Tag Archives: Zack Umstead

Introducing Team Orange: Steve and Zack Umstead

Greetings, friends! As we get closer and closer to releasing the anthology to you, we want to continue to unveil our fantastic team. Today we have not one, but two talented authors featured today: Steve and Zack Umstead. This father and son duo collaborated to come up with a great story for the Orange Karen Anthology. A teaser of their story follows the interview.

Author Name: Steve & Zack Umstead

Title of Short Story: Protogenesis

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:

A mysterious and possibly dangerous form of life is found in a frozen meteorite, and a science team has some challenges researching it.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?

Zack came up with the concept for a rapidly evolving form of alien life, and together we fleshed it out with all the science and plot details it needed. Steve had the idea to make it a seed of life sent on purpose, which Zack liked, being a fan of vague back story in a short piece of fiction.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?

Steve: I’ve known Karen for, what, two years now? That’s like eons in the Interwebs age. I got to know her well during a drive to Massachusetts for Readercon. Very well, actually – did you know she likes talking? In any case, hearing of her medical issue and her struggle afterwards, I couldn’t not (sorry, double negative) participate and help any way I can. I asked my son to collaborate, as he’s incredibly talented for a young teen, and is always willing to help.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:

Zack: I’m completely obsessed with bacon.

Steve: I look at both sides of a Dorito before eating it. Oh, and I’ve been known to brew my own beer.

(Check out this great post from Steve about how Stella Artois shipped him a twelve pack of beer…on ice).

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?

Zack: Sky’s the limit? So it can’t be our life form… Probably have to say pumpkin pie. That stuff’s great.

Steve: Hot Fries. ‘Nuff said.

(Sensing a food theme here?)

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?

Zack: It would be a shame not to eat a perfectly good pumpkin pie, so I’d probably open a pie factory and end world hunger. Mmm… Pie factory.

Steve: All the world’s valuables and artifacts are all coated in Hot Fries dust, making theft easy to trace. Crime as we know it ends. Waistlines expand. We’re all happy.

Who inspires you? Why?

Zack: Would it be cheesy to say my dad? Well, he does. He’s a great writer, and his imagination knows no bounds, which I try to aspire to.

Steve: Sniff, sniff…I just read this. Sorry, I have to take a break… Sniff.


Space was cold, a vast empty void crossed with deadly radiation and invisible particles, interspersed with sporadic and rare chunks of rock and gas orbiting fiery balls of plasma. Space was barren, but not lifeless. The rarest of rare chunks could sustain life — sometimes intelligent life, sometimes not, but life nonetheless. Every life-bearing rock was different, unique, except for one common thread: they were lifeless until visited.

The meteoroid tumbled slowly as it traveled through the vacuum. Weak starlight reflected from smooth sides, absorbed by the rough sides. It wasn’t large, not as interstellar bodies went, but it was far from unimportant. Its nickel-iron core was protected by a layer of accumulated rock and carbon dioxide ice, the latter of which began to sublimate as the meteoroid approached the yellow-orange star at the center of the small solar system. The thrust generated by the ice burn-off nudged it slightly from its original path and it fell into the gravity well of a planet covered in a thick layer of white.

As it entered the planet’s atmosphere, the outer layer of rock began to ablate, leaving a fiery trail above the surface. It shrank as heat consumed its mass. Three miles above the planet’s surface, the meteor broke into three pieces, two of which were small rocky chunks that crumbled bit by bit and burned up, providing a spectacular show to whatever creature looked skyward. The third and largest piece, composed of nearly solid nickel-iron, journeyed unimpeded. The outer surface flowed like water, but the heat didn’t penetrate. It trailed flaming droplets of molten metal and smoke as it neared its end. The sonic boom it caused would have turned heads below if anything had been listening.

The meteor impacted a wide mass of white and bore hundreds of feet deep, throwing up a massive geyser of sooty ice, finally coming to a rest within the confines of a massive glacier.

A visitor had arrived.

Steve Umstead is the author of the Evan Gabriel military science fiction trilogy, and currently has ten different works published. Zack Umstead is an honors high school student and the author of the published young adult science fiction stories Shifter and Entanglement.