Tag Archives: speculative fiction

The Idea Mill #35

We haven’t been down to the Idea Mill for about seven months. To be honest, I’ve been to busy in other areas to do the research. I still have my feeds, but there hasn’t been a lot to get excited about. There was the vampire burial of a baby, but we’ve had vampire burials on here before.

For those who are new to the Idea Mill, I believe speculative fiction needs a strong dose of reality behind it. We’re going to ask for a leap of faith, but we don’t want to ask for too many. These items are creepy on their own, and can add an air of realism to the stories we might write.

Let’s jump into our first topic. I won’t call it an article, because I never found a specific one. I’ve been researching what is called the Third Man Factor, or Syndrome. In a nutshell, there are many stories of someone being near death describing someone who helped them out. Later it was revealed that nobody was ever there.

These tales date all through history, from Arctic exploration to the Twin Towers. It’s actually kind of a stupid name, because human plus apparition equals two, but there it is. Here is the Wikipedia Entry for Third Man Syndrome.

This works really well for our paranormal tales. If I were to write it, I’d probably write it from the apparition’s point of view, only revealing that fact as my twist ending. How about a werewolf who is tormented by his human self while in lycanthrope form? You could play it for laughs almost like Play It Again Sam. What would you do with Third Man Syndrome?

Our next article is about Giant Hogweed. This is an invasive species that makes a few stinging nettles or even poison ivy look like amateurs. It causes “painful burns, permanent scarring, and even blindness.” It removes something from your skin that allows the sun to cook you like bacon. There are some graphic photos in the article, so I know you’ll want to look. Read the article here. This stuff even destroys the soil where it grows.

I see this as hazardous background to a story, any kind of story actually. Stress, tension, and pressure add something to every story. Why not have your detectives recover a body from a grove of this stuff. Even a temporary loss of vision could put your cop in a bad position when the bad guy comes looking for him.

Moving into the speculative arena, how about planting this stuff outside the treasure cave? Weapons tipped with Giant Hogweed sap, etc. Like I said, maybe not a main player, but useful just the same. Maybe you want to rub it all over someone’s jockstrap. What ideas do you have?

Finally, we have wifi being used to see behind closed doors. Let’s face it, wifi is everywhere now. Apparently, it can be used to spy on people, but not like you might think. This isn’t about your computer camera. It involves observing the radio waves and seeing how they distort around movement.

The article gives a neat depiction about a glass house with a wifi lightbulb inside. It seems as though they need to read the wifi signal from several different angles, kind of like triangulation. After that, they can map your house and determine if you are inside. Read the article here.

Obviously, in speculative fiction we can ramp this up. I have an idea of some kind of infrared vision with more detail. Imagine using drones to take a reading on the building, then the stalker can watch what happens inside. Maybe he sells the fact that you aren’t home to thieves. Maybe he has more nefarious things in mind. Maybe your private moments become the next internet viral video.

What kind of science fiction based horror can you make out of this one?

We usually end these with some kind of corny story outline based upon all of the elements I’ve presented. Here goes nothing.

Our main character is the number one suspect in the disappearance of an underage girl. His workplace told him to stop coming in until further notice. He spots a sequence of drones circling his house. When he looks outside, the police are taking up positions based upon what they learn from wifi spying.

He slips into the cellar and out into the dark before they bash down the door. If he can only find the girl it will clear his name. He wanders into the woods, where he gets tangled up with a patch of Giant Hogweed.

Burning from the sap, and in danger of losing his vision, he wanders deeper while calling out the girl’s name. His skin blisters and bleeds in the sunlight of the following day. His vision is nearly gone, and he’s near death.

The girl shows up and leads him out of the woods to a medical facility. It turns out the girl was never there and he imagined her the whole time.

At this point, I could turn this into an arrest and struggle tale, or have him return to the Giant Pigweed, rewounding himself so he can ask the girl where she is. This would be a tale of madness and mental anguish.

Think you can come up with something better? Be my guest. Use one, or all of them. Tell me about it in the comments. The more the merrier.

