TUSKERS – A Synopsis

John Janovy, Jr.

TUSKERS is science fiction. The story takes place on the day of a football game between the University of Nebraska and the University of Oklahoma in the year 2090. Global warming has turned the American central plains into a desert. A brilliant chemical engineer has devised a way to make petroleum products, and rice to feed five billion Asians, from slime corn, the latter a desert-loving perennial invented by molecular biologists. This engineer, named Arly Hockrood, is one of the richest men in the world as a result of his patents, and he owns a company named Anti-Environmental Products, Inc. (AEPI), whose raw material—corn slime—is the crude oil of the late 21st Century.  Nebraska is now the petroleum source for much of the world, thus Hockrood’s wealth. The molecular biologists also have succeeded in resurrecting woolly mammoths from DNA in carcasses appearing in the rapidly-melting polar ice cap. The first, and largest, of these mammoths is Archie, the University of Nebraska mascot, and the team is now known as the “Tuskers” instead of the “Cornhuskers” as earlier in the century. This football game is of interest because the University of Nebraska has not lost a game in ten years and they must win this last one to complete a Winning Decade.

            Arly Hockrood is the evil force in this story; his hatred for the Tuskers knows no bounds. The origin of this hatred and disdain is explained as backstory. The other main characters include Marvin, Hockrood’s valet, chauffeur, and helicopter pilot; Jack Alexander, one of Hockrood’s corn slime salesmen and ardent football fan; Suzi Alexander, Jack’s wife, a highly intelligent woman who, as a child, loved mammoths and now studies Archie continuously (learning about football as a by-product!); Nancy Robbins, one of Jack’s former girlfriends and now the mother of Charlie Robbins, the finest tuba player in the Nebraska Marching Band; West Edmond Wilcox, the Oklahoma coach, Billy Boy Peebles, the Nebraska coach and his staff—“Slammin’” Sam Bangham (defensive coordinator) and Mort Flint (academic adviser)—and various players, especially Tyreese “The Fleece” Henderson, the greatest cornerback in the history of college football and, of course, a uniquely talented OU backfield.

            TUSKERS opens with Jack Alexander’s alarm waking him, and Suzi’s waking her, on the morning of this Game of the Decade. Over the next few chapters we learn about how the characters came to play their various roles, their motivations, and their hopes and dreams. Hockrood is a despicable person; his character is established by his conversation, which is a constant stream of four-letter language, expressing disdain for everything Nebraskan and devising every way he can to help OU from his elegant sky-box in Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. Jack Alexander is the model for an off-the-scale football fan, obsessed with winning and a nervous wreck in anticipation of this game. Suzi is all brains, in fact, she’s the brains of the entire story. As TUSKERS unfolds, we see this game from the perspectives of all these characters, end up at a wild party in the Tusker Inn Hotel, ride with Hockrood and Marvin to the game in his helicopter, visit the locker rooms, and finally sit through the game. In the end, Nebraska wins, but not without some unexpected help delivered by . . .? Hockrood finishes the story, and sets the stage for a sequel, with his final actions following the Nebraska victory.

Violence in TUSKERS is about what you’d see during a typical college football game; there is no sex although descriptions of clothing and behavior are used to establish character and scenes, and some of this use is about as suggestive as anything you’d see on prime time television (or at a game, especially in late August); some of the language is four-letter, although it is used only for the purpose of establishing character, thus is completely in character.

            TUSKERS not only is science fiction, it also is satire, exploring the American obsession with football as a national sport as the world experiences global climate change, political turmoil, and accelerating technological advance. In the end, the book is not so much about sport as it is about our preoccupation with sport as a displacement behavior in a world that is changing so rapidly we cannot control it.

The Author:

            John Janovy, Jr. is a biological scientist, and sports fan(!), at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has written numerous books, including the leading textbook in his discipline, and nearly a hundred scientific papers, a nationally-televised screenplay, and a software package (see the first web site below). He is winner of the UNL Distinguished Teaching Award and Outstanding Research and Creativity Award. TUSKERS is based on a conversation with a friend during a trip to western Nebraska, a conversation about the state’s constant preoccupation with winning football as a source of our sense of self-worth.  Janovy’s web sites and contact are:







The copyright for TUSKERS has been filed with the US Copyright Office and a requisite electronic copy of both the manuscript and a screenplay derived from it have been deposited.