Tag Archives: dinosaurs

The Idea Mill #33

It’s been a while since we strolled down to the old Idea Mill to see what it’s been grinding out. For those of you new to these posts, they are the kind of things that might feed your Muse. As a speculative fiction author, I choose things that are a bit strange.

Our first story is from India, where an electrician unearthed the carcass of an animal. Not just any animal either, this one appears at first glance to be a dinosaur. That’s cool, you might say, except this one has flesh on it. Anything that’s been dead for 65 million years or so should not have anything that isn’t fossilized.

There is some speculation in the article that it’s an aborted goat fetus. I don’t buy it, because that tail is pretty long, it appears to have canine style teeth, and there is one point where you can see through the sinus cavity. It was less than a foot long which seems to eliminate a dog of some kind. You can read the article for yourself. It has the picture, which I will not steal from them.

If you need a story with dinosaurs in the modern world, this is your foot in the door. This article likely spread pretty wide regardless of what it turns out to be. I believe fiction folks should try to stay close to the possible before asking readers for that leap of faith. A quick reference to the discovery in India and you’re off to the races. Maybe this can be used to explain the disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke. Fictionally, find a few more of these all over the world and you’re set.

You could make them alien in origin too pretty easily. Ancient sailors used to plant food animals on islands they might return to one day. Maybe the aliens did this too, and they’re going to return.

Next we have a strange burial of a bunch of cauldrons. They were placed in a semicircular ditch and buried. Keep in mind that cauldrons were likely extremely valuable way back when. Valuable enough to be passed down from daughter to daughter. Iron was not something easily available, so access to it would not have been an everyday occurrence. I have no evidence to support my theory, but a cauldron was likely a major investment for a family back then.

There is some speculation about a feast in the article, which you can read here.

What would lead multiple families to part with such a valuable item? Keep in mind that cauldrons are also something referenced in witchcraft. Could this have been some kind of Christian oppression? Are there the ashes of women in them from their burnings at the stake? Could this have been the site of a powerful ancient ritual, the result of which rendered the cauldrons unusable? These might be good stories to tell.

What if the story is of the recent discovery? Could there still be some ancient magic living around this site? Maybe something best left undisturbed? Maybe the only way to keep the demon down is to put the cauldrons back… in exactly the same way they were originally placed. This could lead to some fun puzzle solving for your characters.

Our next story might not fuel everyone’s Muse, but I dig it. It’s about rosewood being given a new status on the CITES list. It’s becoming endangered. This is an important wood for stringed instruments, and now musicians are worried about crossing international borders, in some cases with instruments that are hundreds of years old. This has led to illegal logging, smuggling, and over 150 deaths. Check out the article here. The culprit is a desire for rosewood furniture in China.

People love unique settings and situations. Smugglers, killers, and jungles are great things to pepper into an adventure story. Add a few dangerous animals, maybe some tiny dinosaurs from the first article and take to the jungles. Maybe your adventurer is a musician and you can add a unique element to the character. Tie it back to China by rescuing a few Asian rhinos.

Finally, we have a story that Russian Cosmonauts swabbed the outside of the International Space Station and found bacteria. The speculation is that this is an alien life form. There is a chance that it’s a contaminant from Earth and it’s capable of surviving in space, but where is the fun in that? You can read the story for yourselves.

I like this one, because it reminds me of Jason Fogg’s origin story. You can read it in my first Experimental Notebook. There are all kinds of possibilities for something coming from outer space. Start your zombie apocalypse right here folks. Maybe a new kind of plague, or one that’s happened before, that now has a new explanation.

Maybe you prefer limiting the outbreak to the International Space Station. One of the important pieces of a good horror story is isolation and being a long way from help. How about being quarantined in space with people who now want to shake your spinal fluid into a cocktail before dinner?

One of the fun parts of the Idea Mill is laying down some plot points of a story that is based on all the articles. I’ve got to tell you this isn’t an easy group to use in one story, but I’ll give it a shot.

A young botanist is sent to the jungles to make a count of the rosewood trees. She runs into smugglers, but there is something wrong with them. They are terrified of the small dinosaurs that are picking them off like plagues of locust. One of the smugglers takes her to the site of a meteor crash. This reveals a seeding of some sort that brought the dinosaurs to our planet… once again.