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The Idea Mill #33

It’s been a while since we strolled down to the old Idea Mill to see what it’s been grinding out. For those of you new to these posts, they are the kind of things that might feed your Muse. As a speculative fiction author, I choose things that are a bit strange.

Our first story is from India, where an electrician unearthed the carcass of an animal. Not just any animal either, this one appears at first glance to be a dinosaur. That’s cool, you might say, except this one has flesh on it. Anything that’s been dead for 65 million years or so should not have anything that isn’t fossilized.

There is some speculation in the article that it’s an aborted goat fetus. I don’t buy it, because that tail is pretty long, it appears to have canine style teeth, and there is one point where you can see through the sinus cavity. It was less than a foot long which seems to eliminate a dog of some kind. You can read the article for yourself. It has the picture, which I will not steal from them.

If you need a story with dinosaurs in the modern world, this is your foot in the door. This article likely spread pretty wide regardless of what it turns out to be. I believe fiction folks should try to stay close to the possible before asking readers for that leap of faith. A quick reference to the discovery in India and you’re off to the races. Maybe this can be used to explain the disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke. Fictionally, find a few more of these all over the world and you’re set.

You could make them alien in origin too pretty easily. Ancient sailors used to plant food animals on islands they might return to one day. Maybe the aliens did this too, and they’re going to return.

Next we have a strange burial of a bunch of cauldrons. They were placed in a semicircular ditch and buried. Keep in mind that cauldrons were likely extremely valuable way back when. Valuable enough to be passed down from daughter to daughter. Iron was not something easily available, so access to it would not have been an everyday occurrence. I have no evidence to support my theory, but a cauldron was likely a major investment for a family back then.

There is some speculation about a feast in the article, which you can read here.

What would lead multiple families to part with such a valuable item? Keep in mind that cauldrons are also something referenced in witchcraft. Could this have been some kind of Christian oppression? Are there the ashes of women in them from their burnings at the stake? Could this have been the site of a powerful ancient ritual, the result of which rendered the cauldrons unusable? These might be good stories to tell.

What if the story is of the recent discovery? Could there still be some ancient magic living around this site? Maybe something best left undisturbed? Maybe the only way to keep the demon down is to put the cauldrons back… in exactly the same way they were originally placed. This could lead to some fun puzzle solving for your characters.

Our next story might not fuel everyone’s Muse, but I dig it. It’s about rosewood being given a new status on the CITES list. It’s becoming endangered. This is an important wood for stringed instruments, and now musicians are worried about crossing international borders, in some cases with instruments that are hundreds of years old. This has led to illegal logging, smuggling, and over 150 deaths. Check out the article here. The culprit is a desire for rosewood furniture in China.

People love unique settings and situations. Smugglers, killers, and jungles are great things to pepper into an adventure story. Add a few dangerous animals, maybe some tiny dinosaurs from the first article and take to the jungles. Maybe your adventurer is a musician and you can add a unique element to the character. Tie it back to China by rescuing a few Asian rhinos.

Finally, we have a story that Russian Cosmonauts swabbed the outside of the International Space Station and found bacteria. The speculation is that this is an alien life form. There is a chance that it’s a contaminant from Earth and it’s capable of surviving in space, but where is the fun in that? You can read the story for yourselves.

I like this one, because it reminds me of Jason Fogg’s origin story. You can read it in my first Experimental Notebook. There are all kinds of possibilities for something coming from outer space. Start your zombie apocalypse right here folks. Maybe a new kind of plague, or one that’s happened before, that now has a new explanation.

Maybe you prefer limiting the outbreak to the International Space Station. One of the important pieces of a good horror story is isolation and being a long way from help. How about being quarantined in space with people who now want to shake your spinal fluid into a cocktail before dinner?

One of the fun parts of the Idea Mill is laying down some plot points of a story that is based on all the articles. I’ve got to tell you this isn’t an easy group to use in one story, but I’ll give it a shot.

