China’s genetically altered pigs.

Marcos Hernandez Article

China’s National Pig Genetic Program announces they’re working on creating pigs that produce more meat while consuming less feed.

First off—it’s astounding a National Pig Genetic Program even exists.

An official from the National Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources Committee told reporters that China’s pigs are 30% less productive than their overseas counterparts. Because of this, China imports live pigs from both Denmark and the United States to feed its large population.

Also, can you believe there’s a committee dedicated to this?

The hope is that China can save on feed grains and land usage.

Turning this into a story: there’s some major B-horror fodder here. I’m thinking something similar to Zombeavers.

A group of friends goes to a cabin retreat. They meet a pig farmer on their way in, who offers them a discount on fresh meat.

They cook and eat the meat that night. During a hike the next day, a member of the group disappears. He’s discovered later that night dismembered within sight of the pig farm.

Two group members leave for town to find help—the rest visit the farmer and ask if he’s seen anything. The farmer says no, but he tells them about a local predator (bear or cat) that’s been terrorizing the area.

The group goes back to the cabin. The next day, when their friends haven’t returned, they go into town. Nobody saw the two who went for help. The group retraces the route to the murder scene and discovers two massive pigs devouring their friends.

They run back to the cabin. A group of pigs surrounds the cabin, trying to get inside. As night falls, the pigs go back to the farm. The group’s surviving members try getting in their car and escaping, but they find the car doesn’t start.

They prepare their cabin’s defenses for the pigs’ return the next day. The pigs don’t come back, but the group’s too scared to leave.

Realizing they don’t stay out at night, the group goes to the farmer’s house when the sun goes down to warn him about his pigs. While they’re there, they see a car part in the trash. The farmer tells them feed is expensive before slamming the door in their face.

The pigs attack the following day. The boyfriend of one of the girls, who couldn’t come initially, shows up as a surprise. The pigs hide, then devour him. While they’re feeding, the group gets into the car and drives away.

Time is running out for a lost submarine.

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submarine in water

An Indonesian submarine in the Bali Strait got permission to dive then went dark. There are 53 crew members on board, and estimates suggest they have enough air for three days.

The submarine, built in 1977, was performing a military exercise when it lost contact with the mainland. Initial theories are that the submarine dove too deep.

Turning this into a story would be pretty straightforward. The stakes are high—many lives are on the line—and there’s a time element already involved.

But what if someone didn’t want them to be found?

There would be two sides to the story: the captain of the submarine and a female analyst on the ground. The story alternates chapters between the two viewpoints.

The captain’s story would be about survival, maintaining order on the submarine, and dealing with the challenges involved with a leaking submarine. He knew about the depth restrictions and didn’t authorize the sub’s descent lower than the recommended level.

Throughout the story, he tries solving the mystery of who, how, and why someone on the mainland overrode the sub’s controls and plunged them into the depths.

It turns out there’s someone on board who tried blackmailing the admiral when they found out he was stealing money from the military budget. The Indonesian military’s equipment is ancient—there’s never enough money for upgrades, and we find out the admiral lives in luxury on the nearby island of Bali. The crew member was demoted from his position close to the admiral and sent onto the ship as punishment.

On land, the analyst discovers the discrepancy regarding the ship’s descent. After he’s dismissed by his superiors, he investigates who could have authorized the maneuver, finding out that the admiral’s the only person who could override the captain’s control.

The analyst then looks for any reason why the admiral sank the craft. In the beginning, she believes he did it for the good of the Indonesian Navy, garnering goodwill and potentially getting a replacement craft. An offhand remark from her husband, a fellow military member, when talking about a couple they’re friends with, about men doing anything to not get caught, inspires her to look for personal motives.

She discovers two people had past service with the admiral—the sub’s captain and the demoted crew member.

The captain and the admiral were former friends who stopped talking after the admiral received a medal for a military confrontation both were involved in. There’s been a persistent rumor that the admiral killed more people than necessary, and the only person who would know the truth is the captain.

