Luverly Ideabirds!

Post from Brokenmindthoughts

The Ideabird is more well-known under it's Tumblr account. posted some thoughts from one of my ideas:


Just checked out the “Ideabird” ( and found something intriguing. I’ve been scouring reddit for writer’s help and something that a certain redditor stuck with me. You can have an idea for an environment or a cool sci-fi but without an exciting plot, it’s just a backdrop without a foreground scene. 

It’s hard to come up with a plot that’s not overused and keep it together with your vision for the story. Sometimes I think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story set two thousand years ago from the point of view of a person that lived in Jesus’s town?”

Well, yeah, maybe. Sounds like a cool idea. buttt…what would you write in it? What would be the meat of the book? Certainly not just “Oh, and I saw this guy preaching. He had some cool ideas”. You have to have a PLOT. In this case, perhaps an inner struggle of a strictly jewish man that grew up in poverty who becomes an avid follower. Okay, good start. What else? Perhaps this man has his new beliefs challenged and he has to decide whether he keeps to his new beliefs and becomes an outsider with his friends and family or if he goes for what he believes in?

See, and now we’re getting somewhere but all of that is not enough. It sounds a tad generic but it doesn’t have to be.

Sci-fi books, I feel, have become GENERIC. They’re carriers for the scenes, for the cool tech, for a world an author creates. But what’s forgotten is that the plot itself decides if a book is interesting, if it has substance and can be classified more than just a poorly written piece of fiction. I’m not telling people to appeal to the masses but they need to connect the plot to the setting! If you have a sci-fi, the “sci” should be an inherent part to the story! 

For example, could you have written star wars without the “star” part? Sure thing. You got an easy fantasy novel. Or you could throw it anywhere you want because the plot of the story is a generic “growing up, falling in love, rebelling” kind of a movie. That’s it, really. Nothing else. But what about Dune? Well, it’s based on reality, there’s not much “scifi” but the book requires enough fiction (as far as creating the world goes) in it that it might as well be. The book hinges on visions, it hinges on large “houses” debating, technological struggles, the stark differences between minimalist fremen and imperials. You COULD write this book in a different setting but, it wouldn’t really be the same. It wouldn’t have the same message. Including characters like mentats that were essential.

Best example (often cited) is 2001 Space Odyssey that requires the AI there because that’s the struggle of the story. 

Idk, just a few thoughts. 


---------------------------------- And Later:


So last night, I was tired as hell writing that article and omitted several key points that I actually wanted to mention. And some key examples that I wanted to point out. 

First, I wanted to mention that the ideas that TheIdeaBird puts forth aren’t stories, they’re just settings. They’re hypothetical situations without a real plot, without characters. It’s basically just a cool setting.

Second, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Third, what I think would be cooler is writing a one-page flash fiction story with that “idea” and throw a plot in it, throw some characters in it, and breathe some momentary life.

Fourth, submit that shit to 365tomorrows ;)

Fifth, I think I’ll do that.

So, here’s what’s on my mind. The specific idea that I saw that intrigued me was this:

Explorers come across savages living in the remains of an automated civilization. They determine that the people were all enslaved by their leaders using nanobots. Over time, due to cosmic rays, etc., the nanobots instructions, mutated and they couldn’t reproduce properly. The explorers find the original nanobot programming, and there is great temptation to rebuild a slave society.

That’s a great idea. But where’s the plot? You could discuss the temptation but from whose point of view? Who are the people involved? The idea could easily be expanded and have more meaning with this:

The group of explorers is torn into several sides. Some wishing to recreate the former glorious civilization and learn from them. The split group headed by Jones wanted nothing to do with this evil creation. They loudly oppose the others and become violent in their endeavor to keep Erickson and his split group from activating the nanobots despite the protests, and despite the fact that their country’s response team is on their way. Jones’s group completely separates itself, falls into the city and a young man by the name of Erick finds that his ideology and beliefs are being skewed. As the days of treachery and fights go on between the explorers (something very unusual), Erick recognizes that the nanobots have entered their bloodstream and are converting the group into said mindless slaves. Erick fights it, fighting his friends and co-workers in the process. He struggles to get to the ancient city’s spire to deactivate the process.

By the time the response team gets there. There are thousands of former savages rebuilding and creating infrastructure in the city. The team is nowhere to be found. Over the years, a myth arose in the savage population about a group of aliens that worked alongside them instead of above them. A group that restored their race back to its former glory

Maybe I got a bit carried away there but instead of having one paragraph, you have an entire story including some characters, a basic story, the climax, and the aftermath. It’s more of an outline here, maybe a pitch instead of a setting. I realize the setting has A LOT of potential but it’s really not much without a story that inherently requires the setting. 

I’d love to see this writer expand that one paragraph into three, or four, with a real story behind it ;)



In Response to Brokenmindthoughts

Since the TheIdeaBird's Tumblr mirror was mentioned on ( that site has gained a lot of followers. More so, I think, than my home site, Consequently some of the founding ideas aren't on the Tumblr front page. I was originally inspired to come up with a story idea blog from the book The Mystery of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg: A wonderful kids book consisting of a single piece of artwork and a couple of lines of text on each page. Teachers have been using this lovely book for ages to get kids thinking and writing.

