Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

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A Dying Breed: The Modern World of Paleontology

Michael Bowman

Issue published June 10th, 2010

Dr. Alan Grant is no stranger to dire circumstances, yet the ones he faces now are unlike anything he’s ever encountered.  This week TIME catches up with the world renowned paleontologist who has been recently been forced to adapt his studies and research of prehistoric life in response to a present day issue: Jurassic World.  “Funding, and public interest has always been an issue. But with the resurrection of prehistoric life, the science of paleontology is fading in the public interest,” he told us, when we sat down with him at his Montana State University office.

While Jurassic World itself, located on the island of Isla Nublar, is thriving (receiving nearly twenty thousand guests a day) it has proved problematic for many scientists in Grant’s field- something that he himself knew was coming when he first stepped foot on the island in 1993.

“Even if the animals on the islands aren’t real dinosaurs,” Grant continued, “the public doesn’t care. It’s the closest thing they’ll ever get and that’s good enough for them. I’m not trying to be cynical, really. I’m trying to be honest. And the truth is, people don’t care if they are seeing the real thing, otherwise they would be flooding our museums.  You can go over to ours right now and see that is simply not the case.”
Statistics reflect this. The Museum of the Rockies (MOR,) along with many others worldwide that showcase Mesozoic life, have been hurting since the opening of Jurassic World. From 2005 to 2007 museum attendance at MOR has declined nearly 20%.  In 2009, this attendance decreased to 44%, and is still steadily declining. Nearly twenty museums in the United States alone have closed their doors since 2005, with their collections being donated, sold, or split up. However, even with this severe decline, several museums are actually gaining support by the Masrani Corporation and have chosen to implement interactive learning exhibits.

“Some museums, now,” Grant stated, “are starting to team up with Masrani Global, and InGen.  They’ve created these interactive exhibits and displays that let guests compare what they see in the museums to the animals on the islands. They are… technologically pretty advanced, I guess, but not something I want coming here personally. Even though the final choice is more so up to the board I have my qualms with it. See, it’s the same problem we keep coming back to; the creatures InGen made aren’t real dinosaurs. I want people to be able to see the real discoveries, and not the genetically modified creatures that only somewhat mirror reality.”

Dr. Grant ventured to John Hammond’s original Jurassic Park on Nublar in 1993 as a paleontology consultant, and was present during the now infamous incident that happened there. Years later, in 2001, he was kidnapped and taken to Isla Sorna- another InGen island inhabited by the genetically engineered dinosaurs.  Details concerning the incident were kept out of the public eye by the Masrani Corporation and U.N., with the subsequent hearings also being held behind closed doors.

In late 1997, the Masrani Corporation bought out International Genetic Technologies (InGen) shortly after the death of John Hammond, founder and CEO of InGen. Construction began on Isla Nublar for Jurassic World in 2002, which was later opened to the public in 2005.

“If that’s what people want to see, so be it. It’s profitable, no doubt about it. But that’s not what I want to see. It’s not what many others in this profession want to see either. There are many of us still fighting to get funding and attention for the real research of prehistoric life. You can “bring” back these creatures, and try and recreate the past but it will never be the past. It’s the present. There are still so many unanswered questions about Earth’s history that we can try to answer through paleontology. But to do so you need funding, and right now that’s becoming very hard to come by. It was difficult before Jurassic World, and it’s even more so now. Especially for us ‘purists.’”
Grant is referring here to the fact that paleontology is split into two main fractions. Purists being those paleontologists, like Grant, who are driven by a scientific search for knowledge. They look for and study clues from the past to answer questions about our future and the evolution of life on Earth. In contrast, there are also paleontologists who are solely in the field for the business aspect. For as many purists, there are now nearly triple the amount of “business paleontologists,” individuals, or groups who excavate mainly for the purpose to resell, to profit. While the Bureau of Land Management controls state land, these wealth-driven paleontologists buy up private land or strike deals with landowners for permission to excavate. The fossils collected are rarely published on before being sold off.
“It’s sad. There are incredible specimens being excavated on private land, then resold to collectors or even to Masrani Corp. Selling of fossils has always been an issue in the field, but now it’s a booming business. I’ve heard word that Masrani and other companies may start financing their own teams soon, instead of just piggybacking and funding others. If that happens we’ll have them on top of those already out there who hope to sell to them or competing companies.  It’s sad and getting to the point where it’s scary. Poaching is at an all-time high, and god forbid these groups ever find a new species. Some are already making off with rare specimens as it is. If they found a new species, it’d be given to the highest bidder, and lost to the science”

Grant goes on to say that some digs are now having to amp up security at their sites. This is in retaliation to the poaching that has been skyrocketing in recent years. “But you have to have money,” Grant states, “in order to afford them. It all comes back to the almighty dollar. Security is nice, but it’s expensive.”

