Everything is Grist

Writers always get asked, "where do you get your ideas?"

New writers, like me, probably ask it more than regular people. You want to figure out what things to do so you don’t stare at a blank page wondering, "What words should go there?"

I am starting to realize everything is grist for the ideal mill.

The example that crystalized what should be an obvious fact hit this morning. I was casting about for an idea for “Puritans in Space” for an early story in the Articles of Faith universe. I mean, okay, so very religious Protestants gather their funds via one or more megachurches and build the first O’Neil Cylinder at Earth-Moon L5. That’s nice. What’s the story?

Late last week I came across a documentary about the Tulip Bubble on Curiosity Stream. My wife didn'’t know what the bubble was so we watched it. While I was familiar with that first modern financial crisis in economic terms I learned a few things. For one, I did not realize it was built around future contracts for delivery of bulbs currently buried in a given location and not for a physical bulb changing hands at the moment of auction.

The key item I did not know was why tulips became a craze among the Dutch in the early Seventeenth Century. It turns out the first financial bubble has its roots (or would that be its bulb) in Reform Protestantism. In the first quarter of the Seventeenth Century Netherlands was a wealthy country due to trade inhabited by people who were part of a strict Reform Church. The faith in that time and place limited the acceptable ways to display wealth. This dichotomy is the source of a history of the early Dutch Republic, The Embarrassment of Riches.

One of the acceptable ways to display wealth was gardening. Gardening, by engaging the natural world and working with it, glorified God. Thus, Dutch burgers would compete to grow the most beautiful gardens. About the same time this started the tulip arrived in the Netherlands. Originally a flower from Central Asia it had over a couple of centuries moved to western Europe.

The addition of these beautiful flowers added to the glorification of the Dutch garden. Competition for daughter bulbs from the most beautiful tulips, which would grow identical plants, began.

So, out of limitations on how to express wealth inline with religious beliefs tulip bulbs became the original of which the 2007 mortgage failure was a descendent.

Now I have Puritans, Reform Protestants, in space making their living by trade with Earth.

What are their tulips? What are their gardens? What thing will they find out among the asteroids or on the surface of the Moon or even just ship up in limited qualities from Earth that allows them to show off wealth without offending God? Will the competition for that item create the first financial bubble off the surface of the Earth?

I do not know but I am taking notes. One day I may write a story or even a novel about the first financial bubble in space because I watched a documentary.

A documentary about tulip bulbs.

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