Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Crowd Control
by Gareth D. Jones et al.

Blank Space
by David Wright

Robot of Dorian Graham
by Richard Zwicker

Seven Styles of Mortality
by Cathy Douglas

Lightning Strikes
by Sean Monaghan

2038: A Mars Odyssey
by Brian Biswas

Innovation Stopped
by William R. Eakin

Midnight in Absheron
by Edward Ashton

Full Fathom Five on Chemical Freedom
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

by Aaron Rasmusson

Shimmer and Fade
by Daniel Nathan Horn


UFOs: the Truth is Not Out There
by Eric M. Jones

Off on a Comet
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



Innovation Stopped

By William R. Eakin



Herb did not need to look across the breakfast table to see Edith’s response to the same infusion, he simply scanned her face with his own still drooped over a nostalgia-fashioned coffee cup, scanned her neurochemical shifts with his own, and knew. Edith: floral pink housecoat, rollers in her hair, furry slippers. They both preferred, for merely stylistic reasons, pre-21st. What else was there but the merely stylistic? And when you could choose it all—?

“Herb—” Her PBE wafted through the vibrating crowded electronic space of crisscrossing other personal brain emissions in their kitchen, the neighbors across the street always PBEing at max. Like silent shouting.

“You can’t blame me,” he emitted back.

“You helped found the party. Who else would I blame?” Images reversed then fast-forwarded: in the early century, every week it had been a new phone, a new scanning tool, new ways to video friends and spend money—it reached critical mass by mid-century, so of course consumer resentment mushroomed, and what else could one expect but a slightly Marxist Revolutionary Non-Innovation party? New parties were coming up every day, every second. All style.

There would have been an RNI party with or without Herb Anderson—revolution in this case meant stopping revolution. Now the headlines had it right: RNI had finally gained the power it had always wanted and the report said innovation finally would be stopped in its “tracks”: there indeed had been tracks, paths of exponential change for brain implants, for AI, for cyborg-bio-intel-fusion at pre-molecular levels, for all exponential change running off in a billion directions. He scanned forward through the brain images and went to their early years together, his and Edith’s, then back into their middle age, buying this house across from the Pattersons, their getting old together, then the realization it could end, a feeling of being old and lost as the typical aged suburban couple, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson—then—then the Pattersons coming home after what they claimed was a vacation, looking not so old as before, and telling everyone how young they felt, then—

Another of Edith’s PBEs interrupted his image-flow, saying exactly what he already knew she would say: “If you’d done it, if you’d really stopped innovation back then, Herb, then you would not be here at all. We would not be here. Think about that.” Always so annoying! So cranky.

Oh, she was probably right; he’d thought plenty about it. Back in the old days non-innovation meant to him: tennis-shoe days, Huckleberry Finn swimming in cool ponds, rope swings, reading books, loving Becky Thatcher types without artificial pheromones or e-video stimulation, without having to talk on the phone at all. It had meant: the smell of Mama’s biscuits, the real taste—not simulated—of late summer peach-colored Sun Crisps fresh picked from the tree. It had meant: kick the can, the voices of children yelling like a billion Tarzans, then whispering through the can joined by string to another one across the yard. Chosen style! You could change your style—any time. Could you, if it meant stopping the style-shifts? It was true enough that cellular nano-reconstruction had been an innovation benefiting almost everyone in the neighborhood, Pattersons first. Then the Andersons. Cellular body and brain. Innovation-lovers tried it first, of course, then everyone with any money. Everyone with money—like trying every innovation from early cell phones to nano-level sexual union, it had been wedded with the dollar to become necessity not luxury. Of course: what else could be necessary if not saving yourself from old age and sickness and death and boredom? “That’s the real problem,” he PBE’d back in the days when he first rejoined the then only-semi-Marxist RNI—the one that had admitted it was sometimes okay to shift style.

He imaged himself standing before the early party members, Georg, those other guys just now on trial, his finger in the air. “Not the innovation—that’s not the problem. The right kind of innovation leads to hope for the masses. It’s the wedded-to-the-dollar part. What will happen to people who can’t afford PBE and GBI with the rest of us? New class system, new oppression.” How much money did it take to play kick the can or hide-and-seek?

That was why he quit the party yet again, because they never got the wedded-to-the-money-part and because they’d gotten so darned reactionary—in fact, innovatively so. “How can we defeat innovation without innovating change?” demanded the splinter groups back at him, the splinter group which became the party base.

They cropped out that early best part of his speech anyway for the most recent Global Brain Infusions. In fact, that part of his speech was gone in every remember-able version of the replay, save one tiny faint copy he himself had stored for sentimental reasons. What remained now was the image all over the world of him standing with that damned finger in the air, Lenin-style, preaching the end of innovation. RNI was using it, owned it in fact, and re-using it now to extol execution of its earlier members, innovatively. For several nanoseconds Herb with his finger upheld had been the dominant image the social media had writ to every brain with the call for execution. It had remade him into the hero of the moment, before the images passed on into exponential change again. Into other moments.


