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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poetry Fishbowl Open!
Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "hard science fiction." I will be checking this page periodically throughout the day. When people make suggestions, I'll pick some and weave them together into a poem ... and then another ... and so on. I'm hoping to get a lot of ideas and a lot of poems.

The January Poetry Fishbowl is now closed.

I decided to do "hard science fiction" as a theme because I was annoyed at someone making disparaging remarks about the amount and quality of hard SF written by women.  Poke a sexist in the eye: give me hard science prompts.  (Hard science fiction places science at the center of attention, and it refrains from violating known scientific parameters; read more here.) 

What Is a Poetry Fishbowl?

Writing is usually considered a solitary pursuit. One exception to this is a fascinating exercise called a "fishbowl." This has various forms, but all of them basically involve some kind of writing in public, usually with interaction between author and audience. A famous example is Harlan Ellison's series of "stories under glass" in which he sits in a bookstore window and writes a new story based on an idea that someone gives him. Writing classes sometimes include a version where students watch each other write, often with students calling out suggestions which are chalked up on the blackboard for those writing to use as inspiration.

In this online version of a Poetry Fishbowl, I begin by setting a theme; today's theme is "hard science fiction." I invite people to suggest characters, settings, and other things relating to that theme. Then I use those prompts as inspiration for writing poems.

Cyberfunded Creativity

I'm practicing cyberfunded creativity. If you enjoy what I'm doing and want to see more of it, please feed the Bard. The following options are currently available:

1) Sponsor the Fishbowl -- Here is a PayPal button for donations. There is no specific requirement, but $1 is the minimum recommended size for PayPal transactions since they take a cut from every one. You can also donate via check or money order sent by postal mail. If you make a donation and tell me about it, I promise to use one of your prompts. Anonymous donations are perfectly welcome, just won't get that perk. General donations will be tallied, and at the end of the fishbowl I’ll post a list of eligible poems based on the total funding; then the audience can vote on which they want to see posted.

2) Buy It Now! -- Gakked from various e-auction sites, this feature allows you to sponsor a specific poem. If you don't want to wait for some editor to buy and publish my poem so you can read it, well, now you don't have to. Sponsoring a poem means that I will immediately post it on my blog for everyone to see, with the name of the sponsor (or another dedicate) if you wish; plus you get a nonexclusive publication right, so you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere as long as you keep the credits intact. You'll need to tell me the title of the poem you want to sponsor. I'm basing the prices on length, and they're comparable to what I typically make selling poetry to magazines (semi-pro rates according to Duotrope's Digest).

0-10 lines: $5
11-25 lines: $10
26-40 lines: $15
41-60 lines: $20
Poems over 60 lines, or with very intricate structure, fall into custom pricing.

3) Commission a scrapbook page. I can render a chosen poem in hardcopy format, on colorful paper, using archival materials for background and any embellishments. This will be suitable for framing or for adding to a scrapbook. Details are here.  New photos of sample scrapbooked poems are here.

4) Spread the word. Echo or link to this post on your LiveJournal, other blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, or any other social network. The Twitter hashtag is: #poetryfishbowl Encourage people to come here and participate in the fishbowl. If there is at least one new prompter or donor, I will post an extra freebie poem.

Additional Notes

1) I customarily post replies to prompt posts telling people which of their prompts I'm using, with a brief description of the resulting poem(s). If you want to know what's available, watch for those "thumbnails."

2) You don't have to pay me to see a poem based on a prompt that you gave me. I try to send copies of poems to people, mostly using the LJ message function.  (Anonymous prompters will miss this perk unless you give me your eddress.)  These are for-your-eyes-only, though, not for sharing.

3) Sponsors of the Poetry Fishbowl in general, or of specific poems, will gain access to an extra post in appreciation of their generosity.

Feed the Fish!

