Tag Archives: smallpox

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.

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