There was a time he took a copy of “Tom Sawyer” with him to the hillock back behind and overlooking his neighborhood where he lay beneath the big overarching limbs of a great oak. He started the kite into the winds above his house and the cul-de-sac on which he lived. Mother—he never called her Mom or Mama—watched him launch from the little yellow house and then called: “Herbie, be home for supper!” and he waved an assurance at her. When he was sure the kite was aloft and it played on its own in the updrafts above their house, he tied the string to one lower great branch, then lay in the grass with the book. Ray Bradbury style.

This was in the days before Dad in his home office down below bought Pong for his computer—when Pong could only be found in airports and arcades, before anyone had anything like cell phones—walkie-talkie, Nintendo. There was only—well, something like this book, this “Tom Sawyer.” But this moment he’d returned to was after that, when he and his friends stopped going off to the creek to play, stopped rope swinging down into the swimming hole, stopped playing pirates, stopped leap-frogging and rolling down the hill; it was after the age where he only wistfully thought of Becky Thatcher, still wondering what it was like to kiss a girl or touch a shoulder or press against a bra. This was after the days when he was Tom Sawyer, not reading him. And after he could choose something else, like a different past. And a different future.

When he and Edith finally got together to become the future Mr. and Mrs. Masterson, the tree of knowledge was life changing at twelve: now when she was not around, he read instead of swimming and running. He enjoyed the tug of the string taut beside him but did not run with it, just watched and felt it, knowing change was already again in the air, already again happening, that someday it and Edith, like Dad’s Pong, would also be just memory.


PBE: personal brain emission. That innovation, the creation, marketing and saturation of the market with PBE, initially had been an attempt to keep Global Brain Infusion from being monolithic, like a single channel, to keep from collapsing into a total fused globe all the conjoined minds out of which it had been built—conjoined not fused. But the dollar had been there, too. So there were a lot of advertisements, neuronal control, ad stalking, you name it, even in the most personal transmissions. Increasingly there were Fuses running around, a social class indeed, unable to afford anything but GBI—and it was sometimes fashionable to pretend to be one, blue jeans and a vacant look. Ads and new money suckers cropped up everywhere, even in PBE. And cropping itself: some reactionary splinter group’s cyberteam cropped edges away from PBEs with single strokes, the cheaper ones, the ones not properly fire-walled. Sometimes in the eyes of Fuses you could see that history and reality had been totally cropped for them, totally lost—Fuses died from strokes of that sort. Con-fused and then just fused. Fused with GBI.

Maybe all of that was the real reason why execution could indeed make sense. Maybe Herb Masterson had been wrong to leave the party. Maybe innovation itself really was the primary evil, not the growth of capital, and maybe it did need ending by yet more innovation—like fires sometimes had to be extinguished with fire. Maybe it really did mean executions and maybe he really did support them after all. More than support them. Extoll them, teach them, conduct them. Fine. Maybe that faint copy-file of his real speech was wrong. Maybe it—faint, simply needed deleting. Delete.

“I think, Herb, you’re right.”


He stopped himself from PBEing something else to—what was her name? Alice? Alice: his first kiss.

Then instead of bioscanning her, he went back in time into a past and met her again in the college library. It was a reunion of childhood sweethearts, then a little fooling around, then marriage, then stale aging, then nano-reconstructions, body and brain. They had the money. And there was something especially cute about her curlers and flowery housecoat, his lover, his wife, Alice. In retro-styling there was at least the feeling of going back to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry.

He took a sip of that coffee. There was something he was trying to re-image or at least re-cognize: something else wrong with the world besides Innovation—what the—he was not sure what. It had seemed on the tip of his tongue but then—gone, couldn’t re-call it. He did remember standing before the early party members, his finger in the air, decrying—something. Or well, at least damning something. Innovation. Yeah, that was it. That was the only real problem, he now imaged telling them. The only real problem.


It only took a single pulse. It was quick and humane. The image came in before the event. Did that matter?


Deleted men and women. Platform motto in the last election: Innovation against innovation. Death to all innovators.

It seemed contradictory but, hell, so did all dialectic.

“Why would it?” Alicia asked him, sharing the GBI from across the breakfast table.

“Why would it what?” he PBE’d back.


He thought about that but could not remember. Breakfast table? Or was it Thanksgiving, with the Pattersons over for another year? Yes, Thanksgiving, and Alicia passing gravy. “Thank you, Mrs. Masterson.” Another year: Max Patterson always yakking at them, PBEing at max—like shouting.

