Well, I was going to write about Amazon’s new Kindle lending library going live, but I haven’t had time to research the details yet. Why?
Because I got sucked into a massively long list of quirks about living in America. And why does that belong on a writing blog any more than offering up an excuse of playing too much World of Warcraft?
Because this stuff is pure creative gold in story telling. So much of what really sucks us into the other worlds of SF and fantasy is that sense of “not here and not now”. Sure, there’s the big stuff like rocket ships and dragons, but those are essentially tropes. You know it’s an SF story because of the rocket ship, while the dragon tells you it’s all a fantasy, and when the dragon attacks the rocket ship, you certainly know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
But the tropes don’t make it seem real. Instead, it’s the details like the kids running around on the ground beneath the dragon-rocket battle collecting the dragon scales that fell off. You can get nine coppers a piece for those, and that buys a lot of candy marbles — you know, those hard jawbreakers that kids shoot around the circle and then suck on their winnings, yeah, those things.
And while a list like the one I linked to above can get boring after a while (it’s LOOOONG) with endless comments about cheese, big cars, and strange money, it’s also great for coming up with those SF/F details. I won’t call them source material. After all, wizard cars are just as big as most American cars, so who would notice? However, I’ll call them good fertilizer for the brain when trying to come up with those things.
Like, for example, how on Rigel, the serving sizes at restaurants are so small, but that’s because you order several. “I’ll have the 2 ounce steak, the broccoli twig, the shrimp trio, the cup of snow peas, and a shot glass of the chicken broth to dip things in.”
Or how in Hell, it’s considered rude to wait for your host to start eating before you eat. That’s tantamount to accusing him of trying to poison you. But just in case, keep a bottle of emetic tucked into your boot.
Or how common national flags are on Vega-3, but that they all come down on Fridays for people to fly their family crests on Saturdays and their school flags on Sundays.
Or that fashion trend in New Ireland of shirt fabric having prints of vintage 1870’s newspapers on them.
So, take a wander down that list and think about what it means for the dog parks in the Martian dome cities.