With a potential motive for the captain, she investigates the crew member and discovers he took care of the admiral’s accounting. She looks into the numbers herself and finds out what the crew member tried using for blackmail.

The story comes to a head when she realizes the admiral’s commanding the search party to avoid a particular area. She goes behind his back and convinces a search vessel to comb the area, finding the submarine.

The submarine is recovered in time, and the crew lives. The admiral pays the analyst a visit in her home when the husband’s sent away on temporary duty at another location. He knows she’s discovered his secret, and she shoots him after a confrontation.

Further books in the series could take inspiration from various Jack Reacher novels, thrillers with international implications with the female analyst as the main character.

A monkey plays video games with his mind.

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monkey plays pong with mind

Elon Musk’s company Neuralink released a video showing a monkey playing Pong using only his mind. As an incentive for playing the game, the monkey sips a banana smoothie while playing.

Neuralink hopes the tech will one day allow paralyzed people to use their phones using their brains alone. The monkey in the video has two devices installed into his brain, which measure his brain activity and translate it into actions.

Musk envisions humans controlling robots with their minds and potentially one day uploading into a new body after death, similar to many sci-fi novels.

Considering I’ve already written a book about uploading consciousness into another body, what about a story about a more immediate use of thought-to-action technology?

Think about voice-assistant tech on your phone. One day soon, these will be seen as archaic.

Instead of talk to text, what about think to text? Combine that with a simple messaging app, and instantaneous, non-vocal communication becomes the norm.

The story is about a group of high-tech soldiers who train and function as a single unit thanks to their instantaneous communication. The story opens with them infiltrating and clearing out a group of neo-nazi terrorists in middle America, aided by a state-sponsored hack of the thought-messages being exchanged within the compound. Because of their edge, the soldiers make quick work of the assault.

It’s discovered that the terrorist bust was a proof-of-concept. Soon, the soldiers are on their way to the middle east. Since the thought-messaging isn’t available there, their work isn’t as easy. But, with their advanced tech, they still make a clean entrance and escape.

The third assignment takes place in Southeast Asia. The soldiers find out that the terrorist cell they’re infiltrating, who is wanted for drug distribution, has the thought-messaging, but the state can’t hack into their communications. The state wants them to stay in the area and find the big fish responsible for both the drugs and the advanced technology.

The soldiers work their way up the ladder and eventually take down the boss in a massive raid. When they inspect the body, they realize that the “boss” was controlled from afar by an earlier version of a soldier left for dead in a failed operation.

The second book would detail how the soldiers chase down the rogue soldier in cities across the world, and in the third book, we see divisions within the group of soldiers—some no longer trust the people giving them orders.

Other books could introduce the concept of uploading into a new body, similar to “Universal Soldier,” and following plotlines from the movies.

A rabbit breed that performs handstands?

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rabbit doing handstand

Scientists have discovered the genetic mutation that causes an entire line of French rabbits to walk on their forelegs. The affected gene causes an issue with the spinal cord that inhibits coordination between the forelegs and hind legs—when the rabbits want to move fast, they have no choice but to perform a handstand.

The gene forces the over-flexing of the hind legs when the rabbits move quickly, but they can walk on all four when moving slowly.

The gene in question also often causes blindness.

What if a group of these rabbits in a traveling carnival had another genetic mutation: a taste for blood at night?

I read dozens of Goosebumps as a kid. Mix it in with Something Wicked This Way Comes for a new children’s horror novel.

Two best friends in a small town visit the carnival during the day and see the rabbits doing handstands. They talk with the trainer and think something about him doesn’t seem quite right.

They go home and tell their parents about their worries, but their parents don’t believe them. Convinced they need to take action themselves, they sneak into the carnival at night and witness the trainer feeding the rabbits blood.

A local blood bank reports a break-in. The friends tell their parents but are again dismissed.