Herb scanned Alicia in her robe and curlers—no, of course she was now in a cute dinner outfit that could have walked from a cover of “LOOK.” A bit of Becky Thatcher meeting Jacqueline Kennedy. Way pre-21st.



It was reconstructed time you could travel back into—not exactly just remembered or subjective time, but reconstructed from all the nervous systems that saw, touched, smelled, thought, remembered, projected together through the interface of PBE and GBI—so that even the solar system and the universe were reconstructed, one monadic mind touching all others. You could borrow the nostalgia of others, all others.

Where Herb decided to go was the library. 1976. A worn paperback book by historian Henry Adams, reproduced long after Adams’ time. This book had given him the predisposition to reject rapid change, which led him as a young and foolish man into founding the party, founding and then abandoning it. There was melancholy in the feel of old acid-free print paper, in the highlighting someone had done along most important parts for school—perhaps he himself. Melancholy in the tumult of metaphors Adams predicted, looking ahead and seeing change going exponential. In the warning.

That was where he met Leisha again, too, long after the first kiss that stole away swimming in the creek and living Tom Sawyer with his buddies, long before re-appropriated hair-rollers and tiger-eyed frames and housecoats, long before they both put on 30 pounds and fifty years. Before talk of executions. Before they moved in across from the Pattersons.

He imaged: Leisha, going with him into the stacks. Young college girl with short skirt. One with the hem you could feel and raise ever-so-slightly as you made out in the reference section. Emphatically not Tom Sawyer. Maybe Kennedy.

When they returned to the table this time, Herb time-traveling, he reached down again for that book, the one that had made all the difference to his political bent. The one that would make all the difference. He’d thought it had been one written by—Adams something? “The Education of—” But that was wrong. Deleted. It was Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” Ah that was the one that made the difference to the way he thought, of course! An invisible hand guiding everything economic, free trade, innovation. Of course, of course.

He wondered for a moment at executions and then re-scanned the present. Thanksgiving, of course, with the Max Patterson and his wife and his own lovely renewed young spouse Leisha—now out of rollers and housecoat and dressed for dinner.

Pattersons? He looked around. Oh, yeah, executing Innovators.


Herb looked up, looked around. No one else was there. Somewhere, somehow innovation caught up and executed a whole slew of innovators. Deleted. And so this made sense, that now it was just him here, and his wife Leisha.

Just him and spouse this holiday. All the minds there were.

“Pass the turkey, would you sweetie?” He PBE’d.


At one point he tied the kite string to his toe. It tugged pleasantly on it, but started to cut. He removed it and put it back on the oak branch, lay back down, breathed in the warm afternoon air, re-opened his book.

But it was getting harder to concentrate on Tom Sawyer now, with a memory of that first kiss: the beautiful real girl leaning over him with just the start of a body he would know quite well in fifty years, through honeymoon and kitchen breakfasts and nano-reconsitutions and Thanksgivings with the neighbors before they were exterminated, before the Non-innovators began to gain real control of GBI, before the never-Marxist but rather ultra-capitalist RNI party took things in hand and really innovated their methods.

Now it was just: a summer afternoon, Dad probably down there at the little light blue house tinkering with his floppy disks, Mother at the stove. No, Mom. She appeared at the door in the distance and waved at him: “Max time for supper!”


“Pass the turkey, my lovely spouse?”

Angela smiled at her husband and said, “Of course, Mr. Patterson, my beautiful young husband.” He beamed. He scanned the bio-chemical shifts through her neuronal networks and smiled again—she was always so proud of him, his income, his work in the party, his universal leadership.

He was everyone’s hero, party, nation and world founder. With that finger in the air, he’d seen to it the other party was thoroughly understood and thoroughly dealt with: we will use the Marxist non-innovators to innovate their extermination. Of course. That leadership had made him a hero in his young bride’s eyes and she obviously felt it even now.



“I adore you,” she did not need to PBE.

Herb—only, no, Max—pshawed her and with pseudo-modesty emitted a hand wave at her. No, the hand wave of assurance was given to his own reflection in the silver after-dinner coffee pot.

For a smiling moment they listened together—the crisscrossing of PBEs in the dining room was gone. They heard the same thing. No, the air was incredibly clear. Alone, he waved again at the reflection in the silver tea pot.

Here was the real innovation, its purpose to bring about the end of innovation. As all agreed in perfect unison. One mind.

As all the PBEs agreed.

As the one and only universal PBE agreed, and thereby ended it. END

William R. Eakin is an active member of SFWA. His short stories have appeared most recently in “Analog,” “Penumbra” (Alfred Hitchcock issue), and “Dark Fuse.” He has also been published in “F&SF,” “Fantastic Stories,” and “Amazing Stories.


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