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KitLily
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24 Nov 2022, 10:21 am

Hopefully someone will be able to help me.

I like to write stories and some are science fiction.

So I'm writing about an organic, living ship, such as the Vorlon ships in Babylon 5, what sort of jobs would the crew have to do onboard? It wouldn't be normal jobs as on a non-organic, machine based ship such as computer and engine maintenance would it.

I suppose most jobs on a living ship would be cleaning and caring for the ship, as you would with an animal.

Can anyone give me any ideas about jobs for the crew of a living, organic ship?


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24 Nov 2022, 10:50 am

I would google whales and hippopotamus and rhinoceros. See what kind of illnesses they have and what kind of animals live in symbiotic relationship. You can also look at other works that fit into the "biopunk" genre.

Wikipedia - Biopunk
Wikipedia - Symbiosis
Wikipedia - Cleaning symbiosis
goodreads.com - genres - biopunk


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KitLily
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24 Nov 2022, 11:16 am

That is really helpful, thanks!

My story is more about people's relationships, but I have to add something about the ship in there or it'll have no atmosphere.


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24 Nov 2022, 11:33 am

Also checkout the tv series “Farscape”. There are living ships in that. Series is on Amazon Prime if you can get that.

An excellent idea (for me) would be to have some sort of tension between the ship and crew. Maya… the Farscape ship… actually has a baby ship in one series, that causes some trouble.


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KitLily
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24 Nov 2022, 11:57 am

Thanks! I've heard of Farscape.

There is more tension among the human/alien crew in my story. But they have to work together to save the ship...


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24 Nov 2022, 2:01 pm

All good stories are built on tension.


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24 Nov 2022, 2:30 pm

I really like this idea! If the ship has any mechanical components, the crew would probably have to do a lot of work maintaining the places where they connect to the living ship. Even if that isn't the case, the ship is unlikely to be a naturally-occuring creature. The crew may be helping it with various bodily functions it can't manage on its own. Feeding it, for a start!


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KitLily
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25 Nov 2022, 11:15 am

Thanks for all your help! I've added lots of bits to my story now. Also how the ship communicates with her crew.


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25 Nov 2022, 7:16 pm

Here is some relevant copy-pasta from about 10 years ago:

Quote:
10 Tips for Generating Killer Science Fiction Story Ideas
Charlie Jane Anders
http://io9.gizmodo.com/5950104/10-ways- ... tory-ideas
10/09/12 1:15pm

Science fiction is the literature of big ideas -- so coming up with an amazing story idea often feels like the biggest stumbling block in the way of your dreams of authorship. Unfortunately, most of us can't just have Robert A. Heinlein mail us $100 and a couple dozen brilliant ideas. So what do you do?

The trick is not just to come up with a great idea, but a great idea that lives in your mind and leads to characters and situations that inspire you. So here are 10 pretty decent ways to generate your own amazing story ideas.

And it really is true that ideas are dime a dozen in science fiction. Take the idea of "first contact with an alien race". There are a million possible variations of that idea alone: They come to us. We go to them. They're super-advanced. They're not using anything we'd recognize as technology. They communicate using only colors. They think emoticons are our language, and all the other stuff is just punctuation. They're giant. They're tiny. They're invading. They're well-intentioned, but troublesome. And so on.

The hard part is finding an idea that sticks in your head and starts to grow weird angles and curves. In a sense, it's not about finding a good idea -- so much as finding a good idea for you, personally. So here are some tips, that may or may not be helpful:

1) Look at the Big Unanswered Questions

Like, "Why haven't we heard from other intelligent civilizations yet?", "What'll happen at the end of the universe?", "Why is gravity such a weak force?", and so on. The bigger and more insoluble the question, the less likely it is your answer will be disproved next week. Once you come up with your own weird explanation for a big cosmic riddle, then you can work backwards from that to create a story around it -- and the hard part is probably keeping your story big and audacious, but also finding a way to make it small and personal without resorting to "learning the truth about the cosmological constant also helped me realize something about my daddy issues". Everybody loves a big, audacious idea-driven story, as long as it's well done and emotional.

2) Imagine a new scientific or technological discovery -- and then imagine it ruining your life

It's easy enough to imagine a brand new scientific breakthrough. It's even easy enough to think about some of the obvious consequences, if we suddenly develop radical life-extension or a "learn while you sleep" process that works. But try to imagine how a brand new science could wreck your life -- how it could make your life, personally, a living hell. And then try to turn that into a story about a fictional character. Bonus points if the way that the new invention ruins your life isn't a super obvious way, and is instead something kind of weird and personal. It's always more interesting to see people struggling with new technology than to watch them just do the happy "yay new technology" dance.