For those digs currently funded by Masrani, InGen’s security division automatically sends out guards for the sites. Another nice perk for those well off groups. But for the institutions that rely solely on private funding and government grants, money for security can be hard,  if not impossible, to find.

“Since the opening of the park, there have been many ups and downs in the field of paleontology. Funding for proper research may be harder to find now, but my classes are full,” Grant joked. “I guess that has to account for something. I’ve been a part of it for so long that I guess I’ve grown accustomed to the ebb and flow of it all. That’s what life’s all about anyway, right? Evolving. Adapt or perish. The question is will the science of true paleontology ever bounce back from this, or will it all go by the wayside? If that happens I guess it’ll be ‘my time’ as they say. My breed of paleontologists will be extinct.”

Dr. Grant had few other words to offer on the subject of Jurassic Park, a topic he has tended to shy away from. He mentioned that he had received a private invite to the new parks fifth year anniversary celebration this upcoming weekend, but declined the offer.

“One visit to that island was enough. Besides, we just started our dig season and we think we have some pretty exciting specimens to excavate.”

“Jurassic Park”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, “Jurassic Park ///”, “Jurassic World” are Trademarks of Universal Studios, Legendary Pictures, and Amblin Entertainment.

Based off Characters Created by Michael Crichton

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Excerpt from the Memoirs of John Parker Hammond

Do you know what it feels like to create something; to create something that has never been seen before, by anyone? That magical feeling of seeing what you’ve only dreamt about until that moment? I remember the day clearly in my mind. I reached out and held her in my hand. My eyes watered behind my glasses as I tried to keep my composure. My hands shook mildly as I held the fragile creature in them. She breathed in volumes of air, having struggled to break through the egg for so long. Her eyes remained closed as she sniffed the air around her.

It was a tremendous feeling, unlike any I had ever felt before. Something so wondrous and magnificent that words escaped me. I stood there like a fool, mouth gaping, as I held her. I didn’t dare look up at Henry, or any of the others for fear that I might miss the slightest movement by the creature.

The raptor turned slightly in my hand, and I could feel her surprising weight for such a small creature. Her small claws dug into my gloved hands as I held her, making me all the more cautious. This, I had thought, this is what it was like to be God. I eventually did look up, to Wu, with a smile on my face.

“My boy, you’ve done it.”

Of course all of that had come to a screaming halt years later.  I mean screaming quite literally. Surely you must know the story by now. Jurassic Park and International Genetic Technologies; the debacle that took place miles off the coast of Costa Rica in the Pacific. We did our best to keep it under wraps, and for the longest time it was. Ian Malcolm tried to “blow the lid” off InGen’s cover stories several times, and who could blame the man. He had been wronged, along with many others. But he signed a nondisclosure agreement before he had ever gone to the island forbidding him to talk about anything that happened there. Dr.Grant, Dr. Sattler, and even my grandchildren had to sign the same papers. Even I, the CEO of InGen, was sworn to secrecy. All had gone to Hell during those few days in 1993.

       Or so it seemed.

InGen had a dirty secret: Isla Sorna, site B. The island was mere miles away from Nublar, and a part of a chain of islands the natives called “the Five Deaths.”  InGen bought this island chain from the Costa Rican government the same time we purchased Nublar, for just pennies when you calculate the total cost it spent to actually make Jurassic Park become a reality. Out of all the islands in the chain, Sorna, was the biggest, with the best conditions of any of the five. The only thing that proposed a problem was the strong surf that crashed against the cliff sides, but around the island there were several beaches and river openings, ideal for boathouses and docks. And so Isla Sorna was to be the base of operations for everything to come. Isla Sorna became, essentially, InGen’s base of operations for the Jurassic Park project. This is where we did the true, hard work. It was the research station, not the theme park. Most of the animals were bred here first, and then later shipped to Nublar.

