Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nimrod stories in many genres

Genesis 10:8-10 mentions a "Nimrod" as a founder of cities in Shinar (Sumeria) and Assyria, who is also called a "Mighty Hunter Before the Lord."  Yesterday, reading a classical historical work on the history of "Chaldea" by George Rawlinson, a set of story ideas about Nimrod crossed my mind.

Rawlinson mentioned he believed the early Mesopotamians had worshipped Nimrod after his death and that as a god, his worship supplanted that of the original creator god, called Il in Akkadian, which is like the El or Elohim of Hebrew, the God of the Bible.  I thought, "What if Nimrod, a heroic figure no doubt, had set himself up to be worshipped during his lifetime, like the Roman emperors?"  So perhaps some of his friends and companions also became worshipped as gods, creating the first truly polytheistic system.  I'm of course taking the Biblical point of view that all humans once knew the one creator God--so polytheism would have to be a later invention--something this story would explain the origin of from a semi-Biblical viewpoint.

Such a story handled in the simplest and most straightforward way would be historical fiction.  Nimrod would be portrayed as a genius conqueror and civilizer, a sort of Napoleon + Ghengis Khan + Julius Caesar, who carries sinister megalomaniac tendencies that manifest them in outright wicked self-worship in the end.  Perhaps a coalition of ancient good guys defeat Nimrod in Shinar, causing him to flee north to begin his work all over again in Assyria.

Since, though, Nimrod defies the one true God in the story, a view of the spiritual world could be brought into the tale, which would make a form of supernatural speculative fiction, angels and demons manifesting themselves in the tale as heaven and hell join in the ancient struggle.

Playing up some of the supernatural aspects to the point where Nimrod or his associates master the use of magic and create magical weapons and whatnot, would make the story a form of fantasy.


Having Nimrod direct the building of the Tower of Babel for the purpose of contacting ancient aliens of some sort would be off-track of what I'd want to write, but would definitely pull the story into the realm of science fiction, especially if the aliens are portrayed in some way (please bear in mind aliens can be portrayed even in a work from a deliberately Biblical viewpoint, but the aliens must somehow be shown to be creations of God).

Lastly, this story could be written up from the point of Biblical history.  What scant Biblical evidence of Nimrod that exists could be discussed, parallels drawn between him and other human rulers diametrically opposed to God, such as Antiochus Epiphanes, the pharaoh of Exodus, Titus (who destroyed Jerusalem), and the coming Antichrist, among others.  Or perhaps it would be better to write about the historical series of antichrists, making Nimrod a "probable" first one.

So if I only had an extra ten years or so on my hands, I could write all of them...

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

E does not equal MC2? Neutrino story technology.

As reported in this MSNBC science link, scientists in at CERN in Geneva have conducted an experiment that appears to have sent neutrinos faster than the speed of light.  "Appears to" isn't quite right.  They repeated this experiment something like 1500 times and got the same result every time.  They know the neutrinos went faster than light.

But to be absolutely certain of accuracy, they want confirmation from other scientists, of course.  If it should be that other scientists confirm this discovery, this could lead to a revolution in physics, because ever since Einstein the speed of light has been understood to be the fastest any particle of matter could ever go.  What the new laws of physics turn out to be that would account for the experiment results, no human being knows right now.

This situation could become a big deal for science fiction.  The speed of light as the absolute limit that matter can travel is a major restriction in stories that try to match known science.  Traveling to other stars is hard  (in my previous post on Nanite space weapons I discuss a couple of the problems), which is why sci fi writers use imaginary technologies like "warp drive."

But if the speed of light is just a guideline as opposed to a rule, it opens up a lot of possibilities.  Keep in mind that in the CERN experiment, the speed-violators were in every case neutrinos, particles that interact very little with most matter and which may weigh nothing.  This leads to a number of story tech possibilities.

Shipboard communications could be by faster-than-light neutrinos.  This would make a neutrino detector a very important piece of shipboard equipment.  Transporters (as in Star Trek) could convert a human being into a neutrino beam and send them to other worlds faster than any starship could go.  Neutrinos, since they interact with matter so little, could travel the whole distance in basically the same shape as when they left.