Now's your chance to participate in the creative process by posting ideas for me to write about. Today's theme is hard science fiction. I am especially looking for: scientists, heroic theorists, smart women, inventions, sciences, things to which science can be done, inexplicable gadgets, scientific mishaps, situations in which science saves the day, situations in which bites someone on the ass, scientific plot twists, settings in which science takes place, settings created by science, and poetic forms in particular.

But anything is welcome, really. If you manage to recommend a form that I don't recognize, I will probably pounce on it and ask you for its rules. I do have the first edition of Lewis Turco's The Book of Forms which covers most common and many obscure forms.

I'll post at least one of the fishbowl poems here so you-all can enjoy it. (Remember, you get an extra freebie poem if someone new posts a prompt or makes a donation.) The rest will go into my archive for magazine submission.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: creative creative

55 comments or Leave a comment
whuffle From: whuffle Date: January 5th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hows about some speculative sci fi based on the work of Richard Feynman? Or how's about something based on the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker? Both might require a little skimming if you aren't familiar with their respective fields or bodies of work. However the reading itself could prove very interesting!

Edited at 2010-01-05 06:11 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "A Fine Man's Line," a free verse poem about several of Feynman's interests ... and the challenges of perceiving an intricate universe as it really is.

18 lines, Buy It Now = $10
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: January 5th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I find it endlessly fascinating that we have a programmable immune system. How crazy is it that we can come up with short-term and long-term defense against unexpected diseases? If you sat down to try to create something similar, like a computer system that identifies new computer virii, attacks them immediately with existing defenses and then comes up with a new solution based on the results, can you imagine how much time that would take?

Amazing, I say.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "Build a Better Fireman," in which an end-user, a geek, and a physician walk into a bar and collectively inspire a whole new approach to thwarting computer virii.

34 lines, Buy It Now = $15
valdary From: valdary Date: January 5th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Would an anti gravity ray mean you could be in two places at once?
(Lamine and Arndt theorise that gravitational waves cause the quantum decoherance that differentiates behaviour of classical physics from superposition that can exist in sub atomic physics)

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "What Makes the World Go 'Round," a free verse poem about a female scientist who discovers what anti-gravity can really do ... and what she decides to do with that.

20 lines, Buy It Now = $10
miintikwa From: miintikwa Date: January 5th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've always loved the idea of 'brain ships,' a la Anne McCaffrey's series that started with "The Ship Who Sang." The idea of a ship-as-body, with a mind controlling it just fascinates me. What poetry lies in that?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)


I put this together with various discussions with mtrose2 regarding space exploration. The result is "The Cybernaut," a free verse poem about the past and future of space exploration and what might happen if we could merge minds with equipment.

24 lines, Buy It Now = $10
moosl From: moosl Date: January 5th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Surprise: no photo prompts this time.

I wonder what would happen if you operated a time machine while traveling in another time machine?

I wonder what would happen if some small, barely multicellular lifeform, were to take over the nanobots we are so conveniently manufacturing for them?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)


I got to thinking, what commandeers stuff and is tiny? And that stuck to what wyld_dandelyon said about ways in which language affects thought ...

The result is "The Discovery of Maybe," a free verse poem in which virus clans ride nanobots back to the biocomputer that is controlling them. And then things get weird.

44 lines, Buy It Now = $20
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: January 5th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Given your interest in languages, how does binary, or hex, or trinary, affect the thinking proceses of an AI? How about the more human-friendly programming languages?
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: January 5th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
P.S. I tweeted the fishbowls' nomination for a Rose and Bay award, with a link here just now.
fortunavirilis From: fortunavirilis Date: January 5th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
A woman with a bionic arm struggles with leaving her husband for a combat veteran with bionic legs when they meet at the research facility and their neuro-programs briefly connect.

(See National Geographic this month in print and online for some recent advances in bionics. The rest is pure speculation on neurons and love.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)


Welcome to the fishbowl!

I really had fun with this plot, despite the tragic aspects. The result is "A Spark of Love," a free-verse poem about falling out of and into love, and how technology can change us in ways we don't anticipate.

