Friday, January 23, 2009

Greg Egan's "Crystal Nights" (novelette, AI, free): A retelling of Theodore Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God"

Undoubtedly one of the better science fiction stories of 2008, but I still prefer Sturgeon's original. Sturgeon uses less jargon & is more consistent.

Story summary.

Daniel Cliff is a rich businessman who's purchased rights to someone's private invention - a tiny optical computer that works better than buildings full of conventional ones.

He's going to run a simulation in it of a microcosmic universe - a world called Sapphire & its moon, local evolution of life, & a handle to our physical universe via a "monolith" placed on their moon (remember Clarke's "2001 A Space Odyssey"?) once they evolve enough to reach their moon. This monolith is actually a control panel for actual equipment in a physics lab in our world.

Idea is to eventually have them outsmart humans because of their much faster evolution - so they can do things for him in our world. Daniel personally has ambitions to be digitized & uploaded into their world!

Only, the simulated beings ("Phites") are now way too smart to do his bidding...

See also.

  1. Gregory Benford's "Reason not to Publish": What if we were in place of those simulated beings?
  2. James P Hogan's "Making Light": A humorous, sometimes hilarious, description of why GOD was forced to create our universe an evolving one by embedding some things called the laws of physics, in preference to standard precreated one!

Collected in.

  1. Gardner Dozois (Ed)'s "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection" (2009).
  2. Jonathan Strahan (Ed)'s "Best SF and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 3" (2009).

Fact sheet.

First published: Interzone, #215 (April 2008).
Rating: A.
Download full text from publisher's site; or podcast at Transmission from Beyond (includes downloabable MP3 audio).
Among the nominees of BSFA Award 2008 in short fiction category.
Added to my best of the year 2008 list.
Related: Stories of Greg Egan.


Krishnan said...

Thanks for the link Tinkoo. Greg Egan and Ted Chiang are considered The Best in SF and unfortunately very difficult to get their books here in india. I have found few of Greg Egan's but Ted Chiang, no luck at all. Thank God for Internet.

Tinkoo said...

Krishnan: Several Egan stories & most Chiang stories are online; several of the former's are on his website.

Chiang hasn't written any novel - only a single short story collection. As far as I know, only 3 of his stories are not online - 2 from his collection, & 1 published during the last month. Search this site & you should get links to the rest.