Tag Archives: mad science

The Idea Mill #30

It’s been a long time since I trotted out an Idea Mill post here. Honestly, the feeds I got weren’t that awe inspiring lately. I also got busy with my own writing projects.

I checked my folder, and some of the things I earmarked really weren’t up to snuff, so I went looking.

All authors need inspiration. I get mine everywhere, but I use push feeds to send me news of things that are more my style than what the Kardashians might be up to. When I get a few decent ones, I assemble them into one of these posts. The hope is that one might inspire your next bit of fiction, or enhance something you’re already working on.

Let’s start off with Congress and the Military. You could write any number of horror stories just on those two words, but I found an article. A bill apparently moved from a sub-committee toward the floor of the House that would split the United States Air Force in two. The Air Force would remain, and the new group would be called The Space Corp. It hasn’t happened yet, but the fact they are discussing it lends all kinds of swagger to all those space military stories out there. You can read more here. The military hasn’t done this since the Army Air Corp was turned into the Air Force in the first place.

Let’s throw in the job announcement at NASA too. The one for Planetary Protection Officer.

The timing is ripe for one of those ground floor kind of stories. Maybe set the stage with top secret information that something is out there, and we need protection from it. Then introduce your first group of cadets and start outlining. Can’t find a threat? Let’s give honorable mention to this flying bat-monster over Chicago.

This is a well worn trail, and we all know it. Today, you have a point for some research to add a degree of realism to the piece you create.

Our next story is about unsolved languages. Apparently Facebook’s robots created a language of their own to interact with each other. The punchline is that we don’t know what they’re saying to each other. That could be a story all on its own, but a researcher brought us this cool article about Researching Lost Languages.

To me, this article has more interest than the Facebook news. Robots with a secret language is another well worn trail. There are all kinds of ancient languages out there that we’ve never been able to crack. Without the Rosetta Stone, we may not have cracked hieroglyphics. Other ancient languages don’t have a handy Rosetta Stone lying around. There is even a wonderful Nazi tie in that adds a veil of evil to the whole thing.

An ancient language researcher would make a neat character. It has shades of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones all at once, particularly with the Nazi tie. Maybe we wind up cracking one of these languages, and find out something that we really don’t want to know.

The last one involves a revelation that blood from young animals can slow down the aging process in older animals of the same type. This all started with dental research in the 1950s. Dentists are evil enough to make decent bad guys. Ever seen Marathon Man? It even had a Nazi tie in.

The research led to sewing lab rats together, and intentionally wounding the older of the pair. An unstitched rat was given the same wound. The one with access to young blood healed faster and better. There is even more potential in this research because the article delves into modern stem cell potential. To get more information, read the darned article.

I think I’m going to borrow from this one myself. I still have that Grinders novel I want to get to, and it fits right in. This could fuel any number of mad science type stories. It lends credence to some kind of Lady Bathory tales too. Need a modern day Fountain of Youth, maybe you just found it.

Just for fun, I try to come up with a corny story that uses all these elements. That young-blood story is going to be rough, but I’ll try.

The Men in Black captured a flying bat monster over Chicago. (Extra credit for using him) They tried to communicate with him, but couldn’t understand him until they found a researcher into ancient languages.

The researcher discovered he was speaking one of the ancient languages, but he needed time to interpret it. In the mean time, the Space Corp is formed and the first volunteers join up.

Eventually, the threat is revealed. Bat Monster is a spy, and the researcher recovers his communication kit. This allows eavesdropping on the invaders.

Our Space Cadets, (I hope they call them Space Cadets) ship out. They are going a long ways, so they have to be in suspended animation. Part of the process involves the Cadets donating their own blood as part of their revival process. The blood of eighteen year old Cadets will help reanimate the thirty year old soldiers when they arrive. Then, of course, they have to battle the hideous bat monsters.

How’d I do? More importantly, what will you do? Did you find a useful story element here? Maybe an entire plot?

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The Book of Lost Doors, on Lisa Burton Radio

Don’t touch that dial, you’ve landed at Lisa Burton Radio, the show where we bring you the fictional characters you love. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and my guest to day is Dr. Samuel West from the Book of Lost Doors Series, by Misha Burnett.

“Welcome to the show, Samuel.”

“Thank you for having me, Lisa.”

“My sheet says you are a pale surgeon. Tell us what that involves.”

