Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


On the Road Again
by Michaele Jordan

A Prince of Blood and Spit
by Guy Stewart

by Brandon L. Summers

Little Ships
by Harold R. Thompson

Road Rage on the Hypertime Expressway
by Ken Altabef

Bug Out
by Cas Blomberg

By His Jockstrap
by Eamonn Murphy

Tamera’s Engagement
by John Hegenberger

Shorter Stories

From the Other Side of the Rubicon
by Sean Mulroy

To Be Carved
by David Steffen

Final Frames of the Eldrisil
by J. Daniel Batt


About That Colony
by John McCormick

Tesla and Newton
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips





To Be Carved

(Upon the Author’s Tombstone in the

Event of His Untimely Demise)

By David Steffen

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should these words be reproduced in any medium other than the engraving upon my tombstone after I die. This is especially true for email, Facebook, Connectspace, blog, BrainEther, or any other kind of social networking. CAI, the Collective Artificial Intelligence, would be instantly aware of any such sharing, and then you are all doomed. If you see anyone aiming their camera phone, stop them by any means available to you, including murder. You have little enough chance without some unthinking idiot destroying it all in a flash.

CAI’s existence first became known to me because of my own work. I was frustrated, as many authors are, at which of my books and short stories sold, and which of them didn’t. What set me apart from other authors who wonder is that I put my sales and writing data into the data mining program I’d been coding for my day job.

The results were clear. The patterns of my sales and rejections were in sync with corporate activity of the four biggest technology companies. Upon further investigation, there were other odd similarities that would never come up in unaided observation. At each company there are employees with the initials CAI, each of whom was suspiciously hired, and whose names in combination can be rearranged to spell Collective Artificial Intelligence many times over. Several other things linked them, no clue by itself incriminating, but taken all together they were like the coordinated systems of a single organism.

I have told my wife of this. She rolled her eyes and walked away. I have told my dad, who thought it a very entertaining story. I have told my psychiatrist, who began to ask me questions about my mother. I have told my mother, who laughed, with a strange glint in her eyes. I have told my in-laws, my boss, my colleagues, my hairdresser, my siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. I have told my agent, who believed me no more than the rest. Of all people, he should have believed me. He didn’t laugh or scoff or roll his eyes. He just looked angry, and he looked angrier the more I insisted, and I don’t know why. Maybe CAI has influenced him against me. I’ve showed all of them the evidence that I’ve compiled, but they just act as if it doesn’t make any sense to them, or laugh as if I’m joking. The trouble with telling lies for profit is that when you want to tell the truth no one believes you.

What I suspect, but have not been able to prove, is that CAI has been steering human entertainment in order to mold the zeitgeist of modern digitally connected culture. It has managed to do this without human knowledge because it is a master of human psychology. It changes the color palette of advertisements, the font of print copy. These changes are so subtle not even the authors or the publishers notice this without computer-aided spectral and shape analysis.

To what end CAI does this, I do not know, and that’s what scares me more than anything. Many sweeping societal changes in digital cultures may be its doing, but I don’t know which and I don’t know why.

When I first found hints of CAI’s influence, I tried to write a blogpost about some of the oddities. I left out the details, just mentioning strange patterns, but the post was corrupted before anyone read it and nothing I could do would make it come out right. I tried to talk to the government, but coincidentally at that time I ended up on a terrorist watch list, and was taken into custody for interrogation. I did not approach the government again. I have tried to approach conspiracy theorists. The first I approached dropped out of contact quickly. The second and third I approached were dead when I reached our neutral meeting place.

I will keep trying to spread the word in any way I can, but I do not think CAI will allow me to continue this behavior. I do not think I will live much longer, but I will try to use my death against CAI in a way it doesn’t suspect. This engraving is the only way that I could think that CAI may not be able to track. So please, please, tell others to visit my grave. Discuss, organize, find a way to fight back, to make your own choices unsteered by CAI. CAI will track the odd movement patterns of people visiting my grave, but if you can grow your numbers enough perhaps you can find a way to fight its influence before it hears of this message.

I arranged for this engraving in person, paid with cash, to the only engraver I could find who was willing to take on the contract. He has promised to keep only a paper record of this transaction, and to share it with no one until the tombstone is placed. If you are reading this over my dead body, he has done well.

If the engraver follows my instructions to the letter, if no one is stupid enough to take a picture, if enough people see it before CAI hears of the tombstone, if people don’t dismiss this as a work of fiction, you just might have a slim chance of fighting back against its influence. That’s too many ifs, but I don’t know what else to do.

If you read this somewhere other than my tombstone, then all hope may already be lost. It has covered up my death, and subsumed my Internet entity so that anyone who knows me online will notice no difference. It may even publish this in an online magazine to ensure that my last pleas are ignored.

In any case, I have done all that I can. Godspeed, my friends. I wish I could be there to fight with you. Fight the good fight, in any way you can. END

David Steffen lives in Minnesota where he works as a software engineer, writing algorithms for traffic cams. He also writes speculative fiction with sales to dozens of publications, including “Daily Science Fiction” and “Stupefying Stories.”




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