This is a quick blog post about what happens when you get an idea that sucks. Let me tell you about a solarpunk short story I came up with, and how it turned into the greatest story I never told. The whole ugly affair began, as these things always do, with @Scalzi in the vicinity …
Be right back, writing a solar punk short story about saving the world by capturing carbon dioxide to save Coke.
— InkICan (@InkICan) September 20, 2021
The equation for a good story works out as follows:
|Cool Technology Idea||+||Red-blooded
Story About the Future
You can’t have a scifi story without a cool technology, but where do you get the tech from? I comb through different resources (Popular Mechanics, Wired, back issues of Omni) to come up with items that get my juices flowing. What you want to do is find the interesting thing that makes your brain go ‘hey, what if …?’ Channel that interest, cultivate that spark. That’s what I was doing when I responded to @Scalzi’s tweet – I thought “hey, new story idea!” and then got to Googling.
Not every idea is a good idea. Doing deep dives into emerging technology gives you multiple perspectives. It’s up to you to filter out the probable from the possible and the impractical. You quickly learn that while The Dream of Carbon Air Capture Edges Toward Reality and the world’s biggest carbon-removal plant just opened, others criticize the idea of carbon capture to the point where some ask: Isn’t CO2 emission reduction without carbon capture somewhat pointless?
All of this brings us to the unavoidable conclusion that carbon capture, while ambitious, is unlikely to be the story of a kid figuring out a simple way to get the fizz back into his Coke Zero. To paraphrase James Cameron on why he made Spiderman’s webs biological, rather than technical, “it’s more credible to find a way to tell the story of a company inventing the best carbon capture device for a high school boy to be able to produce a wonder technology in his spare time that 3M could not make.”
Now, that might all feel incredibly disappointing but it teaches us a valuable lesson about science fiction stories that I want to pass along here:
- Some discoveries create other discoveries
- Possible doesn’t mean practical
- Everything is garbage until it isn’t
- Discovery doesn’t sound like ‘Eureka,’ it sounds like “wait, what?”
- Sometimes the work is the real story
In a nutshell, don’t get too excited if you find yourself down a rabbit hole. Every effort teaches you something, whether it’s leveraging discoveries, or learning how to do things more efficiently the next time. ‘Goofing off’ is often the first step toward the most important work of all.
So dear reader, that’s the story of the greatest solarpunk story I never told. My hope is that the next time we talk, it’s about the cool new story I discovered using this method. Or maybe you’ll tell me about what this method helped you discover, who knows? 🙂
PS – I finished Chapter Two of Cinderellavator – the novel is taking shape!