They revisit the rabbits during the day and find them tranquil and serene while performing. They try jumping the fence and are caught by the trainer, who takes them to their parents. One set of parents invites the trainer over for dinner as an apology.

The second friend, not at the dinner, visits the rabbits. They attack when they smell his blood. He gets away without killing any of them and reports to his friend later that night after the dinner has ended.

The pair go back in the dead of night. The trainer sneaks up on them from behind and says, “They haven’t had fresh meat in a long time.” One of the friends blinds the trainer with his flashlight, and the stumbling trainer accidentally releases the rabbits.

The rabbits escape their cages, and the children run, not stopping until they get home.

The next day, people all over town are looking for their missing pets. The trainer gets the rest of the town to help look for his escaped rabbits, who are docile during the day. Both friend’s parents make them participate in the search. They end up finding a rabbit and, despite their fear, pick it up. When nothing happens, they return it to the trainer with the agreement that he’ll leave if they can find all the rabbits.

Collectively, the town brings back the rabbits and enjoys one final night at the carnival. The rabbits, satiated from the town’s pets, sleep through the night, and the next day the carnival leaves the town.

Nobody sees the lone rabbit hop walk away on two legs at the edge of the field where the carnival stood.

A train derails in a Taiwan tunnel.

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high-speed train filled with people leaving Taipei for a long weekend derailed after hitting a construction vehicle on the tracks.

The train’s first four cars absorbed most of the damage, crumpling inside the tunnel. The train had eight cars total.

Reports have the total number of passengers as nearly 500—of those, 48 have died and over sixty injured.

Turning this into a story, what if there’s an assassination target on the train? The kicker—they haven’t committed the crime yet.

A mix between the movies “Source Code” and “Minority Report.” The target? A young man who hacks the infrastructure of the United States in the future.

The story kicks off with a female Taiwanese agent on the train observing the target and charged with their protection. They know an upcoming attempted assassination will take place, but they don’t understand why or how.

Then, the train derails in the tunnel, and the young man is killed.

After the first chapter, the story goes back in time to the events leading up to the train’s derailment. The agent is explicitly chosen because they already know the target, having dated in the past. The target is particularly reclusive now, and the female agent shows back up in their life, trying to uncover why they’re a target in the first place.

The Taiwanese agent doesn’t know why the young man is a target because Taiwan doesn’t have access to the time technology. They find out because of a mole in the program.

The accident is portrayed again, this time with more emphasis on the relationship between the target and the agent. The agent survives with injuries while the target is killed.

After her recovery, she strikes out on a mission to discover why the target lost his life, despite her own government telling her the case is closed for diplomatic reasons.

Turns out, the mole is a high-ranking diplomat that doesn’t agree with involvement in foreign countries by the United States.

The agent deals with threats against her own life, eventually becoming paranoid about every action she takes.

She survives an assassination attempt, and her resulting unwillingness to leave her house effectively provides the same outcome the United States wanted in the first place.

Then, she receives anonymous intelligence—from the mole—that points to the man pulling all the strings in her own country. It’s her boss.

She convinces him to meet her in the train tunnel, still closed for repairs. There, she kills the traitor and walks away into seeming peace.

The sequel could be about how she’s become the force within Taiwan that does the United States’ bidding, but this time it’s through the mole—a separate faction in United States politics. She succeeds in stopping the other faction’s plans for another assassination.

The third book would have her discover that the “mole” was a farce from the beginning, causing her to question her role in the entire operation.

Other books could see her disavowed from Taiwan’s government forces and highlight what happens when Taiwan gets a hold of the technology themselves—she becomes the first in a series of time agents.

China is the cancel culture king.

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The backlash started after H&M stated that they won’t buy cotton from Xinjiang because of human rights violations in the area. In response, some of China’s biggest online retailers took the company’s products off their website.

Then, H&M’s physical locations were scrubbed—they don’t show up on major ride-hailing apps or map services. Their smartphone app has been removed from app stores.

Other companies are also in the line of fire after expressing concerns, including Nike, Adidas, Burberry, Uniqlo, and Lacoste.

