Holy Crap, It’s September

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResAnd September is almost October is almost November and November is NaNoWriMo. Some years I dread it, other years I look forward to it. This year I’m starting to work up a pretty good stoke about the month. I’ve been pondering the setting I described in my description of a plausible-future Miami. I’ve had tons of ideas for characters, and lots of thought on how to enrich the world. Along with the algae harvesters and whalers who work outside the towers, there are divers. People who take a deep swim into the drowned suburbs looking for things that still have value in this world. Swimming through a structure that was not meant to be underwater, and spent years being pounded by waves as the water line rose, is not terribly safe. Most of the houses have collapsed.

There are business parks, too, and some of them are still standing, but there’s not much in them that’s of interest anymore. The big stuff was moved out in advance of the rising waters.

Some of the divers don’t have citizenship in any of the towers. They are rafters, pulling the islands they call home from place to place, scouring the world beneath the waves. When the storms come the towers allow the rafters to tie up in the lee of the buildings, and let them sleep inside. How much raft is left when the storm has passed is a crapshoot.

Plot? Hm… kinda stuck there. Diver meets tower-dweller and the violins swell? Maybe as a side thing. Diver finds something game-changing? Promising… but what? I’ve done a NaNoWriMo with a flagrant ain’t-gonna-tell-you macguffin, but that isn’t the right thing here.

Ooo! Another enriching detail I just thought of that doesn’t help me at all in discovering a plot but I want to put it here so I don’t forget: the city-towers follow a strict set of codes above the water, but below the surface, where none can see, there is a quiet, bubble-free war going on. The best skin divers are valuable assets, but no one talks about it. That would explain why the towers let the rafters tie up during storms.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this episode is mostly just me thinking out loud. But if you’d like to chime in with ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Let’s think about the whales for a minute here. I’ll have to do research and whatnot, but it’s quite possible that before the Lucy and her locking knee that cetaceans were the most intelligent creatures on the planet. (Hominids’ brains started biggerizing at an appalling rate once their hands were free to do mischief.) Whales, meanwhile, couldn’t use tools or light fires. What if there were an equalizer? Something new to give tech to whales… But I don’t want to write some “whale messiah” or even “whale whisperer” story. My whole background idea with the whales was that some algae-eating species of whale would know prosperity in a way they never had before, and this would give them an opportunity to organize. I don’t want to mutate them.

Meanwhile, carnivorous marine mammals are pretty much screwed, along with anything with gills. So long, we’ve run out of fish. Warmer water and massive nitrogen boost from fertilizer runoff has restored algae as the king of the sea and, at least in temperate climes, the oceans are anaerobic once again.

So anyway, what I’m looking for is something that lies beneath the surface of Miami, (Ooo! Maybe something in the sewers? Beneath the ground beneath the water? Cool idea and dangerous for divers but alas pretty farfetched.) Probably simplest to just make it something worth an enormous amount of money — enough wealth to change the balance of power between tower-cities — but something with a larger significance would be awesome. I just don’t know what it might be.

9 thoughts on “Holy Crap, It’s September

  1. The McGuffin: Global warming wasn’t a big f=up by the petro industry … they’ve just always had a longer time view than we gave them credit for. They built and successfully tested carbon sinks under FLA (with the unfortunate side effect of “sink holes” — duh — but who cares about a few holes when you’re losing the land those holes appear in). But big oil (previously “big whale oil”) also invested in everything that would allow them to turn rising seas into a lever for more money and power, and they basically run everything behind the scenes, while living a high-and-dry lifestyle (in Nepal?) that still contains everything that the rest of the world most sorely misses (plus maybe some terrestial protein in the form of an occasional diver). Should someone start the “big machines” under the land under the sewers under the land under the water which floats above FL, the whole power structure gets turned upside down. Maybe daughter of Conoco CEO meets impoverished diver, falls in love, spills the beans. Metropolis meets Waterworld.

    I think you already owe us Katherine’s backstory … but I’m getting more than I’m paying for, so write whatever you damn well please.

    • Point of fact, while Miami drowns it will be substantially colder in Europe, what with the gulf stream being broken. So energy will be even more valuable, especially as supply networks are disrupted. Plenty of money to be made by shady oil men.

      So perhaps the macguffin is information. Something in a drowned research park or ex-exec’s ruined mansion that could upset the apple cart. That would require developing a much wider perspective over the course of the story, but while that’s work for me, it’s rewarding as well.

      A question I’ve been pondering: Does the United States still exist? If so, what influence do they have in the glass archipelago? I think one of the high-rises that has fallen has to be the US government one.

      And yeah, I do owe a backstory. I put Katherine on the table but once I get the rest of Bags’ story published (after we cross the spoiler line) then I’ll take a vote to see if the Mighty Benefactors would prefer someone else.

  2. There are no whales that eat algae — baleen whales eat lowest on the food-chain, and they eat stuff that eats algae.

    If the cetaceans are suddenly more organized I would suggest two ideas: They’ve developed a pidgin language for inter-species communication and/or they’ve developed a sustainable system of aquaculture. Baleen whales could be the farmers and developers of cetacean civilization, while carnivores like sperm whales and orcas could be the barbarians at the gates.

    And the humans living in their artificial archipelagos could be an initial distraction — they’re a doomed species, desperately hanging on in the face of the upcoming Cetacean Age.

    • I would like to imagine philosopher-whales debating how to deal with the Noisy Little Ones.

      Dang facts! I’m going to have to study a bit of biology, it would seem; can the things baleen whales eat survive in anaerobic conditions? If not, then even the whales are screwed. Unless they use technology to adapt…

  3. You should also include hyper intelligent octopuses. They are about as intelligent as whales. They could be battling the whales the whole time as a subplot

    • Interesting idea. Flashbacks to 10,000 Leagues under the sea. But…

      The whole whale thing is based on the fact that algae blooms rob the water of oxygen, and perpetual algae blooms will wipe out any creatures that depend on oxygen in the water to survive. Like fish. “Oh ho, how clever,” I thought, “marine mammals don’t need oxygenated seawater to survive, so for those that could feed on the algae directly it would be a heyday, and in times of plenty new social orders would arise.”

      Alas, octopodes (that’s the less-incorrect overly-pedantic plural of octopus) would (will?) all suffocate, along with most everything else in the ocean. Including, it turns out, the tiny critters that baleen whales actually live on.

      Also it turns out some algae produce wacky toxins, that kill marine mammals and people. Learned that just tonight.

      So I could make this story about whales and the Big Change is that someone genetically engineered a plankton-like critter that eats algae and can survive in an anaerobic ocean (but maybe the toxins still drive whales batshit sometimes), or I can let go of this interesting bit of setting and make whales just another tragedy.

      Do massive algae-harvesting ships represent a glimmer of hope for the whales? Realistically, probably not, but maybe the whales and octopuses see them as their only hope. That might be interesting. Could the harvesters have some sort of relationship with the more intelligent sea-dwellers? What would the sea creatures offer in return? Hmm…

      I’d prefer not to let go of the “whale thing”, but at the same time all the main characters are going to be people, I think. Making the whale situation too complex will turn into a distraction. Unless I get stuck. It’s NaNoWriMo, after all.

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