I’m a gardener, and this is the time of year where my seed porn starts pouring in through the mailbox. You wouldn’t think there would be so many choices, given the lack of variety in store produce sections, but if you’re not a gardener, trust me- there are more kinds of carrot than you will likely ever want to ponder. In my favourite catalogue, there’s a five page spread devoted entirely to different varieties of garlic. It’s fantastic.
Things went downhill at the end of my season last year, and I couldn’t manage to save any seeds from my own garden. If you’re a Damn Hippie (as I aspire to be), doing things like saving seeds from plants that have grown in your own garden, adapted to the soil and conditions there, is a great idea. It saves you money the next year, and it’s great for the hardiness of your plants. While it’s not quite the same thing, my best friend’s mom was kind enough to gift me with seeds from her garden, and I can’t wait to plant them. You can’t get blood from a turnip, but let me tell you, you can get a damn fine soup from one.
When you save seeds from your garden, you’re reaping a secondary harvest, but you’re also ensuring that the garden lives on past that season. You’re making the garden itself stronger, by adding a layer of familiarity and understanding for the ecosystem that exists within your beds. Now that my tortured little metaphor has gotten to the point, we can talk about worldbuilding, and the seeds we plant in our own writing as we go.
Our next book, Peripheral People, mentions a certain profession somewhat unique to the Ylendrian universe. It’s a toss-off line, something that adds flavour, but doesn’t get explored in any depth. But during the edits, I caught on that scene, and found myself wondering how and why such a profession would exist, how they garnered the rarified social status they seemed to enjoy, and what would happen if it got one of them in trouble. Presto- there was a story sprouting, from a seed nestled in the text of another book.
Did I mention the concept of volunteers? In the garden, when a productive plant springs up somewhere you didn’t expect (say, a tomato in the eggplants, or, more likely, in the compost heap), it’s called a volunteer. There to offer something of its own accord. A lot of my writing volunteers itself, when I think I’m planting the seeds for something else entirely. You might move a volunteer to a more convenient location, or you might let it do its thing where it feels like doing its thing. The danger there, of course, is letting your volunteer overshadow what you actually planned to grow there.
Almost anyone who tells you that their garden is perfect – exactly to plan, hardy, no room for improvement- doesn’t understand that the garden they have this year contains the seeds of next year, and the chance for something even better. If you don’t collect those seeds, prepare yourself for some volunteers.
Or, you know, find yourself writing about star-crossed lovers, space zombies, political intrigue, and a failing space station. What the hell did I plant out there, anyway?