If neutrinos actually have a tiny amount of mass, perhaps massive quantities of neutrinos hurled backwards at faster than light could be used to propel a ship of normal matter more efficiently up to near-light speed than any propulsion system currently imagined by the human mind.  And the ultimate cool sci fi trick would be if you could convert your whole ship and all its crew into a faster-than-light neutrino version that could be converted back to normal matter at the push of a button upon arrival at your new interstellar destination.

Of course, all this is assuming that neutrinos can go a whole lot faster than light.  Maybe they can't.  The CERN experiment only had particles going 60 nanoseconds faster than light over 454 miles travelled.  That amounts to only 3 / 1000s of a percent faster than light speed.  Not near fast enough to form the basis of any kind of new technology, not even in theory, (By the way, the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second and I calculated the neutrinos were moving about 186,28miles per sec.  FYI.)

Such a 3 / 1000s of 1% still would be enough to rock the physics world, even if  it did nothing much for science fiction.  I for one am eagerly awaiting to see what new surprises for the scientists God has kept up His sleeve...

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Title: "The Redneck Guide to Monster Hunting"

On Monday my son Mik and I went out shooting and wound up having a conversation about killing monsters.  I have to admit that when it comes to firearms instruction, I've been rather negligent with my kids.  We've only shot guns a few times and I also trained them in basic safety rules, including how to unload and clear a weapon.  This has to do with the cost of ammo being high when you're on a tight budget, not to mention the time required to get out to a range.

But Mik is enlisting in the Marine Corps (Mik is short for "Mikhail," by the way) and so I thought it would be a good thing to prepare him for what's to come by imparting to him what relatively little shooting skill I possess.  We shot for several hours and Mik did well with the .22 rifle, putting so many rounds in one spot just off the center of the target that it looked almost like it had been hit once by a .50 caliber bullet.

I remarked, "That's good enough for zombie killing" (zombies have been on my mind of late).  So we jokingly discussed me writing a book called, "The .22 Rifle Guide to Zombie Killing," with specific advice on where to shoot the zombies and how.  This morphed into the ".22 Guide to Monster Killing" and then finally "The Redneck Guide to Monster Hunting."

As a tongue-in-cheek guide, I think such a book has the potential to sell BIG.  Horror fans, sci fi and fantasy fans, and of course, rednecks, could potentially be drawn to this like vampire bats to a pint of O positive in a bear trap (oh, that should be, "like bees to honey").

The devil is in the details, naturally, and each and every means of "redneck monster killin'" would have to be ingeniously ridiculous.  A good illustrator would also be a big help with this sort of book.

You'd be looking for entries something like this:
 
Werewolf Grenade Noodlin'
Step 1:  Put a grenade in yer hand.  Pull pin.
Step 2:  Shovyer hand in werewolf mawth.
Step 3:  Countta 5.  Bye bye werewolf.

Warnin':  THIS'LL ONLY WORK TWICE!


It'd be fun to write anyway.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Jesus: "The guy who killed the dragon who killed Cinderella."--Confusion and Creativity

As I child of about 5, I'd been asked the question by a Sunday School teacher, "Who is Jesus?"  My five-year old answer? "He's the guy...who killed the dragon who killed Cinderella."  When asked who the Devil was, I answered, "Oh he's a cowboy!"

These highly unorthodox answers wound up being something that adults in my life, especially my mother, mentioned for years to follow.  If you were put it in a box, it would go under the label "Crazy Things Travis did (or said) When Little."  These were stories my mother enjoyed repeating well into my teenage years (the box was far from empty), and without such repetitions I perhaps would have forgotten the entire incident.

I do have a fragment of my own memory of my answers...I remember feeling a bit of goofy pride in myself when adults around me laughed and repeated the story.  But years later, I found myself wondering, "What in the world had I been thinking?"

