For thousands of generations humans have looked up at the Moon and imagined a face in its features: the Man in the Moon, smiling gently upon us from his perch high in the heavens. A pleasant thought, right? But maybe also a warning—a warning of a threat from space that we on Earth have no way to stop.

Japanese scientists announced last week in the journal Nature Geoscience that they had used spectral analysis to measure the composition of minerals in the 3000-kilometre-wide Procellarum Basin, the giant flat space that makes up the largest part of the Man in the Moon’s face. Then they’d compared those results with rock samples brought back from the Moon by Apollo astronauts. Their conclusion? The Procellarum basin is a newer feature than most of the Moon’s craters, and was most likely caused by the strike of one giant asteroid that ripped off a huge portion of the crust and produced a new one, about 3.9 billion years ago.

That’s not just an interesting factoid (and a serious romantic buzzkill) but also a reminder that a huge chunk of space rock like that might one day have Earth in its sights.

You can get two fairly similar versions of that scenario in the movies Armageddon and Deep Impact, both released in 1998. The newer movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a quirky but often sweet romantic comedy starring Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley, has just come out on video and is worth a look (but note that Bruce Willis isn’t in the cast, and adjust your expectations accordingly). I’ve explored the killer asteroid idea in some old blog posts and in my short story “Saviour” which you can read by following this link. In “Saviour” the man in charge of the mission to save humankind from the approaching cosmic doom takes a rather unorthodox approach.

“Saviour” was significantly inspired by another movie called Sharkwater in which filmmaker Rob Stewart showed that sharks are on the path to extinction, thanks to the inexplicable human taste for shark fin soup (among other things). Stewart has now produced a follow-up to Sharkwater due in movie theatres next spring that’s even more disturbing. Ocean scientists pointed out to him that by the 2040’s not only will sharks be gone, virtually every other species of fish and sea mammal will also be wiped out, due to indiscriminate overfishing, pollution, and global warming. The movie goes on to show the forecast consequences of climate change on the rest of the planet. Revolution expresses a message of hope, but its premise is certainly dire. And it’s not fiction.

So what’s the connection between climate change extinctions and a killer asteroid? For that you’ll have to read “Saviour”. But consider: if a giant space rock ever is found to be on a collision course with Earth, will it be a terrible twist of fate?

Or the universe protecting itself from us?


What does a giant rock hurtling toward Earth have to do with sharks?

My story “Saviour”. It’s an example of how information from widely different sources can come together to provide inspiration.

From 2004 - 2006 there was some scientific concern that the asteroid Apophis would come very close to Earth, or even strike the planet in 2029. Although better calculations disproved that, there was still a chance that the 2029 pass would alter Apophis’ orbit enough to provide a collision with Earth in 2036. The results would be catastrophic, but fortunately more recent computations have put the odds of a collision at one in a quarter-million. Still, the episode is obvious grist for science fictions stories. Who could forget the two 1998 Hollywood blockbusters Armageddon and Deep Impact (even if you’ve tried to)? Both movies had that same doomsday premise: a killer asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

In 2006 I had the opportunity to interview Rob Stewart, the man behind an excellent documentary film called Sharkwater. The film details how underwater cameraman Stewart set out to debunk the myths about sharks and ended up in serious danger from human predators instead. The most unforgettable element of Sharkwater is the devastating damage being done to the shark population by the shark finning industry, harvesting shark fins only for the status dish of shark fin soup. What threatens sharks threatens the whole ecosystem of the oceans. But then there are so many ways in which the human race is chasing other Earth species into extinction.

I was strongly affected by the movie, and its message somehow became entangled in my mind with apocalyptic threats to the human species. The result is “Saviour.”

It’s another story, like “Hurricane”, that seems at first glance to be old hat. Knowing that time-challenged editors buried under an avalanche of submissions look for the earliest-possible excuses to reject stories, I didn’t think many would give “Saviour” a chance and read it all the way to the end. So I’ve rarely submitted it anywhere (and my fears have been proven correct the few times I did submit it). But I think it’s an interesting take on the doomsday premise, and a story with something to say. Please have a look. But read it to the end!