The largest US reservoir has never been lower.

Marcos Hernandez Article
Lake Mead receding water

Lake Mead, the body of water created by the Hoover Dam, is at its lowest point since it was made in 1935. The lake is on the border between Nevada and Arizona and was last full in 2000.

The water currently sits 143 feet below the max fill line, leaving a ring of white minerals exposed. The difference is 5.5 trillion gallons of water. Another startling stat? 25 million people rely on Lake Mead’s water.

What’s causing the water shortage? In essence, the surrounding states use more water than the Colorado River can provide. In addition, the west is undergoing an exceptional drought because of climate change, and the entire river has less water.

Spinning this forward in time, let’s assume the water level continues dropping. Las Vegas, which relies on Lake Mead for water, literally dries up. They are forced to utilize other water sources, and the city becomes unlivable for most and transforms into an area only the wealthy can afford to visit.

The water shortages force the surrounding farms to close, and because the water level drops too far, the Hoover Dam stops producing electricity.

The area around Lake Mead becomes uninhabited and desolate. Because of the low population levels, government support and services are nonexistent. As a result, the place turns into a Mad Max-style dystopia, run by local gangs who control what little water there is available from wells.

But Las Vegas is still a haven for the wealthy—after the massive investment in the strip, large companies find a way to keep the area thriving, although everything is vastly overpriced.

Struggling gangs sitting outside an oasis, licking their lips at the treasures within. Like barbarians outside Rome. The gangs have banded together into one, unified under a charismatic leader.

The main character is a Las Vegas police officer who views the outsiders are subhuman. During a routine fight against the horde, the officer is abducted. He then spends time with those living off the land.

He learns about their humanity and comes to appreciate their way of life, even falling in love with the leader’s daughter. Then, during another skirmish, he regains access to the city.

The officers believe they can use his intel to strike a mortal blow to the cause by killing the leader. But, in truth, the protagonist deceives his former comrades and helps the horde into the city.

Once in control, the leader then renews the old order, enforcing strict limits on entry and water consumption—in effect, becoming the same tyrant ruling over Las Vegas.

In the end, the disenfranchised police officer and his beloved leave the city behind, and he becomes the next leader that unifies the horde, beginning the cycle anew.

Other books could explore his efforts at taking over the city and ruling it without becoming a tyrant. In a third, the horde and the city-dweller have to band together to protect what little water Las Vegas receives when an outside enemy threatens their tenuous situation.

An animal wakes up after 24k years on ice.

Marcos Hernandez Article
bdelloid rotifer

A paper out of Russia’s Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science describes a microscopic animal waking up after thousands of years in Siberian permafrost eleven feet below the surface. After the tiny animal woke up, it reproduced by cloning itself.

The animal, a bdelloid rotifer, is a microscopic animal found in freshwater habitats. They’re known for their ability to go into a desiccation-induced dormant state, explaining how they survived. In essence, they dry themselves out, similar to tardigrades.

An easy way of turning this into fiction would be introducing cryopreservation. One of the main issues with cryo is ice crystals—any water left inside cells could puncture cell membranes or organelles. Both tardigrades and bdelloid rotifers could provide clues about effectively removing all moisture from cells.

Another direction—what modern scientists found a teenage human ancestor that could go into a dried-out dormant state? The discovery of a completely frozen ancestor would make waves, and scientists go to great lengths to keep it frozen for study.

But a cyber-attack by a foreign enemy shuts down the refrigeration (like how the United States shut down Iran’s nuclear program), thawing out the specimen, and he wakes up. Have you seen Encino Man?

It would be a young adult novel. The main character is an adolescent boy whose father, a scientist, is obsessed with work. The human ancestor is hiding in the dad’s trunk and comes into the house for warmth, where he’s found by the son.

The story could play out similar to Elf—they’re best friends, providing a contrast to the father’s overbearing discipline. The ancestor is looking for his family, believing they might still be alive—communication is difficult without a shared language, and he gets his point across with “cave” drawings.

The opponent could be the government agency looking for the human ancestor and inept foreign agents, thrown in for comedic relief—none of them realize the ancestor woke up.

In the end, the scientist learns what it means to be a loving father and saves the ancestor and his son from being taken away by the government. The ancestor and the scientist work together and don’t find his family but find a descendant who has the same genetic trait, opening the door for cryopreservation.

Nobody knows why sharks almost disappeared.

Marcos Hernandez Article
shark

Nineteen million years ago, shark populations declined by 90%, and nobody knows why.

A scientist from Yale discovered the unknown extinction event while studying fossilized teeth and scales. The data revealed that both total population and species diversity plummeted about 19 million years ago. There was a 90% abundance reduction and a 70% diversity reduction.

The problem? There’s no evidence of any particular cause or event.

The decline in shark numbers took place over 100,000 years. A long time for us, but a blink in the geological record—it’s considered a “sudden” disappearance.

Causes of other mass extinction events aren’t so murky—for example, scientists know the asteroid obliterated the dinosaurs.

What if a scientist identified the mass extinction’s cause and discovers another one is about to start within our lifetime?

A 100k year period is a long time for a story, so I’ll assume the extinction event will take ten years. And that there is something humans can do about it.

Additionally, too many people don’t care about sharks. But what about all fish? A fish pandemic—humanity’s response could mirror the response to COVID-19. It strikes coastal waters at a higher rate than the deep ocean, purely based on population density.

The main character is a United States-based scientist. She has to deal with half the scientific establishment denying the existence and severity of the pandemic in the first place.

She works closely with scientists from other countries, particularly Central and South American researchers. They come up with a cure that infringes on United States patents. If they can get a certain number of fish the vaccine, the virus won’t spread.

The majority of the story could take place on a ship. The battle could be the legal action that grants the right to produce the “vaccine,” only to find themselves stopped by a United States naval blockade.

