Tag Archives: genetics

Fluffy’s Revolution, on #LisaBurtonRadio

Lisa Burton

Don’t touch that dial! You’ve landed on Lisa Burton Radio, the only show that brings you interviews with characters from the books you love. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and I’m reaching into the future to the year 2135, and my very special guest is Fluffy the cat. “Welcome to the show, Fluffy.”

“Thank you very much, Lisa! I’m not used to this kind of attention.”

“Does this mean cats eventually take over the world?”

“Oh no! We don’t want to take over anything. What do you think we are, humans? Well, let me start from the beginning. It’s kind of a long story. I’m what is called a GAB cat. That stands for Genetically Altered Brain. And it’s not just cats, it’s dogs, mice, and the occasional pig. See, way back in 2015, some scientists injected elements of human DNA into the brains of some unborn mice. When the mice were born, their brains were twelve percent larger than the normal mouse brain. Then, these same guys started also experimenting on cats, dogs, and pigs. What they didn’t anticipate was that, when two GAB animals mated, their offspring would come out exponentially smarter than their parents. Over many generations, our brains changed but our bodies didn’t, so we developed certain powers to compensate. Since our tongues and palates were the wrong shape to form words, we learned how to talk to each other telepathically. Since we didn’t have opposable thumbs to grasp objects, we developed the ability to move objects with our minds—telekinesis.”

“Cats, dogs, and mice are born in litters, so are there more out there like you?”

“Today, in 2135, about a third of all the mice, dogs and cats, and about an eighth of all the pigs on Earth are GABs. Since the world is controlled by three giant corporations, and just about all the jobs were taken by robots (hey, you fit right in, Lisa!), people were not happy. They were poor and hungry. So, the corporations gave them something to hate and fear—us! They started rounding up and exterminating us. I guess, like you, they were afraid we were going to take over the world. But we just wanted to make the world better. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

“See, I spent the first five years of my life living with my dad—er—my human. His name is Professor James Riordan, a very smart and kind human. He brought me up, loved, and educated me, just like I was his real child. But I kept getting these psychic distress signals from my lost brother, Jack. He was the runt of the litter and never got adopted. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I just had to go out there and find him.”

“So, you left the comfort of your penthouse to try helping your brother. That’s a pretty noble act. Were the streets anything like you expected?”

“Well, my dad tried to talk me out of it. He told me what a terrible world it was out there, especially for GAB animals. But nothing could have prepared me for how scary it really was. I almost got sucked up by an Animal Control truck, almost got run over by a car, almost got eaten by a dog, jumped into the back of a truck, and wound up in a warehouse that was the hideout for a group of animal revolutionaries: a brilliant mouse named Hacker, his wife, Mitzi, a sweet dog named Fang—she turned out to be a girl dog—and a young boy cat named Tigger. They also had three human helpers: Rudy, Giuseppe, and Janet. Everybody was really nice, once I got them to trust me. I was very mad about all the exterminations, so I joined up with them.”

“So, they’re exterminating cute cuddly animals, including animals that are as intelligent as humans?”

“Afraid so, Lisa… Especially animals that are as intelligent as humans. So Hacker planned a raid on the big extermination center that was pretty nearby. Their plan was to free all the animals and then blow the place up, killing the people who worked in there, but I talked them out of that part. See, my dad taught me that humans are the most violent species on Earth, that we shouldn’t try to match them in violence, because we would lose. Instead, we decided to knock the people out with some stuff called Livion. Anyway, we managed to get all the animals out, and, guess what, I found Jack in the extermination chamber, about to be killed, and got him out too. Everything went according to plan until Janet decided on her own to blow the place up.”

“Who’s Janet again?”

“Janet was one of our human helpers, and it turned out that she harbored secrets that made our fur stand on end.”

“Where did you go?”

“Well, we loaded all the freed animals into big trucks and took them back to our hideout. The plan was to smuggle them and ourselves, disguised as robopets—Epsilon’s line of new robot animals, up into the mountains. See, I’d heard of a secret university up there for GABs called Animal U.”

“Why would a university be any safer than your hideout?”

“Because our hideout was right there in the city, and the cops and the Animal Control people and Epps and his minions had ways of detecting us in there. But no one knew about Animal U. It was hidden in a valley that wasn’t even on maps. Anyway, Janet blowing up the extermination center put the kibosh on our trip to the mountains. They closed in on us with killer drones, guns, and bombs. They blew the place to smithereens. Most of the animals were killed. Somehow, I and a few others were able to escape. Making my way on foot up into the mountains by myself was no picnic, I can tell you that. I was kidnapped by bad people and almost killed by coyotes, but somehow, I made it to Animal U. Amazingly, my dad was able to find me there and we were reunited.”

“Wait, the penthouse guy? Aww, he must really love his kitty to find you there.”