But, as if by an act of God, only a few months after the tragic incident that happened at Jurassic Park, hurricane Clarissa wiped out our facilities on Site B. Crew and staff were forced to evacuate immediately. All productivity ceased, and the animals eventually escaped their containment. A year later, in 1994, teams were sent to Sorna and Nublar to the extract files that had been left behind. On Nublar they were told destroy what they could, to keep as much as possible from the public eye. Some of the facilities were dismantled, vehicles and technological equipment sold for scrap. All that was taken away was basic files for records, building plans, blueprints, and maps. Thousands upon millions of dollars wasted, from building, then destroying, and paying people off to keep their mouths shut. Millions of dollars wasted in their attempts to bring back the most magnificent animals the world had ever known. As fast as dinosaurs had reappeared on this earth, they were wiped away by the very people who created them.

And for a while that was it. I retreated into solitude for some time after that, and suffered a stroke in the middle of 1996. After that, control over InGen began to slip from my grasp as my nephew Peter Ludlow took control. He preached  to our board that it would be possible to save our company from bankruptcy by “harvesting our assets” on Isla Sorna, something that at that time I was dead set against doing. I would have loved nothing more than to see my dreams come to fruition. But I knew that it would only remain just that, a dream. These poor animals, I felt, needed to be left alone. But I can’t blame the board for not seeing things that way. We were in trouble. Eventually the board relented and gave Peter total control over the company behind my back.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Because of what happened in 1997 the public now knows everything about Jurassic Park. Peter sent out his little camping trip, leading to the deaths of even more innocent people, and then there was the subsequent San Diego attack. Peter isn’t the only one at fault here. I had my own hand in this game at the time. Unlike Peter, though, who was set on extracting the dinosaurs, I thought that if I could simply document them I could rally public opinion to preserve them in their island habitat. That’s no excuse though. People died and I was just as guilty as anybody else, maybe even more so. My hands were stained.

InGen may as well have set fire to whatever money we had left. And none of us could leave. Every member of the board wanted to resign but clauses in their contracts kept them from doing so. And besides, nobody was going to want to hire them; nobody wanted to hire anyone from “the company of death.”

Competitors, like BioSyn, were poised and eagerly awaiting for InGen to fall into Chapter eleven, which we did. If there was ever a counter to the high I felt holding that first baby Velociraptor, it was the disgrace I felt when the final court hearing was over. Bankruptcy.  I had walked from the courtroom with my head held high, indignant with false pride that masked the horror and feelings of failure I truly felt. When I returned to the InGen headquarters phones were ringing off the hook, cubicles were emptied, and papers scattered across the floor. I stared in disbelief, before retreating to my private office, and wept.

* * *

 The following is an account of the events that took place after the death of J.P. Hammond, written by InGen’s 1997 C.E.O Edward D. Regis.

For latter part of 1997 Mr. Hammond’s health continued to decline, until he passed away in October. At the time InGen was at the center of a perpetual bidding war until we were finally bought out in December of that year.

I sat in my office, staring at a wall blindly. The office was littered with Christmas decorations, although I don’t think anyone was particularly festive that year. That was until a sharply dressed young Indian man with a folder and briefcase walked in. I knew exactly who he was. We shook hands after he entered my office, but I didn’t smile. He remained kind and polite though. Sitting across from me with a smile, he told me his vision for InGen. It started off very subtle. He extracted papers from the folder in his hand. The papers were littered with numbers, data, and lists. Everything he had in store for InGen regarding advancements in technology, and how there would be joint ventures with other sections in his company. How InGen could be used to jump start other projects around the world, and eventually I cut him off.

“Get to it,” I said sharply. “This isn’t why you bought my company.”

“You’re right, Mr. Regis, but all of this is just as important. It’s where we will make our money to rebuild.”

“Rebuild?” I asked flatly.

And that’s when he lifted another folder from his briefcase and slid it towards me. I opened it and stared at the contents in disbelief. One by one I removed the papers and plans, laying them out on my desk. I couldn’t believe it. It was all there, right in front of me. Not a single thing had been left out.

“But-”

“And I have already, for months now actually, been talking with your chief geneticist, Henry Wu. He’s been waiting for a second chance. He believes he can perfect the process this time, Mr. Regis, and even go beyond what InGen ever dreamed was possible. What John dreamed was possible.”

