Category Archives: Stories

Short fiction

Food for Thought

food_for_thought“Have you brought our repast?” the cool, mechanical voice issued forth from a wide grid on the wall, below a one-way glass window.

“One extra-large pizza, many toppings,” I said. “By the way, you are what you eat.” I’d spent the last few years tempting fate, trying to determine exactly how much I could get away with. So far, it seemed that our new overlords weren’t bothered too much about direct insults or slurs. Active rebellion was obviously a different story.

“Do you want our assistance or don’t you,” the voice responded. Hopefully I hadn’t taken things too far this time. I didn’t want to raise any suspicions by suddenly acting polite though. Continue reading


industryThirty times per second, the automated writer finishes a new book and sends it off to its automated agent.

Thirty times per second, the agent runs a Bayesian filter against the writer’s book, to see if it is likely to sell. Usually the agent sends it back to the writer. About once per second, it accepts the book.

Once per second, the agent forwards the book to five carefully selected publishers, all of whom have purchased from the agent recently.

Once every second, artificially intelligent editors mull over the latest offering from the writer. They may bribe some of their usual distributors with micro-payments for a sneak-peak at some of the latest best-sellers (those books that have sold the most copies in the last hour), so that they can run a competitive analysis. Usually they reject the book. Continue reading

Closed Time-Like Loop

timelikeStrange things may happen when one hangs out one’s shingle as a futurist. Take, for example, this email, which I received this morning. The date in the header is from ten years in the future.
Continue reading

Apsis in Ephis with Samir

Apsis in EphisIt is nearly apsis in Ephis, The City on a Rock, the City that Almost Never Entirely Sleeps. We have traveled as far as we ever get from our little sun.

The Bright Side is on mood lighting now, and soon the light-siders will be flitting on over to the Night Side to play.

“You sure you can fix her in time?” Samir asks me. He plays gently with the keys of his piano, not pressing hard enough even to make a tone. Continue reading

Rate of Exchange

“All right people, we’ve spotted a new crypto-currency. Let’s look alive folks!” the guy in suspenders clapped his hands loudly to punctuate his statement.

“Any idea where this one is coming from, boss?” asked a guy in the front row, wearing thick-framed glasses.
“Do we have a ruling from FINRA?” called somebody from the back.
“What is it called? I need a ticker symbol.”

“FINRA and the SEC are standing aside for the moment. The currency is called MUNEE. Why can’t these idiots spell correctly? I have word that it is already on all of the big exchanges,” the boss man spake.

There was a great and frenetic clattering of keyboards throughout the trading floor, interrupted occasionally with swearing as a trade misfired.

One of the senior traders waved his boss into a side room.
“I’ve got one of my sources looking into where the heck these crypto-currencies are coming from,” he said.
“Don’t ask,” he responded. “When these things go live, there are almost immediately a whole bunch of side betting sites created, and it seems to take only a few minutes for them to hit the big virtual currency exchanges. There’s immediate and massive trading, and the ticker always goes straight up. And nobody can trace an IP address on any of them.”
“Well the person or persons responsible are obviously not idiots. Even the economics are perfectly tuned. This one has an estimated annual deflation rate of zero point one. Our chief economist hath spoken.”
“My guy managed to get some source code though, and that’s the strange part,” said the trader.
“How so?”
“Well there are some funny comments in it.”
“I don’t have all day, you know.”

The trader paused for a second as if to collect his thoughts.
“It says something about how Earthlings will buy anything.”

This is obviously a shaggy dog story, as Isaac Asimov used to put it. It is the first part of a longer story that I am still working on. More news here as it happens.

The Teeming Shore

The drunk guy brandished a bottle that had once contained something imported and alcoholic. He looked more confused than belligerent, but he was big enough to potentially be a problem, and anyhow patrons had complained that he was bothering them.

Eric went the one way, and the two bouncers went the other. “Okay dude,” he said, quietly. “Let’s cut that stuff out, shall we?”

The guy muttered something, and waved the bottle back and forth a few times like a club.
“What are you going to do about it?”

“That is such a cliche,” Eric said. “Is that what you want to be? The guy in the movies that everyone is hoping will be kay-oh’ed? Come on. Quit hassling people. Just cut it out. Go for a walk and sober up or something.” Continue reading

Contents Under Pressure

There’s a lot of background research that goes into writing this sort of thing. I received a lot of assistance from people on both Facebook and In particular I’d like to thank Michel Segeren, Eric Shear, Patrick Ritchie and Richard Trombly pushing me to make it all make sense. The problems that are left are my fault entirely.

You can find a Mars calendar calculator here.

Mars Date 66.04.03 (March 3, 2078) – Jaganathan “Jag” Rangan

Jag and his team were putting the backup pump back together when his phone rang. He glanced down. Shit. Brandon knew they were busy at the desalination plant. He wouldn’t just call.

“Sorry Jag. Bad news.” Brandon Ackerley was the project manager in charge of maintenance of the colony’s water subsystems. “We have a major leak on the pipe.”

The pipe referred to the vast water pipe that carried fluids from Mars’ southern polar icecap to the colony. The cold brine was partially filtered at the pole, but still contained corrosive salts, and leaks, although rare, weren’t unknown.

“Do you know where?” Jag asked.

“We lost pressure too quickly to get a tight fix. Somewhere out by klick 750. Both pipes are out.” Distances on the pipe were measured in kilometers, starting at the colony.

Jag took two breaths before responding.

“We could be out there for a week hunting for that, you know?” Continue reading

Bulk Hauler

We were discussing the advantages of small payload to LEO rockets on the Lifeboat Foundation’s Facebook page. It doesn’t look like anyone has ever attempted to build a rocket specifically for launching tiny (i.e. 1kg) payloads to orbit. With new off-the-shelf nanosat platforms reaching the market, a cheap launch platform could have a real market among universities – or even wealthy space enthusiasts. I wrote the following short story as a way of illustrating the potential for tiny payloads to go a long way.

Another dump truck backed up to the pit and offloaded a reeking pile of partially rotten vegetables. The yard took up several acres of prime farmland. Two ancient quonset huts stood by half a dozen miniature gantries, where partially completed rockets stood. The place was surrounded by a rather bucolic-looking log fence.

“Okay, run that by me again,” said the reporter. “You’re lifting two pounds at a time, and you’re building a deep space mission? From here?” Continue reading