“I am a devotee of the Vital Art. Throughout human history art has always been other-directed, which is to say that human race modifies its environment to produce a given aesthetic effect. The Vital Art—still, to be admitted, in its comparative infancy—internalizes the artistic drive.”

“You lost me.”

“My canvas, my clay, as it were, is the human form itself. Utilizing modern surgical techniques and a few specialized refinements—the… cutting edge, as it were—I transform my patients into living works of art.”

“Oh sweet mother of robotics! Are there others out there like you?”

“It is growing artistic movement within what might be termed the subterranean community. For a number of purely practical reasons we eschew publicity. Law invariably lags behind technology as I am sure you’re aware.”

“Tell me about it. Being mechanical is not a crime, people!”

“There are, at present, two main schools within the Pale Surgeon movement. The older and more representational Dead Man’s Shoes Society, and the Ten Teacups, of which I am a member. Without going into the rather… esoteric philosophical differences between the schools, suffice to say that as part of the Ten Teacups I feel that all organic life can and should be used as models in the transformative process, echoing, in fact, the evolutionary process. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, you know.”

“Let’s back up a second. When you say “transformative” what exactly do you mean? Transforming into what?”

“Into themselves. Some might say ‘more than human’, but I believe that humanity, itself is interpretive. Does one become other than human by having tattoos? Pierced ears or lips or nipples? Does alloplasty negate humanity?”

“No.”

“Of course not. The human race has always embraced body modification as a form of self-expression, from filing teeth and facial scars in the earliest human settlements in Olduvai. We merely expand the limits of the canvas.”

“And Keith Morgan? What did he want to be transformed into?”

“…”

“You still with me, doc?”

“How do you know that name?”

“I’m a journalist, Dr. West. I research things.”

“Yes. I see that you do.”

“So tell me about Keith Morgan.”

“That was a commissioned piece. In today’s world, unfortunately, art must sometimes toil in the vineyards of commerce.”

“You cut off his head and replaced it with a closed circuit TV set.”

“The modifications were considerably more extensive than that. He became, in fact, a full functioned telefactor. Artistically, I will admit it was rather crude—not a portfolio piece at all. Technically, however, there were some unique challenges—particularly since I was operating on a very tight schedule.”

“Operating for Agony Delapour, in fact.”

“I am not in the habit of revealing the names of my patrons.”

“Your long association with Delapour & Associates is a matter of public record, doctor. West Medical Transport, the ambulance service that you own, has a very lucrative contract with Bellona Staffing, which is owned by, who? Delapuour & Associates. I see also that you were listed as personal physician for a number of key D&A personnel, including Agony herself.”

“I won’t deny that I was—at one time—associated with Delapour & Associates. I am no longer.”

“Getting back to Keith Morgan—did he, or did he not consent to the procedure that you performed on him?”

“I did not agree to be on your program to discuss Keith Morgan.”

“No? Then let’s talk about John Cabot.”

“I have no comment.”

“You vivisected the man and used his internal organs to build a coin operated fortune telling machine.”

“I think this interview is over.”

“Like Keith Morgan, you operated on John Cabot without his consent. Also, while working for Delapour & Associates. Under the direct orders of Agony Delapour herself, is that not true?”

“Good day, Miss Burton. Thank you for your time.”

“You’re not getting rid of me that easy, doc! The public deserves the truth about Delapour & Associates! Doc? Hello, are you still there?”

“…”

“He hung up on me. What a turd, oops, I mean twit. Thank you for tuning in to Lisa Burton Radio. The story of Dr. Samuel West is a matter of public record. You can read all about it the Book of Lost Doors Series, by Misha Burnett.

“Don’t forget to click the sharing links at the bottom of this post. They help keep the lights on around here, and can help bring Dr. West’s story to the attention of the general public.”

***

Misha can be found at the following places:

His Amazon Page

His WordPress Blog

 

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The Idea Mill # 17

It’s time for another Idea Mill post. My regulars know what these are, but I’ll explain a bit for new readers. I set up several push feeds to drive me news about things I’m interested in. I collect articles that kick my Muse in the pants, and share them with everyone after I have enough.

If you enjoy these, they have their own category in my sidebar. Explore to your heart’s content.

Sadly, Zite magazine is going away soon. I am forced to migrate over to Flipboard. Their interface and custom features suck compared to Zite. I have to shoehorn my wants into their categories as opposed to ones I customize. I may have to hit the App Store later today to see what else there is. I’m open to suggestions.

