Worldbuilding: Salt and Pineberries

Seed catalogs can be interesting inspiration.

https://www.eburgess.com/3161-white-carolina-pineberry

From Burgess, this is the “White Carolina Pineberry”. A cross of two strawberry species that is light pink with red seeds, and supposedly tastes like pineapple. Tell me that doesn’t belong in an SF/F setting….

And then there’s salt therapy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halotherapy

Granted, a lot of people say it’s no more than a placebo. But if you look into placebos, they tend to be about 30% effective. And as one wry doctor put it, “You know what we call something that’s 30% effective on a condition nothing else will treat? We call that a good drug.”

Long story short, there are all kinds of odd and unusual things out in RL that look very, very odd, because they’re not general knowledge. So… if you’re trying to build a unique world, you might think less about “what can I dream up out of thin air” and more about “what odd little nifty bits are out there that I could recombine into my fictional setting?”

…And then add some stuff dreamed up out of thin air. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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26 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Salt and Pineberries

  1. Besides sometimes nature or science can come up with stuff that is a lot weirder than anyone would think could exist.

    Like a star that is made of diamond. That actually exists. And my first thought at hearing about it was go, “Who would have thought that Rainbow Brite had some accurate science fiction in it?” (Okay. the entire diamond world is a planet, not a star, in that movie but still . . .)

    Or just spend some time looking through the animal kingdom. Nature can be get very, very strange. Be careful through. Some of it will make you go “Well, there’s my nightmare fuel – thanks, nature!”

    Like horror is not my genre but when I saw those fungus that take over the brains of insects in the Amazon, my bunnies noted that any fungus that could do that mammals, especially humans, would make a pretty terrifying scenario.

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    1. Someone did a graph of body temperature versus fungal infections; turns out there are very good reasons to be warm-blooded if you can get the calories for it!

      Also, crocodile-relatives will give themselves a “behavioral fever” when sick – they’ll deliberately bask in ways to raise their temp above the norm.

      And yes. I read a parasitology book at a young age. This may explain many things… among them, the fact that I do not eat raw meat. Nope. Never. If it’s bleeding, cook it more!

      I still think the freshwater hydras are some of the coolest animals out there, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. *nods*

        Yeah, some very good reasons. *shivers*

        But if the fungus was a weapon, made by aliens to be used against humanity, kinda of like the Project?

        Or some wizard mucking around with things they ought not.

        Or alien wizards.

        Either way, you can see one of them with little morals looking at a fungus like that and going “Hmmm . . . now that looks interesting . . .”

        Sorry the mad scientist bunnies take their cues on what the bad guys might do from Hojo and Ni Jianyi. Needless to say, what they come up with is scary.

        Reading or watching anything about parasites does change your outlook on undercooked food. Or the idea of drinking unknown water without boiling it first or something along those lines. Or swimming in warm fresh water without nose plugs . . .

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      2. When I was young, I was pretty indiscriminate about what I read, so long as it was in the children’s section. I’d add that I don’t read horror for horror, as I’m naturally quite anxious. (I read some stuff because it works on me in other ways, or for appreciation of craft.)

        I found a book with light sensitive mindcontrolling fungus. I was not ready to read that book. I’m not sure whether it gave me a phobia of the dark, but I got a nightlight and used it for many years after.

        That was my introduction to ‘it is okay to not finish a book’, and probably to my habit of being much pickier about what I read. (I still ended up reading and enjoying Drake’s Redliners, unaware that it might be considered horror, much later in life.)

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      3. The “alien wizards” (or at least genetic engineers) making weaponized fungus (well, more slime mold) was a plot point in David Weber’s book “Apocalypse Troll”. And how such things might backfire. The mold was designed to be a parasite that’d infect human blood-streams and kill humans off rather painfully… But something went wrong and a small percentage of its victims resisted it and it went symbiotic in them. “The best way to keep getting resources is to keep the host in good condition.” (really good condition. “old age” is not good condition…)

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      4. Re the weapon in Apocalypse Troll: Heh. That sounds like Pard in F. Paul Wilson’s The Healer – a slime mold that attacks from the ceiling of caves on a particular planet. “Out of every thousand, 999 will die.” That’s the warning. It’s very literal. The slime molds have consciousness on the molecular level, and share the intelligence of any host that survives. So when a scout named Dalt ends up with one of these slime molds as a symbiote (Pard), things get very interesting.

