Shannon's Law: a story about bridging Faerie and the mundane world with TCP-over-magic

I have a short story called "Shannon's Law" in the new Welcome to Bordertown anthology, the first Bordertown book in decades. I was absolutely delighted to be invited to contribute a story, and had a fun time writing my piece, which is about the application of information theory to the problem of bridging the lands of Faerie with the mundane world. Escape Pod will be podcasting the story shortly as well:

The Net's secret weapon is that it doesn't care what kind of medium it runs over. It wants to send a packet from A to B, and if parts of the route travel by pigeon, flashing mirrors, or scraps of paper cranked over an alleyway on a clothesline, that's okay with the Net. All that stuff is slower than firing a laser down a piece of fiber-optic, but it gets the job done.

At BINGO, we do all of the above, whatever it takes to drop a node in where a customer will pay for it. Our tendrils wend their way out into the Borderlands. At the extreme edge, I've got a manticore trapper on contract to peer into the eyepiece of a fey telescope every evening for an hour. He's the relay for a kitchen witch near Gryphon Park whose privy has some magick entanglement with the hill where he sits. When we can't get traffic over Danceland in Soho because the spellboxes that run the amps and the beer fridges are fritzing out our routers, our kitchen witch begins to make mystic passes over her toilet, which show up as purple splotches through the trapper's eyepiece. He transcribes these--round splotches are zeroes, triangular splotches are ones--in 8-bit bytes, calculates their checksum manually, and sends it back to the witch by means of a spelled lanthorn that he operates with a telegraph key affixed to it with the braided hair of a halfie virgin (Tikigod's little sister, to be precise). The kitchen witch confirms the checksum, and then he sends it to another relay near the Promenade, where a wharf rat who has been paid handsomely to lay off the river water for the night counts the number of times a tame cricket sings and hits a key on a peecee in time with it. The peecee pops those packets back into the Net, where they are swirled and minced and diced and routed and transformed into coffee, purchase orders, dirty texts, desperate pleas from parents to runaways to come home, desperate pleas from runaways to their parents to send money, and a million Facebook status updates.

Mostly, this stuff runs. On average. I mean, in particular, it's always falling apart for some reason or another. Watch me knock some heads and you'll get the picture.

The heliographer's tower is high atop The Dancing Ferret. Everyone told me that if Farrel Din could be persuaded to get involved with BINGO, all of Soho would follow, so I did some homework, spread some money around, and then I showed up one day with a wheelbarrow filled with clothbound books that I'd had run up by the kids who put out Stick Wizard.

Shannon's Law

Update: The Escape Pod podcast is live! (here's the MP3)


  1. Maybe it helps if you know the setting a bit better, but I found the start a bit meh. But it certainly livened up and there’s an amazing ending. Makes me want to read more in this setting. I’ll add it to my summer projects list. The list of things that absolutely must wait until after the exams.

    (Which also includes downloading all the Doctorow podcast. If anyone has a neat way to automagically do this, I’m interested.)

  2. holy crap. i was NOT one of those kids who read the original series over and over. i was that kid that read one book once and could never find it again; the kid that has been sporadically searching for them over the past 20+ years based on tiny fragments…

    i didn’t find it in shadowrun (earthdawn was even nicer in it’s own way). i didn’t find it in any of my local bookstore’s sci-fi experts (the original search engines). but now, suddenly, “BORDERTOWN” – oh yeah! thanks (again) cory! can’t wait to dive back in (once I finish re-reading my copy of tMoPI, so like tomorrow, probably)! ;)


  3. wow… a cory story and escapepod.!! Butter my nips and roll me in brown sugar!! :)

  4. Glad to hear this series is back. I was very disappointed that nothing more was done with it.

  5. So we have programming magic books, now we have magical sysadmining. What’s next? Magic PVRs?

  6. I wish that Phil Hale had been hired for the cover of this one too! His art was what had initially drawn me into the series.

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