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.