3) Take your biggest fear about the future and take it to an extreme

This is sort of on a related tip, except that it's taking your personal fears and blowing them up. Do you worry you'll be alone and unloved when you're older? Or that your career will tank, and you'll be one of those people who used to have a decent job and now works at Round Table Pizza? (No offense to people who currently work at Round Table Pizza, but whenever I walk past one I notice the staff look utterly demoralized. Maybe it's the weird Arthurian/Italian mixed metaphor.) Take your fear about your personal future and make it huge and global, if not cosmic. Use that fear as a way into a story about something going terribly wrong with the world in general. (Or make it still a personal disaster, but more science fictional -- think Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside, about a telepath slowly losing his abilities.) Your final story doesn't even need to be depressing, or about the exact fear you started with. But that visceral dread can lead you to something personal but universal, which is what it's all about.

4) Instead of speculating about science, try sociology or philosophy or theology

As Arthur C. Clarke would tell us, science fiction has the ability to get really cosmic and massive in its explorations of the big questions. "Who are we?", "Where do we come from?", "Who created us?", "Why does time run in only one direction?", "Why is there only one technological species on this planet?", "Is it ever possible for there to be empty space, or is space a thing?", What makes someone a good person?", and so on. As we've covered recently, a lot of philosophers are moving into territory formerly occupied by physics, because physics is dealing with the Big Existential Questions. So you, too, can leave behind "hard" science and get into the big questions about meaning -- and the result might actually be purer science fiction than if you just stuck to the actual science questions.

5) Think of an act you would never approve of, then imagine a sympathetic character doing that act

We all imagine ourselves doing terrible things, all the time. Depending on how repressed you are, it may come as a shock when the image of yourself stabbing your coworker in the face pops into your head. But either way, it's human nature to imagine yourself doing things so terrible, they make you do a whole-body cringe/shudder. So try picking one of those actions, and imagine the protagonist of a story performing it -- then try to think of how your protagonist could do that terrible thing, and still be sympathetic. (Even if this unspeakable act doesn't remain in the story, it may be a way in to the character.) Maybe there's some science fictional reason why your main character has to stab people in the face -- maybe it's even a heroic act, in some way. The point is only partly to come up with a clever explanation -- it's also to find your own hot buttons and jab at them as hard as you can. What about yourself freaks you out? Explore that.

6) Why can't you just go and get what you want, in real life?

Chances are, there are goals you can't achieve, in reality. Unless you're rich and famous and fulfilled, in which case please send me money. You can't just walk out of your boring job and wander down the street until you find Kevin Feige and say, "Please make me the director of a new Hulk movie starring Mark Ruffalo". You can't just wander up to that incredibly good looking person on the subway and ask him or her out. At least, most of us can't. You, personally, have goals that you cannot achieve, that are not fictional. Now imagine a scenario where you could have all of those things -- and what could possibly go wrong with that.

7) Get into a fight with a famous science fiction author

Not literally. Do not go punching Vernor Vinge in the face and then claim I told you to do that. But sure, get into a fight with Vernor Vinge with your stories. Find something about how Vinge depicted cyberspace everting in Rainbows End, and write a story that shows how you think he should have done it. Don't like how Max Barry depicted cybernetic enhancements in Machine Man? Stick it to Max Barry by writing your own take on the subject. A lot of how science fiction has advanced, as a field, is authors trying to one-up each other and responding to each other's takes on the same basic ideas. Even if you don't prove everybody else wrong, you might get a really great story out of it. (Again, do not actually get into a fight with anybody.)

8) State the obvious

The world is full of obvious facts that everybody tries to pretend aren't real. We all sort of know that we're reading and writing this stuff on computers that were made by people who were working in unimaginably horrible conditions. There may be people alive today, who will live to see the end of the fossil fuel era. The icecaps are melting faster than a lot of people expected. And so on. There are things that we all sort of know, but we don't really grasp them because they're too huge and unthinkable. Fiction is really excellent for getting people to confront these sorts of realities that are too insane for us to assimilate. And science fiction, in particular, has a lot of ways to talk about uncomfortable, weird facts without getting preachy or sledgehammery, by changing the setting or scale. You can make people identify with someone who's smack in the middle of future water wars, and drive home the likelihood of water shortages without ever lecturing.

