I am not actually particularly interested in this story, but I am pretty sure that I found it in the same book that contained the other story I asked about here: Short story about a doctor who can hook up his pain center to patients' *. I am hoping that if somebody can identify this story, that may lead me to that one.

This story opened in a shopping mall in Washington, D.C. The contractor who built and owns the mall is standing there, an unlikely figure in a Sex Pistols T-shirt. He selects some of the people there and tells them that there is going to be a nuclear war that weekend, but that he has a bomb shelter constructed and ready. The people line up, throw away any illegal items they are carrying, and then head down into the shelter.

Living in the shelter, the owner repeatedly threatens to kill people who disobey his rules, although it's not clear whether he is ever serious. (One of his rules is nobody is supposed to play or sing any music by the Beatles, although "Live and Let Die" turns out to be allowed.) There are various interactions among the shelter dwellers. Two people become romantically involved. And there is a nuclear war up above.

Eventually, the radiation outside has subsided enough that the occupants can go out in suits. Then they break into the President's own bomb shelter, which was apparently built by the same contractor. They sabotage the shelter and the occupants' suits, to punish them for failing to prevent the nuclear war.

I think the title, which refers to this last incident, was something like, "A Message to the President."

*I am pretty sure that one of the other stories in the collection was not SF, although I remember a bit about it as well: It tells about a couple having sex for the first time. Afterwards, they share there biggest secrets with one-another. The man says that he looked at his younger sister naked when he was a teenager. The woman says that her father shot President Kennedy.

1 Answer 1


This is A Message to the President by "Robert Dennison", collected in Would, Could, Should: The Science Fiction Society Anthology 1988.

Notably, each of the stories within were actually written by magicians Penn Gillette and Raymond Teller under various pseudonyms. The booklet was packaged with their book Penn & Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends as part of a convoluted magic trick you could learn to perform at home to amaze your friends.

enter image description here

I've not read it, but the title matches and it was in the same collection as another story whose title matches the description of your other question

Based on the other stories in the contents list, the story about a young couple sharing a secret might be Do You Want to Know a Secret? by Samuel Herbert

  • Is the table of contents for that online somewhere? I can't seem to find it. (And I knew that you had not read it, because if you had, you would not have identified Robert Dennison as the author.)
    – Buzz
    Jul 6, 2017 at 0:42
  • Table of contents here; isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?352141
    – Valorum
    Jul 6, 2017 at 0:44
  • 1
    Yeah, I just found that isfdb entry as well. It is in need of some improvement, I fear. This book is not actually an SF anthology (although some of the stories are SF); it's a book of short stories by Penn and Teller. All the authors are pseudonyms; authors identified as members of the New England Science Fiction Society are actually Penn, while the others are all Teller. Moreover, the first line of each page is fake, for use in a trick explained in Penn and Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends book, which the pamphlet was packaged with.
    – Buzz
    Jul 6, 2017 at 0:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.