Tripped over this George Saunders quote today:
When I was a kid I had one of these Hot Wheels devices designed to look like a little gas station. Inside the gas station were two spinning rubber wheels. One’s little car would weakly approach the gas station, then be sent forth by the spinning rubber wheels to take another lap around the track or, more often, fly out and hit one’s sister in the face.
A story can be thought of as a series of these little gas stations. The main point is to get the reader around the track; that is, to the end of the story. Any other pleasures a story may offer (theme, character, moral uplift) are dependent on this.
“A series of little petrol stations” is a nice way to image a story that’s getting tricky.
New images of the Tarantula Nebula, which is of course mostly gas. 30 Doradus is a stellar nursery, which I guess is a series of gas stations.
When stars are born, clouds of gas and dust that were not incorporated into the final stellar system remain. Moving on an orbit around the Milky Way that takes some 230 million years to complete, the Solar System encounters these clouds, one of which is the Local Interstellar Cloud, although as Brandt told Richard Stone in the Science article, we really know so little about the cloud environment that our conception is on the order of a child’s sketch.
Or, indeed, on the order of a child’s Hot Wheels construction.