9) Come up with five non-obvious consequences of a technological or scientific breakthrough, and focus on one of them

This is sort of similar to the "ruining your life" thing -- but it doesn't have to be about your life, in particular, being ruined. Science fiction authors are usually pretty good at wargaming-out the possible ramifications of a new piece of technology. If people had brain implants that let them understand any human language, would we travel more? Would there be more international trade? Less war? (More war, because people would know when they were being insulted?) But sometimes the most interesting consequence is the one you'd never think of in a million years. Spend an hour or two thinking of all the possible ripple effects from a new miracle technology -- and then pick one of the least obvious to build your story around.

10) Think about something you used to believe, and then imagine what if it was true

We all have beliefs we've discarded over the years. Everything from "Santa Claus is real" to "authority figures are always right" to "Alan Greenspan is infallible" to "Classical physics explains everything in the universe". Pick a belief you used to hold, that's been disproven by events or that you've outgrown for some reason. It could be a scientific belief, or a religious one, or a philosophy you used to adhere to -- and try to imagine a universe where that belief is provably true. Or else, a character who believes the thing you used to believe yourself. Take all of the energy of your former belief, plus the distance that comes from your change of heart, and try to create a story around that. Sometimes, recalling a former state of mind can be the easiest way to create a compelling mindspace for a character -- and possibly a whole piece of world-building.
I hope this helps!

:D


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techstepgenr8tion
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25 Nov 2022, 7:49 pm

If you want to see someone whose already played with this concept look at Peter Watts's 'Blindsight'.

Apparently Watts is a biologist by training and he took on the idea of both having an alien civilization (of sorts) where the 'ship' (Rorschach) is debatably non-sentient (communicates as a 'Chinese Room') and it gestates these creatures, ie. scramblers, and both the ship and the creatures it creates are great at hacking the sensory equipment of sentient life but neither the ship nor its moving parts are sentient themselves rather they're more like an alien biological equivalent to 'dumb AI' which, like viruses, are just really good at 'competence without comprehension' as Dennett would put it.

The protagonists are also aboard their own ship (Theseus), built around an AI, and while the ship itself is made of inorganic materials the ship itself behaves as if it's a living organism, makes its own autonomous calls both on escaping bad situations and making its own repairs. The ship's sentience also comes into the story later in the first book as it has some interactions with the main character (won't spoil that one any further though).

There is some rather spicy / unusual stuff in his series like throwing in vampires as a real but evolutionary breakaway from the human genome (there's also some kitsch with vampires going into seizures from crosses, not because they're holy but because they can't handle 90 degree Euclidian angles). Still, it's an entertaining read and plays with some interesting concepts.


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KitLily
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26 Nov 2022, 5:41 am

Fnord wrote:
Here is some relevant copy-pasta from about 10 years ago:
Quote:
10 Tips for Generating Killer Science Fiction Story Ideas
Charlie Jane Anders
http://io9.gizmodo.com/5950104/10-ways- ... tory-ideas
10/09/12 1:15pm
I hope this helps!

:D


Thanks Fnord (I didn't re-post the quote because it's so long) I'm more interested in the people and relationships in my story, however I obviously need a background of sci-fi to add a bit of depth! So I shall pick out the relevant bits from your quote :D


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KitLily
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26 Nov 2022, 5:43 am

techstepgenr8tion wrote:
If you want to see someone whose already played with this concept look at Peter Watts's 'Blindsight'.


Thanks! All this is very interesting. I'm not scientific at all but some sci-fi stories do catch my attention :D


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27 Nov 2022, 2:11 pm

Howbout... the crew run out of Purina brand ship food for this living ship thing. And it starts eating THEM!

Ol' Charlie used the head a minute ago. Where is he?

OMG! There are his bleached bones ...the commode!



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27 Nov 2022, 4:34 pm

naturalplastic wrote:
Howbout... the crew run out of Purina brand ship food for this living ship thing. And it starts eating THEM!

Ol' Charlie used the head a minute ago. Where is he?

OMG! There are his bleached bones ...the commode!


*wags my finger at you* Don't diss my beautiful ship! :P


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29 Nov 2022, 12:18 pm

Have wondered if flying saucers are really living organisms. And that they live in space feeding off of solar rays, and cosmic rays.

There is a certain volcano in Mexico notorious for UFO sightings.

Maybe flying saucer come down to Earth to spawn (like salmon live in the sea but swim up rivers to spawn). They come down into volcanoes to eat hot sulfur and get extra energy to mate and lay eggs.

Just a thought.