Unlock the Muse – May 23, 2018

This weekend, in the United States, we will celebrate Memorial Day – a day set aside to honor those who died in service to their country. Born out of the Civil War, it was originally called Decoration Day and was “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in the defense of their country.” (General John Logan, 1868)

Inspire
Here is this week’s random writing prompt:

What event would you never write about, and why?

I’m not sure how to answer this. If it is something I would never write about, how can I possibly answer? Doesn’t that mean I will have to write about it?

What is it you will not write about? War? Joining the circus? Your high school reunion? The death of a loved one?

Encourage
In Brian Kiteley’s 3 A.M. Epiphany, this exercise appears in the chapter on Women and Men, which deals with “ways of seeing.”

Write a short scene in which a woman becomes invisible briefly, for no explained reason. I leave it up to you what she will observe in her state of lucidity and transparency: her boyfriend’s or husband’s or male friend’s life, a short scene of men without women, or a scene of another woman and her man (innocent or not). No one can see or hear her. She is not a ghost, and at the end of your narrative, return her to her fully fleshed out self, again with no explanations. In other words, don’t worry too much about the problem of imperceptibility. Just jump into the story and follow its political, rather than science fiction, consequences. 600 words.

Equip
I will leave you this week with a quote from one of my favorite authors. And, since I’ve been reading vampire stories, I thought it should have something to do with those fascinating creatures of the night.

Fantasy is my favorite genre for reading and writing. We have more options than anyone else, and the best props and special effects. That means if you want to write a fantasy story with Norse gods, sentient robots, and telepathic dinosaurs, you can do just that. Want to throw in a vampire and a lesbian unicorn while you’re at it? Go ahead.
Patrick Rothfuss

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

 

Gravitationally Unbound: H. G. Wells and the Discovery of Helium

I have been reading The First Men in the Moon, by H. G. Wells. A fascinating little tale first published in 1900-1901 about an inventor, Mr. Cavor, and a failed business man, Mr. Bedford, who travel to the moon by a rather strange vehicle. Mr. Cavor, has theorized that just as certain substances are opaque to heat and light, there must be a substance that is opaque to gravity.

Mr. Cavor manages to create this theoretical substance with an alloy of metals, and I’m not sure what all. Plus helium. A very interesting idea, to be sure. They make no small mess in the process of learning how to create this substance. Ultimately, however, they build a small ship that will take them into space.

This whole idea made me curious about when the element helium was discovered, and how new it was when Mr. Wells wrote this story. When I looked it up, I found that helium was first discovered in 1868 by a French astronomer who noticed a yellow line in the sun’s spectrum while studying an eclipse. It was later identified and named by an English astronomer. The element wasn’t found on Earth until 1895 by a Scottish chemist conducting experiments on a mineral called clevite.

According to an article on the JeffersonLab website, “Helium makes up about 0.0005% of the earth’s atmosphere. This trace amount of helium is not gravitationally bound to the earth and is constantly lost to space.”

It was this property of helium that no doubt intrigued H. G. Wells and sparked his curiosity. This story was first published between December 1900 and August 1901 as a serial novel in The Strand Magazine. The story then, was written in the years immediately following the discovery of helium.

I love that this story-written more than a hundred years ago and using what is now outdated science-could still inspire curiosity today. Now we live in a world where helium is used to entertain children at parties, and men really have been to the moon. And here I am, reading this antiquated little tale of adventure and learning something I didn’t know about my world.