A young botanist is sent to the jungles to make a count of the rosewood trees. She runs into smugglers, but there is something wrong with them. They are terrified of the small dinosaurs that are picking them off like plagues of locust. One of the smugglers takes her to the site of a meteor crash. This reveals a seeding of some sort that brought the dinosaurs to our planet… once again.

Lots of running bleeding and shooting later, she discovers a site that’s been looted by treasure hunters. The only way to get rid of the dinosaurs is to repeat an ancient ritual and bury the cauldrons in a specific pattern. However she must run the looters down to determine what patterns the cauldrons were buried in. Can she do it in time, before the dinos spread all over the globe? Ticking clocks etc. Oh, and let’s add some stress by making her a concert cellist who damaged her hands to the point she cannot play. This will give her something to struggle with against the ethics of protecting the trees that provide her lovely instruments.

So what would you do with these as inspiration for your own stories? Do any of them trip your trigger? Share some ideas in the comments, I’d love to read them.

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It’s a fool’s errand

I tried this morning, I really did. It took me about half an hour to get out of bed. It took me that long and more to pull on pants. I called in, and basically for the rest of the week too. The doctor gave me some better meds, and I decided I’d better write before I start taking them.

I decided to tackle my Pinterest issue this morning. I originally made a few boards that relate to what I write; paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy. Beyond that, Lisa has a board, and my books and reviews have a board. The bulk of everything went onto a board called Loose Collections. I tried to keep it simple.

It turns out some new concepts are showing up in Loose Collections, and should have their own boards. Sounds easy enough, right? I made boards for cars and bikes, pinup girls, tiki stuff, Gypsy Caravans, horse cavalry, pirates, and more.

Re-arranging things was pure effort. One image has to be pinned into the board it belongs in. Then the one in Loose Collections has to be deleted. Seems like they could benefit from a mass select that would let me re-pin or delete as I choose.

Here’s where it get’s crazy. I have some images with a cartoon girl who is a pirate, leaning against a large tiki carving. Where do I pin that one? I also have some awesome custom hearses in the paranormal folder. Should I now move those to the cars and bikes board? Should I make a hearse board too? What about the cartoon girl blowing a hole through a zombie? Is that girl-art or is that paranormal?

This stuff drives me crazy.

I surprised myself with how much creepy gothic furniture and how many fixtures I’ve pinned. I made another board. Now what do I do with the apothecary and witch’s pantry stuff. Is that paranormal, or is it now furnishings?

I also noticed I’ve pinned a lot of guns. Famous ones, engraved ones, some with gold inlay, that kind of thing. I’ll probably make a guns board too.

This stuff makes a great writing reference. Need a decked out Indian motorcycle? I have pins. When I need ideas for the next Lisa project, there are some cartoons and models who can help with poses and settings. How about a nice Gypsy caravan, there is a young board of those. I looked at and pinned a lot of GTOs when coming up with Clovis’ car in The Playground.

Pinterest is a valid tool for a writer. If I catalog things well enough, I can find things when I need them. These could be character ideas, bits and pieces of setting, props, outfits, all kinds of things. I am starting boards for all future fiction projects, and will leave them up beyond publication. I don’t want to cross post things, so there may be a threshold as to how well I can file things away. The pirate girl with tiki could go onto three distinct boards.

These boards can help you too. Dreaming up a science fiction project? Maybe you want to surf through my board for some visuals. You’re more than welcome. Here is the main link for me on Pinterest. If you decide to check it out, let me know if I’m on the right track. Now I need a gun board, and have to figure out what to do with those hearses.

This day is in the books. I’m going to take some controlled substances and retire for the night. Maybe I’ll dream up a crackerjack of a story while I’m zonked.

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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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Just shoot him

I’m screaming inside right now. I just finished watching the season premier of The Walking Dead. If you’re a fan, and haven’t seen the episode, you don’t have to read any further. If you’re a writer, you may want to read on.

See, I write speculative fiction. The aftermath of a zombie apocalypse is right in my wheelhouse, even though I haven’t gone there yet.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about speculative fiction. It involves at lease one impossible element, (Zombie apocalypse). I try to make the rest of my story pretty realistic. I know I’m going to ask for a leap of faith, so I try to make everything else fairly well researched and realistic.