The Devil answer is stranger than it may first appear, because of my personal backstory:  After I had been born in Deer Lodge, Montana, while I was still a baby, my parents had moved to Olney, MT, several hundred miles north.  About 30 miles or so from the Canadian border, my parents had settled on 60 acres of mostly-forested land.  Some of the land my father cleared and he grew hay on it.  The hay he used to feed our cows and horses through the winter, other land was summer pasture; we also had chickens and rabbits and an enormous vegetable garden--basically a sort of "Perry Little House on the Prairie."  My parents divorced when I was 9 and after that I lived in town with my mom (first in Whitefish and then Bozeman, MT) until I graduated from high school, during which time lost my connection with the life of our small farm.  But my father had grown up working as a ranch hand and always  wore a cowboy hat and boots and still does.  As a matter of fact, so did I as a little kid and I thought of both my father and myself as being, well, "cowboys."

So what had I been saying then?  That the Devil was one of us?  Or maybe that my father was the devil?  The latter explanation may be tempting, given that my father was known to over-indulge in alcohol on a regular basis, but I think the actual answer is far more simple:  There was a Western song (as in Country and Western) called "Ghost Riders in the Sky," which portrayed the devil as having a herd of cattle in the sky and tormented ghost riders forced to herd them.  I think I had heard the song and because of that it seemed reasonable to say, "The Devil is a cowboy."

Mind you, when Mr. and Mrs. Munter drove north 30 plus miles from Kalispell to Olney every Sunday, volunteering to start a Sunday School and a church service, there wasn't a church of any kind in that town.  My parents had some religious knowledge but like typical Montanans, didn't talk about it much.  So I hadn't been educated in any of the proper "churchy" answers to religious questions.  So I'm not even sure I knew the Devil was supposed to be one of the bad guys...but I think I did remember the song.

On the other hand, I'm sure I did  have a sense that Jesus was a good guy.  Which is why I identified him with a dragon-slayer.  I'd like to claim this idea as entirely original, but I think I know where it came from:

Not in Cinderella, but in the Disney film Sleeping Beauty, the witch queen, after casting a death-like sleep over the young princess, transforms herself into a dragon, which is fought and slain by the dashing young prince (with some fairy assistance).  I think I had probably seen the film before I gave my answer, thought of that dragon-slaying hero as the most awesome guy ever, and when asked who Jesus was, I decided that He must be that same man.

So my confusion of the details of the movie, mixing up who the heroine actually was, confusing sleep for death, confusing who was the referenced hero, all wound up creating a kind of original story in which Cinderella most definitely does NOT live "happily ever after."  And my confusion of the details of a song made the Lord of Evil of the same basic type as my own father...though he would wear a black hat, naturally...;)

This leads me to conclude that confusion, an enemy of accuracy, is a friend of creativity.  Many stories--most, even--qualify as other stories retold, with certain elements mixed up.  If as a story teller, you're stumped at coming up with something new, take a look at stories that have already been told.  Tell them again, with the elements confused.  You might find yourself producing something that strikes people as altogether new.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Zombie Farmers and more (Zombie Ecology cnt'd)

Last weekend I had a discussion on my Zombie Ecology post with Aaron Dickey, longtime friend of my eldest son Karston and hardcore zombie film fan.  So we're going to indulge in some more zombie story idea-play.

From my previous post, it so happens that one of the ideas I thought was original was not.  Zombie animals have been done before, though they became so from eating infected humans and/or general splatter rather than the way I proposed it.  But my question, "What do zombies eat? (when not eating humans)" was one Aaron hadn't encountered before.  So let's continue with that for a bit.

What zombies eat depends on the type of zombie we are imagining:  1.  Supernatural black-magic zombies:  These don't need to eat anything, but they don't spread any zombie "disease" either, so their numbers don't automatically grow--so not even in often-inconsistent fiction will these guys be likely to take over the world.  2.  Infectious dumb zombies:  These zombies need to eat when not gnawing on the flesh of human survivors, but they don't have the brains to find food for themselves very well.  Their infectious nature means they have the potential to take over planet Earth, but their inability to feed themselves means they will probably die out some time afterward.  3.  Infectious smart zombies:  Aaron informed me scenarios exist where zombies are clever.  While this is not the most popular interpretation of this monster, it does exist.  So with this type of "zombieism," the creatures being infections, they could take over the world and would have the smarts to sustain themselves afterwards.  Under their attack planet Earth would become and remain, "Planet of the Zombies" (assuming no pesky interference by heroic survivor types...).