The first one is an archaeological dig they think might be a witch grave. This girl was malnourished, and her soft tissues were burnt away prior to her being tossed into a pit and covered up. There are any number of things that could have happened here, including a house fire. This grave was near another identical grave that was discovered earlier.

It could be that the girls were locked up and starved. Eventually they were burned at the stake and tossed away. Read about the discovery here. They are planning on DNA testing to see if the girls were related.

I don’t know that I have to speculate much here. This adds credibility to any witchcraft story. Maybe there are tidbits here to add a bit more realism.

This next one needs some time to percolate. Daydream about it and let your Muse work it over. Scientists just grew electrical wires and components inside roses. In one case they were able to use electricity to lighten or darken the leaves. This can ramp up the photosynthesis process. They also talk about using plants to one day generate power. Read all about it in this article.

I like this one on many fronts. I think it can fluff up your science fiction in many ways. There could be conflict between destroying the rainforest, and replacing it with some kind of Frankenstein plants that make electricity and oxygen. What might the downside be? Maybe it provides oxygen and light for your spaceship.

Maybe this is the first step toward a plant based takeover. It’s like a zombie apocalypse or the Terminator, but with plants.

Fantasy doesn’t get left behind either. What if some alternate race learned how to grow steel inside gigantic trees. What special qualities might the weapons made from it have? Druidic magic? Electrical powers? What?

Finally, scientists have been able to grow human vocal cord tissue in the lab. This is actually pretty cool in a real world sense. It seems the ultimate goal is restoration for those who had cancer and various injuries. They tested the material out in canine larynxes, and it appears to make human sounds when manipulated. Read it here. (Caution, you have to wait for an advertisement.)

You don’t have to limit your speculation to this particular tissue. There will be an industry growing our spare parts one day. I wrote a short story about this in my Experimental Notebook, but you can take it a lot of directions.

What if unexpected traits of the original donor come with the transplant? You could really screw up your character’s life here. What if a famous singer donated the tissue, then a recipient comes along to compete in the entertainment industry?

These last two articles really trip my trigger. I still have my bio-hacker/grinder outline, and am going to add a sticky note to it after this posts.

I always try to end these with a cheesy story idea were all three elements are incorporated. This time it isn’t as hard as the last few. Here we go.

A city crew is tearing out the landscaping to replant new electricity generating plants. They place the living power grid over the burial site of actual witches who were burned alive.

The roots reach into the graves. Strange threats and warnings start happening on electrical devices, but nobody can figure it out.

An old laboratory beagle uses his superior olfactory powers and learns the truth. When the flowers bloom, the pollen is going to deliver a curse upon the entire city. He has human vocal cords, but there is a disconnect between his canine mind and human parts. Can he deliver the news in time?

Have fun with these. Do they inspire any of you who write speculative fiction? Share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comments. Does anyone have a good replacement for Zite magazine they can suggest?

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Happy Halloween

I finished my word search on The Playground, rubbed my eyes, and put down my iPad. Doubt, the Raven bobbed his head up and down, excited to move into real editing. He was about to be disappointed.

“Lisa*, let’s have some fun today. It’s Halloween after all.”

Lisa came into my office. “I have bowls of candy ready for tonight. When the spaceships land, and the brooms fly in, we’re all set.”

“That’s tonight, I want to do something today. I can’t work all the time.”

“We could bake some Halloween cookies.”

“Nope, we’re going to build a creature.”

“You don’t know how to build a creature.”

“I’m an author.” I leaned back in my chair and locked my fingers behind my head. “We can build a creature.”

She turned toward the stairs. “I’ll put on my witch’s outfit.”

“Good idea. I’ll pull on my lab coat and a pair of old goggles. We should use the paranormal office.”

We parted to change and met up in the hallway.

“So do I need to clear off the couch, or what? How big is this thing going to be?” Lisa asked.

“Maybe we should start small. Let’s try a cookie sheet. We need something to make the body, and there’s no time to dig up graves.”

“You should have planned ahead. There’s a bunch of hamburger in the refrigerator.”

I snapped my fingers. “Perfect. That way we can shape it any way we like. We need to figure out how to automate it somehow.”

“I’m an automation. Does that mean you want electronic parts in it?”

“I hadn’t though about it. We need something small.”

“There’s an old iPod in the basement, I’ll get that.”

“We’d better double down. Did any of my characters leave any magical herbs in the pantry?”

“There might be some sage and a few drops of iron water left.”

“Is there any more Macabre Macaroni?”

