Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Across the Distance
by Eric Del Carlo

In the Not-So-Helpful Unit
by Jeremy Szal

I-Juca-Pirama and Rosegarden
by Santiago Belluco

Snow Sharks
by Mord McGhee

A Chip Off the Old Block
by Eamonn Murphy

Girls of Summer
by Rick Novy

Most Certainly
by Brad Preslar

Psi Prison
by Michael Andre-Driussi

Shorter Stories

Revolution 2038
by Darren Goossens

by Jason M. Harley

Junkyard Dog
by Devin Miller


Playing With Dinosaurs
by Chett Gottfried

Prehistoric Monsters Roar on Screen
by Andrew R. Boone



Comic Strips




Revolution 2038

By Darren Goossens

I KNOW IT HAS NOT TURNED OUT exactly as I planned—for which, as I shall make clear below, I accept at most limited responsibility—but you’ll have to admit the current situation has its advantages. I mean, yes, things have gone a bit too far, and yes the composition of our atmosphere has now gone away from what you might call long term trend in a new and somewhat unanticipated direction, but it was all down to a very minor glitch, and it is well known who he was. We also know how he came to be in that critical position, and, once again, I would like to point out that it was not me.

I would like to make two points.

First, worldwide high temperatures due to excessive atmospheric carbon are now most certainly a thing of the past.

Second, current calculations suggest that it will be quite a few years before the planet freezes completely, and seeing as I have a quite, quite brilliant plan on the cusp of realization, I am quite, quite sure temperatures will stabilize before civilization as we know it collapses entirely. And if we’re honest, I think we’d all agree that it collapsing a little bit might not be such a bad thing.

And of course we now have at our disposal a fascinating new construction material.

All right, three points.

Now, these conclude my opening remarks. If you could all please turn to page seven of the report I can begin the detailed description of the situation. I would like to say that it is quite an honor to be speaking to the committee today and I fully intend to be of service to this Senate inquiry. I am sure we’ll be able to refrain from reinforcing the adversarial nature of earlier proceedings and so come to a better understanding of exactly why I am a benefactor rather than a menace, and why I should—nay, must, I think you’ll find—be let out of the, uh, facility more or less immediately, however much I’d like to complete the Douglas Adams Memorial 422 piece jigsaw puzzle I’ve been working on.

What follows ought to be familiar background, but bears repeating, if for no other reason than the presence of Senator Harrison and her selective memory.

As the graph on page seven makes clear to even the meanest intellect, by 2020 the amount of energy-trapping material in the atmosphere—often referred to as carbon, though carbon-based compounds are not the only greenhouse gases—and the trajectory of world pollution production were such that it was apparent to anybody who bothered to look at the numbers—at least the unpoliticized numbers, no offence intended Senator Higgins—that simple reduction in pollution was not going to save us from catastrophe. The system had inertia. The Earth, to use a term Senator Bland has used on occasion, is big. And it was clear that the only reason temperatures had not already risen disastrously was that the polar ice was acting to keep the temperature of the oceans steady, much the way the temperature of whiskey-and-water in a glass does not rise rapidly until all the ice has melted, a phenomenon I believe Senator Fowler-Monk is possibly too familiar with, no offence intended. Well, some.

The term geoengineering has a range of meanings, but in this context it refers to consciously shaping some aspect of the whole planet. Now, many would point to humanity’s record of shaping its environment in the past, consciously or otherwise—I’m thinking Easter island, I’m thinking the Three Gorges Dam—and suggest that trying to consciously manipulate a crucial aspect of the only biosphere we have is either foolish or hubristic (if those things are really different, anyway). To those terms I would add another: essential. We had, effectively, left ourselves no alternative but geoengineering. Cast your minds back, it’s not that far. We were all grownups, or at least adults, at the time. Nothing else was going to work fast enough. With the collapse of NASA in the mid-2020s due to budgetary pressure and the collapse of the Russian space program due to the Second Russian Revolution, various ideas relating to the spreading of reflective materials through the atmosphere became somewhat problematic. The private space industry was prepared to have a stab at it, but the volumes required were beyond it. Defense was just too busy with the food wars.

Fortunately, at this juncture I arrived.

You certainly don’t recall my seminal publication “Photocatalytic polymerization of carbon and nitrogen oxides,” a citation classic, in “The Journal of Applied Photochemistry,” a paper that did not receive the attention it deserved and remained marooned in the specialist literature. I am sure, on the other hand, that you will recall my turning all the carbon inside Madison Square Garden into a bust of Babe Ruth, thus proving that (a) my chemical process works on the large scale and, (b) people will only pay attention to science if sport is involved in some way.

The trick, of course, was turning it off again. Inside the arena, with finite volume and limited light, the reaction was slowed and I was able to use a simple spray to disperse the inhibitor and shut it down. Clearly, it would have been incomprehensibly foolish to release the photocatalyst into the atmosphere.

This, of course, was where a government-backed committee stepped in.