        (AKA: The thousandth does not die/is effectively immortal.

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    2. Funny you should mention cordyceps โ€“ the parasitic brain fungus.

      the Oscar bait game, โ€˜the last of usโ€™ is actually about a zombie apocalypse caused by aforementioned parasitic-mind-controlling-brain-fungus infecting humans. even worse, it can be spread via airborne spores. And it is just as terrifying and full of body horror as that concept implies.

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      1. nope ๐Ÿ™‚

        Actually, it is a PlayStation 3 game. Its plot is pure Oscar bait though. The story focuses more on the humans than the zombies.

        I havenโ€™t played it since I donโ€™t own a PlayStation, which is kind of a shame since its setting is the post-apocalyptic ruins of a modern city overtaken by beautiful green vegetation. โ€“ which is one of my setting-kinks, for lack of a better word.

        I also liked the infected enemies, normal zombies can get a bit tedious after a while.
        I recommend watching a letโ€™s play if any of it sounds interesting. โ€“ I think Markiplier made one.

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      2. Coryceps were what I was thinking about. I was just blanking on their name. First saw them on a nature documentary and thought “Well that’s creepy. Really, really creepy.”

        I don’t know why more writers don’t mine what Mother Nature has already come up with the scary, the creepy, and the just plain weird. There is rich fodder for science fiction and fantasy as well as horror.

        Not much of a video game person and zombie apocalypses aren’t my genre of choice. I find most apocalypses are unrelentingly depressing and zombies stories often involve watching people getting eaten which tends to max out my gore limits very quickly . . . plus science zombies usually have me shouting at the screen – X doesn’t work that way! You can’t just say science but treat it like magic! Badly written magic because magic is supposed to be consistent . . . *cough* but it sounds like they are using the concept well and not just recycling the same old story for their zombie apocalypse.

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    3. On the topic of Frightening Fungi: death caps (also known as destroying angel mushrooms/ fool’s mushrooms). You eat them because they both look like and share characteristics of known edible mushrooms (sometimes growing near or among them.)

      You get sick. Think food poisoning on steroids. Voiding any way you can. Mystery.

      A few days later you get better. Seemingly. (This is the part that freaks me out. You GET “better”!) While you’re getting better, you’re organs are being damaged/shutting down. (I believe there’s even a variety that effects RNA. You’re being destroyed down to a genetic level.)

      The next you know- your inside have shut down and you’re either dead or near it. It takes as little as half a mushroom for this.

      Modern treatments have to be done early and include organ transplants. There’s still not much we can do for people who’ve eaten these.

      The really scary part? There’s more than one mushroom that does this.

      Scary, scary stuff. *shiver*

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Like I said, who needs completely made-up horror when you can just look at Mother Nature. Mother Nature is much scarier than you are.

        I think one of the reasons they said misindentifying mushrooms causes so many problems – besides the deadliness – is that the symptons are the kind of stomach flu type stuff that can be several different things.

        And this is also one of the many, many reasons that I will never, ever eat a wild-picked mushroom unless I know the person who picked them is an expert in mushroom identification and even then I’d still probably hesitate. Because death by mushroom is not what I want in my obit.

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  2. You might enjoy looking though heirloom seed catalogues. Granted, there’s nothing as interesting as the Pineberry, but they have things like white or orange watermelons, red celery, purple broccoli, string beans in redish purple, purple or yellow, tomatoes that are naturally green with stripes when ripe, etc.
    http://www.rareseeds.com/ has a huge selection, so does seedsavers.org.
    (I garden as a hobby, and I love colors. Did you know there is a green rose? I want one! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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      1. Well, given a) Star Gate and b) the sort of original race/species AUs you do, I’m imagining SG1 going to a hotsprings resort and balking at the Thorium water.

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