I’ve had people ask me from whence come my stories. … Okay, my dad asked me that once. Still, he was quite insistent: “Where on Earth do you get the ideas you need to write an entire book?” That’s actually a good question.
I previously wrote about the Event Wheel, which is a device that allows you to map out an event and find out what secondary, tertiary, and even quaternary events happen as a result. It is indeed a very powerful tool, and you can read about it if you like. However, most of the time, I’m just playing “what if” games, which is not very different that one-person brainstorming. Take for instance today. I was on about mile 0.5 of my 2-mile walk, when a question hit me:
Once humans master the human brainwave interface, which will allow for direct electrical interactions between computers and the human brain, will it not be long before we develop the ability to fully download what makes us human – personalities, memories, learned responses, etc. – into an artificial life? When that happens, what happens next?
These random thoughts are usually followed by a stream of follow-on thoughts:
- If an entire human “being” is downloaded into an android, what happens to the “soul?”
- Do the belief in the soul inhibit people’s acceptance that the droid is still the same “person” as before? Do religious people see these beings as “godless” starting a heated religious conflict?
- Do religions like Buddhism become more popular or do people simply stop believing all together?
- Would the downloaded droid (Indefs, as in Indefinite life expectancy) consider itself the person as before, or a newer (better) entity?
- Would the Indefs consider themselves godly beings?
- Other than the infirmed, who would do this first?
- How quickly would governments step in? Surely there would be moralistic-based limits (as on cloning) to prevent this.
- If not (or prevalent illegal trade) how does government limit the numbers eligible to do this? How do you stop the species’ evolution from stopping – only transfers after fertile years?
- Would countries forcibly switch over their populations to save on food costs and create stronger armies? How do you prevent /combat that?
- How would bio-based humans fight back against the appeal of this? Would this really open the door to DNA enhancement? Superman vs. Machine?
- Would they be allied, mutually accepted, at war?
- What about sex? Surely the Indefs would still be sexual beings. Would the culture be different – more logic-based or freer?
- Does this create a class conflict? Rich people get downloaded but poor people just die?
- Do the poor get downloaded with government subsidies, but in a lower class of bot?
- Do unethical groups/governments trick the poor and only download their abilities to work – essentially creating new slaves?
- How quickly would the Indefs push to leave Earth? Why would they stay? Could they be put in stasis indefinitely for interstellar flight?
These are just the thoughts I came up with on my 30-minute walk, and while I was typing, but I think you see the point. The power of the process is to allow one question or “what if” generate the next, and let it take you as far afield as it does. Looking at the above, I see a number of possible storylines, every thing from political dramas, to dystopian oppression, or even space opera.
The next step, however, is to me the fun step. What happens when you insert a character into the above?
It’s 2187. Let’s call our character Carmen, a 30-year-old ex-Marine, who is on a whirlwind tour after publishing her 1st novel based on her experiences in the North Asia Indef Revolt. Those Godless Bots took over their local government after a long terror campaign, supposedly “fighting for basic human rights.” Like they’re human. Ha. Then, suppose she is struck while crossing the street, leaving her paralyzed from the lips down. Wow.
So, stop and think about that for a second.
There are a lot of ways to go from there, huh? She can become a “godless” Indef, and begin to see their cause. She can infiltrate them and find their goal to be far less noble than we thought. We can stay away from the “Avatar” line completely, and have her recover some function, but end up being the first genuine mixture between fully an Indef and a bio-based human. Maybe she avoids the damn war and heads out to space with a crew of beings who are sick of war (or want to kick ass in the rest of the solar system.)
Or, we can keep the character, and use some of the questions above to create new story ideas. Anyway, that’s how a five-second thought blossoms into the start of a short story or novel idea.
So here’s my question to you – where would you take the ideas above? Who would your main character be?