“You served it all to your friends.”

“Too bad. That stuff’s potent.”

Lisa gathered the ingredients, and I placed the hamburger on the pan, made a dent in the middle and held out my hand. “Sage.”

“Sage.”

I shook liberally over the hamburger. “Iron water.”

“Iron water.”

There were only about three drops left in the vial. “We need something for the soul. Eggs symbolize the spirit in many ancient cultures.”

She turned toward the door. “There are only two left, I hope that’s enough.”

Lisa returned with the eggs and I cracked them in the creature, massaging them in with my hands. “Turn the retorts and burners on. I know it’s just artwork, but it helps set the right mood.”

I massaged the creature and heard the bubbling start.

A deep baritone voice sounded “Mwa ha ha.”

I cringed and froze. “What the hell was that?”

“It’s me silly. I downloaded a creepy laugh, because I thought it would help.”

I stood straight and paused. “Great idea. Keep doing it.”

“Mwa ha ha.”

I worked on the creature, but it wouldn’t keep its shape. “We need something to make it stick together. I think it has a bit too much soul. Do we have any flour?”

“I’ll check, Master. Mwa ha ha.”

She returned with a box of salad croutons, a bottle of catsup, and an onion. She reached in the box and crushed a handful of croutons into crumbs.

“That’ll have to do. Sprinkle it over the creature while I knead it in. What’s the other stuff for?”

“I don’t know. I was looking for stuff that might bind it up.”

“Better use it all.” She added a pinch at a time until the creature wanted to hold a form. “Okay. Do you want tentacles or a creepy baby.”

“Creepy babies freak me out, let’s do tentacles.”

I used my palms to make ten tentacles and a bulbous head in the center. Lisa started poking the tentacles. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“It needs suckers on its tentacles, Master.”

“Great idea.”

“Mwa ha ha.”

Lisa finished putting suckers on the tentacles, and I sculpted one big eye on the creature’s face. “It’s beautiful.”

“Yes, Master.” She stuck the remaining wedge of onion into the eye and it looked perfect.

“Okay. The standard is to strike it with lightning.”

“Oh Hell no. You know electric shock is my big weakness. I’ll bring up a generator and jumper cables from the basement, but you’re doing this part by yourself.”

“I can respect that.”

Lisa went downstairs and retrieved the equipment. She opened the enchanted window before starting the generator. The enchanted image was Baron Frankenstein himself, munching popcorn and staring into the paranormal office.

I touched the clamps together and they sparked. Lisa scurried into the hallway and shut the door.

I pointed the jumper cables toward the ceiling and looked toward the heavens. Frankenstein pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head.

“All right, killjoy. I won’t say your lines.” I jammed the cable clamps into the creature and the generator engine bogged down.

The smaller tentacles recoiled and slowly curled.

The head leaned to the side, the larger tentacles twisted and sizzled.

I left the electricity coursing through the creature’s body. It changed colors from raw meat to a mottled grey-brown.

The image of Frankensten leaned forward and popped another kernel in his mouth.

The top of the creature’s head bubbled and gave off steam.

I pulled the cables away and the engine revved back up. I turned the generator off with my foot.

Lisa ran back inside and clamped her hands together. “Did it work?”

“Don’t know. It kind of moved around, but it isn’t doing anything right now.”

We watched for a few minutes, but nothing happened.

“What went wrong?” Lisa asked.

“This is what happens when authors don’t do their research. People think speculative authors can make everything up, but our work has to have some grounding in history, science, or beliefs.”

The image of Frankenstein leaned back in his chair and polished his nails on his jacket.

“It smells kind of nice,” Lisa said.

I snapped off one of the small tentacles and sniffed it. It smelled good enough to eat, so I tasted it. “Congratulations, Ms. Burton, it’s a meatloaf… with iron water. Needs salt though.”

She hung her head. “I’ll bring you a plate and some salt. Don’t chip a tooth on that old iPod.”

“I’ll be careful, and I’ll save a tentacle for Doubt.”

***O°O***

Have a safe and fun Halloween everyone, and always do your research.

* Lisa Burton is my personal assistant. She is also a robot, and the main character in my first novel.

The raven’s name is Doubt, and he tries to help me in the editing phase.

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The Idea Mill #15

A quick note for those who are new to The Idea Mill. I have several different push feeds that I check on a daily basis. I have them set up to push information about topics that interest me. I find it easier to keep updated on certain topics to keep my imagination well fueled. Maybe one of these posts will spark your imagination.