My goal for this site, part exercise, part exorcise, is to pass out free story ideas. Just enough for you to lift your nose to the sky and sniff possibility in the wind. I try very hard not to come up with a conclusion or definite characters. I'm not always successful, and often have my own ending in there. On days when that happens, I consider that a fault on my part. I want you to take it out for a flight and see where you end up.

I'm honored that you tried that with one of my pieces.

Taking apart the idea you worked with:

Explorers come across savages living in the remains of an automated civilization. They determine that the people were all enslaved by their leaders using nanobots. Over time, due to cosmic rays, etc., the nanobots instructions, mutated and they couldn’t reproduce properly. The explorers find the original nanobot programming, and there is great temptation to rebuild a slave society.

I'd read a couple of stories about nanobots gone wrong. One in particular was a nice little slice of mystery story where humans are all acting strangely and in the end we find out nanobots accidently enslaved everyone. Fun. Of more interest to me was the scientific idea of any self-replicating unit becoming subject to error and mutation, whether the unit was biological or technological. But a self-replicating tech unit might not have the guide rails of natural competition that biology provides in spades, red in tooth and claw as they say.

That's an idea—how do I make it a possible story? Human nature. You come across a savage society, you find the keys to ruling them. Are you a savage who enslaves them, or a liberator who nurtures them? A great many explorers found guns gave them great power over lower-tech societies, and things didn't go well. Who are you, given that power? That's the conflict. As god of your story, with ulitmate power over your slave-characters how do you have it come out.

So, a variant on a scientific idea, a possible conflict. The only thing missing is the elegant presentation of the idea. I can claim that I am trying to use the barest economy of well-chosen words, painting a picture in the least brush strokes. I can speak of Basho and the parallels of haiku to create something timeless in a miniature space. But hey, I'm trying to find something new every three days. Some days are better than others. The Ideabirds with word choices that delight me fall with a thud, and the clunkiest (to me) birds lift up a chorus of delight. >shrug< I dunno.

I love doing this, I really do. It gives me an excuse to dive into fascinating technical stories and follow the paths of wonder. I'm a happier man. But what would really make me happy is if there was a way I could monetize this. Like Mark Twain & William Shakespeare and all the rest of us chicken-scratchers I gots kids to raise and bills to pay. And sadly, there seems to be an inverse proportion to how much fun something is and how well it's compensated. Don't mean to sound whiny, just pragmatic.

I will try to post one of my shorts soon. I want to read it, though. Make it available as an MP3 to enjoy when you want.

Thanks for your interest, and thanks everyone for reading!

Tony Jonick, Oakland CA

Socknitster (Twitter) responded on 8/13/2012:

I just wanted to make a quick comment. I completely understand your desire to somehow monetize this. You have a unique ability, honestly, that I, for one, find amazing and inspiring. Your brain makes all these many amazing connections between disparate things. I'm creative too, a writer, and I am pretty good at many aspects of the craft but this is one area where I stunningly fall short. I struggle with this stuff.

I first discovered you on Io9 and have been watching off and on for some time, your tumblr account. Amazed at your prolific nature. I have another friend like you that I bounce ideas off of--she is so revved with ideas much of the time that she struggles to finish any one project. Me, once I've decided on an idea I can plod along for months, completely, blissfully monogamous. But sadly, my first book, while praised as a great piece of writing just doesn't have the most exciting plot, which effectively drowns it. It was, however a great place to hone my craft, so I can't really have regrets. I'm now working on the second, which, I dearly hope is better.

So, I read and study and try to understand plot. I think I intuitively get how it's supposed to work--there is a sort of backbone to all books--an architecture perhaps born of mythos. But finding the right twists and turns! Ugh. I love writing scenes, dialogue. That's exciting. Working out the plot for an entire book fills me with dread!

Oh well, enough rambling. I just wanted to let you know your shout out into the void was heard, registered, and understood.

Ideabird 7/30/12

Dissociative Identity Disability, commonly called Multiple Personality disorder, is finally tied down as a real genetic disorder affecting adults, after a remote population is found where everyone has the condition. (Okay, let's say it's on another planet or something.) In this society they have survived with it for thousands of years, and their culture includes it seamlessly. They have multiple families that they live with as different people, and children are swapped back and forth. They consider single-track minds a sign of holy oracular powers, and are thrown into chaos by outsiders. Of course the outsiders can now add multi-track minds to the list of viable post-human abilities.

Ideabird 7/27/12

Human first contact comes in a solar system filled with hundreds of wildly variating species. The humans land & blend in without a blink. There is one human question: if there are so many species in the area, why has no one contacted us? The natives explain, humans are the first extra-solar species they've met. Every form of life on the home planet is worked on until they acheive intelligence. Then they choose to genetically modify themselves. They all derive from one planet. They wonder why humans chose to be so monomaniacal in only advancing themselves.

