Evolution of a story, part 2: How “Honey Bees & Blackholes” became “Long-Term Storage”

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Long-Term Storage was the third of my four drabbles published on the site SpeckLit in 2015. It’s only 100 words long (that’s what ‘drabble’ means, apparently). The story is about how a group of humans flee extinction by flying into a blackhole. Please read it before continuing (contractually, I can’t post it here yet).

 

How on Earth does one come up with a story idea like that?

Here’s how…

One activity that I find helps my creativity a lot is swimming. I happen to live in a very warm climate: Kuala Lumpur is only three degrees north of the equator. There was a span, back in August, when I would often find honey bees floating, and probably drowning, in the pool.

There are always a lot of leaves floating in the pool too, so finding one to get under the bee and place the bee on land was usually easy to do. Usually. Except for the bee that immediately flew back into the water.

Why would bees keep going for the deep water?

Yeah, that puzzled me. I got it back out, and this time it stayed. But our pool has gutters that are full of shallow water just as good as the pool’s. Why would bees go for the deep?

It got me thinking, but I didn’t have a specific story out of that incident particularly.

Then I read an article about Stephen Hawking’s new claims about blackholes*. They can store and preserve information, he hypothesizes.

Now I had a story idea and a bee puzzle. Was there some thing more in the pool that the bee was trying to get? What if technical information could be stored in a blackhole for future purposes? What if a race more advanced than us hid information in a blackhole? What if whichever species could retrieve it would gain some advantage over all others?

Maybe bees were trying to gain some information from the pool. Maybe they felt it was worth the risk…

The first draft of my story was over three hundred words (first drafts are always long) and threw you blindly into the middle of the scene - a captain asking what went wrong. The ship, attempting to glean information from the accretion disc of a blackhole had mysteriously bounced out, back to safe space. Was this a fluke of physics or a superior intelligence intervening - had someone scooped the bee out of the pool?

Was this a fluke of physics or a superior intelligence?

The only way to know was to try again and see if you got the same result. So the bee goes back into the pool. So the crew heads back in, to either die or gain prof of superior intelligence.

That was ‘Honey Bees and Blackholes’ but I didn’t like it - too much symbolism and layering for a mere 100 words to carry effectively. So I changed the premise, but not the locale. On the edge of a blackhole, a ship full of humans are about to try to touch the accretion disc, to meet the retrievable information, this time not with the intent of stealing info, but with the intent to join it, to find refuge from some great evil that was pursuing them.

And thus, ‘Long-Term Storage.’

*I can’t find the original article, but this one appears to cover the same ground.