“Stop! I’m on the verge of purring. The professor has discovered a problem, and he hopes our genetically altered brains can help him find a solution. We hope so too because it could mean the end of the planet.”

“Oh, my gosh! What kind of dangers are you facing?”

“A killer asteroid is headed directly for Earth. We only have thirty days to come up with a solution or we’re all catnip.”

“I wish you all the luck possible, Fluffy, and I’m sure our listeners do too. Do you have any closing remarks for us today?”

“Yes. Remember, animals are your friends, people. Also, look both ways before crossing a road, stay away from mean dogs, mean people, and coyotes, and, most important: love trumps hate!”

“You can learn all about Fluffy and her friends by picking up the book, Fluffy’s Revolution, by Ted Myers. I’ll post all the deets on the website after we go off the air today.

“This program only runs when we have guests. I’m here for you authors out there, but I can’t keep going without guests, so let me hear from you.

“Please don’t forget to use those sharing buttons today. I’m sure Ted and Fluffy would do it for you when your character appears on the next Lisa Burton Radio.”

***

.The year is 2135 and the world is controlled by three mega-corporations. With thirty days before a giant asteroid hits Earth, it’s up to a few good humans and a group of GAB (Genetically Altered Brain) animals, led by Fluffy, to fix the situation before all humanity and the animal world perish. Can Fluffy and her crew save Earth from certain destruction and learn the key to the GABs’ survival? Can Fluffy and her kind answer hatred with love and show humanity what it truly means to be human?

This unique and tender story takes place in the future but begins with genetic experiments that are taking place right now.

Fluffy is a super-intelligent GAB (Genetically Altered Brain) cat. Like many of her brethren―dogs, cats, mice, and the occasional pig―her brain is the product of genetic tinkering by humans that started more than a century ago. Because they need a scapegoat, the corporate oligarchs who rule the world have labeled GAB animals terrorists and have begun to systematically capture and exterminate them. Fluffy, compelled by psychic distress signals from her lost brother, leaves the safety of her home to look for him and joins a band of animal revolutionaries. With their powers of telekinesis, the animals can manipulate physical objects without being able to grasp them. With their powers of telepathy, they can speak to each other without audible voices. After a series of brushes with death, Fluffy and her friends find a secret university for GAB animals called Animal U and that’s when they find out about the asteroid…

Pick up your copy at the following locations:

Book website:

https://fluffysrevolution.com/

 

http://www.blackrosewriting.com/sci-fifantasy/fluffysrevolution

For a 15% discount before March 28, use promo code PREORDER2019

 

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/2T8QjiZ

 

Barnes & Noble:

https://bit.ly/2CGX7xB

 

About the Author:

After twenty years trembling on the brink of rock stardom and fifteen years working at record companies, Ted Myers left the music business (or perhaps it was the other way around) and took a job as a copywriter at an advertising agency. This cemented his determination to make his mark as an author. Ted’s nonfiction has appeared in Working Musicians (Harper Collins), By the Time We Got to Woodstock: The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution of 1969 (Backbeat Books) and Popular Music and Society. His epic and amusing memoir, Making It: Music, Sex & Drugs in the Golden Age of Rock (Calumet Editions) was published in 2017. His fiction has appeared online and in print in many anthologies and literary magazines.

You can find Ted at the following places:

Amazon Author Page:

https://amzn.to/2RJM2CD

 

B&N Author Page:

https://bit.ly/2DDizVN

 

Goodreads Author Page:

https://www.goodreads.com/Ted_Myers

 

Bookbub Author Page:

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ted-myers

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ted.myers.56

 

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TedMyersAuthor or @TedMyersAuthor

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The Idea Mill #34

This one is going to be a bit different than other Idea Mill visits. I usually save links and try to get three unique stories to post about. Today I have two, and I’m combining them into one concept.

If you’re new to these, I write speculative fiction and that involves asking “what if.” I think it’s important to base spec fiction in reality wherever you can. These stories help build a bit of foundation that we can use to build our speculative story.

This time, I don’t even have links. This stuff is everywhere and is very current news. This is why I’m constructing the post this way. If I wait, it might not be as current.

You must have all seen the stories involving Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of Facebook data. I know Facebook stockholders are aware of it. In a nutshell, these people pirated the data to make targeted events during the last election cycle. If you believe all the stories.

We live in an age of data. The world is full of massive databases that contain everything from our banking information, our preferences online, where we eat, where we buy groceries, and more. Surf for a new book to read, someone is tracking it. Follow a clickbait article with a titillating story and it’s been logged. I know if my wife looks at anything on her laptop, my Facebook ads change and show me options to her search. Made it kind of hard to surprise me for Christmas.

