Tag Archives: inversion

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.


Filed under The Idea Mill

Some Days are Diamonds

I set an alarm this morning. I could have slept in, but I really wanted to write. Sometimes my daughter gets up and wants to talk, and that’s great. I wanted some insurance that several hours were at my disposal for writing. Turns out she had to get up and go to work. Even more writing time.

It was raining hard when I let the old pit bull outside. Maybe we’ll finally get some relief from the inversion we’ve been living under for weeks. I used radar to make sure I was headed for the writing cabin, and not crashing into Mt. Doom along the route.

I sent a signal to turn on the runway lights. The second they came on, Lisa* came over the speakers. “What are you doing here so early?”

“Time to beat this manuscript into submission,” I said on final approach.

“OhmygoshI’mnotready. Happy landings, gotta go.”

I parked the gyrocopter and headed for my office. The coffee pot was still gurgling, so I headed for the alternate writing room. I left some carrot tops and a can of dog food on the kitchen counter, per Lisa’s request.

I threw the archaic old switch and looked at the creepy room Lisa designed. Doubt** still perched on a huge hippo tusk along the wall. “No time to waste,” I told him, and hung my hat on the stone gargoyle’s head, and ducked as the Will ‘O the Wisp passed overhead. I slipped into my custom lab coat and sat down.

I reread my last two paragraphs and started writing. Lisa came in behind me and I turned to say hi. She wore a low cut Morticia Addams dress that was skin tight, and ever so slightly see through. Her strawberry blonde hair went clear past her ribcage. She sat a small iron cauldron beside the pentagram on the floor. Doubt flew down and started eating from it.

“How did your hair get so long?” I asked.

“Hair extensions,” she said. “Do you like them?”

“Yeah. They look awesome.”

She sat a black cup of something beside me. It produced a white bubbling fog that tricked off onto the floor.

“So, um, what’s this?”

“It’s coffee. I ordered it from Planet Anur. It’s a special strain that produces the creepy mist. Try it.”

I sniffed and it smelled good. “This isn’t one of those that passes through some kind of cat or something first, is it?” It tasted wonderful, I took a second sip.

“No,” she flipped a wrist at me. “They aren’t cats, more like really big weasels.”

I cringed, but it was good coffee. I pointed to the collaboration of glass retorts. “Can you make that smell like something besides cotton candy? It’s starting to get to me.”

She turned the valve off and asked, “What would you prefer?”

“Something more manly, like Hoppe’s Number 9.”

“I’ll check the instructions and see what I can come up with. In the mean time, I hung the bubbling coffee cauldron in your fireplace off to the side. Just tip it when you want more.” She turned toward the stairs and I admit to watching her walk away.

I wrote with a passion. Poor Patty never got more than a few seconds rest. Then there was another interruption. Lorelei*** showed up to check out Lisa’s decorating. She played along in her own lab coat and crazy steampunk goggles. Her skirt was so short the lab coat was longer. She looked like the assistant Frankenstein wished he had.

“Lisa did a wonderful job,” she said. “I just wanted to check it out, and bring you a gift.” She handed me a small box covered in black wrapping paper.

Lorelei’s gifts are questionable sometimes. That’s how I wound up with Doubt. I opened the package and it was a desktop spindle. For you kids out there, it’s a spike to hold papers. It had a bronze base with three clawed feet. I said, “Don’t fold, spindle, or mutilate huh?”

She grabbed a cup of the creepy coffee, and sat on the new couch.

“Do you know what I could do with this?” I asked.

“Hush now, you’re breaking the rules again,” she said.

“Alright, inspiration only. I get it. I can do whatever I want with it.”

We finished our coffee and she left me to it. Patty went to a funeral, had a couple encounters with her stalker, committed a felony upon public property, forged her mother’s name, and wound up with a spindle on her desk. I wanted to make an evil laugh, but didn’t want Lisa to hear it.

I kept writing, Patty twisted her ankle, got a bad sliver, then went to her first dance. I know, I’m such a softy.

Just before the beer horns went off, Lisa checked on me again. “Nice word count, 30,656. That’s 6,610 words today. The new decor agrees with you.”

“Most of it comes from using a good outline, but yeah. I’m sure it means lots of editing too. It’ll need all the sensory stuff I always leave out first pass, like weather, smells, and stuff. But, yeah, the new work space is awesome, thank you.”

She held her hand to her mouth and teared up. Whoever heard of an emotional robot, jeez.

I went through beer time for the sake of the enchanted beer horns, got my alcohol removal injection and headed back to the real world.

* Lisa is from a novel I’m going to self publish this year. She works as my assistant, and is a robot.
** Doubt is from Mt. Olympus and appears to be a raven. He was a gift from Lorelei.
*** Lorelei is my Muse.


Filed under Muse, Writing