177 lines, Buy It Now = $88.50
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: January 5th, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
*screeches in on the heels of a misbehaving router*

Gravity! I was just watching Sci Fi Science (time travel and teleportation) and Masters of the Universe (mostly about Hawking's current theories), and gravity seems to be the key to a lot of things.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2010 01:05 am (UTC) (Link)


Stephen Hawking is one of my favorite scientists. A search of "Stephen Hawking gravity theory" turned up his latest venture into quantum gravity. The result is "The Hourglass of Infinity," a free-verse poem about weirdness and wonder of ultra-high-level science.

36 lines, Buy It Now = $15
From: minor_architect Date: January 5th, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Augh! Late to the party again. I'm just glad I didn't miss it entirely this time! ;)

How about growing replacement organs for yourself using samples of your own tissue and an extracellular matrix?

It boggles my mind, anyway!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2010 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)


This prompt reminded me of sitting in science class looking at an anatomy quiz and thinking about how the answers were right there inside my body. It was just a matter of calling them up through my brain and out through my fingertips onto paper.

So here is the poem "Good as New," a free verse exploration of the body's mysteries, what we could do with them ... and why we should.

42 lines, Buy It Now = $20
ellenmillion From: ellenmillion Date: January 5th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
What makes a science hard? (That's a prompt, not rhetorical... :P)

Plasma has always fascinated me. Also, phase change.

wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: January 6th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Plasma might be difficult to handle, but I doubt it's "hard"!
jolantru From: jolantru Date: January 6th, 2010 01:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Genetic engineering - that's a hard science, isn't it?
From: siliconshaman Date: January 6th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC) (Link)
It's more sort of squishy and wet...
From: siliconshaman Date: January 6th, 2010 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm.. Cephalopoda are a remarkably intelligent and tool using bunch of species..and when you think about it, rather better suited to free-fall and space travel then we are.

Makes one wonder what would happen if someone got the idea to train them for space exploration, rather using robotic probes. [which, after all, are limited by what their programmers imagined encountering].
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2010 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)


This reminded me of an article I once read in an aquarium magazine, about an octopus that snuck into other tanks and ate the fish. You can train one, but it's still going to think like an octopus. The result is "The Octonaut," an indriso about what happens when you send a cephalopod into outer space.

8 lines, Buy It Now = $5
kestrels_nest From: kestrels_nest Date: January 6th, 2010 02:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm late, I know; if I'm too late, that's okay.

Somehow or other Horton Hears a Who, with its refrain of "A person's a person no matter how small" wove itself with an earlier prompt about virii coopting nanobots, and well.

But how would we recognize a Who as an individual, much less a sentience? How would they recognize us as such? I just have visions of a bunch of tiny people gathering in thousands or millions and organizing to spell out "Greetings" the way marching bands create formations.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2010 04:18 am (UTC) (Link)


This combined with an idea I had long, long ago about some lost nanobots. "Those Who Were Made" is a free verse poem about the cycle of creation.

31 lines, Buy It Now = $15
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: January 6th, 2010 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
A couple of weeks ago, one of the new Hoskins residents brought over a canister labeled "Organic Sugar" and in another spot "Certified Carbon-free". I photocopied the label and posted it on the bulletin board with the caption "Organic Chemistry: You're Doing It Wrong" (I declined to spell it in LOLCat, which would have been "Organic Chemistry: Ur Doin It Rong", although I did spell it that way when I posted to LJ).

Sorry to post so late; I couldn't think of any good hard science prompts, and it didn't occur to me that I could go look at references and articles and websites to come up with something appropriate. And thanks for your patience and willingness to give me a bye this week.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2010 03:26 am (UTC) (Link)


From this I got the poem "Certified Oxymoronic." It illustrates the danger of poor education. Although it has no rhyme or meter, the poem has a definite shape of increasing and then decreasing lines.

10 lines, Buy It Now = $5
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2010 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Done for the night!

Okay, I have finished the prompts and I'm tired. Fishbowl closed. Thank you all for participating.
55 comments or Leave a comment