Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Spielberg's Last Film 2

Spielberg’s Last Film
Part Two

by Steven Mallas

A screenwriter may achieve everything – if there’s enough time. 2,041 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I hate beginning this part with, There I was, but it seems the only way. There I was, sitting in a room with Steven Spielberg. At a conference table. Amid a very rich-looking corporate interior design. Steven Spielberg and some associates and my agent Luis Vendaz. Mostly, though, Steven Spielberg.

My handicap emerged; I was so nervous. I know most people probably are, but most people can get through it. Even if this meeting goes well, I’m going to have PTSD for the rest of my life which may be shortened significantly along with the lives of everyone else because of the micro black hole on its way to Earth.

Luis was next to me, but he didn’t even register; only Spielberg and my nervous-demon.

“I want you to write my last movie.” The mogul said this after I sat down and shook his dry hand with my absolutely not dry one. I think he did say something before that, a bit of small talk segue, but it didn’t surprise me that he was all-business and got to the point with immediacy at the forefront of his mind. “This script,” he said, placing his palm on The Last Trial, which was on top of the table, right next to him, “is genius. This is what I need as the final script I ever direct. Assuming it is the final thing. No one knows, of course.”

“They don’t.”

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spielbergs_last_rev2

Spielberg’s Last Film
Part One

by Steven Mallas

A wannabe screenwriter might get his dream job – if the world doesn’t end. 2,001 words. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I used to work at a toy store. The one with the even-toed ungulate mascot. Then I became a screenwriter. Of course, I had been in the hell of retail for a long long time – over 20 years. Figured it was time to change careers. Had an itch to become a writer. Wish I hadn’t tried to scratch that itch – it’s almost impossible to succeed in the Industry. But, as fate would have it, I got an agent in a most unexpected way.

After submitting queries and contest entries that probably numbered into the hundreds, I had the Hatchimal craze to thank. That happened during the holiday season of 2016. I have no idea what Hatchimals were, but the perception among kids was that they had to have them. Go figure.

There was a long line waiting for the store location I worked at in Los Angeles to open. When it came time around 5 a.m. to hand out the tickets that would ensure customers got their piece of overpriced plastic. I was the one doing that. Finally, I came to the end of the line. The guy immediately behind the woman who received the final coveted slip of paper winced noticeably. That wasn’t so bad. But the many would-be-acquirers-of-potential-eBay-gold behind him were another matter. Profanities flew freely.

Randy, a co-worker, came up next to me. He informed the unruly crowd that the store might have another delivery in a day or so. That seemed to calm most of them. Eventually, they left. But that guy who just missed his opportunity was lingering. That’s when I said to Randy, “I have this idea for a script, although it’s not fully formed. What if people are waiting in line not for one of these things or the latest video game console, but for something.”

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Speck Script

Speck Script

by Diane Haithman

A very big TV/film fan hitchhikes to Hollywood in search of something – or someone. 2,408 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


On behalf of my home planet, I’d like to welcome myself to Hollywood.

I hail from Mars. I know for decades you’ve been searching for signs of life up there on the fourth rock from the sun. We were so flattered in 2012 when you sent up that cute Mars Rover Curiosity that’s still zipping around our Gale Crater like a little golf cart. We love each and every orbiter and all those nifty NASA-type gadgets. When that stuff shows up, well, it’s just like Christmas here!

You’ve explored Mars — but you still haven’t found us. Don’t blame yourselves. We’re smaller than anything you can detect even with your most sophisticated ultra-microscope. You can take home all the digital photos, rocks and space-dirt you want— you won’t see us. No, you’re not stupid. It’s not your fault. We’re just real small, that’s all.

Okay I like you humans. You’re funny. So I’m going to share a little secret: You can see us, in a way. We are the red on the Red Planet. All of us, together: our very existence radiating a beautiful warm glow into space for the whole galaxy to share, shifting from tangerine to blood orange to terra cotta brick depending on our mood. That’s us.

We would have done purple when Prince died if we could.

But I digress. My Earth pop culture reference to The Purple One reminds me of the story I wanted to tell you as my first direct communication with Earth. About how I came to Hollywood, and why I must stay. I must stay for as long as it takes.

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Virtual Reality 02

Virtual Reality
Part Two

by Michael Burns

Which is most fulfilling: real sex or virtual reality sex? These teens find out. 1627 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 2030

Hollywood High School seniors Aidan and Jennifer have reached a new plateau in their friendship. For the first time, they have admitted they are virgins.

“I’ve thought about it,” Jennifer said.

“Me, too.” Aidan replied, wistful. “I know I’m clean. How can I not be? I haven’t ever fucked anyone.”

“We’re both clean,” Jennifer assured him, “because I’ve never fucked anyone either.”