Crazy stat: The autonomous region of Xinjiang is almost twice the land area of the United States.

Turning this into a story, what if the technology existed that could remove people’s memories of whatever has been canceled?

The main character is a jazz club owner who insulted the country’s leader. He wakes up the next day and finds his jazz club closed, his accounts frozen. Returning home, someone’s already removing his belongings.

He tries going to the authorities, but there’s no record of his existence. His friends don’t remember him. When his wife sees him, nothing registers.

Searching for the last remnants of the life he once had, the erased man goes to the bed and breakfast in the country where he proposed to his wife. Amazingly, the owner, a kind old man, recognizes him.

Over time, the man finds out there are others at the bed and breakfast who were erased, that the owner is the last person who remembers them too. He meets and falls in love with a young woman from the town. Without a past, he’s free to be who he wants, adopting a personality that feels more authentic than his previous life’s.

As the story unfolds, the man finds out the woman was erased as well, came to the bed and breakfast, and started a life in the nearby town to be near the one person who knew who she was in her previous life. In fact, the entire town is made up of people who share a similar background.

His world is turned upside down when the country’s leader walks into the bed and breakfast, apologetic about closing the jazz club and wanting it reopened.

The man tries going back to his former life, with his former wife and assets, but finds that he misses who he was in the small town outside the bed and breakfast. He throws water in the leader’s face, gets canceled once more, and returns, only to find out that the woman has returned to her own former life.

The second book would center around the man setting up his life adjacent to the woman. He succeeds in getting her erased again, hopeful she’ll return to his side, but she ends up leaving him.

The third book would find the erased man meeting the country’s former leader, who’s now been erased.

Throw this all into a futuristic setting, with advanced technology for the erasures.

Does lowered sperm counts put the human species at risk?

Marcos Hernandez Article
baby with brain

Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, thinks so. Her research shows that sperm counts fell nearly 60% between 1973 and 2011. She’s written a book about the implications of her research and says the impending fertility crisis threatens the human species.

Her projections suggest sperm counts fall to zero in 2045. Is she a modern-day Cassandra?

Swann blames the falling sperm counts on both chemical and lifestyle factors. In particular, there’s a significant focus on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, specifically PFAs and BPAs. These chemicals are well-known for their presence in plastics but are found in countless manufactured products.

While some scientists have pushed back on the link between endocrine-disrupting chemicals and fertility, what if sperm counts fall to zero in 2045?

In a world where fertility rates bottom out, all babies would require creation in a lab using the parent’s genetic material. It’s not a leap to imagine that genetic-editing technology plays a role, eliminating conditions like sickle cell disease.

If you can correct a genetic defect, why not have complete designer babies?

The story could center on an “oddball” couple determined to have a natural baby in a world where it’s believed impossible. Their best friends and family all advise they go to the lab. They finally cave and make an appointment.

They discover they’re pregnant on the eve of their appointment. Their friends deem the natural conception a miracle, and the word quickly spreads.

Scientists worry the baby will have genetic defects and use both media and lawsuits to encourage abortion. The future mother doesn’t cave; it’s all she’s ever wanted. The world waits in anticipation as the woman, now with a cult following, comes to the end of her pregnancy.

The cult deems the child the second coming of Christ when the baby’s born healthy, even though it’s a girl.

A potential second story could cover a battle within Christianity. Some priests accept the child as their savior, and others accuse her of being a false prophet.

Future books could deal with the child’s growing up with both a target on their back and as the object of adoration.

Saving biodiversity using a lunar gene bank.

Marcos Hernandez Article

Scientists at the University of Arizona have proposed a new, tamper-proof way of saving genetic material: keep them on the moon.

The concept of saving genetic material isn’t new. Several seed banks already exist on Earth—the picture above is of one in the arctic ocean. The lunar gene bank just takes the efforts to a whole new level, extending the scope to all of the Earth’s species.

