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June 02, 2007


This short story is good.

Not exactly cheerful, mind you.

But good.

Posted by john at June 2, 2007 12:38 AM

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PixelFish | June 2, 2007 12:57 AM

Wow...that's...visceral. Good, like you said.

Zork | June 2, 2007 01:23 AM

"Not exactly cheerful"... you got that right! And the "good" part... that too. But whoa... don't read if you're feeling depressed.

Kind of reminds me of Nevil Shute's "On the Beach"... only with less hope.

CosmicDog | June 2, 2007 02:14 AM


Ted Lemon | June 2, 2007 02:15 AM

Visceral? Very funny.

Overtevil | June 2, 2007 02:17 AM

That was a good read all right.

Daniel B. | June 2, 2007 08:52 AM

Very good. I remember she wrote one in an earlier Suberranean, Scene from a Dystopia I believe was the name. Likewise excellent.

Christian | June 2, 2007 08:54 AM

I enjoyed this part the most:

Within five years, her invention revolutionizes art. Artists show the world how they conceive of childbirth, fire, finches, walk bodies, urtists, religion, synthesis and death.

There's a whole marvelous book idea right there.

KevinQ | June 2, 2007 09:01 AM

That was good. Thanks for pointing it out.

For a story of similar tone, I recommend Larry Niven's short story "Inconstant Moon."


Joe Sherry | June 2, 2007 09:27 AM

John, I agree. Subterranean Online is probably my favorite site for online fiction. They've been posting some outstanding stuff (Deadman's Road by Joe Lansdale from the last issue...wow!)

Daniel B. | June 2, 2007 10:09 AM

Since someone mentioned this paragraph:

"Within five years, her invention revolutionizes art. Artists show the world how they conceive of childbirth, fire, finches, walk bodies, urtists, religion, synthesis and death."

Urtists? Walk Bodies?

Do those 2 terms have any meaning outside of the story?

Andrew D. | June 2, 2007 11:13 AM

This will be the first time I've ever submitted a comment online.

Just stumbled onto this site night before last, bought OMW at B&N, read it, loved it.

This story was great, too. Was a lit major in school, used to read all the time, haven't read anything but non-fiction in years.

Thanks, John Scalzi, for bringing me back to the world of good fiction. I didn't even know subterranean existed until this morning - keep it coming! Little suggestions like this are great for your readers, and I'll be stopping by often...

Welland | June 2, 2007 11:40 AM

Scalzi once used the old line "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." Like Scene from a Dystopia it was heavily didactically left-wing and the story suffered for it.

John Scalzi | June 2, 2007 11:50 AM

Bah. What nonsense.

Ann L. | June 2, 2007 12:41 PM

Heavily and didactically left-wing? Really? I can only assume that your dialect of English assigns a very different meaning to that phrase than mine.

Rachel | June 2, 2007 12:43 PM

Thank you all for the kind comments. And for reading the story, whether you enjoyed it or not.


"Urtists? Walk Bodies?

Do those 2 terms have any meaning outside of the story?"

They don't, actually. It was supposed to be futuristic setting stuff. :-)

gottacook | June 2, 2007 01:50 PM

In its theme and also in its use of brief "snapshots" instead of consecutive storytelling, the Swirsky story reminds me (in a good way) of Geo. Alec Effinger's "Wednesday, November 15, 1967," a story that first appeared in The Ruins of Earth, a 1971 Berkley paperback anthology edited by Thomas Disch; don't know if it's appeared anywhere since. Lots of wonderful downbeat stories in that one, including Harry Harrison's "Roommates" (the early short-story version of Make Room, Make Room!, and superior in its impact for being shorter).

Daniel B. | June 2, 2007 04:23 PM


Thanks so much for responding. I thought as much, and I do like both terms--they had a nice, almost-familiar feel. (And, for a setting in the far future, I certainly would expect to hear some casual references to things that mean nothing today, just like "web" or "cell phone" would mean nothing 50 years ago).

Steve Buchheit | June 2, 2007 10:32 PM

"heavily didactically left-wing"?

I think that's just code for, "It's not Chicken-Soup for the (whatever it is) Soul" or "Me no likey because it isn't the 'shining city on the hill' kind of story."

Thanks for the link, John. I liked the time play the story had in between the segments, and the cultural interplay. Very nice. The pacing also worked very well for web delivery. It definatly has the "show don't tell" going on strongly.

Chris Gerrib | June 5, 2007 05:39 PM

"Not exactly cheerful" has to rank up there with "Houston we have a problem" for understatement.

Mr. Didactic - dude, end-of-the-world stories are by definition not, well, optimistic. Regarding "Scene from a Dystopia," what's left-wing about that one?

wil | June 7, 2007 04:15 PM

That was wonderful, and I linked it in my blog. Thank you, John.

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