No-one expects to find alien life in NGC 2419. But when the first probes encounter a dirty, industrial planet somewhere no human is known to have been, the race is on to be the first to welcome its inhabitants into the galactic community. Will it be two poker-playing starships, or The Future, for whom pretension is a vocation, not just a way of life?
Length: 5,500 words
The Future was inspired by discussions on the Net about post-scarcity societies. The idea was that somehow, we’d all be able to do everything we want and everyone would be happy and no-one would ever have to say ‘no’ to anyone because there’d be no scarcity and unicorns would fart rainbows and rats would lie down with cats or something.
It doesn’t work. It can’t work. If Skarin wants to turn the Andromeda Galaxy into a super-computer and you want it for a tourist destination, there’s no way to compromise. Any society which believes it is post-scarcity has either discovered magic that allows it to make things out of nothing, or is lacking imagination.
They’ll be back. This story universe began only as the setting for another short story, Final Contact, but it’s proven interesting enough that I’m going to visit it plenty of times in the future.