Hey, Rob here. For a long time now, there’s been the awareness that what happened to the dinosaurs – an extinction-level event caused by an asteroid impact – could happen again. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be a matter of if, but of when. A hundred years? A thousand years? A hundred thousand years? In the movies Armageddon and Deep Impact (both strangely released in the same year, 1998), we triumph over the threat by nuking a huge asteroid into pieces. In reality, a nuclear explosion as a planetary defense is potentially unpredictable. What if the asteroid doesn’t break into the pieces we’d like it to? So… fast forward to yesterday, November 23, 2021, and NASA launched a different kind of test: slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid to deflect its path, just a fraction of a percent, but enough to make a difference. The asteroid they’ve chosen is, unsurprisingly, not on a collision-course with Earth, so it poses no threat. I repeat: it poses no threat.
Hey guys, Rob here. Happy Halloween! So a friend of mine texted me and he’s like, “Dude! Do a story about this creepy island I’m working on!” Usually I’m like okay, great, thanks, whatever, and then I do what I want. But this time he got me. See, his job is to map areas, and he told me about Hart Island. It’s a tiny island off the coast of the Bronx in New York City, in the Long Island Sound, and it’s basically a giant mass grave. It’s where all the people who become the responsibility of the city are buried: the homeless, stillborn children, people who can’t afford any kind of burial, and bodies that are unclaimed. There are a million people buried there, with more every year, making it the largest potter’s field in the world. And on top of that, it’s got an abandoned psychiatric hospital, and even old cold war missile silos. Wow. Seems like the perfect creepy Halloween setting, maybe for a zombie story, or nuclear zombies, even better! But then this story spilled out of my head, the story of a woman named Ruth.
Hey guys, Rob here. As you might know, I’m into the whole Mars rover thing, and I was psyched to find out they included an extra little package inside it this time — a helicopter. And even cooler, they fastened an actual swatch of fabric from the original Wright Brothers Flyer to the underside of its solar panel! So that got me thinking: I know they’re super careful about not letting bio material contaminate the moon or Mars, but what if, for this tiny swatch, they sort of forgot to check? What might happen?
Hey, Rob here. Have I got a treat for you! I’ve finally branched out and collaborated with some great folks on a story. Wendy Mass, NY Times bestselling author, reached out to me last year to co-author a short sci-fi story to submit to the talented Alex Shvartsman, who was publishing the latest in his anthology series Unidentified Funny Objects. So we came up with a story in correspondence, from an alien liaison to the U.S. President, about the impending colonization of Earth and how wonderful it would be. We were just having fun, but it turned out pretty damned good, so Alex accepted and published it. And now, with myself and the narration of Audie-award-winning Khristine Hvam, I present… “The Other Ted.”
Hey, Rob here. I’ve been sitting on this article for a couple of years, not knowing what to do with it. It’s the true story of the Chinese government’s spy infiltration of major companies and government agencies in the U.S. through the use of a tiny, undetectable chip placed on computer motherboards. I couldn’t even believe it when I read it. Anyway, I started thinking, “What if they could make that technology even smaller? Even more undetectable? What would the limit be? Would there even be a limit?”…
Hey, Rob here. So you know how it goes, I get myself down an Internet rabbit hole, and I wind up on this thought problem called The Ship of Theseus. I won’t tell you what it is, it’s in the story, but it reminded me of that factoid that every seven years all of our cells are replaced, the old ones dying and the new ones growing, and we’re essentially a new person. Now, we humans don’t notice it, and can’t do anything with the old bits, but what if there was a life form that could? Read on…
Hey guys. Apparently scientists have been growing brain organoids for a while – taking human stem cells and cultivating little clusters of neurons, to help with brain disease research. At some point someone raised the ethical question, “what if we grow a brain that gains consciousness?” But everyone pooh-poohed that idea, I mean, come on, it’s just a cluster of cells, right?
Hi guys! Rob here, welcome back, I’ve got a little holiday treat for you… This story was inspired by a video I saw, yes, it was one of those days you don’t know how, but you wind up an hour later watching a YouTube video of someone driving around what looks like a ghost town, right near Area 51 in Nevada. It’s a real town, called Silver Peak, and the video gives you this creepy feeling, and so of course I thought, “What secret might be hiding in this town?” Then, I don’t know why, I got the idea that a mash-up of Bridges of Madison County would be fun. And then I heard a holiday song on the radio or something, and thought, “Oooh, even better: I’ll make it a Christmas story!” Enjoy.
Hi guys! Today’s short story was inspired by an article I read in the New York Times about a couple of men who, many years after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011, still go diving every day looking for remains of their loved ones. It’s so sad, they understand I think the futility of the search, but something compels them to never give up, and it becomes a ritual to honor the dead, or sorts, or at least that’s what I thought of it. So as I’m reading this article, of course, I say to myself, “What if…?” and this story spilled out of my head, complete.
Hey guys! I just read an article yesterday, about Mark and Scott Kelly, the twin astronauts, and how Scott came back after a record length trip aboard the International Space Station, and they found that his DNA was no longer identical to his twin, Mark. What an intriguing premise for a story, right? And I’m also a twin, so the idea wouldn’t get out of my head. I decided to make this one a little more like a series on conversations I might have with my twin brother if we were astronauts and something like this happened, so it reads more like a radio play, with nothing but dialog. Enjoy!
Last week I got a tick on me, and of course I freaked out, and did the whole doctor thing, they have to check your blood, check the tick, etc. And I started thinking: here’s this tiny little thing, hardly even there, and it can bring you to your knees. What if it went even farther? This one veers into sci-fi horror, so I apologize in advance if you have any tick nightmares. Enjoy!
Hey, Rob here. I just read an article in The New Yorker titled “Did the Oscars Just Prove That We’re Living in a Computer Simulation?” about the recent spate of odd or unlikely occurrences, and it was full of awesome “what if?” questions about the nature of our strange-and-getting-stranger reality, so I decided to answer them with this story. Enjoy!
This story was originally the pilot for a new low-budget sci-fi TV series called Quick Fix – sort of a mashup of Quantum Leap, Star Trek, and little bit of Where the Hell is Tesla? thrown in. What happens when two routine, simultaneous repairs aboard a starship go haywire? The TV script is in a temporary limbo right now, so I figured I’d turn it into a short story. If you like it, let me know if this is a story you’d like to see with more episodes.
I think it’s easy in the 2016 election to get obsessed with the news, and all the ups and downs, the role that technology and the media play now – and I have for sure. So I guess it’s seeping into my subconscious, because one morning I woke up with this story pretty much fully formed in my head. I don’t know if you’d even call it science fiction, but I’d say it still fits under the term “speculative fiction.” Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
The phone felt heavy in Mark’s hand. Laden with possibility. Packed with enough distractions to get him through the weekend at his in-laws’ lake house up in Fleming. It would provide his escape from their incessant growling at each other, and their insistence that everything’s just wonderful, despite the swarm of invisible daggers flying through the air at all times. He loved being with Kate, of course – they were literally still in their honeymoon phase – but her folks?…
Before the short story, I have to give you the setup: I was so excited to be invited to the Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author’s Evening (reading from my novel Where the Hell is Tesla?) that I decided to write a short story just for the night. Maybe a time travel story. Sounded good. But what could I do to ratchet it up, make it something a bit more special?