Jury Service goes live today

Last spring, Charlie Stross and I co-wrote a story called "Jury Service," an extremely gonzo post-Singularity story whose writing was more fun than any other story I've ever written. Charlie and I pitched the manuscript back and forth to one another in 500-1000 word chunks, each time trying to top the other. We have very little "meta" communication — just sent the story around and rewrote what we had, then added our own bits. I can remember chuckling so loudly while considering what I would do with Charlie's latest challenge in an airport lounge that the security guard came by to ask if everything was all right.

Stross is amazingly fun to write with. We've put together another story since and will be writing some short shorts as soon as both of us can take a break from our novels for a couple weeks.

"Jury Service" will be published in four pieces — it's 21,000 words in all! — on scifi.com, weekly through the month of December. The first chunk went live this morning. I think that this is one of the most entertaining pieces I've ever worked on, kind of Rucker-meets-Stephenson-meets-William S. Burroughs. Hope you like it.

Two days later, Huw's waiting with his bicycle and a large backpack on a soccer field in a valley outside Monmouth. It has rained overnight, and the field is muddy. A couple of large crows sit on the rusting goal-post, regarding him curiously. There are one or two other people slouching around the departure area dispiritedly. Airports just haven't been the same since the end of the jet age.

Huw tries to scratch the side of his nose, irritably. Fucking Sandra, he thinks again as he pokes at the opaque spidergoat silk of his biohazard burka. He'd gone round to remonstrate with her after work the other day, only to find that her house had turned into a size two thousand Timberland hiking boot and the homeowner herself had decided to winter in Fukuyama this year. A net search would probably find her but he wasn't prepared to expose himself to any more viruses this week. One was quite enough—especially after he discovered that the matching trefoil brand on his shoulder glowed in the dark.

A low rumble rattles the goal post and disturbs the crows as a cloud-shadow slides across the pitch. Huw looks up, and up, and up—his eyes can't quite take in what he's seeing. That's got to be more than a kilometer long! he realizes. The engine note rises as the huge catamaran airship jinks and wobbles sideways towards the far end of the pitch and engages its station-keeping motors, then begins to unreel an elevator car the size of a shipping container.

"Attention, passengers now waiting for flight FL-052 to North Africa and stations in the Middle East, please prepare for boarding. This means you." Huw nearly jumps out of his skin as one of the customs crows lands heavily on his shoulder. "You listening, mate?"

"Yes, yes, I'm listening." Huw shrugs and tries to keep one eye on the big bird. "Over there, huh?"

"Boarding will commence through lift bzzt gurgle four in five minutes. Even-numbered passengers first." The crow flaps heavily towards the huge, rusting shipping container as it lands in the muddy field with a clang. "All aboard!" it squawks raucously.