If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know that I’m planning to publish a series of short stories called “Petroleum Sunset”. I am now working on my third story, and thinking of a fourth. It’s actually panning out kind of like a TV series. Think of a futuristic Waltons with imperfect parents, and with things like gas, medicine and birth control becoming scarce.

To that end, I’ve been doing a little research. First, I had to shop for the perfect disease.


Otherwise known as Lockjaw, tetanus is a soil-born disease thanks to the bacteria Clostridium tetani. It causes muscle spasms that start in the jaw, hence the name. Most of us were immunized against this as babies, and we had a booster when we hit adolescence. It does not come from rust; a common misconception.

I was especially interested in how long it takes before symptoms appear. The victim in this case is a healthy fifteen year old boy who would have gotten the first set of shots, but not the second. (Medical scarcities, you remember.) The story could be called “Quest for a Tetanus Shot”, but it’s not.

I also believe the loss of plastic would devastate the medical community. Plastic is a petroleum product, and in my future it is scarce enough that the boys are rummaging for scrap plastic at the dump at the start of the story. The hospitals would have to go back to glass everything–glass IV bottles, glass syringe bottles, etc. (I need to pick my nurse sister’s brain.) Medical tubing would have to go back to rubber/latex, which some people are allergic to. So that might make it into the story as well, and I need to research what was in use before plastic.

Birth Control

In my world, birth control is getting scarce along with many other forms of medicine. All these scarcities may eventually rectify itself as the world re-adjusts to horse-and-buggy transport, assuming the factories can stay in operation. For now, it’s scarce.

So, I figured that the demand for things like condoms would still be high. Since synthetic latex would be scarce, they would have to be natural latex. Latex condoms were used in the 1800s. They were stinky and aged quickly. The process (and product) was improved in the 20s, and condom sales skyrocketed. The condoms available in my story would likely be similar to these.

Despite the subject matter, this story is actually rated PG.

And dang–those are some diverse topics!

When was the last tetanus shot you got? I had a booster before a trip to India, about twelve years ago. I guess I’m due …