transplantable organs. Read it yourself, right here.

What could possibly go wrong? Let's explore that. Need some science to back up your Planet of the Apes science fiction, here it is. Need spies to infiltrate a secure government facility? How about some human intelligent rats, or aerial ravens. Nobody would look twice at the sparrow outside the White House.

Part of these posts involves me describing a schlocky story using all the elements. This is always tough, but this one comes with special problems. The Enhanced League and the Grinders novel are screaming at me, and I don't want to spoil anything. Top that off with the manchineel tree not fitting into the science fiction base of the other articles and it gets exponentially tougher. Let's see where this goes…

Iguanas are immune to the poisons of the manchineel tree. A group of genetically enhanced iguanas are forced to plant the poisonous trees around a perimeter to build an invasion camp. Might as well use Florida since they already have iguanas.

The President's brain has been hacked via the national security Neural Dust chip he is required to have. He authorizes a secure facility inside the perimeter where evil scientists will create an army of chimera cyborgs who control their weapons via their own neural chips. Imagine cyborg gorillas and minotaurs marching upon Washington.

The only hope is an ethical scientist who must break her personal code and accept her own Neural Dust implant before it's too late.

Okay, that sucks, but individually there are some great story elements here. They might not drive an entire novel, but a couple of them could. I know I'm going to use neural dust in one, if not two, stories. I may use chimeras too if only as designer pets to do some world building.

What would you do? Manchineel smoke in your voodoo? Designer organ farming for the super rich? A cultural rift between those who are all born lithe and beautiful due to embryo manipulation and those who have to take what God gives them? Let me hear it in the comments.

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The Idea Mill #11

These articles seem to be coming more frequently lately. It seems I can go for months, then I collect enough in a week for the next post. For those new to The Idea Mill, these are articles I get pushed to me by various sources. I collect them, and comment about how they might influence my fiction. (Or your fiction.) most of them can't carry a story, but they can sure spice one up.

First up is an ancient Anglo-Saxon salve meant to treat eye infections. It comes from a book called Bald's Leechbook. That ought to be enough to make it into one of my stories. This lovely concoction has such wonderful ingredients as copper, Garlic, and bile salts. (Just like Grandma used to make.)

The most interesting thing about this is that modern science recreated it. Turns out, it kills the superbug known as MRSA. (Probably kills the patient too, for all I know.) It has to be true, it was on the Internet.

This kind of stuff is golden to a speculative fiction author. Just the name Leechbook is enough to spice up a scene. It would be awesome to have some ancient remedy cure the problem in a far flung science fiction story. Talk about cool contrasts. If any of you modern medical folks brew this up in your cauldrons, we expect a full report. Read about it here.

Next is the story of a lonely little tree named Methuselah. He is a Judean Date palm. This tree so defined it's local culture and economy that the Roman Empire waged war upon the trees. They succeeded in rendering the tree extinct some 2000 years ago. (It's not just modern people who do this sort of thing.)

It seems some archaeologists were excavating the site of Masada. (Deserves it's own post.) These scientists came across a small cache of seeds, and someone decided to plant them. Only one grew, and he had a difficult childhood. Today he is old enough to pollenate a female modern date tree, and he's going to be a father. There is a plan in place to perhaps restore the Judean date palm, but this batch will be hybrids.

Maybe your Lara Croft needs a more touching story than saving the world. Maybe she embarks on some massive adventure to save a lost species instead. There is a decent emotional pull for the writer who can tug those heartstrings. Read about this one here.

Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the world. You would think we would know all about it's wildlife by now. We don't, but you have to look on a smaller scale. This is about some folks who are studying flies. Turns out they are finding foreign species that must come in with commercial shipments. The interesting thing is they are identifying brand new species left and right. These are native species that no one ever bothered to look for.

The characters are quirky as hell too. They set up tented bug traps in urban back yards. These guys have massive potential as characters in a novel. You don't have to write about flies. They could find tiny aliens in one of their nets too. Maybe they witness a crime while skulking about in the dark, and the blood in one of the insects can finger the killer. If only the geeky scientist can pull it together long enough to testify. Check this one out here.

This last one was sent to me by Sue Nichols. She's been enjoying these posts and emailed me a link. Everyone make sure to go visit her and tell her how awesome she is for letting me share this one.

Biohackers are the kind of folks that inventors were in the last century. They are into tinkering with biology for all kinds of various reasons. They work on developing plants that glow in the dark, that sort of thing, and they do it all from garages and basements all over the world.

The most outrageous ones call themselves “Grinders.” These folks are into modifying their own bodies. It seems the most common mod is installing magnets under the skin of their fingers. This allows them to sense magnetic fields given off by electronics and other things. There are more, but suffice it to say I did a bit of research.

Sue's article is about someone that created some kind of eye drops to give himself night vision. At least temporarily. Since none of this is AMA sanctioned they wind up doing their own surgeries, or going to tattoo and piercing parlors to have it done.

Read the article here. Did anyone else notice the guy injected the drops onto his eyeball. So which is it, injected or onto? He shoved a needle into his own eye, you know he did.

Sue may have just given me the keys to a future novel. I've gathered up some alchemy tomes for study later this year. Combine that with Biohackers in a modern setting, and it just screams at me. I've wanted to write a mad scientist for a long time, and this might be the key. Grinders is even a good title. I'm so excited!

Maybe the Grinder gets his hands on Bald's Leechbook and discovers something that should have remained hidden. He becomes some kind of cryptid murderer in Los Angeles. The only way of stopping him is contained in a rare fly that is only attracted to the pollen of a once extinct date palm tree.

Okay, I probably won't use that, but Grinders are definitely on the list.

What can you folks come up with? Do any of these sound like they could spice up your own stories?

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