Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Archive for the ‘Tales of the Future’ Category

Tales of the Future #2: The Actuary and the Mothman

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Once upon a time, some years after the Unified Realities treaty opened up immigration from one dimension to another, an actuary and a mothman were neighbors. They got on well enough, nodding and saying “hi” when they passed each other in the hallway or in the hovercarpark, occasionally trading opinions on the weather or the local sports teams.

One day, the actuary’s vendo/disposo unit broke down and, as he was wrestling with all the very, very tiny parts and swearing very loudly in the dialects from several alternate realities, he was interrupted by a knock at his apartment door. It was the mothman, carrying a toolbox.

“Heard trouble,” said the mothman. “This always work for me.” He handed the actuary a nanospanner the size of a particularly skinny hair.

The vendodisp was soon fixed. The actuary was so grateful that he invited the mothman to come over for dinner and he made his specialty – a stew with precisely cubed vegetables.

When the mothman was leaving, he said, “Very good. Grant three wishes.”

The actuary hadn’t expected this, and puzzled over the mothman’s words while he vacuumed vaguely luminous dust from the chair where his neighbor had sat. He’d heard that the mothpeople could influence reality – the mothman must have been saying that he’d make some changes at the actuary’s request.

That night, the actuary tossed and turned, trying to decide what to ask for. By the time his alarm rang, he’d narrowed it down to eight things. He had it down to five by the time he heard the mothman’s door close. The actuary threw on his clothes and ran up to the roof, just in time to see the mothman getting onto his car.

“I can’t decide,” said the actuary.

“Not worry,” said the mothman, with a twinkle in his multifaceted eyes. “Already do.” And off he went.

While the actuary watched the mothman merge into traffic, the building super came up behind him and said, “Wishes?”

The actuary nodded.

“Don’t stress,” said the super. “Mothfolk live outside of time. Whatever it was, was likely taken care of before you were born. You’ll probably never know what it was.”

That all made sense, but the actuary knew that he still had to make lists of what he’d wish for. He might not sleep for a week, but he’d figure it out.

Tales of the Future #1: The Robot and the Hive

Monday, November 26th, 2007

There was a robot who lived on the edge of a forest that covered what had once been an industrial park. The robot farmed histo-adaptive replacement organs – kidneys and livers mostly, spleens every once in a while. The business didn’t make much money, but it kept the robot in power and spare parts. Monitoring all the chemical and temperature variables suited the robot’s temperament, and, in the evenings, the woods were peaceful.

In the next sector, there lived a clone hive. There were dozens of them, all the same, and they worked day and night at three or four different businesses at the same time – light assembly, personalized cake decoration, transcription, bonded courier services, and more. Like most hives, they weren’t good at everything, but once they found what they were good at, they kept doing at it, and soon they did it very well. They multiplied and reinvested, and within a few years, they owned everything for three sectors around.

They sent the buyout offer via their own courier, and a second clone went along because that was protocol in any business situation, since the sight of a second identical person waiting in the car reinforced the idea that the whole hive was behind the message.

The psychology was wasted on the robot, but the letter was logically set out in a numbered table format that it found easy to process. He particularly admired the paragraph that talked about how an organization that followed an exponential-growth economic model could coexist with boutique enterprises founded on a stasis-capitalist model.

The courier said he could wait a few minutes for an answer, or he could return at another, more convenient time.

“Is your car networked?” asked the robot.

“Certainly,” said the clone. “We can transmit your answer to our legal staff in moments.”

The robot stood in its doorway. A bird chirped in the woods; another answered. Several moments passed.

“It’s a good price,” said the courier. “What do you think? What’s your answer?”

“I do not need an answer,” said the robot. “I have used your vehicle to speak to the others of my model. We all have a little savings that we can pool.”

“We can outbid any counter-offer,” said the clone in the car.

“You misunderstand,” said the robot. “We have bought your hive, all its assets, everything.”

The clones’ car chimed that a message was waiting for them.

“Now,” said the robot. “The spleen tank needs cleaning, it is a lovely evening, and I am going for a walk. You’ll find brushes and scrapers on the workbench.”

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