Since the well-intentioned scientists can’t move, the fish start coming to them. They vaccinate all the fish they can and wait. Cut to years later, and it turns out the fish in Central and South America have all survived—the fish population closest to the United States is declining rapidly, and the establishment still denies the virus.

Efficiently metabolizing iron affects aging.

Marcos Hernandez Article
longevity

The findings from a study out of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany “suggest that the better your body is at regulating iron levels, the longer you are likely to live.”

Researchers looked at a large dataset and studied the individual’s parents’ lifespan, predicted longevity, and years spent in good health, and found ten genetic markers in common. They found the genes are related to heart health and metabolizing iron in the blood.

The dietary effect iron (think: red meat) has on overall longevity isn’t clear. It seems there’s a sweet spot of iron since low levels cause anemia and high levels cause liver problems. The genetic information just relates to how well bodies can stay within that range.

Turning this into a story, what if advances in understanding genetics allow humans to live to 150 (or more)?

Vastly extended lifespans are on the horizon, and many believe it will happen within our lifetimes (for example, they discussed this on the Tim Ferriss podcast interview with Chip Wilson).

Going meta, the story could be about an author who finds out they have the genetic predisposition for living well past 100. He investigates his relationships, his career, and investments. His logic? If he’s going to live a long time, he might as well work his ass off in the beginning so he can relax for the back half.

A contrast to this worldview can arrive via a best friend or partner. Knowing they’ll live for years to come, they prioritize enjoying themselves at all times.

There would be alternating chapters about a chunk of their lives, separated by encounters every decade or so. Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa has a similar structure—the protagonist encounters his beloved at different points in their lives, each time finding his girl changed from the time before.

The conflict towards the end could be another discovery that adds another fifty years to their expected lives. The author could decide to pursue another career, and their mirror character would choose further debauchery (inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde).

The ending could see the author choosing cryogenic freezing near his expected age of death, hoping to awaken to a vastly extended lifespan. The mirror character chooses suicide, treating the death as a blessing—not unlike many vampire stories where they grow tired of existence.

It’s left to the reader to decide which life course is more appropriate.

Stolen Mexican artifacts were pulled from a U.S. auction.

Marcos Hernandez Article
Cortes letter

A 16th-century letter from the conquistador Hernan Cortes was listed for sale by Swann Galleries before academic sleuths discovered it had been stolen from Mexico’s national archive.

The letter is signed “El Marques,” a hereditary ruling title granted to Cortes by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1529. The letter is from 1521—the same year as the fall of Tenochtitlan—suggesting Cortes assigned himself the title years before it was made official.

The amateur detectives started their investigation after realizing Cortes letters were showing up after decades had passed without any appearing on the market. The most conclusive evidence is a microfilm image of the document from 1993, taken in Mexico’s national archives.

What if one of Mexico’s leading researchers leads a heist to get their cultural heritage back?

Numerous pages from a single ancient document have been stolen and scattered throughout the world. When compiled and read aloud in front of an ancient Aztec temple, the document releases ancient magic lying dormant in Aztec descendants.

Magical occurrences follow the researcher, always random and out of their control.

After successfully retrieving the first page, an ancient society appears that warns the researcher against continuing their quest. The organization exists to ensure the magic doesn’t ever return. Throughout the story, the researcher has to uncover where the documents are, get them back, and discover why the mysterious group doesn’t want them compiled and read aloud.

It turns out that the society is descended from Hernan Cortes himself.

The main character grew up in Mexico City and was made fun of because of their indigenous appearance. Bringing back the ancient magic will elevate their status, along with the rest of those deemed too dark-skin or native-looking.

As the documents are brought back, the hero is accepted into Mexico City’s mainstream society, and their prior research about the impact of the Catholic Church on the region given attention—what they always wanted.

The decision comes down to abandoning their goal of compiling the document and accepting a large grant to study the generational impact of the Catholic missionaries or go overseas, gather the last page, and read it aloud.

The book ends with an escape from the society and the ignition of the Aztec powers, setting up other books.

A Central American leader takes over the justice system.

Marcos Hernandez Article

Nayib Bukele, President of El Salvador, fired five court justices and the country’s attorney general. The justices had said Bukele overstepped his authority, and the attorney general was investigating possible corruption.

Bukele’s next move? A tweet celebrating his actions.

The international community has condemned the power grab, but Bukele still maintains a 90% approval rating for his tough stance on gangs—similar to the Philipines Rodrigo Duterte.

What if a story told the rise and fall of a Latin American dictator? Like “The Godfather,” the idealistic young man (or woman) becomes elected to their country’s highest position, vowing to both themselves and the world that they will make lasting changes.

He comes from a wealthy family. His father, a successful businessman, sent him overseas for his education. His brother became a gang member and was killed because of gang violence.

His campaign focuses on the gang problem within the country. Before his inauguration, he is visiting his aging father and has to save him when gang members collect money he refuses to pay off. After he’s put in power, he deals with the gang problem humanely until gang violence erupts near his motorcade and a young boy, who reminds him of his brother, is accidentally murdered. Then, the gloves come off.

The other leadership members laugh when they hear about his aggressive plans for a raid, saying he won’t pull it off. (Similar to when Michael told the rest of the gang members that he would kill the cop and rival gang leader in the restaurant.)

Over time, we see him sink deeper into tyranny until, while accepting an international award for reducing the crime rate in his country, his hitmen kill every gang leader in the country.

His father finally realizes what his son has become, but by then, it’s too late.

A sequel could be about a group dedicated to overthrowing the dictator—similar to The Feast of the Goat, the story of the overthrow of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961.

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.

Marcos Hernandez Article
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.

Marcos Hernandez Article
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?

Marcos Hernandez Article
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.

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