This is where my problem lies, and I admit, it’s my problem. Maybe other authors and readers don’t think this is a hard and fast rule. Maybe it’s more of a guideline. I’ve used the Pirate quote before myself when it comes to writing rules.

It doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about something. To set this up, you have to understand The Walking Dead to a degree; otherwise, you might still get my point but you won’t get the context.

See TWD has put the survivors through hell. They’ve dealt with the Governor, the cannibals, and now Neagan. Tonight was all about Neagan –– as it should be. Neagan has done terrible things. He killed Glen, a main character, in front of all the other survivors – in front of his pregnant wife – by beating his brains out with a baseball bat and forcing the others to watch. He killed Abraham on the same stage, in front of his pseudo girlfriend. Abraham was one of the best soldiers the survivors had.

Okay, you’ve got the dirt on Neagan. At this point, various gyrations happened to give the survivors a chance to get even. Tonight, they had their chance and took it.

Here is the scene: Rick led the survivors to Neagan’s camp, and brought some serious firepower. They armored their cars with corrugated tin, which won’t do a damned thing when it comes to offering cover. Don’t believe me, fire an anemic round like a .38 Special at a piece of it. You wouldn’t want to use it for cover.

They (Rick) call out Neagan. Neagan walks out and answers the call. This is in character for Neagan, because he is an alpha male and a psycho. He steps onto a loading dock along with five of his henchmen. Rick calls them Lieutenants, fine by me.

Here is the thing, Neagan and friends were right out-in-the-open.

Rick and the survivors were fifty feet away. Let that sink in for a second, fifty-feet.

Remember, Neagan killed one of Rick’s best friends and forced Rick and the others to watch.

Beyond that, Neagan has proven that he has zero respect for human life.

Just shoot him.

There must be thirty to fifty of the survivors with Rick, and they’re all armed. They all have a reason to kill Neagan, but they all hold their fire.

Just shoot him.

Rick engages in a dialog; whereby , he offers to allow Neagan’s lieutenants the chance to surrender. They’ve all proven themselves to be dangerous and one of them I would like to shoot myself.

Of course they don’t surrender.

Neagan makes a small penis comment to Rick.

Just shoot him.

I’m here to tell you that if I were in Rick’s position, you could give me an ordinary deer rifle and Neagan would be no more.  A deer rifle holds between three and five rounds depending upon calibre. I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty reliable out to about 400 yards. Admittedly, this would take some quality time, but Rick was fifty feet away.

But Rick didn’t have a deer rifle, he had a sub-machine gun. I promise you, that with a slow, bolt-action, deer rifle, Neagan and at least two lieutenants would have never made it off the platform. But Rick had a sub-machine gun.

For plot reasons, I know Neagan can’t die yet. In that case, I think the whole confrontation should not have made it into the show. Here is why.

Rick gives the lieutenants time to surrender, and starts a countdown. Props to Rick for opening fire at seven instead of zero. It was a great character moment. Except for the fact that Rick missed. At fifty feet, with a sub machine gun, Rick missed. Not only that, but all of the muscle Rick brought with him missed too.

Rick with a sub-machine gun, plus around thirty friends opened fire, and all the bad guys walked away without a scratch.

Meanwhile; Daryl was cruising around on a moving motorcycle shooting explosives with a snub-nosed revolver and never missed a shot. I’ve fired a lot of handguns, and this isn’t realistic either. Neither is setting off explosives by shooting them.

Come on! I could have done more damage by throwing a rock. A little bit of reality really helps sell the rest of the story. Send your writers out to actually fire a weapon. Make them fire an SMG at some water barrels or something. At least cripple some people. Thirty survivors firing a single round each at a platform that’s about twelve feet wide are going to hit something. Note: the survivors fired many more than one round each. Oh, and Rick had an SMG.

There was a great character moment where Rick had the drop on Neagan later, and he decided it wasn’t all about Rick. Of course, I had no faith that Rick could actually hit the SOB anyway if given a second chance.