Underwater archaeologists recently discovered a huge monolith off the coast of Sicily. It is approximately 12 meters long, and I’m going to guess for the Americans in the audience that it’s about 15 feet. If you really care, you can do your own conversion.

This stone has three large holes drilled through it, and dates back to the last ice age. Apparently, this area was an island back then. It indicates a sophisticated society existed on the island that long ago. They were capable of harvesting and carving a stone that large. It also appears they transported it to its location.

I’m not intirely convinced that it isn’t from a later shipwreck, but let’s go with the story. It could lend a lot of credence to stories about more sophisticated prehistoric cultures. There has been some debate as to whether the earliest humans possessed a language. They would have had to if they were going to pull off this project. Here is some credibility if you want to write about intelligent cavemen. Maybe ancient aliens is your thing. Go crazy here. The article I read is here. Big old whoppin’ underwater rock.

It looks like we’re sticking with archaeology today. This story is from Ireland, and I’ve seen it on a blog or two. It appears that an ancient beech tree blew over in a storm. The exposed root ball contained half of a skeleton dating back to +/- 1100 AD. The other half is there, and the tree tore it in half when it fell. It appears to be the remains of a tall teenage boy. The body has evidence of stab wounds.

This is almost like the opening wet scene from any episode of Bones. It would be a great beginning for a mystery. I write speculative stuff, so I might turn it into some kind of ancient spell, or even turn the kid into a monster that is finally free of the tree planted to keep him down. Maybe I’d release an ancient disease instead. Here is the article: Big old whoppin’ dead tree.

In this story, scientists discovered the skeletons of 15 humans of a previously unknown species. They stood anywhere from 3.5 to 5 feet tall, and had smaller brains than expected. (I think some of that genetic trait is still present in some Idaho drivers.)

They are calling them humans, and they represent something new to us. The species is very old, but these remains are newer than expected. This almost certainly means they lived side by side with more modern humans. They also appear to have been intentionally placed in this cave. That could mean they had death rituals, or that whatever killed them had death rituals.

There was a time when science fiction concentrated on lost worlds. These guys could make great antagonists in an exploration type story. Your intrepid hero is hacking his way through the jungle, (because it really should be a jungle) when he’s attacked by munchkins who aren’t very smart. They make up for it in numbers and determination. What’s worse than Bigfoot? Fifteen Littlefoots with bad attitudes. Here is the article: Not so big or whoppin’ early humans.

I can’t let this one be entirely about archaeology. I can’t predict the stuff I’m going to find, and lately that’s what I’ve unearthed. This one is a bit different. It’s called What to do when Someone Gives you a Giant Squid.

The title alone intrigues me. This would make an hilarious mad science handbook. It might make a great graphic novel too.

In a nutshell, some fishermen hauled this thing in and called some posh museum in London. They created what amounts to a gigantic pickle jar and shoved her inside. There are some great details of the ammonia smell giant squid have and how it smells like urine. Awesome stuff for your novel.

The scary part is the weaponry this thing packs. The suckers are ringed with tiny teeth that equal razor blades. The scientists ruined a few pairs of gloves wrangling this thing into it’s pickle jar. I call this article, Big old whoppin’ dead squid.

These guys are awesome for fiction. We are pretty helpless in the water, and that ramps up the scary part. Add in those razor edged suckers, and even survival might mean ringing the dinner bell for something else.

Maybe you want to turn this into a mad science story, and release a creature that smells like pee, and has concertina wire tentacles, loose on London

Part of the shtick is for me to outline one story incorporating all these articles. Here goes nothing…

Our hero discovers a skeleton in the bole of a fallen tree. The skeleton holds a cryptic map to the Lost Dutchman of King Solomon’s Crown Jewels. In Africa he gets ambushed by a bunch of tiny cavemen, and survives by swimming into the ocean. He spies a huge monolith under the water. It turns out to be the Lighthouse that marks the site of the LDKSCJ. After his rescue, he returns with a ship only to find the LDKSCJ is guarded by a giant squid whose suckers can eat holes through a ship. Instead of Hook’s crocodile with the ticking clock, you can smell the squid coming. Use the smell like the theme song from Jaws, and have everyone panic when random sailor # 1 pees over the rail of the ship. (No more asparagus aboard this ship.)

Do any of these articles spark your imaginations? Would you ever use one of these as the basis for a novel? As one element of the story? Let me hear about it in the comments.

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