So these smart zombies, once they mop up what's left to be eaten of ordinary humans, naturally are going to turn to farming to provide for themselves.  Smart zombies are still mean and aggressive, so I don't see any of them becoming vegans or eating tofu.  They'd probably prefer raising animals like sheep or cattle...and then enjoy slaughtering the animals with their bare hands and mouths...(sorry if that's too gruesome--these are monsters, please bear in mind).

So imagine a story set in a planet of self-sustaining smart zombies.  Aaron Dickey and I talked this out and he suggested an original story idea:  What if on this all-monster world, zombies started reverting back to being human?  Certain ones started to change appearance to what we would recognize as normal, no longer wanted to eat their meat while still alive, and started loving and caring for one another?  There haven't ever been any zombie stories like that.  And that could even have a strong spiritual application, couldn't it?  How everyone thinks it's normal to be brutal, but some are starting to change into something kinder and more loving, rediscovering what "human" was always supposed to be...

I thought of an alternative, which I first suggested with a tongue-in-cheek attitude.  What if the planet is taken over by zombies (or is in the process of being taken over), but the planet has a military defense network capable of building war robots, as in the Terminator movies?  Then you could have a "Zombies vs. Terminator" scenario...

I meant that as a joke at the time, but using some sort of robotic system to fight zombies could seriously be done in a story.  Imagine, a world infested with zombies, a small band of humans desperately trying to stay alive...their only hope lies in intelligent military robots, who may or may not be on their side.  I don't see any direct spiritual application to such a story, but maybe there's something I simply haven't noticed.

Oooh, and what about an Amish setting in an all-zombie world?  Might be worth looking into, as might one of these other story ideas.  Think 'em over, anyway...

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jack of all Worlds

This morning, on what's for me a very long run (10 miles), a story idea popped into my head.  It was a highly unusual occurrence.

Not that having a story idea pop in my head is unusual--no, that can happen almost any time for me, but not so much when running.  While running, I kind of space out and focus on breathing.  On occasion I pray, as in: "Please, please, God let me survive the next mile!"

Ahem.  Anyway, the idea is based on the way I've heard some handymen-type-guys describe themselves: "I'm a jack of all trades, the master of none."

Once this phrase popped into my head, I thought to myself, Wouldn't it be cool if there were a multi-world universe, like The Crystal Portal, with a main character who felt fairly comfortable in all of the worlds, but not truly at home in any one of them?  His name could be "Jack" and the books could be entitled, "Jack of all Worlds, Book 1, Book 2, etc."  That might make a good set of books!


Of course, since I was running, the flow of thought was more like:  Wouldn't it be cool...if there were...(pant pant)...a multi-world...(pant pant)...universe...(pant pant).  But I think you get the idea...

As for the story idea, like all the ideas I put in this blog, it's up for grabs.  If anyone wants to make a "Jack of all Worlds" book series, be my guest.  Assuming of course, someone else hasn't already done so...

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The serious business of Science Fiction and Fantasy

I've got friends that don't quite get science fiction and fantasy and don't really understand why I write it.  I recently deployed to Afghanistan and wrote some emails about my experiences there, emails I forwarded on to friends and family, who as a general group gave me positive feedback about my ability to write about the experience of being a soldier at war and who praised me for doing a good job capturing what Afghanistan is like (and Iraq, when I wrote about it in 2008).  A few of these friends suggested that if I want to write fiction, I should be writing military thriller genre, something like what Tom Clancy does.

Truth is I could and maybe will someday.  I'm interested in military stuff and certain non-fiction, too, but writing about unreal worlds in general interests me more--and I think there's a positive reason why this is so, beyond the fact that I enjoy exercising my imagination.  You see, writing science fiction and fantasy is serious business.

