This post comes to you in two parts, so lets get right to it!
Part one! Inspiration Waystation
So I am frustratingly aware of the fact that I have been really bad when it comes to updating the blog for inspiration waystation. There are plenty of good reasons for this, but the main one is just called “Life”. I’ve been super extra busy of late, for good reasons. I’ve had some job interviews and been sorting out samples to write for other jobs. It’s been crazy, and so I havn’t been as involved here as I would have liked to been.
But you don’t come on here to hear my life story. You come here to get inspired, and so that’s what I’m going to do. Here are six potential points of inspiration for your stories. But please don’t feel limited by them! If you’ve found something better, please, take it away!
Link One - Anti Secrecy Activists
What’s kind of fascinating and also terrifying about Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden is that they didn’t act out of a sense of nationalism, or in aid of a specific group or ideology, they acted because they thought that a government simply shouldn’t keep secrets. We know this in part because if Manning had been interested in simply revealing the US’s military wrongs, he would have been much more selective about what he gave to Wikileaks.
This is very much a 21st Century phenomenon. In the information age, people are beginning to take issue with the concept of privacy as a whole. So what does this issue mean? Can you imagine a story about such a thing? A story that delves into the discussion of the rights and wrongs of a government keeping secrets. Is someone a hero for simply letting out information? Even if that information doesn’t compromise anything? So why is it secret? What does the government have to hide?
For another source on this, here is a blog on the subject from the Federation of American Scientists project on Governmental secrecy.
Link Two - Women in Politics. Same old, same old?
There’s an old joke about the etymology of the word “Politics” which I’m sure many of you have heard. Poli - Means many, and tics- tiny blood sucking parasites. Corruption, scandal, abuse of power and people. These are often traits associated with politicians. The question is, is this a trait about power, or is it a trait of men being in power. The article I here link to discusses the question of whether women in power in general behave less dishonourably, and maybe that in general women get into politics for different reasons.
So here’s an idea for a story. What/How/Why would things be different about a corruption scandal involving a woman? Would anything be different? Do women fail in their morality for different reasons? Or are we all subject to the same power-plays? What is it about power that makes us do these things? Look at the article, and maybe some other places, and find out.
Link Three - A trip to the Martian lakes
If you’re watching Sci-Show regularly this may be moderately old news to you. Back in March of 2013, the Curiosity rover made a string of discoveries that confirmed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mars once had liquid water on its surface. In fact, it was liquid water that was good enough to drink!
My question then is, and the question I’d love to see someone try and tackle with a story is, what would have life been like when that lake had water? What if someone travelled back in time and went to see Mars in the days when it had water? Would they see life? Were there aliens on Mars in the past? What would that life be like? And if there was life, why aren’t they there now? And why is there no remnants of their civilisation at all? Or was Mars just empty? If so, what would someone travelling in time use it for.
Here’s Hank’s video on this.
Link Four - The platform of the future
Back in 1997 BP released the following advert for their petrol stations. The idea for cars is somewhat facial, although for planes it has sometimes been a necessity, but what if we could do this with trains, except rather than refuelling, we take passengers on and off. The idea of a moving platform for high speed trains to “dock” with to take passengers on and off, so that the more powerful trains wouldn’t waste energy stopping, allowing smaller ones to take up the slack. How would this change our understanding of how transport functioned? What would chasing a criminal on such a system look like? What if we applied this internationally?
And of course, the future of trains has been very much in the news this week with the discussion of the hyperloop. Elon Musk’s idea, if employed in Britain, would make it possible for you to travel from London to Birmingham in 8 minutes! That’s quicker than it takes me to drive from my house to my university! This is an insane game changer, and what’s more it can be powered entirely by solar (according to Musk’s schematics, but some engineers remain unconvinced). How would this change culture? I’m sure you can imagine a million different ways that a technology like this could change everything about what it means to live somewhere. Suddenly the people you regularly socialise with could be from much much further afield. You could live in Exeter, and have a girlfriend/boyfriend who lives in Abderdeen who you get to see much more than every weekend. But how much would using this transport cost? Would it create a class of people who traversed the entire country in a day, and others left technologically shackled to a much slower form of travel? And what affect would this have on relationships. What would it be like to know that people who you never thought you’d see again are less than an hour away from wherever you live. You can’t seriously tell me that such an idea isn’t ripe for story potential.
Link Five - Gender imbalance writ large
I have talked about this one before, but wanted to re-emphasise it because its something that is not going away, and is something we should all think about. For a variety of reasons, all of them bad, there is wide scale infanticide/sex selective abortions going on in India, China, and many other parts of the world right now. The upshot being, there will be a lot more men in these places than there are women in a few decades. What will that mean for those societies? What will it be like for a man living there? What will it be like for a woman? Will women being in higher demand put more social pressure on men who can’t find a partner? Will the abundance of men for women give them something to be happy about, or something they deeply resent? And what about people outside the hetro norm. How will the QUILTBAG communities in these places respond to these demographic shifts? What will this all mean? Settings like this, the future, look like science fiction, but just because a story is in the future and is speculative, doesn’t mean it is SF. So don’t think “I don’t write SF, I can’t write this”. Because the S in SF isn’t always science. Sometimes people prefer the word “Speculative fiction” as in “If the world was like X, what would it be like”…
Link Six - Digital Aristotle
This is an idea penned together by CGP Gray for this video, but others are working to turn it into reality. Things like project Halo and Wolfram Alpha are steps in this direction. But what would it really be like. There is lots of research out there on the effectiveness of video in learning, and how we can use new technologies to better our education system. So what would be working/learning in such a school be like? Would it make our citizenry more educated, and thus provide us with a better future? Or would it do something to our socialisation? Would it change people if they used interactive but non-interpersonal learning systems? What would our society look like in such a world?
Part Two - Disturbingly low take up.
Here’s a problem I’ve got. We have so far had very very few submissions for this year’s contest. I’m worried that if things don’t pick up soon, there may not be able to be an anthology for this year, and that would suck a lot. If this is about the prompt, if you’re confused or don’t know where to start, or you’re worried about making a mistake, let me just say not to worry. We here at the contest understand the prompt is more complex and so we’re very open to people asking about it. We’re also going to be very lenient in terms of acceptances. You would have to go very very far outside of the prompt before you got disqualified. If you’re feeling befuddled or baffled or bamboozled about any part of the contest, please ask. It would be a monumental shame if we didn’t get an anthology this year.
Thank you all, God Bless, Best Wishes, and DFTBA