Bidding for a mansion started at $1.

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A gothic mansion in Scotland went up on the auction block, and bidding started at $1. Even though the bid is now into the six figures, this seems VERY reasonable for a mansion.

It might be because I just watched “Knives Out” (highly recommended), but how cool would it be to have this kick off the start of a murder-mystery?

A young entrepreneur who’s also a digital nomad buys the house and moves in from the states. There, he meets locals who tell them tales about the previous owner’s disappearance. Then, borrowing from Poe’s A Cask of Amontillado, the new owner finds a patched up wall in the wine cellar. Behind, a skeleton.

The chase is on! This story would revolve around finding out who the murder victim was, the previous owner’s involvement, and deal with an older person in town who was involved. Of course, there would be threats to the new owner’s life while the investigation is underway. And while he becomes consumed by the case, his digital business runs into issues that he’s required to solve while taking a step back from the investigation.

There would have to be some way an aspect of their digital business is involved in the solving of the case. Maybe it’s a digital marketer who uses Facebook ads to torment the culprit into paranoia and surrender, like A Telltale Heart. Further books in the series would be similar and take place on extended vacations and from inherited lands.

A giant dust plume crosses the Atlantic.

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Dust from the Sahara crossed the ocean and landed in the southeast United States. The most massive dust storm to cross the Atlantic, it’s effects are projected as far inland as Ohio. The dust will reduce visibility, lower air quality, and hazy skies.

The benefits? With more particles in the air, sunrises and sunsets will be more colorful in the affected country.

To make this the start of a story, let’s make this storm MUCH denser, so the effects will be more than just pretty skies. What if there was enough dust to block sunlight for a prolonged period? To ratchet up the stakes, what if I made the period back when cotton was still a significant export?

An alternate history where John Wilkes Booth’s gun jammed, Abe Lincoln lived, and the former slaves and plantation owners both found themselves scrambling to make a living.

Making this story would require a sensitivity reader, to make sure any black Americans we’re given appropriate treatment. But this could be a way of providing southern black Americans the future they deserved when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

It could be a family story with a former male slave, the leader of a former slaves group. They could create their town. The primary opponent could be the Ku Klux Klan, and the leader of the black community could create their opposing force that operated under hidden identities. 

This story would be a family saga story told from different angles, from the patriarch, the mother, and various children.

Further books could take place in the universe and deal with either other areas hit by similar situations or follow the children as they grew up. There could be echoes of Pride and PrejudiceOne Hundred Years of Solitude, and even a “Mad Max” style book from a radical son’s viewpoint.

Scientists keep hibernating mice alive for a week.

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Researchers in Japan have been able to keep the mice asleep AND lower the mice’s metabolic processes for a week. After the experiment, the mice woke up alive and well.

Could humans be next? Turning this into a story about space travel would be a layup since long-distance interstellar travel would require hibernation or humans to procreate and accept they wouldn’t live to see the destination.

But, I’mI’m interested in a different kind of story. Imagine a world where hibernating was not only possible but commonplace. What would work look like?

For one, there would be an entire industry devoted to keeping people alive while they were sleeping. Security would have to be involved. I’m assuming the upper classes are the only ones who can gain access to this kind of technology and the funds to make it work, meaning anyone who stays “awake” all the time is assumed to be in a lower class. They would still sleep but could never afford to hibernate.

The hibernation wouldn’t change life expectancy; it would allow them to escape for chunks of time. They would wake up refreshed and healed. This procedure could be useful for athletes/specialists coming back from injury and extreme forms of rehab. The main character of the story could be someone who deals with both.

In the beginning, he’ ’s a star special ops team member with a drug problem, allowed to continue working because of his skills. When he does get injured, they put him under until he’s healed. He comes back without his addiction and wakes up to a world during a crisis. He has to save his nurse, and all the time has to battle the urge to take give in to his addiction.

There is plenty of inspiration for thrillers in the world, and the series would include similar tropes.

The primary opponent throughout the series could disappear into thin air, hibernating for an unknown amount of time, making the hero question whether or not to hibernate and heal a central challenge. This story would assume perfect healing upon waking, similar to Austin Powers.

Florida bars and restaurants have to close a week after reopening.

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Florida Bars and restaurants recently reopened after being closed for months; now, some have closed again because of spikes in positive COVID-19 tests.

If you spend any time on social media or watching the news, it’s not uncommon to see crowds of people pretending the pandemic is in the rearview mirror. This attitude has led to increased infection rates in parts of the state.

