“Jubilee” is a new story by Karl Schroeder. His new novel, Lockstep, will be published in March 2014.
This short story was acquired and edited for Tor.com by editor Marco Palmieri.
Check out Lockstep, a space opera by Karl Schroeder, available March 25th from Tor Books!
When seventeen-year-old Toby McGonigal finds himself lost in space, separated from his family, he expects his next drift into cold sleep to be his last. After all, the planet he’s orbiting is frozen and sunless, and the cities are dead. But when Toby wakes again, he’s surprised to discover a thriving planet, a strange and prosperous galaxy, and something stranger still—that he’s been asleep for 14,000 years.
Welcome to the Lockstep Empire, where civilization is kept alive by careful hibernation. Here cold sleeps can last decades and waking moments mere weeks. Its citizens survive for millennia, traveling asleep on long voyages between worlds. Not only is Lockstep the new center of the galaxy, but Toby is shocked to learn that the Empire is still ruled by its founding family: his own.
In August of last year I wrote, somewhat crankily, that
...Our technological society’s one big blind spot is that we can imagine everything about ourselves and our world changing except how we make decisions.
By this I meant that we avidly consume stories where the entire Earth is eaten by nanotech, or where bio-genetic revolutions change the human species, or where cheap space flight opens up the universe—but these futures are almost always ruled over by autocratic megacorporations, faceless bureaucracies, voting democracies or even hereditary aristocrats. (After thousands of years of civilization, that galaxy far far away still keeps slaves.) Technology changes in SF, and even human nature gets altered by implants and uploading and perpetual life—but how governments work? Not so much.
Science fiction has a cousin—another genre of stories set in the future. Governments, corporations and militaries worldwide use scenarios and scenario fictions to explore strategic alternatives. They aren’t trying to predict the future—that’s impossible. What they’re trying to do is build resilience into their planning process. One of the most famous of these ongoing foresight efforts belongs to Shell, which most famously used scenario-based planning to ride out the energy crisis of 1979 and come out far ahead of its competitors.
Scenarios aren’t exactly stories; they’re more like the pile of raw material that you put together to make a story. They are foreseen settings, situations, trends and possibilities. The lines between scenario and story can blur, though, particularly when scenario findings are presented as fiction, as I’ve done, with, eg. my work for the Canadian army in Crisis in Zefra. In the interest of blurring these lines even more, I thought I’d write a few reviews of current and famous past scenarios. In doing so I’m looking to tease out the meta-narratives of our age—the scenarios we all subconsciously use to construct our own visions of the future. These aren’t the specific narratives of the future we find in works like Frankenstein or 1984; they’re the grand themes of fear and aspiration which we find lurking behind words like Progress and Apocalypse.
We bring you the prologue for Book Five of Virga: Ashes of Candesce by Karl Schroeder, out February 14 —
A world of endless sky, with no land, no gravity: this is Virga. Beginning in the seminal science fiction novel Sun of Suns, the saga of this striking world has introduced us to the people of stubborn pride and resilience who have made Virga their home; but also, always lurking beyond the walls of the world, to the mysterious threat known only as Artificial Nature. In The Sunless Countries, history tutor Leal Hieronyma Maspeth became the first human in centuries to learn the true nature of this threat. Her reward was exile, but now, in Ashes of Candesce, Artificial Nature makes its final bid to destroy Virga, and it is up to Leal to unite the quarrelling clans of her world to fight the threat.
Ashes of Candesce brings together all the heroes of the Virga series, and draws the diverse threads of the previous storylines together into one climactic conflict. Blending steampunk styling with a far-future setting and meditations on the posthuman condition, Ashes of Candesce mixes high adventure and cutting-edge ideas in a fitting climax to one of science fiction’s most innovative series.
Well, NASA’s made another of their cryptic pronouncements about “an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.” Today’s press conference, streamed live over NASA TV at 2:00 p.m. EST, should fill us in on the details.
But let’s face it, the most scientific most us usually get is figuring out how to build a Cylon eye jack o’lantern or measuring the effect on your dog of taping bacon to your cat. So Tor.com’s asked me to step in and interpret the announcement. Scuttlebutt so far is that it’ll revolve around one keyword: arsenic.
Stargate: Universe has started playing around with cosmology. (Warning: major plot spoiler ahead.) In a recent episode, it was revealed that there seems to be a message from a pre-big-bang universe coded into the cosmic microwave background radiation. Piecing together and deciphering this message appears to be starship Destiny’s mission.
Ironic, then, that this week in the real world, physicist Roger Penrose has put forward a scientific paper claiming to have discovered a signal from a pre-big-bang universe coded into the cosmic microwave background.