I've thought, sometimes, of the inspiration for SF and Fantasy. We'll go to great lengths to invent strange creatures and monsters - dragons! chimaeras! shape-shifters, and so on.
But who could invent a creature that stayed buried in the ground for *17 YEARS* before emerging and living its short adult life of only a few weeks? Or a creature that turned its own stomach inside out to devour its prey? Or butterflies that migrate thousands of miles? Or -
Well, you get the idea. That alien in the movie of the same name? There's a creature, right here on earth, with a similar life cycle. It's called the ichneumon wasp; Alec Guinnes wrote about it, and it's really pretty horrifying. Or George Lucas's Saarlac? That exists, too, also in the insect world. Or at least there's something very like it; it's called an ant lion.
But it isn't just monsters that are real. Think of those butterflies! It seems they manage to find their way back to the very meadows their great-great-grandparents were born in, without ever having seen them. No one knows how they do it. Another astonishing thing - my sister and i were watching a documentary about wood ducks the other day. When the babies are hatched, the first thing they do is to climb up to the hole - the mother nests high in an oak tree - and jump off to get to their mother, who is waiting for them below. Sometimes the nest is 70 feet in the air. These babies are so small and light that they actually bounce when they land. Who could believe it?
And all the examples of love in the animal world - geese who mourn their friends and partners; foxes and wolves who mate for life; young bluebirds who help their parents raise their younger siblings, and so much more. Then there are the facts that we all know, but never think about - for example, that, when we look into the night sky, we're actually looking into the past. If anything happened to even the nearest star, it would take close to five years for us to see that its light had gone out. That's amazing.
This world is full of marvels. The more you look, the more of them you'll see. If there's anything strange or wonderful you want to invent, you can probably find inspiration for it right here on earth.
Later, I'll have a few questions about SF, fantasy, and the difference (if any) between them. For now, I'd like to ask you: What fires up your imagination? Where do you look when you're trying to come up with a story idea or invent a new species or society? I think natural history is fascinating, but I've got to admit I can also get inspired by my favorite TV shows, books, and movies. But, if I'm really, really stuck, I find it always helps me to just get outside and take a walk. What about you?