Spin this forward, making it the new reality, and it could provide an exciting backdrop to a story. What if bars and restaurants aren’t allowed to open back up again until a vaccine is discovered? Illegal speakeasies could pop up throughout the area.

This story idea would be prohibition-inspired. The main character would be the bootleggers who supply pop-up bars and restaurants with food and beverages. All the while, they could be hunted by both state authorities and rival gangs.

The main character could go from wanting limited involvement until forced to make money to feed his family. Throughout the story, he could transform into a kingpin of sorts, similar to Michael in “The Godfather.”

The series genre would be a crime thriller set in Florida. Different installments in the series could deal with increased threats from the state and rivals. Eventually, one of the stories could be how the son gets into the family business behind the father’s back, gets kidnapped, and the father goes to any lengths to save him.

Picture-taking satellites now fly closer to Earth.

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A company called Planet uses over 140 satellites to take daily pictures of Earth. Now, some of these are flying 50 km/31 miles closer to the Earth’s surface. This new satellite trajectory allows the company to supply customers with higher-quality images more frequently.

The satellites the company uses are the size of a toaster oven, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX is flying more units into space.

Turning this news into a story, how cool would it be to see a badass park ranger who flies around the world ending deforestation and poaching? It could easily be a series, with each book a new installment in the battle against organized groups of farmers and poachers who are breaking the law.

Each book could start with the ranger keeping an eye on the images and looking for law-breaking. While home, he has typical problems to deal with, things like dealing with his family and car troubles. He could be a professor, like Indiana Jones, and is called upon to crack down whenever issues arise.

The pictures would show areas where the forest has been cleared away, or camps of poachers set up where nobody should be. When he goes out to the remote locations, he has to camp, investigate, and apprehend the bad guys. Every book would have a twist that there is a larger force involved, one which the hero has to take steps to eliminate.

Each book could see him whittling away the power of the corporations responsible for the poaching/deforestation, but the overarching threat of the “large corporation” would always be present.

There are many other uses for this technology, but the thought of a badass Indiana Jones-style Park Ranger sounds cool. I’m sure nobody thought archeology would be cool when Indiana Jones was pitched, though, so there’s hope!

The Yellowstone supervolcano could kill up to 5 billion people.

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According to a geologist in Poland, if the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park erupted, the effects would lead to the death of up to five billion people. The eruption would cover most of North America with debris and ash a meter deep. The massive amount of particles in the air would cool the climate of the entire world.

He predicts starvation would be the cause of death outside the area covered by debris.

The United States Geological Survey doesn’t believe it would ever happen. There’s evidence that the supervolcano is becoming less powerful. Instead, their findings suggest the pressure inside Yellowstone would lead to hydrothermal explosions a few hundred meters wide.

It would be easy to create a disaster story around this news. It would be similar to the movie “2012” starring John Cusack. The story would be told from multiple viewpoints and deal with how different people and cultures deal with the unfolding events around the world.

The first book would have to include the view from a prominent geologist who discovers the supervolcano is about to blow. It could be a prologue that ends with the eruption, after which a scientist doing anthropological research on a remote jungle tribe confronts the challenge of leading their family to safety. The end of the first book could be when they finally settle down in a stable location, but with known threats on the horizon, the focus of book two.

Book two would cover the time it took to defeat the local threat, with hints that there is a more significant effort to bring together the remaining civilization in the area least affected by the debris.

Book three would cover how the new society deals with the acceptance of foreigners and figures out how to feed and clothe everyone.

There could be multiple spin-offs of this disaster novel, with different characters viewpoints shown from various parts of the world. There could be a lot of “research” travel that goes into these novels, which could be an excellent reason to spend some time abroad.

Scientists have found the gene responsible for causing eyeballs to wither.

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Scientists from the University of Maryland are studying what makes the Mexican Cavefish exist both with and without eyes. Whether they have eyes or not depends on their environment. Cavefish, having grown up in darkness, end up with withered eyes covered by skin and connective tissue.

They’ve narrowed it down to the single gene responsible, and have found this same gene is also present in humans. Humans who have mutations in the responsible gene suffer from a condition called homocystinuria, which causes defective vision and can be potentially fatal. The scientists hope their research could provide a cure in the future.

Put succinctly, the same species of fish can have a mutated gene depending on where it grew up.

What if humans were the same way? In a dystopian future, where humans live in bunkers, what if their eyes failed to develop. If they had the mutation in this gene, what would be the result of their skin and connective tissue growing over their eyes?

Part of the world could be navigating what would attract potential reproductive partners. Does the opposite sex want the eyes, or would they prefer blind humans because of the over-development of other senses?

