Apparently nobody has thought to raise the other possibility: a community of several species living together or perhaps members of a circumannular species/subspecies ring. And you know what? That really would be an outlier, because the rest of humanity is downright xenophobic. Imagine if we had ancestors who somehow managed to get along. That would take prehistoric fiction to a whole new level. What would humanity look like without the meme, "It's okay to kill people if you don't like them" ...?
I'm thinking that would get them kicked off the family tree. You, out of the gene pool! Go sit with the bonobos.
Anyhow, I'd look for markers of family ties among skeletons found close to each other, and look for cultural or technological markers across distant finds. Homo ergaster had a pretty sophisticated hand-axe but didn't seem to adapt it once invented nor share it around much. Other folks seemed to develop their own different tools. So artifacts can give important clues.
I'm also amused because in my Terramagne setting, smart tech developed along the lines of the vidwatch first, and the larger phone version came later.
This poem came out of the October 1, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from freshbakedlady and Dreamwidth user Corvi. It also fills the "Wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey: Time Travel" square in my 8-13-13 card for the Ladiesbingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.
( Read more... )
"Treppenwitz der Weltscheiße"
The climate change deniers
carried the argument
right over a cliff
like so many lemmings.
In the end,
it was the methane that did it:
melting permafrost sent trees tilting
and trapped gasses bubbling up
to overheat the atmosphere.
an ignominious, sweaty death.
As the souls were all
crowding into the afterlife,
recriminations flew back and forth
like broad-bladed arrows.
As the death-escorts watched
with thinly veiled amusement,
a respected researcher from the
Austrian Permafrost Research Initiative
backed a cringing denier against a cloud
and snarled in heated tones,
"I told you that the drunken forests
were heading for a tipping point!"
* * *
Treppenwitz is a term for "staircase wit" or a perfect retort that is thought of too late. The poem's title is a riff on "Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte" ("staircase joke of world history").
Scheiße is German for "shit." Hence "Staircase Wit of the Shit of the World." (Thanks to yamx for help with the translation.)
Permafrost releasing methane is one concern of climate change.
Drunken forests occur when permafrost melts, leaving trees without enough support, so that they lean in different directions.
This scientist working with the Austrian Permafrost Research Initiative was another inspiration for the poem.
I will add ...
* This also works for fantasy, horror, and other speculative genres. Deep sea and microlife make awesome monsters. Exotic species make good fantasy or science fiction nonhumans.
* You can start anywhere: plot, character, setting, theme, whatever catches your fancy. It's not rare for me to read a science article and think of a poem or story about it. I've had people prompt me with some in fishbowls too, which is cool. Conversely, if I need an alien species but don't have an idea already, I'm likely to look through collections of weird critters. If I'm starting with a setting, I will ask myself what kinds of animal and plant life would evolve there and why; then I often look for further inspiration. Combining two or more species is a great way to avoid making things too straightforward. In A Conflagration of Dragons, I used many different references to create the dragons, the six humanoid races, and the ecology as it relates to the draconic cycle of emergence and hibernation.
* Don't be afraid to change the laws of physics or other fundamental features. You have to be careful, because it's easy to make mistakes that would kill everything -- I've seen even talented SF writers botch that -- but if you build around a core premise then it can work. When it works, you can wind up with a world that is extremely different from everything else around. The Steamsmith (and also The Arc of Joan) features a world where scientific method still applies, but many of the answers are different, based on an alchemical framework of particle physics and biology. Bard Bloom also excels at this; check out The Wrath of Trees and A Marriage of Insects.
What I Have Written:
"The Trains Must Run on Time" -- 119 lines, $119 (The Steamsmith)
Maryam Smith helps another steamsmith find a job. Illustration by Ellen Million.
"Nothing in Our Material World" -- freebie
"Dr. Doohickey and the Problem of Locomotion" -- 152 lines, $76 (Polychrome Heroics)
A prompt about adaptive technology led to the poem "Dr. Doohickey and the Problem of Locomotion." Being a superhero isn't always about having a physical advantage, but about using your own abilities to your advantage.
Notice how many of these bullets flower into an irregular or regular broad mass. Basically you have a choice: you can use a bullet that holds its shape well and penetrates a lot, or one that deforms greatly so it will tear things up a lot but not punch through very far. It depends on whether you expect to shoot through things, such as doors, in which case you can still hit a target behind it but with a through-and-through wound that might not do as much damage -- or whether you want bullets to stay in the body where you put them, in which case you can't shoot through walls but the tumbling metal flower will shred the hell out of your target.
These are also crucial considerations if you are shooting at exotic targets such as zombies, vampires, dragons, aliens, or other beings whose physiology differs radically from those which bullets are designed to affect (humans, deer, pheasants, etc). You may need to think about things such as toxins, explosives, or other fancy stuff. But the first consideration is always whether you'll get more stopping power from penetration or spread. Usually for armored targets (encounter suit, chitin, dragonhide) you need penetration while for softer targets you need spread. Even unkillable targets may be greatly hindered by blasting apart their physical support structure; to wit, shoot out the zombie's knees or the hinge of the dragon's jaw.
Take responsibility for what you write and/or shoot. Weapons can do major damage in very short order; do it justice, because it's not a joke. Know your gun; know your ammo; understand what they do. Then you can arm your characters properly when you write, or yourself if the world really goes to hell.