This statement may very much surprise friends of mine obsessed with politics or convinced this world is about to end soon...to them, I imagine, speculative fiction (a term which embraces both sci-fi and fantasy) is sheer escapism from the world around us and spending time on it is acting like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.  I do want to acknowledge they have a point.  Speculative lit seems to be nothing but escapism for some people.  And there are times when it is absolutely essential to pay attention to the moment you are in and not wander off mentally to realms of what is not.

But I believe worlds of speculation, of the unreal, serve a very important function for most people, whether they realize it or not.  They remind people this world we are in is not the only possible world; what was the world once is not just the stuff of known history, but also lies in the sphere of the unknown and legendary...and such legends have the power to live in human imagination right now.  And even what we see all around us will change over time into something else someday, a world of advanced technology perhaps, or perhaps a collapse into decay and death.  Science fiction and fantasy explore these other realities of what could have been or what will be.

THIS WORLD IS NOT ALL THERE IS shouts speculative fiction, pointing out a void in our human lives.  It's often true that speculative fiction, an expression of corrupt humanity, tries to fill that void with corrupt thoughts.  That void truly longs for God, the creator whose imagination far exceeds mine, Who has the power to create new worlds at a whim (I am not stating He has created them, simply that He has that power) and Who will bring to an end all of the things we know now and establish His own rule.

Christians may feel we know our future eternity very well:  pearly gates, throne of God, singing praises, etc.  But remember 1Corinthinans 2:9:  "...Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."  The actual truth is that what we know is only the tip of the iceberg.

As a point of fact, the full reality of what world awaits us is mostly unknown.  As is also how long it will be between this world and the next and what will happen in this world in the meantime.

I write what I do not only to exercise the faculty of imagination God gave me in a positive way, but to reinforce the truth that this world is neither all there is, nor all there is to be--and to spin visions of the unreal that specifically point fingers back toward the creator God, the author of all things.  As much as I may engage in flights of whimsy at times, all of my writing science fiction and fantasy has a bedrock foundation in this definite serious purpose.

I hope very much that makes sense...

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

What do the monsters under the bed have nightmares about?

A Facebook friend, Kyla Fournier, placed as her status the observation that "Even the monsters under the bed have nightmares."  The comment lit a spark of imagination in my mind.

Another of Kyla's friends commented that the monsters have nightmares about the people on top of the bed, which would be ironic.  Of course, when we imagine creatures actually dwelling below the bed frame, we enter the world of the surreal.  But even a surreal story should have a certain internal consistency, IMHO.

A monster afraid of the person on top of the bed is consistent in a way.  After all, if it's a monster, a powerful brute of some kind, in theory it should be able to come out any time it likes.  But no, it goes under the bed and stays there--perhaps because of a terror of those who dwell on the mattress up above...

But a creature dwelling under the bed terrified of us rather ceases to be a monster, doesn't it? After all, the creatures of Monsters Inc feared contamination by children and that fear made them mostly cute and lovable.  And the childhood fear of the unknown darkness dwelling right underneath where I'm sleeping certainly is downplayed by thinking the monsters are not actually, well, er, monstrous.  So let's move past "the monsters fear us" theory.

Another kind of irony would be to think that just as much as we instinctively fear what we imagine dwells in the narrow dark space below us,  the monsters fear the light of the open world above.  Which is why it's absolutely essential that a child have a nightlight...because without it, the creatures really will come out from underneath the bed...

So maybe these creatures have nightmares about light.  Or being in the open, away from the bed, a kind of monster agoraphobia.

But if we're to play on the irony of the monster being like us, only different, then it's significant to note that while I was terrified of darkness as a child, I never had nightmares about darkness itself.  Instead, my bad dreams were about creatures dwelling in the darkness, creatures that do not just passively inhabit the realm of the things I cannot see, but which will actively come after ME, given half the chance.