They make direct eye contact. Exchange serious looks. They haven’t been exposed to the antibiotic resistant super-gonorrhea — superum neisseria gonorrhoeae – sweeping the world. A fastidious gram negative diplococci bacteria that usually proves fatal and is keeping global populations from having sex.

When they arrive at the Sensorsex VR Cinema on Wilshire, the teen couple see a line, but it’s not very long. Jennifer turns and puts her arms around Aidan. “Thanks for coming with me. I can’t wait to try this.” Her voice is filled with anticipation.

Aidan becomes embarrassed. Jennifer’s warm body against his is giving him an erection. He turns to hide the bulge in his pants.

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Virtual Reality 01

Virtual Reality
Part One

by Michael Burns

In the not-so-brave new world, cinemas are now virtual reality centers for sex. 1,876 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 2030

Nine billion human beings on the Earth. People felt squeezed in a hundred different ways. Living with economic deflation. Climate change. Failed crops. Government surveillance. Strange new diseases. Like antibiotic resistant super-gonorrhea. Superum neisseria gonorrhoeae. A fastidious gram negative diplococci bacteria that evolved over centuries and caused joint problems, blindness, pelvic disease, testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, severe dementia. And usually proved fatal.

SNG was especially prevalent among teenagers, most of whom were highly promiscuous. Sex was one of the few pleasures which life had to offer them in a world gone crazy. But there was a dark side to all this sexual activity. Hospitals filled up with young people. World governments tried praising the value of abstention. But the kids were horny. They wanted sex. Propaganda praising the value of masturbation didn’t work either.

Of course adults wanted to have sex, too, but they had better self-control than teenagers and often took the time to use condoms. But they were getting SNG, too.

And so antibiotic resistant super-gonorrhea continued to spread.

Until the full-body sensory suit was developed.

The development of the suit was the natural extension of high tech virtual reality. You put the suit on and you were instantly living in a brave new world. A VR world. A world beyond all human comprehension. Beyond all normal human sensation. Beyond any previous sensory stimulation.

Just how it worked was a trade secret, proprietary information owned by Sensorsex, a Palo Alto corporation. But instead of selling the sensory suits directly to consumers, Sensorsex decided to open up a retail chain of VR Cinemas.

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Hanging Around

Hanging Around

by Mark Fearing

An actor who likes being recognized finds himself playing a 30-foot reptilian alien. 1,847 words. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.


Decker Bronc was hanging ten feet in the air on a soundstage that was wrapped in green screen material ready for the motion capture shoot. He was wearing a bright green spandex jumpsuit with ping pong-sized white balls stuck all over it. His face was covered with white dots the size of erasers on pencils back when people still used pencils with erasers instead of delete keys. He also wore what could only be described as headgear, consisting of straps that tightened a metal helmet to his forehead and which supported a foot-long rod in front that held a camera lens on the end pointed at his face.

Three bored-looking young men stood hanging onto the wires and ropes and back-up ropes that supported Decker mid-air on the green sound stage. But even with all the discomfort, Decker was still glad he was there amid the grips, gaffers, best boys, computer geeks and one very overworked-looking script supervisor all rushing around. This had been a last-minute job booking and only his second credit in more than two years. It was his first motion capture gig but while his body would be animated at various times, at least he’d be back on the big screen again.

Andy Garcia, seeking to break out of playing stereotypical Latino gangsters, had snagged the part first but then dropped out at the last minute. That’s how the business worked for Decker; he had to wait for the fall throughs, the no shows, the rehab visits and the ego trips. Then he got the job.

Decker had been an almost A-lister once. Now he was probably a B-lister on his best days. And, when guest hosting game shows, definitely a C-lister. But his agent had assured him this massive budget tentpole with the latest CGI could put him back on top. After all, as the tenpercenter had reminded, both Marlon Brando and Russell Crowe had played Superman’s father Jor-El in state-of-the-art CGI pictures like this one.

A guy young enough to be Decker’s grandson who’d introduced himself as the director that morning now yelled up to Decker.

“You okay up there, Deck? Looking great!”

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Orson Welles 2A

The Invasion
Part Two

by Robert W. Welkos

Nothing in showbiz ever goes as planned, especially when Orson Welles is involved. 2,833 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City — October 25, 1938

Orson Welles’ baritone voice caused the half-empty gin bottles to vibrate against the mirrors in the St. Regis hotel bar where he was a regular. “Hey, Mike, a martini for Miss… What was your name, again, my lovely?“ he asked the beautiful redhead seated next to him.

“Dalrymple, silly,” she replied, pretending to slap his cheek.

“Miss Dalrymple Silly!” Orson repeated to the bartender. “And two olives, Mike… one for the lass and one for the scurvy rat nibbling on your shoelace.”

