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?