Inspiration: “Mementos from My Lives (Un)Lived”

Sometimes I can’t clearly explain the origins of a story. The kernel of an idea just seems to come to me, like it was spontaneously generated from the ether. This isn’t the case for my story “Mementos from My Live (Un)Lived” which was published today at Nature: Futures. The origins of this story are fitting for the publication in which appears. Nature is one of the top scientific journals in the world—for biologists, it’s the equivalent of an Asimov’s or Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to speculative fiction writers—so I guess it’s fitting that this story arose from an analytical approach to story writing.

Sitting around one day during the COVID lockdown, I decided to build a random prompt generator. I use writing prompts on occasion to force myself to think outside of my usual creative box. I spent about an hour compiling over a thousand prompts from dozens of internet sites and feeding them into a simple randomizer built in Excel that would output a new prompt every day. On the second day using this prompt generator, I drew: ‘You get to go to any museum in the world. Which one do you choose?”

Inspired, I immediately began brainstorming the most unusual types of museums I could imagine, and quickly hit upon a museum of artefacts from different dimensions, all of which would tell the potential life story of a single person. From there, it was a short jump to the personal story of a grandfather (who very much reminds me of my father-in-law, who is a theoretical physicist) and his granddaughter, Sky, all tied together by one of my favorite sayings about probability: given enough time, the improbable is certain to happen.

This story essentially wrote itself, taking about an hour and appearing pretty much as it has been published. I am particularly proud of the range of emotion captured in this story, going from light and whimsical to darkly serious in the span of about 850 words. If you have the chance, head over the Nature: Futures and check out my latest.

About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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