Lots of running bleeding and shooting later, she discovers a site that’s been looted by treasure hunters. The only way to get rid of the dinosaurs is to repeat an ancient ritual and bury the cauldrons in a specific pattern. However she must run the looters down to determine what patterns the cauldrons were buried in. Can she do it in time, before the dinos spread all over the globe? Ticking clocks etc. Oh, and let’s add some stress by making her a concert cellist who damaged her hands to the point she cannot play. This will give her something to struggle with against the ethics of protecting the trees that provide her lovely instruments.

So what would you do with these as inspiration for your own stories? Do any of them trip your trigger? Share some ideas in the comments, I’d love to read them.

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Fun half-day with the grandkids

Otto and I woke up early today. I managed two chapters of beta reading, and while it isn't great, I get to count it as progress. That may be all I accomplish, besides updating this blog.

Our granddaughter was sick last night, so we only got our grandson overnight. We checked this morning, and she was fine, so we picked her up on the way to the Discovery Center. People were lined up before they even opened the door. Not us, we let the line go inside, then walked up without standing in the cold. No sense in exposing our granddaughter to any more cold than we had to.

The attraction is the traveling exhibit of Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex. I'll be honest and say I was as excited as they were. We get some cool things in Boise, but usually manage to miss them. This time we decided not to procrastinate until it was too late.

Sue is the largest T-Rex ever found, and one of the most complete. They aren't certain if “she's” a male or female, but it's named after one of the folks who helped extract her from the ground. They refer to her in the female, and with no better evidence, why not.

It really is impressive. The fossils are in a museum in Chicago, and are too valuable to travel. This is a reproduction/replica. The castings are so accurate even some scientists prefer to work with them. They have a second head on a rotating pedestal that you can get up close and personal with. There are cross sections of bones you can touch and examine, and even some coprolites and eggs (under glass). Cool stuff. I haven't been to a museum full of this stuff in decades, but there are several good ones in Utah. For Boise, this is a big deal.

Of course I had to be a fan-boy too. It's pretty cool seeing the remains of a predator that's longer than a cross-town bus.

We stuck around and played with slime, created a tornado, and experimented with a television green screen. We learned about levers, pulleys, and the grandkids got to lay on a bed of nails. It's the Discovery Center, it's what you do.

We have reservations at a restaurant tonight, w/o grandkids. I doubt I'll get any serious work done today, and Sundays usually aren't too productive either. I'm off Monday, and have high hopes.

Hope everyone else is having a great weekend too.

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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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Just popping in

I've been slacking off on my blog duties lately. Things have gotten busy across multiple fronts.

My parents are visiting this weekend, and the women all decided to go shopping. I always have to choose whether to hang out with Mom or Dad. Dad won't run around the mall anymore, and I really don't blame him. We're hanging out while I work on some projects and we visit.

I managed to set up two guest posts, and need to set up at least one more. I'll work on it, but may put it off until Monday because it doesn't have a tight deadline.

I'll probably turn on the Preakness Stakes later today. Right now, I've found a pulpy old science fiction film. Dad and I are watching The Lost World from the 1950s. These are the kind of movies where they took real iguanas and monitor lizards, glued horns and fins to them, and called them dinosaurs.

These movies are so bad they're fun. The group is a trope these days. There's a dinosaur expert, a news reporter, native guides, and a city woman. There's always a woman. They have no luggage, but she always manages to look sweet, have her hair fixed, and wear flawless makeup. She even manages a change of clothes or two. Her job is to ask questions for the men to answer, and scream whenever a dinosaur shows up. I'm sure she's going to need rescuing at some point. Maybe multiple points.

One of the guides carries a guitar. Deep in the jungle with nothing useful, but he has a guitar. Hollywood had something musical in every movie back then.

They even managed to find a cavegirl. Movie cave girls never manage to be old, fat, or have missing teeth. She's their prisoner, but no logical reason why is ever given. She escapes and they chase her so we can see more lizards dressed up for ComicCon.

Swanky city girl falls down, screams a lot. She never tries to get up and run away, because women in the 1950s never thought of that. Plus if she ran away she wouldn't need rescued.

There was a man eating plant too.

There was a scene where one of the native guides went crazy and ran away screaming. A simple slap made him all better. A slap cured mental disorders in the 1950s. I expect quicksand to show up any moment.

Two of the dressed up lizards are fighting now. Today the cops would throw the film makers in jail for cruelty to animals, and justifiably so.

