In the first half of the program, Army veteran and speculative fiction writer Sean Patrick Hazlett joined Richard Syrett (Twitter) to discuss what society could look like after the next World War—and how the authors in his Weird World War series of anthology books treat this bleak scenario in different ways. Each volume in the series focuses on a different story line, Hazlett explained, such as a war between the US and the Soviet Union or a post-Armageddon world. Hazlett described the process of soliciting authors willing to "write to theme" for each volume, relating that such a restriction forces the writers to be highly imaginative within the parameters of the theme.
The result, Hazlett went on, is always a collection of extraordinary stories. From the latest anthology, Weird World War IV, for example, "The Big Whimper" is about a highly intelligent, genetically-engineered warrior canine. Hazlett called the time-travel themed "Portals of the Past" a love letter to San Francisco that references musician Grace Slick. As helpless bystanders in "Reflections in Lizard Time," Hazlett said, humans are caught in the crossfire of a battle between alien factions that's taking place on Earth. And in the satirical "Triplicate," the weapons used between the warring nations are massive stacks of paperwork, a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the bureaucracy and legalism inherent to the military.
A number of listeners responded to Richard's request to call in with their own stories of near-death or shared-death experiences. From Virginia, Linda recounted the intense stomach pains she felt at the moment of her husband's passing, and wondered whether they might have been the pain of his illness leaving his body as he died. Kenneth in Alabama talked about an incident in which he was clinically dead for several minutes during a visit to the hospital. California listener James shared his two-year-old son's recollection of dying, apparently in a past life. In addition to showing signs of fear and distress while telling his story, James continued, the child pretended to ride a horse in a manner that he could not have been familiar with.