Vacation of Sorts

I really needed to take a vacation from this for a week. I feel bad about dropping the novel. I don't appear to have the bandwidth for serializing a story. Kelsey is cool with it.

I'm back on track after a week, though, and am backfilling currently.

Ideabird 7/25/12

Explorers come across savages living in the remains of an automated civilization. They determine that the people were all enslaved by their leaders using nanobots. Over time, due to cosmic rays, etc., the nanobots instructions, mutated and they couldn't reproduce properly. The explorers find the original nanobot programming, and there is great temptation to rebuild a slave society.

Ideabird 7/23/12

The Vleen are a very short, quadrapedal species. They are accomplished architects, with a style pleasing to the human eye, and are highly sought after to design buildings. They are currently in a rococo period, with exquisite decorations. Unfortunately, their idea of an ideal room is one meter tall and 3 meters wide. Anything larger makes them want to scurry into a corner in fear. This makes for a dillema for one of their most accomplished designers who really wants to win the contract for a castle on Earth.

Ideabird 7/20/12

The biggest problem time-travelers have is interference from those farther in the future. Those buttinskis have better technology, better history, and are always able to get there before you. Usually just enough before you so that when you show up, there they are, thumbing their noses, drinking a pina colada and sitting on YOUR pile of treasure. Of course they have the same problem. At some point the people farthest up the future are so good you realize they are manipulating everything, and only getting the scraps of what they allow you. Then you get depressed.

Ideabird 7/18/12

At first tIme travelers only went back to "lost" civilizations. The nations of ancient Africa, Pre-Bronze-Age China, the cities drowned when the Black Sea flooded, the civilizations that lived on Ice-Age continental shelves. (Not Atlantis. Never existed. Duh.) But then someone got greedy, and convinced the Spanish monks to burn all the Mayan records. Suddenly they were a lost civilization, fair game to visit and exploit. Those criminals were caught, but it was too late to change things back. One day someone in the future noticed that Early 21st century humans had transferred most of their records to easily destroyable server farms...

Ideabird 7/16/12

He was enthralled by the beauty of his young wife, even though she seemed a little vacant. He realized she wouldn't be beautiful forever, and that one day he would be living with an old woman. As an experiment he decided to try imagine loving an old woman, and began spending more time with her mother. He came to realize he actually loved her mother more, and that looks were nothing. If only there was a way to place her mind in her daughter's body...

Ideabird 7/13/12

After a war between Producers and Consumers, (See Ideabird 7/11/12) one planet decides to abandon all recorded media. There is still broadcast technology: radio, television, holographic projections in the sky. But there is a fatwa against recording. Anything that needs to be recorded: public records, heroic deeds, lineages, etc, are done as they were in early human societies by chants and poets and public memorizers.

Ideabird 7/11/12

The Producers created the entertainments and Consumers were entertained. The Gatekeepers controlled the feed. There was little else to do since physical needs were seen to. But as is often the case the Producers spent so much time focussing on creation and competition for scarce resources, they rarely saw the profits that were taken in. Finally revolution broke out. The Producers, starving for bandwidth, worked to wrest the feed from the Gatekeepers. And the Consumers, starving for the feed, followed them. But revolution is a fickle goddess, and in a generation many of the Producers were as bad as the old Gatekeepers.

Ideabird 7/9/12

After thousands of years in space the Aalb finally met another sentient species. The Tluun were primitive and warlike, but self-aware. That was centuries ago, and the Aalb still mourn that they had to destroy the Tluun who never lost their warring streak. When the Aalb encounter another race of sentient beings, which includes both sensitive artists and brutal warlords, they are torn about what to do. When the new beings gain the techonolgy to annihilate themselves, the Aalb fall into crushing uncertainty.

Ideabird 7/6/12

Twenty years ago they set out to stop the the terrorist menace. And wherever terrorists were supposed to be a particle beam stabbed out of the sky to erase a building. Or two, or three, or however many were nearby. But there always seemed to be another threat, and always another beam strike. Families would go to investigate their missing relatives and find an empty lot. The civilian deaths made more terrorists which made more beam strikes. Random. Deadly. Erasing.

Ideabird 7/4/12 Fourth of July edition

A physicist working on theoretical time time travel starts noticing changes around him. People start drinking tea instead of coffee. The Washington Monument disappears, and the next day D.C.does too. Accents sound more British. No one else notices when the history books change, briefly mentioning a lost rebellion led by General Washington. The scientist realizes he must somehow build a time machine and go back to help Washington. Oh, and there has to be werewolves in there somewhere.

Ideabird 7/2/12

She falls through a psychic rift, swapping minds with a Canid, in a world where dogs are sentient. She learns dogs are not sizist or breedist, but are certainly smellist. They judge unfairly on how the Great Master made different colons to process food more or less efficiently. She helps spark a rebellion for equal scentuality. This leaves their society improved so they can focus on important things, like whether it is better to chase balls or sticks.

© Tony Jonick 2013