So doesn't it make sense to think the Beasties Below Bed (if this were a military operation, this would probably become an official designation "BBB," as in "actions to deal with the BBB threat") also fear some terrifying creature of the light that invades their world, something that comes after them where they dwell?

I have something specific in mind.  And it even makes a horrific sound, not unlike a scream.

I think the monsters under the bed have nightmares about vacuum cleaners.

Think about it.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Nanite space weapons

According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanite), the word "nanite" is just one of several words used to describe very small machines.  Research is underway to create such machines, continually making operating devices smaller and smaller.

Of course, as of now, nanites are nowhere near as small as they can be in theory.  In theory and in the realm of science fiction, a fully-functioning machine could be so small as to be tinier than the smallest bacterium.  And these tiny machines could be designed to reproduce themselves automatically, which over time would allow enough of them to form to accomplish almost any purpose.

A machine that small would be an ideal candidate for interstellar space travel.  Why?

That's because the most straightforward approach to travel to other stars is to simply go through space as fast as possible, the closer to the speed of light, the better.  Light in a vacuum moves at around 186,000 miles per second, roughly 6 trillion miles a year.  Even so the closest star system is over four years away at such a speed.  So any velocity significantly short of light speed involves waiting a long time to get anywhere.

To science fiction fans, there's nothing new in what I just said.  But by means of numerous stories featuring starships routinely cruising up to light speed, fans may have been lulled into thinking that getting a spaceship up to the speed of light is relatively easy, given the right energy source.  It actually isn't.

A realistic design to get a spacecraft up to 92% the speed of light, the theoretical Project Valkyrie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Valkyrie), would involve a craft weighing only 100 tons, far smaller than the starship Enterprise.  Even so, the estimated amount of antimatter required to get this craft up to speed is another 100 tons!  So half the weight of the craft would be antimatter fuel...and antimatter happens to be the single most expensive substance humans can manufacture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimatter#Cost).  Making 100 tons of it is completely beyond even the most outlandish of human plans (science fiction writers get to skip this messy detail and simply assume we've already got a pile of it).

On the other hand, a nanite, being so small, is much easier to get up to light speed.  In fact we've got particle accelerators right now that move ions of heavy elements like gold up to speeds approaching that of light (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativistic_Heavy_Ion_Collider).

So we can imagine perhaps in the not-too distant future, someone could assemble a particle accelerator designed to hurl nanites out to the unknown reaches of interstellar space fast enough to arrive at other stars in a matter of years instead of centuries.  Once there, the nanites in theory could reproduce from elements they find wherever they land and eventually assemble themselves into a larger machine, one that could perhaps beam back pictures to us of the new worlds they're exploring.

Here's a problem with that thought--isn't it true, historically speaking, that harnessing forces to destroy is easier than wending the forces of nature to build?  It's easier use fuel and air to make a bomb than it is to make a jet engine; it's easier to split the atom to destroy Hiroshima than it is to build an atomic power plant.

If we could accelerate nanites to other worlds to build probes, it would be even easier to send them on a mission to destroy, to consume all life they encounter, to seek out compounds from living bodies to reproduce swarms of new nanites.  This idea has the potential to change a lot of science fiction.  Having trouble with the Klingons?  Simply fire some flesh-eating nanites at their home world...

Independence Day, the movie that features massive alien spaceships cruising through our atmosphere and blasting us with energy beams, would have it all wrong.  The aliens would instead land on the planet with tiny particles too small for us to detect.  These nano invaders would reproduce and reproduce, eating life on a small scale at first.  Before they were even visible to the naked eye there would be billions of them, able to continue killing if even one of them survived any attempt to destroy them with radiation or chemicals.  Our military would be useless, our medicines inadequate.  Before long, all of mankind would be enveloped in a continually self-replicating tide of tiny devouring machines...

And the interesting thing about it is--this possible nanite space attack would not only be much more deadly than alien attacks as usually portrayed in science fiction, from a strictly scientific point of view it would also be much more likely...

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Zombie ecology

Zombies were originally conceived of as being dead bodies brought to life by black magic as I understand things.

