Kage Baker often used random Web surfing to ease her passage into productive writing.
Not to solve writer’s block. She seldom had that for more than an hour or so, and a ruthless hour weeding and pruning in her garden usually got her over it. The surfing was to fill idle time, or at least to fill the idle time she was insisting on taking. It was doodling, but because she spent the time ostensibly looking things up, Kage maintained it was work related. And she did get ideas doing it. And she shared out especially entertaining tidbits with Harry and me, for the general edification of the household.
Because sometimes even Kage just did not want to begin writing. This is a weird state, one that non-writers may never have imagined: you want to be writing – especially exciting scenes and big plot points- but you don’t want to start writing. All that drudgery of finding your place, and composing actual sentences, and explaining what gets the people with whom you are presently incredibly bored from Point A to Point B … it can appear, even to the professional and disciplined writer, as the most enervatingly tedious exercise since conjugating Latin verbs.
(Amā́bam amā́bās amā́bat amābā́mus amābā́tis amā́bant. Or, as we used to chant sotto voce, “I’m a bus, you’re a bus, she’s a pair of roller skates”. This is funnier if you have ever been a 15-year-old terminally bored Catholic school girl.)
I am not the most professional or disciplined writer to be had. Further, I am still dealing with the after-effects of antibiotics, while anticipating the effects of irradiation; my right kidney has to be lit up with gamma rays for the next test, to decide what do about it. My advice: Don’t make it mad – you won’t like it when it’s mad. Personally, I already loathe the little sucker.
At this point, Web surfing is one of the few things I can do for amusement, as it mostly involves sitting still and wearing my magic writing hat. My Saturdays always include scanning an assortment of science aggregator sites – I’ve assembled a few goodies, and would like to share the best of them (ie, the ones that may produce stories) with you, Dear Readers.
For instance: did you know there is a sub-species of white bear that is neither albino nor a polar bear? It’s called the Kermode bear, and it’s a mutant variety of the black bear: a recessive gene produces the snowy pelt in about 1 in a thousand bears. But it breeds true, as you can see in this momma bear and her also white son. Look at the big brown eyes! They live in a bit of British Columbian rain forest. I found the article in Smithsonian Magazine:
A rare sort of nautilus has been located off Papua New Guinea. It was only seen once before, 30 years ago when it was discovered: and has now been seen again by its initial finder. Nautiluses are cool to begin with, and this one has an interesting “hairy” slimy shell and apparently unique male genitalia … I think this means that some Company operative has been breeding hairy nautiluses in her modified bathtub for 30 years, and has now released them into the wild to be “discovered” and conserved.
Conservation efforts, covert or public, can lead to some strange habits. It appears that there is a direct descendant of the Ice Age Woolly Rhinoceros: the Sumatran, or Hairy, Rhinoceros. Yes, they are tropical; but yes, they are also distinctly fuzzy. Also, nearly gone; so all of them are now being given a special breeding reserve in Sumatra, to see if the species can be saved. Luckily, some of their breeding eccentricities have recently been identified; like, now we know that females won’t ovulate if they’re not near a male. And if they don’t get pregnant on a regular basis, they develop all sorts of fatal “female troubles.” And since there are fewer than 100 of them left … well, getting them close together has been a problem until now. Presumably, some other Company operative has been hiding the weirdest stud farm in the world, full of nymphomaniac rhinos …
And I found another example of my private theory on the current Sixth Extinction Event, currently decimating the animals of the world: HUMANS EAT THEM ALL. Here’s an article on a guy who found a 6-armed octopus while snorkeling, and whose first and only reaction was to bash its little cephalopod brains out and eat it. http://tinyurl.com/qjsj6mp
Please note, he is not some primitive subsistence hunter, but evidently a First World type of guy.
Well, there you are, Dear Readers. Each of these articles has the seed of a story, and who knows what will come of them? Something will; maybe an expose of just how difficult it can be to maintain rare breeding stock in your apartment … and just think what the Operatives working for Labienus’ Plague Club must be going through, keeping Yersinia pestis positive marmots in their garages! Those things can run up to 20 pounds.
This is why it can be so very valuable to simply go wandering off on the roads of the aether, and see what you can find.
And at the very least, it’s a great justification for my screwing around.