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Aphelion Editorial 080

April 2004

by Dan L. Hollifield

The Usual Rant from the Aphelion Senior Editor


For the last three weeks, I have been killing kudzu. I freely confess it, I used a machete and I burned the corpses afterward. Report me to PETP People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants if you wish. I'm down on Kudzu and I shan't quit ripping them until I do get buckled. I'd kill them all if I could- Every last ropy, fertilizer-sucking, tree-strangling, leafy green, DamnearusTriffidus one of them! I'm Mad I tell you, Mad!!!!!

They never understood me at the University...

It seems that I've spent half my life in a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice... Oh wait, that's copyrighted, Uh- never-ending battle to reclaim arable land from the demon-plant: Kudzu. I grew up on a farm. When most kids my age were just beginning to be trusted to mow the lawn, I was out in a field somewhere driving around on a tractor equipped with a Bush-Hog mower, cutting a six-foot wide swath through overgrown weeds. Or in the case of a field overgrown by Kudzu, the tractor would have a scrape-blade attachment to push it up into safely burnable piles. Then the roots would have to be pulled up. It takes a really hot fire to burn the roots. Over the last 40 years or so, I've helped to turn over a thousand acres of Northeast Georgia from useless, overgrown wastelands into productive fields of wheat, oats, corn, and soybeans. But Kudzu keeps trying to come back in those fields. It can be controlled, but it cannot be exterminated.

What's all this memory-lane stuff got to do with writing fiction? Well now, let's look at that. I'll Google "Kudzu" and see what comes up. Ah. perfect!

I quote from The Amazing Story of Kudzu website:

Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Countries were invited to build exhibits to celebrate the 100th birthday of the U.S. The Japanese government
constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country. The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms
of kudzu captured the imagination of American gardeners who used the plant for ornamental purposes.

Florida nursery operators, Charles and Lillie Pleas, discovered that animals would eat the plant and promoted
its use for forage in the 1920s. Their Glen Arden Nursery in Chipley sold kudzu plants through the mail. A historical
marker there proudly proclaims "Kudzu Developed Here."

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control.
Hundreds of young men were given work planting kudzu through the Civilian Conservation Corps. Farmers were
paid as much as eight dollars an acre as incentive to plant fields of the vines in the 1940s.

In short, it was an alien organism, introduced into a region that allowed it to thrive unchecked for many decades. Sounds almost like "The Andromeda Strain" or "Day of the Triffids" when you put it all clinically like that. There's story material in that, as you can plainly see. SF, Fantasy, Horror- You could write something in almost any genre with an idea like that. In one of my stories there is a carnivorous plant that looks like a field of moss surrounding a patch of thorny vines. When the unwary gets too close to the vines, the vines become animated and seek to trap the victim. I had a nightmare about this plant, and then used it in the story. For the purposes of this editorial I animized the Kudzu plant into a fiendish antagonist that I'd been battling for decades. It really turns out that I think of it as just another nuisance weed that takes lots of hard labor to remove. But an active imagination has it's uses.

Story ideas and plot points are to be found everywhere the writer looks. It takes our unique viewpoints to be able to see the possibilities that surround us. Try to see different points of view about the things that are around you. Look at things all around you using your imagination and you'll see some amazing things that you never thought of before. Ideas for stories are everywhere.

Stretch your imagination, flex those mental muscles, exersize your mind.

Dan

I now return you to your regularly scheduled reading...

THE END


2004 Dan L. Hollifield

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