A crowd had gathered at the entrance to the cavern. Despite the size of the man-made opening, there wasn’t sufficient room for everyone inside, and a sound system and large screens had been set up so that everyone could hear the mayor speak. Many people held umbrellas against a light but persistent drizzle.
“Every twenty-five years,” began the mayor. “Once in a generation, we hold this contest.”
She swept her arm dramatically, indicating the rows of uniform squares embossed in the rock of the cavern entrance. Some of them were already carved with a miscellany of signs. Many remained blank, an obvious invitation for the future. “You can see how the signs nearer the entrance are worn away by the elements, an indication of the extreme age of what we are doing now. This is a tradition that has remained with us for almost as long as our recorded history.” Continue reading
It’s hard to say what the Player and his Men would have thought of the Great Theater on Ephis.
The circular stage rose from inky blackness, as if it were poised within the stony vacuum of space. The vast amphitheater, its stage and vast rings of seating were wrapped within a lucent dome of spinel, perfectly transparent, perfectly invisible.
Passing time and orbital precession would bring the sun back over the horizon at the perfect moment, but for now a orbital mirror cast a tiny, brilliant spot of light on a single actor. Continue reading
“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
“I don’t think that’s how people dressed for the occasion,” I said.
“It was supposedly a militaristic era,” said Rob. He’d dyed his skin a mottled mix of dark green, patches of brown, and fine yellow tracery, like the veins of leaves. It might have been appropriate – had he intended to run around naked in a forest without being seen. His brightly-colored orange overalls ruined that effect though. He pointed to the white ten-digit number emblazoned on the chest. “This, however, is the genuine article. I spotted the style in an old photograph and printed it specially.”
“I think you’re missing the point,” I said. “This was one of the most important rites of passage of that era. Kids waited their whole adolescent lives for this moment, and they wouldn’t have dressed like that. I’m entirely certain that’s some sort of indicator of low personal status. You should have worn a suit.” Continue reading
Thirty 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
Strange 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.
The end-cap was shaped like a five-petalled rose, stretching from the searing heat of the central sun-line, into a great metal embrace that hugged the patchwork green of farmland and the compact conurbations of Ross Cylinder’s inner skin.
The sun-line used vast magnets to haul plasma, heated to incandescence by an array of mirrors outside of the Cylinder, from one end-cap to the other, providing light and heat and all the right sorts of radiation to its inhabitants.
The fliers huddled in a jump-off area within the end-cap, just inside the micro-gee mark. It was close enough to the sun-line for it to be quite balmy.
“I’m going to run through the safety stuff,” said a race official. Somebody groaned. She ignored the sound. “Wings to ride the thermals outwards,” she said. “Electromagnets to pull you back in towards the sun-line. If you touch the sun-line, you’ll get burned.” At this, somebody else made a sizzling sound with their lips. “Please pay attention,” she snapped. Continue reading
Ray shanked the shot, and his ball splashed into a nearby water hazard, startling a pair of ducks that were paddling around on it. He swore loudly, and pulled out his phone.
Two swipes of his finger, and the super-conducting magnets buried beneath the course fished his ball out of the water for him and rolled it back along the ground to his feet. The scorecard automatically docked him a penalty stroke. He picked up the damp ball and wiped it dry on his pants leg. Continue reading
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
In a time and place far distant from our own, there lived a certain young Prince of the Realm named Edward, and his brother Eddie. The usual transgressions of youth landed Eddie, rather than Edward, in the stockade, with a certain knight of the court assigned the delicate task of inflicting corporal punishment.
“C’mon Mike,” said Edward. “You know darned well that I broke the window. I should be in there.”
“Consider, your Highness,” said Sir Michael. “If I were to hit you with this, it would likely leave scars on your tender hide. Your take-away, such as it is, is to consider with care the harm inflicted on your brother, and to desist in the future from such actions.” Sir Michael was rather better-spoken than he looked. In fact, he was enrolled in a correspondence business course, a fact that he tried to hide from his knightly brethren.
“So you’re hitting my brother instead?” said Edward. He’d understood approximately half of what Sir Michael had said, although he grasped the general gist.
“You have to admit, Eddie is better built for it.” Which was truth, indeed. Not much could harm Eddie. Continue reading
When Danaë was very young, she tried to play with the doorman’s son.
The doorman was helping Danaë’s father with their heavy luggage. His son, perhaps a few years older than her, sat on a chair near the door, dressed in a smart brown suit. Danaë animated an image of her teddy bear, and mentally flipped it over to the boy, who didn’t respond at all.
She realized that he had no brain-ware, and therefore no way to see the bear, so she forwarded the image to the local environment instead. A ghostly, translucent bear danced its way across the sidewalk, drawn on the air by a trillion fluorescing nanites. The boy smiled at her. Then Danaë’s father grabbed her by the arm and pulled her indoors. Continue reading