This is what we already live under. Enter the new database that we’re contributing to. This one is fun… there’s no harm in fun, right? It’s almost taken on a party atmosphere. Here’s how it works:

You take a swab and wipe it around the inside of your mouth. Then you mail it to a company who will analyze it and send you an idea of your genetic heritage. Usually it proves that Mom really did know what she was talking about as far as your ethnicity.

Keep in mind, your results are going into a database somewhere. Keep in mind that one of the largest databases in the world was just accessed inappropriately and misused. Now we have a solid foundation to start speculating. What if…

What if the Nazis had access to such a database. Think how much more efficient their genetic purging could have been. Genocide went on before the Nazis, and it’s still going on today. Don’t tell me it will never happen on such a large scale again.

We can also take this into the speculative realms. What if aliens made a cold clinical decision and used this database to collect whatever they prefer and destroy the rest.

Keep in mind that your heritage is only one thing a DNA test can reveal. How about one of the cancer genes? Maybe the hacker is big insurance, and they start raising the prices on those who have one of these genes. Maybe the general population develops a new prejudice against someone with one of these genes. You no longer have to worry about cancer killing you… your neighbors will do it long before then.

Maybe the database starts influencing reproduction. Insurance refuses to cover children from matings they didn’t pre-approve. Maybe it’s not so deep, what if humans start checking out potential mates on the database before getting involved with someone? We already run background checks and credit checks on potential partners. This isn’t all that far fetched. My own wife and I spend part of date nights on our phones these days. Humans aren’t as connected on a personal level as they were twenty years ago. Nope, not getting involved with her because she’s going to lose her teeth by the time she’s fifty.

Take it up a notch, and have one spouse cave to the pressure of breeding with an approved partner. A mutual agreement would certainly lead to a marital breakdown. A secret affair can also add a mountain of stress.

Maybe there is a trend toward a certain genetic combo that poses a workplace hazard. Could employers start demanding DNA tests as part of the hiring process? Maybe it reveals a reasonable percentage of people with that gene are prone to thefts.

These are big ticket issues that work in some kinds of fiction. They play on the idea of what we are afraid of, which is always a good idea in fiction. There is also a possibility of taking it down to a smaller level and telling a good story too.

What if some family fun revealed a secret nobody was supposed to know? A bigot could make for a good character arc. Pride makes a great thing to toy with in our stories. He or she despises some kind of race or ethnicity. A DNA test reveals the character is of that heritage at least partially. First thing would be to despise his parents and blame them. Maybe he runs away and goes on a journey where he finds himself and discovers some errors he’s made during his life. Maybe he finds family members he never knew he had. Maybe the employees he’s been making work overtime, and denying benefits to, are his nieces and nephews.

Obviously a family member who was the result of an affair could be pretty dramatic too. What if this revelation changed the line of succession to the throne of some country? Or maybe it’s a huge inheritance? You could play this for laughs, or make it dangerous and dark. What do you mean Uncle Bob can’t inherit Grandpa’s company?

I’m not contributing a corny story this time. I wanted to rush out the foundation stories from the news and speculate a bit. What could you create using these two current events? I’d love to hear it.

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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 #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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The Idea Mill #6

Regular readers know that I save cool articles and make posts about them on occasion. These articles are to get your creative juices flowing. Some of them are just cool story elements, some of them might become the basis of an entire story. Let’s jump right to it…

Once upon a time, scientists experimented with creating genetically modified humans. This actually happened, but they are few in number. This article informs us that this small handful of people are going to graduate high school soon.

These people actually have one father and two mothers. We really have no idea what this means for them, or their future offspring. Remember that modern man crossbred with Neanderthals at some time, and most of us carry small snippets of Neanderthal DNA. These people will reproduce someday, and the result could change humanity as we know it.

This could be the basis of an entire story. One of these folks would make a great main character. It could involve living with a secret, torturing herself about what her pregnancy will reveal, or even an X-Men style story.

The next one is about a smoking mountain in Alaska. They say it isn’t a volcano or fire related.

This could become a great dragon story, or maybe you’re more into Mole Men. It reminds me of the gas in Cheri Priest’s Boneshaker. I suppose it would fit in well with a shamanistic story too.

This one is a list of lost treasures. I like it because it involves Maguffin style items that aren’t all made of gold.

Maybe your plucky heroine needs to go on a treasure hunt to find a lost patent. She has a higher purpose, but is up against glory and money seekers. Can she invent the whatchamacallit that saves whatever, or will the bad guys defeat her, plunging the world into darkness?

This one is just a story element. Have any of you ever heard of cat circles?

Apparently cats are attracted to circles. They get inside them and stay inside them. This works really well for a witchcraft story, because circles are important, and cats are prevalent.

It isn’t limited to witchcraft though. I wonder if Indiana Jones could use his whip to make a circle before the temple tiger eats him?

Have fun with these. If you use any of them, stop back and tell me what you came up with. Let me know if you experiment on your cats too. I know you will.

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