It’s an insurance policy against catastrophic events like nuclear war or supervolcanoes. Animals at risk of being extinct, like Florida’s manatee, can be brought back in the future.

What if a lunar gene bank was discovered by an alien species, which then duplicated Earth? Upon discovering the Earth-clone, the inhabitants of our ravaged Earth left, leaving a small group behind. They left instructions about re-seeding the Earth using the genetic material stored on the moon once the planet recovered.

The story could center on the descendants of the small group. They’ve existed without technology for centuries and live in farming city-states. One day, a rocket appears and seeds the genetic material—this is the prologue.

The arrival of the rocket lives on through the oral tradition until we meet the story’s hero, a young girl who experiences the world with the seeded animals and plants. It’s a survival story where the humans band together and defeat both bandits and wild predators.

The first story could center on the conflict with the bandits. The second story kicks off when the descendants of the original humans return from the Earth-clone after destroying that planet’s environment. The two groups coexist until the destruction of the actual Earth becomes a point of contention, kicking off confrontations about the planet’s future.

A woman wins the right to die.

Marcos Hernandez Article

A judge in Peru has ruled that Ana Estrada has the right to decide when her life ends. She’s suffered from a disease that attacks her muscles for over three decades.

Peru outlaws abortion and same-sex marriage, so the government hotly contested her right to euthanasia from the start.

Once she decides to end her life, she has ten days to fulfill her plan. Her deciding factor? When she can no longer write. Anyone who helps is cleared from facing charges. 

Estrada hopes it serves as a precedent for others suffering from debilitating diseases. There’s one wrinkle: laws still prohibit assisting in another’s death.

Turning this into a story, what if someone wants out of an apparent utopia?

Borrowing from Brave New World, the main character sees through the illusion of the apparent “perfect society” and decides he no longer wants to participate. 

In this world, family bonds are nonexistent—citizenship takes priority. Everyone lives under constant stimulation from both entertainment and various state-provided drugs.

The book begins when advanced surveillance captures the protagonist’s first attempt at suicide. They transport him into their form of suicide watch. Then, the legal battles begin.

His lawyer is provided by the state, given the job with the expectation he’ll fail because he’s new and inexperienced. The lawyer’s particular skill? How much he cares. He tries to convince the main character there’s a point in living.

The main character has a series of suicide attempts thwarted—a play on brushes with death common in thriller stories.

The lawyer wins the case during the final battle, and preparations are made for the assisted ending of the main character’s life.

At the end of the book and the main character’s life, he decides he “might miss this place” as his eyes close.

A hidden message on Mars?

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NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover landed on Mars on 2.18.21 after a journey lasting over six months. NASA released the video of its descent, including a view of the parachute attached to the rover.

It’s a red and white parachute. At first glance, it looks like a random pattern. But hidden inside the colors is a message left using binary code. It says “Dare Mighty Things” and gives the GPS coordinates of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (the quote is their slogan).

Turning this into a story, what if a message like this started a worldwide scavenger hunt?

The world’s richest man has passed away. His will says that his fortune goes to whoever follows the clues. The whole world looks for these clues, and a message in a lunar landing holds the first.

The main character would be a poor student obsessed with space—similar to Ready, Player One.

The first clue becomes mainstream after a few days, and by then, he’s already working on the second clue, which happens to be in a city near his home. It’s a wonderful stroke of luck. After he becomes the third person/team to discover the second clue, a wealthy corporation gives him their financial support—a company with an eccentric leader.

The opponents in the story are the teams and people also looking for clues. In the end, it comes to light that the company backing him plans on double-crossing him before he final clue so they can acquire the wealth themselves.

The story could take place worldwide, with 3-5 clues before the final “battle,” which is a logic puzzle similar to the sphinx’s riddle. Better yet, the last clue could be at the sphinx, and everyone gets caught up with the sphinx’s riddle, leaving space for the hero to identify the final clue’s true nature.

In short, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Ready, Player One in a worldwide scavenger hunt.