How do you guys feel about this kind of thing? Do I worry too much about this kind of thing? Rick would have shot the SOB. The Rick character would have shot him. He wouldn’t have missed, and neither would the other survivors.

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The Idea Mill #28

It’s been a while since we visited the old Idea Mill. I stockpile articles I found interesting until I have enough to make a new post. These are the kind of things that can fuel your next story, so I share them hoping to get your imagination working.

I wait for three, but as so often happens, I found the third and a fourth one on the same day.

Our first article involves a kind of mapping, using historical excavation, aerial photos, and more into a virtual reality map of an historical site. This time it is part of the Plain of Jars. During the Vietnam War, it was bombed heavily and is still dangerous to explore and work around. They’ve been able to determine burial rituals were part of the purpose of the jars, but not much more…yet. Read the article here.

This one interests me, because I used burial jars as an inspiration for parts of The Cock of the South. There is a lot more mileage in this story. Maybe you want to write a science based story about merging all the data into virtual reality, and learn something amazing – like discovering the debris field from the crash of an ancient spaceship. Maybe you want to write about the time of the jar builders, similar to what I did. It lends itself to a great treasure hunt story, similar to Indiana Jones. The unexploded ordinance can add some real tension to the tale too.

Moving on, we come to the decline of pollinators around the world. This could lead to famine of global proportions. Someone has built a drone that could replace, or supplement, the work of honeybees. Read the article here. At about $100 each, the price of food could rise dramatically.

There are so many possibilities here. Obviously a bit of science fiction could work. Maybe someone hacks the drones to only pollinate the crops of those who pay protection money. I can just see the super rich, drinking mead as a way to demonstrate their dominance over the rest of us.

Maybe someone weaves a few spy drones into the pollinators. Maybe you just want a bit of urban fantasy using one of the four horsemen. Why should Death and his pale horse be the only one to get page time?

This next one won’t fuel a complete story, in my mind. It does add some neat elements to weave into something larger. It seems Toyota is working on an interactive window. This window has zoom features, and you can draw on it. It appears to have some educational value, like teaching kids to name certain things that pass by. Here is the video I saw:

I immediately saw some kind of urban sniper team using this. The guy in back zooms the window and it calls out distances so the guy in front can take the shot. It wouldn’t be hard for a military squad to draw on the glass to illustrate entry points for a coordinated attack of some kind either. It would be pretty easy to take it further and make it do more things. Add some spy quality infrared and look inside buildings, etc.

Finally, we have the last “wild” Indian. It seems a nameless man wandered into town in 1911, after living his entire life in the wilderness. They named him Ishi, and gave him some kind of consultant’s job. He taught some folks at a university about the ways of his people, and they documented them for posterity. Here’s the article.

There have been any number of stories about someone being raised by wolves, or being the last of their kind. This gives some amount of credibility to those stories. Some fiction could take it as a tragedy, or as an uplifting kind of story. Maybe Ishi learns our ways and advances some huge project in a way that modern minds never thought of. Maybe he delivers some herbal cure for one of our dreaded diseases.

I try to make up some kind of corny story using all the elements to keep these fun. Here goes nothing:

The mapping project for an ancient site reveals it to be the debris field for an ancient alien crash site. More information lies deeper in the jungle, but that location is full of unexploded ordinance, and is off limits to everyone.

Our hero sneaks a couple of spy drones into the swarm of pollinators working nearby, and after the drones start working he directs them away to scope out the site. He uses his special glass window to calculate coordinates of the likely places for deeper understanding, and possibly some undiscovered alien science.

The wealthy computer industry controls the area, by controlling the farmers. They will have no problem convincing the farmers to shoot trespassers on sight.

Only the last surviving native of a virtually extinct race can lead our hero into the crash site and reveal something wonderful to the world. Maybe its a cure for colony collapse disorder the aliens kept in their records. That gives the wealthy computer guys a reason to keep people away.

How about it you guys? Does one of these articles fit with your current project? Would you include something like this in a story? What might one of these articles inspire you to write?

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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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