I looked up at the man, dumbstruck.

“Ed,” Simon Masrani said. “We can fix it.”

I looked back down at the papers, and knew that it was actually possible. Masrani spent the next hour and a half making a presentation with such showmanship that would have made even Mr. Hammond proud. And by the end, I knew. I knew we could do it again, and this time it could be a success. It almost worked last time. This time, though, it’ll be better. This time it’ll be flawless.

“Jurassic Park”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, “Jurassic Park ///”, “Jurassic World” are Trademarks of Universal Studios, Legendary Pictures, and Amblin Entertainment.

Based off Characters Created by Michael Crichton

The Pull

Posted: January 23, 2015 in Short Stories
Tags: , , ,

The Pull

By Joshua Malone

Originally Published in SAGA Magazine 2013 Spring Volume

            The three of them congregated in the tiny main room of the home, if you could even call it that. The house was more like a small cottage, or even a shack. It had obviously once been a nice place to live, most of the other houses on the street. Nice wood floors and actually a pretty intricate fire place mantle. But now it was falling apart. A think sheet of metal covered a gaping hole in the roof, and most of the top portion of the chimney had since crumbled away. There were only three rooms- the bathroom, the bedroom, and the main room. The latter served as kitchen, dining room, and lounging room all in one. The once nice wood flooring was beginning to rot away in certain spots, giving way every now and again. But such was the fate of every house in this portion of Queens. People living here couldn’t afford the upkeep needed, nor could they afford to move anywhere else. So they just stayed, and continued hating their lives.

Connor, the oldest at thirteen years old, stood facing his brother Jeffery who was sitting in a chair. Jeffery was ten years old.  Their sister Clementine was the youngest at eight, and she stood by Connor’s side. In the chair Jeffery sat, fidgeting and clutching his jaw with tears rolling down his face. For the last week he had complained of a toothache. Their mother had examined him, and found a small hole in one of his back teeth. She promised that she’d bring home enough money by the end of the week to pay for a trip to the dentist… like she often promised bringing home enough money for things. But she wasn’t here right now, in the middle of the day. She was at work, or at least trying to find work. The three of them were left at home, and while typically they may be out enjoying the nice Saturday off of school they had this current problem at hand.

When he had gotten up, Jeffery had went into the main room and sitting on the table was four pieces of tack bread for breakfast that mom had made for them, as was often the case. One for each of them, and one for mom later on in case she couldn’t get any other food to bring home. Instead of waiting for his siblings to get up with him, Jeff went to work on his piece right away. As he ate it though, and chewed the hard dough, he suddenly felt a crack in his mouth followed by a searing pain.

That was what Connor had woken up to.  Jeffery crying in pain. His tooth, the one with the hole in it, had cracked almost straight through.  And for the first hour they had no clue what to do. Clementine suggested a trip to the dentist, and Connor explained that they didn’t have the money. Clem thought that maybe the dentist would be in a helping mood today, and said that they should try anyway. Connor had smiled at her, but just ended up shaking his head. Nobody was ever in a giving mood. Not anymore. Connor debated going out and looking for mom, but he decided against that. They needed the money. Which left it all on him.

Connor stood before his brother with a stone face. Jeffery was sobbing, and hunched over. On the ground was a giant wet spot where Jeffery had spat a thimble of gin out. Connor had gotten it from mom’s “hidden” bottle that she only took out not more than once a week. He figured maybe it would help, but once it had hit the tooth Jeff just howled and let the liquid pour out of his mouth, making a mess.

“Clem,” Connor began in a hushed tone as he lowered himself down to one knee and looking at her. “You love Jeffery right?” She just nodded her head. “Well, when I say so I want you to show him how much you love him by giving in a big hug and not letting go until I say so. Okay?” She nodded her head again. “Make sure you wrap around his arms, okay?” She had a confused look, but nodded a third time. Conner got back up and faced his brother again. As he did he reached into his back pocket. Jeffery looked up and saw his older brother grasping for something behind his back. “Clem, give him the hug” Connor said calmly.

Clementine trotted forward and wrapped her arms around her brother and squeezed him. Jeffery, caught off guard looked down at his sister. Then he heard two loud footsteps, and as he looked up Connor was already behind him, putting his hand on Jeffery’s forehead and tilting it backwards.