Resolving your story problems…including knocking out a pesky spore?
By Laurel Wanrow
How would you go about ridding the land of an airborne spore that kills anyone who breathes it in?
Plotting a story involves a lot of “what-ifs” and solving those problems is like piecing together a puzzle. In my sci-fi Passages, the planet Aarde faced this very problem a hundred years ago. A native hornwort released spores for the first time in recorded history—and the plant’s microscopic particles wiped out two-thirds of the native population. A race of space travelers came to their aid and developed a way to rid the planet of the spores, and with recovery nearly complete—
Hold on! Okay, a writer could put that in a story synopsis, but as the story unfolds, the writer must have a plausible explanation for how the people made this recovery. Otherwise the readers will discover a missing step in the logic. So how did I solve my spore puzzle?
I admit, I did choose a plant problem—the hornwort spores—because I knew my background in natural sciences and love of gardening would help me work through it.
I found an article on “no till gardening” that explored the benefits of leaving the soil in place when planting seeds. Good soil contains a network of fungi and other organisms that break down the organic materials into usable nutrients for plants. The longer the soil is left undisturbed, the greater the growth of the fungi’s mycorrhizae — “fungal roots” will be. Digging into soil chops the fine mycorrhizae, the largest part of the plant, damages their structure and stops the decomposition process.
So I could count on Aarde’s fungus species to decompose the spores — eventually. This was a tough spore covering and a hazard, so to ensure that they rotted, and quickly, I decided the space travelers must select electorgs with an expertise in fungi. Those research scientists devised a super-rotter, in other words, a compost application containing a specific mushroom to target the hornwort spores. Then the electorgs applied and left the compost in place, undisturbed, for many seasons. Sample testing would determine when it was safe for the native people to return to the Spore Zones and start to work that land.
So how did the electorgs — humans with electronic implants — working in the Spore Zones avoid dying from exposure to the spores? Here’s an excerpt from Quinn’s point of view:
Our triad is research and assistance,” Evard said.
He swept a hand toward the bookstore. “We advise the native Aardites, within their lifestyle, but sometimes must urge their ways to better Docga technology and research. A fair amount of counseling is behind every step of every project.”
“Yes,” I said slowly. “I imagine so. How else would the Corps convince people to return to the Spore Zones?”
Evard laughed. “Once they do, I’ve heard no complaints. And I would. Here on Zeffir, we grow the particular fungus that crews of ’torgs spread as compost across the land to be recovered.”
“But those ’torgs—”
“Unaffected.” Evard tapped his chest. “A filter installed in their air passages. Part of the electronics. After a fallow period, the fields can be plowed without danger of anyone inhaling the deadly, dust-like seeds. The indigenous mycelium, Misha’s Glow Waxy Cap, eats through those tough spiked spore cases better than a mortar and pestle.”
“It’s red?” I guessed from the name for Aarde’s rosy moon.
“More of a pink, actually. Every farmer knows Misha’s now, credits it with the food on their tables, their growing businesses and their hope for rebuilding trade. We plan to resettle all but the most thermally active lands of this volcanic planet.”
Thank you to Dr. Christine Cargill and Cheryl Backhouse of the Australian National Botanic Gardens for permission to use these hornwort and liverwort images from the Australian Plant Image Index.
Want to learn more about fungi in your compost? This is a great article on The Compost Gardener: http://www.the-compost-gardener.com/decomposer.html
Follow the Passages Blog Tour to read more science & fantasy tidbits!
“Find someone you can trust.”
For decades, Eve and her fellow electorgs — part human, part machine — have worked on the quiet planet of Aarde, beating back toxic spores that threaten to poison the native people. When the new commander halts work right before a deadly spore release, Eve frantically plots to protect the villagers she considers friends and family.
On the run after an ambush, Quinn holds a secret that nearly got him killed. If only he knew what it was. Though the attack scrambled his memories, Quinn is sure of one thing—he can’t trust the electorgs. But they know information he desperately needs to puzzle out who wants him dead, and why.
With the fate of life on Aarde in the balance, the logic of joining forces with Eve overrides Quinn’s fears…and erupts into an attraction that could prove fatal for both of them.
Because the planet’s commander might just be Quinn himself.
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Before kids, Laurel Wanrow studied and worked as a naturalist — someone who leads wildflower walks and answers calls about the snake that wandered into your garage. During a stint of homeschooling, she turned her writing skills to fiction to share her love of the land, magical characters and fantastical settings.
When not living in her fantasy worlds, Laurel camps, hunts fossils and argues with her husband and two new adult kids over whose turn it is to clean house. Though they live on the East Coast, a cherished family cabin in the Colorado Rockies holds Laurel’s heart.
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Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/laurelwanrowauthor
Blog Tour and Giveaway
Below are the bloggers participating in the Blog Tour for Passages. Each stop will have excerpts and tidbits about the science & fantasy, and a chance to win the tour prizes: a $10 Amazon eGC or a sign paperback of Passages. (Giveaway open to US/CAN.)
Jan 26: Travel to a Mineral Hot Springs on Vicki Batman’s Handbags, Books, Whatever…
Jan 27: Goudrogen Crystals on Jessica E. Subject’s Happily Ever Afters Across the Universe
Jan 27: Hornworts on C. D. Hersh’s Two Hearts Creating Everlasting Love Stories
Jan 29-31: Thermophiles on The Multiverses of Liza O’Connor
Jan 29: Author Interview with Mia Jo Celeste on Other World Diner
Jan 30: Moons and Rising Waters with Laurie A. Green on Spacefreighters Lounge
Jan 31: Creating a Character’s Home Planet—in a Red Dwarf Star System on Pippa Jay’s Adventures in Scifi
Jan 31: What kind of a book is it? With Kira Decker on Toni Decker Books
Jan 31: Lacuna, a Bit of Realism, a Bit of Magic on Author J. C. Nelson’s Urban Fantasy and More
Feb 1: Resolving your story problems…including knocking out a pesky spore? on Riley Moreland’s Whiskey With My Book
Feb 3: What do you think of when I say “cyborg”? on Veronica Scott’s Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog
Feb 4: The Mystery of Transporters on Heather Massey’s The Galaxy Express