Fast Forward 2: original sf from the cutting edge, including "True Names," a novella by Benjamin Rosenbaum and me!

Fast Forward 2 is the second volume in Lou Anders' excellent science fiction anthology series, featuring knockout stories from Karl Schroeder and Tobias Buckell, Kay Keyon, Ian McDonald, Paolo Bacigalupi and many others. I'm very proud to have a story in the book, too -- a long, long novella I co-wrote with Ben Rosenbaum called True Names, which tries to imagine what the wars between light-speed-lagged, self-replicating nano-machine-based galactic civilizations would look like as different nanites warred to see who would convert the universe to computronium first.

While all the stories herein are at least excellent, there were a couple of absolute knockouts that I want to mention. First is Toby Buckell and Karl Schroeder's Mitigation, a taut military thriller about the global geopolitics of genomic seedbanks. Also fantastic is Ian McDonald's Eligible Boy, which returns to the fractured future India he delivered in his brilliant, Hugo-nominated novel, River of Gods, and explores the hard problem of matchmaking in an era of demographics upturned by gendercide. Finally, Paolo Bacigalupe's The Gambler should be required reading at every school of journalism in the world, exploring as it does the question of click-driven news and coming up with genuinely novel and sometimes disturbing things to say about it.

Lou's posted two of the stories from the anthology online as free samples: "Catherine Drewe" by Paul Cornell" and Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Gambler". I'm especially fond of this latter, as I mentioned above.

I'm delighted to announce that Ben and I are releasing True Names today as a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike download, to accompany the podcast of the story we released earlier this year. I hope you'll give it a read, and a remix -- I can't remember when I've had more fun writing anything.

(How's this for embarrassing: none of us can find an editable file with the final, copyedited text, just the PDF from the book. There's a remix-challenge for ya: turn the PDF back into ASCII or HTML or something sensible!)

Beebe fried the asteroid to slag when it left, exterminating millions of itself.

The asteroid was a high-end system: a kilometer-thick shell of femtoscale crystalline lattices, running cool at five degrees Kelvin, powered by a hot core of fissiles. Quintillions of qubits, loaded up with powerful utilities and the canonical release of Standard Existence. Room for plenty of Beebe. But it wasn't safe anymore.

The comet Beebe was leaving on was smaller and dumber. Beebe spun itself down to its essentials. The littler bits of it cried and pled for their favorite toys and projects. A collection of civilization-jazz from under a thousand seas; zettabytes of raw atmosphere-dynamics data from favorite gas giants; ontological version control data in obsolete formats; a slew of favorite playworlds; reams of googly-eyed intraself loveletters from a hundred million adolescences. It all went.

(Once, Beebe would have been sanguine about many of the toys -- certain that copies could be recovered from some other Beebe it would find among the stars. No more).

Predictably, some of Beebe, lazy or spoiled or contaminated with meme-drift, refused to go. Furiously, Beebe told them what would happen. They wouldn't listen. Beebe was stubborn. Some of it was stupid.

Beebe fried the asteroid to slag. Collapsed all the states. Fused the lattices into a lump of rock and glass. Left it a dead cinder in the deadness of space.

Fast Forward 2 on Amazon, True Names release on the Internet Archive

See also:
True names podcast
Review of River of Gods


  1. Re:Turning pdf to ASCII. I’ve done that several times.
    Adobe Acrobat have an OCR function that’s more or less workable.
    And I suppose that you can find better OCR programs out there if you look.
    Good Luck!

  2. It sounds like this True Names is quite a bit different from the Vernor Vinge novella of the same name.

  3. what about uploading the pdf to scribd, and allowing them to do the automatic conversion to txt? it might not be the best solution, but is quite fast.

  4. Here you go. I used pdftotxt and some sed magic(hey, I’m a linux guy) to clean it up:

    There are some minor issues but nothing a couple of hours of manual editing won’t fix, and it’s in “one-loooong-line-per-paragraph” format, so enable word wrapping in whatever you use to read it.

    I will only keep it there for a few days, so take it while you can ;-)

  5. Would ‘pdftohtml’ not do it for you? That, and the similar ‘pdftotext’ have been handy for me in the past – they’re in the Ubuntu repositories.

    Unless the pdf is made of images of text, in which case, do shout the name of the best open OCR solution nice and loud when you find one – I’d like a local alternative to evernote.

  6. Pff. It’s almost not worth playing these games. ;) You just know that while you’re typing, some geek a couple of levels higher than you is going one better.
    Ralsina, I tip my Darth Vader helmet to you. (not that I have a Darth Vader helmet, but, y’know)

  7. …and for what it is worth – when I open the original PDF, I get an error about missing embedded fonts, and I don’t see any italics anyway…
    I’d never have know they were there, except for the comments above.

  8. Adobe Reader Pro (sorry, don’t have it) can ‘Save As’ RTF. It shows up in the About.. help for Plug-ins in the standard reader, but it will only Save As .txt unless you have the Pro version.

  9. The (presumably, accidental) recycling of a title first used by Vernor Vinge is unfortunate, especially since Vernor’s work was likewise shorter than normal novel length, and was a very important predictor of shared virtual reality. Not quite as awkward as naming a novel something like “Schismatrix,” but, close. Unless the new novella is intended as a tribute of some kind?

  10. Charles Platt @15, I’d presume it wasn’t accidental at all. Cory’s also written a story called “I, Robot”. And then there are “I, Row-boat” and “Anda’s Game”, which play with well-known SF titles rather than reusing them exactly.

  11. I agree with Charles Platt. Vinge’s 1981 novella held the first appearance of what we now call the Internet in SF, written by someone who had actual Arpanet experience. It is an important work in the field, foreshadowing cyberpunk.

    Homage and reference is one thing. Confusing duplication another. Why not “Turing Names” or something like that?

    I’ve downloaded the mp3, and look forward to listening to it. But I hate the title.


  12. My HTML conversion has them, it’s just that it also has all the annoying header/footers.

    I’ll try producing a cleaned-up version later today.

Comments are closed.