The story itself could be almost like a Pitch Black/Chronicles of Riddick, blind but possessing superior strength and fighting ability. The exploits of the main character could be against other cave-dwelling societies or surface-dwellers.

Now that I think about it, he should be an outcast because his eye sockets have grown over with skin. But his abilities make the world a better place for young people who have the same condition. Multiple book series, dystopian/genetic engineering, action thriller.

Coronavirus hits men harder.

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Researchers around the world are finding that men are being sickened by COVID-19 at a higher rate than women. Reports out of Italy showed that 82% of ICU patients were men between February and March. These levels are more than just chance, and this article tries to unravel the reasons why. (Hint: male sex hormones)

Also in the headlines, numerous protests around the world in response to the murder of George Floyd.

What if the virus was so much more deadly for men that they literally couldn’t leave their house? What if women had to be the ones to protest and attempt to bring about social change?

Of course, some young men would go out regardless of the risk. BUT in general, these protests would be composed mainly of women.

A story based on the concept of women being responsible for societal change would trace its roots back to the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata by Aristophanes. In it, the women on both sides of the Peloponnesian War agreed to withhold sex from the men until they decided to negotiate peace.

A direct retelling would be a sexist view, but there could be a withholding of higher quality services to convince men who are stuck at home to come to the negotiating table. For example, basic food would be provided with no high-quality meals or favorite treats for male members of Congress who refuse to create new laws and policies around the systemic racism.

The moment the peace is brokered would be the end. The bulk of the story would discuss how police deal with the women protestors. They would have to take extraordinary precautions since the police are mainly men.

This story idea would be a comedy about how women deal with the protests, and the cops’ reluctance to resort to violence against women. If written, this would be a standalone book or short story, a modern retelling of Lysistrata.

Louisiana could be underwater in fifty years.

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A study out of Tulane found that the current rate of rising sea levels could lead to submerged coastal wetlands in Louisiana. New Orleans would be partially affected by the rising water but, more importantly, they would be exposed to more frequent and intense storms.

This would be a FANTASTIC world for a story to occupy. First off, for all the ASOIAF (A Song of Ice and Fire) fans, this could be a version of Greywater Watch’s story. The castle is said to be moving, implied to mean it’s on an island, floating on the water.

Howland Reed’s name could be changed to something like Howard Red, and his children Jojen and Meera could become Joe and Melanie. But the worthwhile thing about the family is their loyalty to the king in the North. A drug king.

The first book of the trilogy could be when the waters first begin to rise. It focuses on the family as they navigate where they will live, what they will eat, etc. The bottom of the hierarchy of needs. They sell drugs to the locals around them.

The waters are continuing to rise in the second book. This one kicks off when the northern drug king sends some muscle to enforce rules. The two children go off with the king’s messenger and help the son deliver an essential package. Similar to Parable of the Sower.

In the third book, the children return to find the house deserted. The water is at its full depth. They must find him and bring him home, to rule in his “castle” once more.

Flavors can be created without food.

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Researchers in Japan have created a synthesizer that creates different flavors on the tongue using gels. These 5 gels are made from agar gum, each one responsible for creating one of the five flavors humans experience: sweet, acidic, salty, bitter, and umami. By creating a closed circuit with the tongue, different combinations of flavors can be created.

From the article: “In testing, the Norimaki Synthesizer has allowed users to experience the flavor of everything from gummy candy to sushi without having to place a single item of food in their mouths.”

What if a world existed where this was used as a popular weight-loss tool. The tongue could be tricked to experience whatever flavors the user wanted while eating low-calorie food. Maybe something out of seaweed.

This story would be a dystopian future similar to the one in Brave New World. The main character knows something isn’t right in the world, but everyone he knows is content to eat their low-calorie meals that the body is tricked into thinking taste good. He tries to go out into the countryside and bring back foods rumored to taste good, mushrooms and various vegetables. The end could be when he decides to slaughter an animal. When he can’t live with the guilt, he turns himself over to the authorities.

Come to find out, the upper echelons of society still consume meat, and there’s a demand for someone with his curiosity about cooking. The end could be a showdown where he has to decide to kill them all or join them, and in the end, he joins them at the dinner table.

This could also explain a Soylent-type drink, or how humans all consume mush in The Matrix. Remember the microwave-chicken in “The Fifth Element?”

This could also play a role in space travel, keeping travelers from the psychological stress of eating the same thing every day. They simply have to choose from the list before they eat whichever meal they desire. There could be stand-in substances for various textures, so it wouldn’t be too jarring.