Their concern over unregulated action was reasonable, even if that unregulated action was capable of saving civilization. Their taking command of the situation, requisitioning the technology and the stocks of catalyst and the experimental solar powered 3D printer being developed by my colleague Dr. Marion Fitzwalter was, on the surface, reasonable, if heavy-handed and lacking in consultation. However, the lack of security in their security procedures was less reasonable. I tried to explain that Dr. Fitzwalter’s printer used my catalyst to polymerize atmospheric carbon (and some nitrogen) into a kind of adhesive that could then be 3D printed into arbitrary shapes. It was also capable of synthesizing small quantities of additional catalyst to allow for losses. The problem arose when, in order to test the printer’s capabilities, a junior lab technician at the EPA—nine billion people now know his name but I’ll refrain from repeating it—fed the printer the design information that was most conveniently to hand—the design for the printer itself.

I am sure you are aware of the outcome. And clearly the real mistakes were made after the technology was summarily removed from my control and my laboratory. Unlike many people, I will not even pretend to be averse to saying “I told you so.”

I goddamn told you so.

So now the world is filling up with self-replicating 3D printers. They’re being used as house bricks and in dam walls. My neighbor has been stacking them up and cementing them together to make a new garage—his place smells like a plastic modelers’ convention. Atmospheric carbon is so low that temperatures are projected to fall catastrophically and plant growth, including food crops, has already slowed noticeably. Things are a little grim.

Now, Senator Harrison seems to have shaped her views of scientists from television. And were I the Doctor of “Doctor Who” fame, no doubt I would broadcast some kind of signal that would reprogram the 3D printers on the fly such that they began dismantling each other and the episode would end with children playing in drifts of a white, snow-like substance that is really the remains of disintegrated printers, and everybody would be grinning at the sky as if the stuff was non-toxic. This is not possible.

Brilliant as we are, Dr. Fitzwalter and I have been able to attempt something not altogether dissimilar, despite the lack of a sonic screwdriver. It was almost finished a full month ago, at which time I was arrested and either placed into protective custody or put on remand; I have never been quite sure which was the official form of disingenuousness. We had developed a new hunter/killer robot that builds copies of itself out of components obtained by dismantling the rogue 3D printers. Despite reduced input from me, Dr. Fitzwalter has been able to complete the robot and I am told small scale testing has been highly successful, after a few tweaks. I will admit that the first prototype proved more adept at dismantling a wider range of devices than had been anticipated, but, after restocking the laboratory, Dr. Fitzwalter made a few modifications to its programming and a strategic reduction in its built-in tool kit to ensure that it can now dismantle only the self-printing 3D printers.

So there is hope. However, it must be understood that before we reveal to the EPA the location of the plans and prototypes, we would like certain releases signed and certain conditions of use accepted. In particular, Dr. Fitzwalter and I accept no liability for any unexpected behavior of the robots or printers. This is just in the unlikely event that, say, the robots’ programming mutates and they decide to start dismantling cities. We also need to be indemnified against complaints from people who have used the printers as building blocks, as these buildings will inevitably be dismantled.

Further, I would point out that world survival will be effectively a race. The printers will continue to replicate until they cannot find raw materials—at which point the atmosphere may not be enough of a blanket to keep the world habitable—while the robots will replicate as long as they can find printers. But which is faster? We’re not sure. Presumably at some point the printers and robots will settle into some kind of equilibrium, another strand in Earth’s ecology, perhaps. Regardless, as I have said, things will almost certainly get worse before they get better and I will not be held responsible this time.

Okay, I’m sitting down now. Ahem. I had hoped to avoid raising my voice like that. Now. If you turn to the appendix, you’ll see that we also have certain requirements for ongoing funding of our research, and its degree of autonomy, that need to be met, and I am sure meeting those needs would prove a wise investment for governments of all colors going forward.

I disagree, Senator Harrison; that is not a threat. A threat would be to mention the plans we have for a flying version of the carbon-eating, self-copying 3D printer, one that can turn atmospheric constituents into what we refer to as bomblets. No, Senator Fowler-Monk, these would not solely target the robots, though a war between the printers and the robots might break out, I suppose. Or at least make for fascinating television.

In closing, let me say that as scientists we tried to help you help yourselves. For years. On ever-decreasing funding we tried to solve bigger and bigger problems that you and your big industry backers were creating in the pursuit of money. We played by the rules, we handed over our work when you asked and scraped along on your scraps. But eventually we realized that it was up to us to sort things out, whether you legislated or not. Science has been the unacknowledged legislator of the world for decades, creating the technologies that force the laws to change, creating the means by which you morons govern. Well, we’re stripping off the cloak. The world’s love for the iPhone56b and brain implants shows that the only answer is more science, not less. So, we’re giving it to you, whether you like it or not. The future is here, and it’s wearing a lab coat, not a business suit.

That closes my evidence to the Select Committee. Please turn to the last page of the document. You’ll see a space where I suggest you add your signature and the date. On the dotted line, please. Yes, that one. The one underneath the word resignationEND

Darren Goossens is a lecturer at the School of Physical Environmental and Mathematical Sciences in Canberra, Australia. He has published stories in “Aurealis,” “Andromeda Spaceways,” “Interstellar,” and other anthologies and magazines.


gawne 3/16


martin hanford


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