Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Oh, that eternal question that besieges writers. Why would anyone even ask unless they can’t dream up ideas with any regularity (if they’re writers) or stand in awe of such mysterious creativity (if they’re readers)? What’s mysterious to me is why anyone would sign up for something like NaNoWriMo and then post on the forums complaining that they can’t think of a good idea for a novel.

You just never know where a story idea is going to come from. In my world, they crawl out of the woodwork, pop up from drains, blow in with the wind, populate the spaces between the lines of almost every news story that I read. They’re like bedbugs in being where you’d least expect them (fine hotels are the physical world equivalent) and it’s impossible to stop them breeding.

I do not need any more story ideas. I do not want any more story ideas. But the little monsters keep coming. The latest one just sprang from a blog post by Peter Watts, one of my favorite SF writers (and thinkers). The bulk of the post (you can skip the intro about his dental implant) was about The Walking Dead, a show that I probably wouldn’t watch even if I still had a tv. But that didn’t keep me from reading.

“…those who complain about the lather-rinse-repeat cycle of Sanctuary-found-Sanctuary-Lost are completely missing the point. It’s almost as though they think The Walking Dead is a show about zombies or something.

“It’s not, of course. It never has been, any more than The Road was about asteroid impacts. The Walking Dead is about lifeboat ethics— about what people are willing to do, to sacrifice, to stay alive.”
Modern life is increasingly becoming about lifeboat ethics, and that simple idea can lead in many directions, including some very bizarre ones. Watts goes on to say, “(Here’s a new direction for you: The Bobbing Dead, the upcoming second season of the WD spin-off Fear the Walking Dead. Survivors on yachts, safe from zombie depredations until bacterial methane bloats enough walkers to let them float out to sea after the escapees. Tell me you saw that coming.)”

And there it is, another plot bunny, bedbug, story idea. No, not floaters. I’ll leave that to Watts. Lifeboat ethics and the coming great flood of climate change. We know there will come a day when tourists visit Miami via scuba diving gear, but what will happen when incoming waters chase the very rich out of their seaside gated compounds? Will they settle peaceably for having one less mansion? Maybe, but not likely. After all, the whole point of living on the Florida coast is access to sun and surf. They’re entitled to private beaches. Their bank accounts tell them so.

Their bank accounts always come in handy when dealing with local bureaucrats, and this dire situation is no different. Suddenly, inlandish neighborhoods are condemned for reasons that you have to be a lawyer to understand. Clear the bastards out, tear down their pathetic middle class shacks, and rebuild to your own specifications. Lifeboat ethics at its very best.

Thank you, Peter Watts.


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