The reed-thin bartender in bow-tie and checkered vest looked offended. “We ain’t got no rats in here, bud. I know ‘cause I clean up every morning.” He plucked the menu out of Welles’ hand, “And no more double steak dinners and pistachio ice cream until you pay your bill.”

Welles smirked and returned his undivided attention to the swirl of ginger at his side. He stared at her fair features and emerald eyes. The redhead placed a finger on her chin. “I haven’t seen a Martian that I know of, hon… Although I have an uncle who is friends with some blind Venetians. I mean, he makes Venetian blinds.”

Welles titled his head back and roared with laughter. “Excellent! I knew you’d be fun! A gorgeous actress with wit. You don’t find too many of those prowling the theater district, my dear.” He lowered his voice. “Now, what do you imagine a Martian would look like?”

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Orson Welles 2

The Invasion
Part One

by Robert W. Welkos

Would the American radio public believe Martians were attacking? Or Nazis? 2,086 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Berlin, Germany — March 1938

“Ladies and gentlemen… Am I on?… Ladies and gentlemen, this is Peter J. Simons of the Beaumont Global Radio Network. I am looking down Unter den Linden, a major east-west thoroughfare in Berlin. As far as the eye can see, there are German Waffen-SS — a paramilitary force under the command of Heinrich Himmler —marching in a parade. I can hear the trump-trump-trump of their boots as they goose-step in unison holding aloft flags with the familiar Nazi swastika. Crowds line the grand boulevard — men, women and even little children — all thrusting out their arms in a rigid “Heil Hitler” salute. There seems to be some sort of commotion up ahead. Nazi thugs are surrounding a man on the ground and they are slamming his head into the curb. It’s terrible, terrible… I’m being given orders by a Nazi official to leave the area. But I’m an American journalist! And now more violence is breaking out. A woman who came to the man’s defense, her face is covered with blood after she was beaten senseless… Now I know why the Nazis invading the Sudetenland has Americans on edge that they could be invaded, too.”

London — September 30, 1938

Dignified before the gathering of supporters at the airport to greet his return, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stepped off the plane to cheers and stood in front of the microphone to talk about his meeting with German Chancellor Adoph Hitler. “I believe it is peace for our time.”

A few days later, in the House of Commons, British MP Winston Churchill rose to deliver his response to the Munich Agreement. “Do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

New York City — July 11, 1938

Orson Welles sat in the dimly-lit bar near the St. Regis Hotel holding an unlit cigar. The 23-year-old actor, director, writer, and producer was celebrating the premiere of the live radio dramas he created, each a weekly hour-long show presenting classic literary works performed by his celebrated Mercury Theatre repertory company.

Naturally, he wasn’t alone. A statuesque blonde, her cheeks freshly rouged, draped an arm around his slumping shoulders and stirred him.

“Tell me,” he asked her, “have you ever seen a Martian?”

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Deep Space Detroit

Deep Space Detroit

by Diane Haithman

Here’s a diversity question some Detroit lunchgoers try to answer in 1983: Is E.T. black? 2,312 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Detroit 1983

When General Motors announced its plan to save the auto industry with its first space mission to the moon Titan of the planet Saturn, the mission called for something special: burgers at Archibald’s Lunch. Despite its location just down Monroe Street in Greektown, Archibald’s Lunch was not at all Greek but was owned by a small wiry black man who never smiled. Archibald served burgers and tuna melts only. The tuna melts weren’t any good, and Archibald gave anyone who ordered a tuna melt such a fearsome look that the guilty party quickly called for a burger instead.

The foursome meeting up for lunch were dentist Mary, her hygienist Ramona, Detroit Free Press reporter Hollis, and the newspaper’s pop music critic Joe. Mary and Joe didn’t know each other. “Holy Moley, aren’t you the wife of our former movie critic, Carl Corbin?” he said to Mary when he met her.

Ex-wife,” Mary said quickly. “Very ex. Since last month.”

“His desk used to be right next to mine.” Joe paused. “Unusual kind of a fellow. That whole E.T. thing. What a fracas.”

“Fracas is a newspaper word, Joe,” Hollis exclaimed. “It’s like brouhaha. We write it, but nobody actually says it.” Even as Hollis spoke, he knew he couldn’t stop the conversation from veering toward the biggest fracas in recent Free Press history.

Carl had served a brief term as movie critic after completing his master’s in Film Studies at the University of Michigan. At the time he was abruptly let go, Free Press editors mumbled something about taking the Entertainment Now section in a new direction. But it was generally understood that the new guy from L.A. had been fired for not liking E.T.

