Tag Archives: endangered species

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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God spare me from propaganda, or not…

This is a tough post to write, because I don't want to link to the article that touched me off. It's one thing to be interested and respectful, but another to bitch and moan.

I'll just say that I found this article in the I Fucking Love Science vault today. I thought it might be a cool one to save for the Idea Mill series that I sporadically post.

It involves a massive death of the saiga antelope population of Kazakstan. It's a fascinating natural occurrence involving a respiratory disease. It seems they've always carried this bacteria, but the bacteria suddenly turned deadly.

North American wild sheep get respiratory problems, so I was curious enough to click on the article.

The Saiga is an ugly bugger, but I've known that for a long time. He looks a little bit like a character from the cantina scene in the original Star Wars.

My problem with the article involves the agenda behind the reporting. It's written to cause fear and some other reactions.

It starts off by mentioning the saiga is endangered to begin with. Then it mentions the population of 300,000 animals before the disease. I'm sorry, but how are 300,000 of anything considered endangered? Let's talk black footed ferret numbers and California condor numbers.

It seems that 200,000 of the saiga fell to this disease. Why then am I reading about near 100% die off? My math says 66% die off and that isn't near 100%.

They did it by cusping the number. They said near 100% die off in some herds. What qualifies as a herd? Two animals?

They also mention the decimation of the saiga because he was hunted as a replacement for rhino horn. When I looked at the pictures (he really is an ugly bugger) only the bucks have horns. Growing up in ranch country, I know that among herd animals only one male is needed per hundred females. The males can suffer a huge reduction in population, but all the females will bear young the following Spring.

Since there is no financial reason to shoot the females and young, horn hunting can't be the reason for the population decline. Poachers are not about to waste precious ammo to shoot animals that don't bring a profit. They just aren't. The bucks are edible too, so there would be plenty of camp meat.

The line about the horn hunting doesn't have anything to do with the bacterial infection. Why did they include it? Sensationalism? They didn't even ask me to donate to anything.

The story is interesting. I want to know more, and it might lead to some great fiction too. My problem is by shredding their credibility, I can't trust anything they wrote at all.

I'm not saving this for the Idea Mill.

On the other hand, I do have an outline from last summer about a guy who starts wars for profit. It's set in a fantasy environment, and has some merit to being a future novel. Lies, deceit, and propaganda would be his stock in trade.

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