As such, zombies were immortal.  You could only really stop one by hacking it to bits, so the individual parts would no longer be able to move as a unit.  And even so, the separated bits would still be animated by a mindless desire to eat human flesh...at least in one conception of "zombie."

But more modern stories have brought new ideas of what it means to be walking dead.  The viral explanation is popular now.  Humans get twisted by a-rabies-on-steroids type infection, leaving them mindless, with infinite pain tolerance, and hungry for homo sapiens.  Any bite that does not kill will very quickly spread the disease--clearly zombie saliva is swarming with the pathogen.  The only guaranteed way to kill one of the beasts is to put a bullet in its brain.


In these latter stories, it stands to reason that the zombies would still need to eat, right?  After all, we're still taking about living organisms, just seriously twisted ones.

So what happens after the zombies eat all but the tiny handful of heroic humans still surviving?  What do they eat then?  Each other?

It would seem a likely choice for them to make.  After all, while they would always find humans much yummier, since they themselves were once human, the taste should be close, right?

But what happens once they've been gnawing on each other a while?  You see, in ecology terms, all life is supported by plants growing by the power of sunshine.  You may eat a cow, but the cow eats wild grass or corn or some such, which gains energy to grow and store food via beaming rays of sunshine.

Meat eaters eating only meat eaters would make the pool of available energy (some always gets lost in the process of digestion) grow smaller and smaller.  The number of zombies would grow less and less as a result, right?  In maybe ten years, almost all of them would be dead.

UNLESS, the zombies, under the terrible pressure of starvation, learned to eat animals, who would supply energy that would either directly or indirectly come from plants.  This is a whole different vision of a zombie, isn't it?  Mindless man-things tromping tirelessly through the forest in pursuit of a white tailed deer...mostly they would not succeed in catching natural fauna, methinks.

But they would succeed every now and then, I think, and what would that mean?  Would it not become possible that at least sometimes they would get in only a single bite before a tortured quadruped sped off in a sprint?  Which would put that infected zombie saliva into the animal, wouldn't it?

Would the animals be subject to the zombie disease?  Some infections are species specific, but others, including rabies itself, are not.  There's a story here somewhere maybe, about some animals becoming zombies and others not...heroic human survivors being chased by zombie deer but never worrying much about snakes, which are immune to the disease...

Zombie deer may not be scary, but zombie dogs sure would be.  So would zombie birds.  Or bats.  And is anyone ready to face a zombie grizzly bear?

I've really only played with a few aspects of zombie ecology.  There are no doubt more story ideas ready to mindlessly charge forward from this notion...

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What's the Big Idea?

I've heard that millions of people blog...so why would I think my voice would have anything distinctive to add to the general uproar?

I don't actually know that I do.  To tell the truth, the thing that got me thinking about blogging was the publisher of my only novel assuring me that I'm the only one of her writers who DOESN'T have any connection to a blog--strongly suggesting I should do something to change that.  It seems a blog is useful in promoting one's writings...

Believe it or not, I have no trouble going left when everyone else goes right.  In fact, you could say at times I've stubbornly preferred  going against the crowd...but I guess I've gotten wise enough over the years to see a knee-jerk reaction against all convention isn't smart.  The time I've spent in the Army may have contributed to that change of mindset on my part.  At least a bit.

But there was no way I was going to agree to start my own blog if I had nothing to say.  The obvious thing would be to write about writing, but to tell the truth, I don't like writing and am not especially good at it.  Writing is a joyless task for me, an unhappy sentence at hard labor--except for when I finish up a writing bit.  What I actually enjoy are stories, more specifically story ideas.   The writing is just what must be done to get the story out, the scaffolding supporting the idea structure I love.

I'm pretty sure I have at least one new story idea a day, which amount to far more ideas than I'll ever be able to write up.  So why not blog about my story ideas?  And maybe also talk a bit about ideas outside the realm of writing?

So what's "Travis's Big Idea"?  It's me sharing thoughts on concepts, especially story concepts, with anyone who might be interested in about reading them.  Just maybe that will prove to be at least a little unlike the general blogging uproar.

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