My story "Intestate" is up now at — it's one of the weirdest things I've ever written, sort of an attempt to do something like The Royal Tenenbaums except with mad science.

But perhaps the strangest part is how much has changed since I was writing "Intestate," back in the heady days of 2011. When I was working on this story, I included a subplot about drone strikes on civilian targets, and I spent a ton of time Googling the topic and reading up on it — because I thought people would consider that idea way too far-fetched and alarmist. Out of all the off-the-wall things in the story, the notion of the government launching drone strikes on civilians felt like it might seem the most out-there.


And now, flash forward to the end of 2012, and the story is out — and in the year and a bit since I wrote it, drone strikes on civilians have become an accepted fact. And now I have the opposite worry: that something which seemed too hard to believe a year ago might seem too much like making a big deal about something that everybody already knows about.

Just one sign of how fast the world is changing.

Anyway, here's how the story begins. Pay attention to the story's title, it's important:

1. road trip

The minivan is already full of children when it pulls up to my front steps. I climb into the deepest pit facing out the back door, and plunk my rucksack in my lap. Before I even buckle up, my youngest niece Rosemary is grabbing at my jeans leg and trying to show me a doll, while her brother Sebastian is threatening to shoot me with a toy gun. The whole van smells like mildew and overripe fruit. Empty juice boxes scatter over my feet. This will be a long ride.

"Welcome aboard, Emmy. Next stop, Castle von Doom," my youngest brother Eric says from the front seat. His brown hair is receding, and he's grown a wispy soul patch. Next to him, his latest wife Octavia is trying to find indy folk-rock on the iPod. They both wave at me, and then we're off. Eric drives faster than you would think a man driving a van-load of his own children would go, even on the back roads full of hairpin turns and big trees.

Eric keeps joking about how we're going to visit Doctor Doom, his newest nickname for our father. "He's going to bake us doomcookies," Eric says.

"Doomcookies!" Rosemary shouts.

"Made with doomberries," Octavia says.

"Doomberries!" we all shout, even me. I only feel a little disloyal to my father.

The hills are full of disappearing acts, like sheep meadows and barns that pop out for just a few moments. There's almost too much color to take in, between the trees that are going red and swathes of evergreens. Rosemary asks if she can count the sheep, or if that will make her doze off. I tell her to try, and see what happens. We are driving in the middle of the road, directly over the yellow lines, when a jeep comes around the tight bend and nearly rams into us. Eric swerves back into our lane, hyperventilating a little. Next to me, Rosemary has fallen asleep.

We get lost twice, and have to stop for pee breaks and ice cream and hot dogs, but we're still the first to arrive at the failed gated community where my dad lives. We roll off the main road into a small feeder road, which leads to a broken gate, and then a cul-de-sac with five driveways. The last one goes to a big McMansion with two gables and a huge lawn in front, and acres of forest in back. The other four driveways lead to dirt lots or to empty, collapsing houses. As we roll up the rocky driveway on grumbling tires, my dad skips out the front door. His white beard and glasses catch the sunlight. Even though it feels like the day has gone on forever, it's only noon.

"It's Doctor Doom," Eric says with no sarcasm.

You can read the rest over at