Now, Mary was no critic — but if Carl had only asked her, she might have suggested that, in a town with an unemployment rate of 17 percent, where a young Chinese-American named Vincent Chin got beaten to death outside a topless bar just because two white auto workers thought he was Japanese, where thousands of desperate former auto workers were flowing like an oil leak to Texas or California seeking jobs, if he was even thinking of calling E.T. The Extraterrestrial, the biggest feel-good movie of 1982 and maybe of all time, “a maudlin self-indulgent wallow in Steven Spielberg’s affluent childhood angst with a tired sci-fi twist,” maybe he ought not to.

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Memo from Corner Office2

Memo From The Corner Office

by Nat Segaloff

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: After a movie studio’s big night, the new boss plans changes. 1,442 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


TO:       All Employees of Persistent Pictures
FROM: Bradford “Buddy” Newborn, President
RE:       Studio Philosophy and Production Slate

We’re all proud of the eight Oscars that Persistent Pictures won last night under Bob Cutner’s management. We hope he gets to use his taste and leadership at another company now that he’s suddenly moved on to make way for me.

Since arriving to head the studio, I’ve seen many of you in the hallways, in the valet parking lot, and as I walk through the commissary on the way to my private dining room. But this is the first chance I’ve had to introduce myself since my father, Bradford Newborn Sr., bought the studio.

To quell some of the rumors and wisecracks I’ve been hearing through our advanced monitoring system, I am well aware that moviemaking isn’t anything like the strappy sandal business. It just so happens that shoes are only one of the many manufacturing interests of Newborn International. We also make small home appliances (“Nothing larger than a toaster oven” is our motto), breath mints and lacrosse equipment. We also had a major investment in the Miami Majors, an ice hockey franchise that I was in charge of running until it folded last year. Let me speak frankly: the Majors died because of poor public support, not because of that lawsuit from 12-year-old Jimmy Brewin after a puck got sucked up into the Zamboni and shot out into the stands, taking with it half his face.

I can report that Little Jimmy is doing well, all things considered, and loves his new nose, mouth and mansion.

Now, for studio business.

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pic - And the Winner is 1 - Warming

And The Winner Is…

by Daniel M. Kimmel

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A new awards category is introduced with unexpected results. 2,245 words. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.


It was a mild March evening in Los Angeles as the celebrities arrived by limousine and dirigible for the 29th Academy Awards held at the fabulous RKO Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in 1957. Most of the stars and lesser lights arrived at the street entrance to cheering fans and photographer flashbulbs. Howard Hughes, who owned RKO, invited the major nominees and key guests to the rooftop for a pre-ceremony soiree and arranged extra special Red Carpet treatment for those arriving via airship.

A handpicked RKO crew was carefully and selectively filming the arrivals with material to be made available to the television networks following the telecast. Truth be told, it might be several days before the footage was made public, if ever, since Hughes insisted on reviewing the material himself.

“It’s producer Mike Todd and his wife, the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor,” Variety’s Army Archerd told the camera. “Todd is nominated for Around The World In 80 Days, while Taylor appeared in Giant which received the most nominations with 10, though none for Best Actress.”

The cameraman pivoted to frame the next arrival. Archerd continued. “And one of the most interesting and unpredictable Oscar races this year is the first for Best Performance By A Robot.”

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The-Galleys lavender - Carlucci

The Galleys

by Keith Garsee

The director and script supervisor of TV’s successful sci-fi show are curious about its creator. 3,106 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The soundstage set is quiet except for the clicks and whirs of the Mitchell 35mm BNC camera, its lens lingering on the face of a very young actress lying in a hospital bed. After a beat, the girl says, "Now people won’t be scared of me!" It’s shlock but she nails it. Now for the reveal: one eye in the center of her head and fresh bloody bandages covering both halves of her face. She’s a horrifyingly adorable cyclops, and her beaming actress mother speaks. "Dr. Vincent, you’ve done such a wonderful job, better than your father did on me years ago!" The mother, too, has one eye. So do the father and the doctor. “But why does that two-eye mutation still keep happening to everyone!?"

"Cut!" yells a voice offstage. Then another voice yells, "That’s a wrap on Episode Eight. Thanks, everyone!!"

A set bell rings. The lights go up. The director, Tom Sanders, slaps the TV series’ creator on the back and says, "Another one in the can, Hollinger! Love the title, too — See Like Me," using his hands to mimic a marquee. "I don’t know where you get the ideas for these episodes, but you’ve sure got a way with words!"

Clayton Hollinger is 39 years old, single, affable, tall, strong, and black. The year is 1957 and The Galleys is the most popular show in the country, tuned into every Saturday night by viewers numbering in the tens of millions. "Thanks, Tom. I suppose it all comes from up here," Clayton says, putting a finger to his temple. “And believe me, it’s good to get it all out."

Tom replies, laughing, "I wouldn’t want some of the creatures you come up with in my attic, either."

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