Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

Congratulations to Tom Olbert, Champion of the Science Fiction Microstory Contest

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message 1: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1147 comments Mod
By Tom Olbert

Summer 2018

The summer sun shone bright over the space needle, amid the bustle of Seattle, WA. Harvey Walcott smiled, savoring the sweet, greasy taste of a cheese burger at an outdoor table at Great State Burger as his wife Julie playfully wiped a bit of ketchup off his chin.

He took a sip of beer, the gentle, warm breeze rustling his hair. Harvey was a happy man. Even his two kids hopping about and squealing and squirting each other with ketchup bottles didn’t bother him. He was a happy man. Oh, it had been a long struggle up the corporate ladder of the oil business, but things were finally going his way. No more troublesome government regulations, no more late nights doctoring science reports on ecological destruction and climate change. The company’s good fortune was his good fortune. He’d been so overjoyed with the fat bonus he’d pocketed, he’d decided to dust off the RV and take the wife and kids on a cross-country road trip.

It had been a pain when the motor home had broken down on the road and they’d had to make an unexpected detour to Seattle, but what the hell? It was a great sea-side city and a great vacation spot. Yeah…Kurt Vonnegut had been right, Harvey thought. Life was a series of moments. Just concentrate on the good ones and ignore the bad, and you’re all set. “To us,” he said, clinking glasses with Julie.

As Julie ordered ice cream cones for the kids, Harvey glanced through the local paper, barely noticing some item in the science section about a neutron star slipping into a black hole’s gravity well, and the theoretical possibility of time ripples, whatever that meant. He took another bite of his burger. The air seemed to shimmer, and he felt a sudden jolt, like riding in a train as it goes off the rails. He squinted in the sun as the date on his newspaper changed again and again before his eyes, years and decades rattling by as the paper blurred and changed into a screen, then into a holographic image projected from a small device on the table top. The year the holo projection displayed was 2123.

The sun blazed down hard, the air like a furnace. The ice cream melted into milky streams dripping off the kids’ fingers. The taste of delectable, greasy meat and melted cheese turned into the bitter tang of reconstituted synthetic protein. Spitting it out, he tried to wash the foul taste out of his mouth with a swig of beer. He spit that out, wincing at the vile taste of synthetic alcohol.

The news holos swirling around him conveyed scenes of California wildfires spreading into a raging inferno, consuming what remained of Los Angeles. Tornadoes tearing the city of Dallas into rubble. Boston underwater. New York City swallowed into a tidal wave, the Statue of Liberty collapsing. Farms and orchards withering, fishing boats rusting on acidic, lifeless seas while starving multitudes turned to cannibalism. Harvey winced and looked away in disgust from the scene of bleached human remains littering the deserts of Utah and Arizona, like some sun-scorched African savanna.

He started and looked up at the sound of wild screams and the sickening smell of charred meat. His blood ran cold at the sight of starving masses frying themselves trying to get past an electrified barbed wire fence. Government security drones resembling gargantuan black flies blasted down scores of the bony, howling wretches with concentrated bursts of micro-wave radiation. The kids shrieked in horror as hordes of the savages broke through, their teeth bared, their eyes wild with hunger. Julie screamed.


Suddenly, it was night. Harvey found himself sitting behind the wheel of the motor home, stalled on the interstate, the Seattle skyline visible in the distance. The newspaper on the seat beside him was dated 2018. The radio was on. “Leading scientists conclude the time ripple effect has passed,” the announcer declared. “Moving on to sports…” Harvey switched off the radio.

“Are we there yet?” his son muttered, half awake.

“No, we’re not there yet,” Harvey said softly. I hope to God we never are, he thought. As Julie called for a tow, he turned to her. “Jules…Is that offer your brother made me of a partnership in a renewable energy start-up still good?”

“Probably,” she said quietly. “I’ll ask.”

He softly took her hand and looked off into the night.

message 2: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Kraftchak (smkraftchak) | 123 comments Memorable- well done Tom.

message 3: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 352 comments Congrats, Tom

message 4: by J.F. (new)

J.F. Williams | 187 comments Nice work, Tom!

message 5: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 989 comments Yea for Tom!! (insert confetti and party favors here) Way to go!

message 6: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 437 comments Great job, Tom! Congrats!

message 7: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1147 comments Mod
Very close this month. I really thought Marianne was going to pull it off. Nice job both of you.

message 8: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 352 comments It's ok , Jot. The company is good :) And I have Zanzibar on my side ;)

message 9: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1031 comments Thanks, everyone. Especially for the confetti and party favors, Justin!

Yeah, I have to admit, my money was on Marianne, too.

I'll get the August theme up ASAP.

message 10: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Congrats Tom from San Francisco

message 11: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1031 comments Thank you, C.

message 12: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1031 comments The August theme has been posted.

message 13: by Paula (new)

Paula | 868 comments Marianne, I loved your story. Tom, I loved your story.
I think *both* stories should get published now in places like F&SF, Locus, or the like.
These are serious, superb pieces of sf literature.
Congratulations, Tom! and Marianne!

message 14: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1031 comments Wow. Thanks, Paula. Very flattering. F&SF ... They might like Marianne's story, but I gave up on them ages ago. It was like Gordon Van Gelder had a form rejection letter with my name on it. (I still can't figure how he made the rejection turn-around happen so fast. It was like he was intercepting my submissions at the post office. Maybe, he used magic.)

But, I'm glad you liked.

message 15: by Paula (new)

Paula | 868 comments But then try Locus. Or any other "biggie." And by now there must be new first-readers in the F&SF offices, lol.
Anyhow, congratulations of the fine, super story.

message 16: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1031 comments Thank you.

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