Honestly, I love this stuff. People would crucify me if I wrote a story like this, but I'm having a good time watching this movie.

Okay, so I can't write a story quite like this, but I have a short story that kind of pays homage to this kind of thing. No lost worlds, or dinosaurs though. I really should add something like this to my short story list. I could avoid making it too tropish, and I would be expected to have a real plot.

Films and books like these were the parents of many popular films and books today. I can see shades of escaping the Poseidon Adventure, Jurassic Park, The Goonies, Indianna Jones, and many others here. Ancient pulpy stuff makes for good fertilizer.

I did get some cool poster images in mind for Lisa. She might make a great scream queen, or cavegirl someday. I don't know what I would do with them, but something may come to me.

No idea what we are doing tonight, but I'll be busy doing something with my parents. I'll try to check in tomorrow.

Is anyone watching the Preakness? Do any of you like old pulpy science fiction? Do I need a mental health slap for enjoying this kind of thing?

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The Idea Mill #18

 

I've let the Idea Mill lapse this go round. I have four articles to discuss this time, and it's because I slacked on publishing when I had three.

I could go with the three best ones, but I'm going to share them all.

The first one is about bonobos. These are the first cousins of chimpanzees, and got their own designation a decade or so ago. (I'm not looking it up.)

These creatures have been observing tools for the first time. Some chimps have been known to use tools for a long time, but it's a first for bonobos. It doesn't appear to have happened under wild circumstances, but it's still pretty impressive. Read more about it here.

This can support some pretty interesting science fiction. Planet of the Apes has been around since I paid a quarter to watch the originals at the Saturday matinee. If you need a different species to evolve in a story, this lends credence to the idea.

Back in The Idea Mill #13 we talked about a group of monkeys that have taken the first steps toward domesticating wolves, and the bonobo story feeds into that same concept.

Next we have dinosaur blood vessels. They appear to have traces of actual blood in them. There are also some bones associated with the find that may contain DNA. It looks like we are a few years away from Jurassic Park, but we're going to learn something from these.

Maybe your science fiction needs a genetic library. It's a way of preserving extinct species of all kinds. Add in a militant Eco-group who wants to see these creatures alive once more. They thought they were creating a Caspian tiger, but they got a saber tooth instead. Of course it needs to get loose and cause trouble so you can have the inevitable court battle about whether to put it down, or not.

This next story is one I grew up with. Every Nevada schoolboy discussed the Lovelock Giants on the playground. Legend has it there was a race of red headed giants native to the western US. There were some signs found in Lovelock Cave, but commercial interests destroyed the find. Other sites are rumored to have discovered mummified remains. This is right on the cusp of being a cryptid, or maybe real. I've never heard of any such giants at the Smithsonian or anywhere else.

Giants are a fantasy staple, but not so much in North America. If you use the DNA library idea from up above, you could restore them into an urban fantasy.

Finally, we have more vampire burials. It seems like there is one of these found every year. Obviously they add some credibility to vampire stories. These are more interesting than other Idea Mill posts about the topic. Rather than a rock in the mouth, or an iron stake to hold them down, these graves were kept safe by placing a sickle over the throat. It looks like any vamp that tried to rise would lose its head.

It's always good to bring something new to genres that become kind of predictable. This doesn't make a whole story, but could spice one up. Maybe the sickles are made from meteor steel, or quenched in holy something-or-other.

I'm about to revisit some of the Idea Mill posts myself. I seem to remember a fabric dye that was so black it couldn't be seen by the human eye. I might use that in my new novel somewhere.

Feel free to use these posts in your own fiction. There are enough of them to make up a decent repository these days.

I always try to make up one story using all the elements. These ideas cover a broad spectrum, and it will have to be pretty cheesy to cover them all.

Take one genetics laboratory where the geneticists are studying ancient blood and extracting DNA. They celebrate success in restoring some small recently extinct species, like the Heath hen.

The lab apes watch the whole process. They aren't as dumb as the humans think they are, and try to bring back their relatives after hours. We wind up with Giants on the loose, but they are a race of vampires. The only way to completely kill them is to bury them with a sickle over the throat.

This is a lot easier to do when there are less topics. What might you take away from these articles? Would some of them enhance your speculative fiction? Will your vampire hunter start using a sickle instead of a sword? Are you putting Giants in downtown Las Vegas?

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