Daily Archives: September 4th, 2010

Tor.com: ‘The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model’

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything resembling a science-fiction story, so this weekend I decided to remedy that with this little tome written by Charlie Jane Anders.

The topic of the tale is the Fermi Paradox and it gives a unique perspective of how it could be utilized in the free enterprise system.


Instigator didn’t have the decency to let Jon finish puking before it started reporting on the latest discovery. “We have picked up—”

“Just—” Jon heaved again. He looked like a child’s flatdoll on the smooth green floor, his body too oval from long recumbence, so that his face grimaced out of his sternum. “Just give me a moment.”

Instigator waited exactly one standard moment, then went on. “As I was saying,” the computer droned, “we’ve picked up both radiation traces and Cultural Emissions from the planet.”

“So, same as always. A technological civilization, followed by Closure.” Jon’s out-of-practice speaking tentacles stammered as they slapped together around his feed-holes. His vomit had almost completely disappeared from the floor, thanks to the ship’s autoscrubs.

“There’s one thing.” Instigator’s voice warbled, simulating the sound of speaking tentacles knotted in puzzlement. “The Cultural Emissions appear to have continued for some time following the Closure.”

“Oh.” Jon shivered, in spite of the temperature-regulated, womblike Wake Chamber. “That’s not supposed to happen.” The entire point of Closure was that nothing happened afterwards. Ever again. At least he was no longer sick to his stomachs (for now anyway) and Instigator responded by pumping more flavors into the chamber’s methane/nitrogen mix.

Jon spent two millimoments studying the emissions from this planet, third in line from a single star. Instigator kept reminding him he’d have to wake Toku, his boss/partner, with a full report. “Yeah, yeah,” Jon said. “I know. But it would be nice to know what to tell Toku first. This makes no sense.” Plus he wanted to clean up, maybe aim some spritzer at the cilia on his back, before Toku saw him.

At the thought of Toku coming back to life and greeting him, Jon felt a flutter in his deepest stomach. Whenever Jon was apart from Toku, he felt crazy in love with her—and when he was in her presence, she drove him nuts and he just wanted to get away from her. Since they had been sharing a three-room spaceship for a million years, this dynamic tended to play out in real-time.

Jon tried to organize the facts: He and Toku had slept for about two thousand years, longer than usual. Instigator had established that the little planet had experienced a massive radioactive flare, consistent with the people nuking the hell out of themselves. And afterwards, they’d carried on broadcasting electromagnetic representations of mating or choosing a leader.


You can probably guess what the surviving civilization is, but you’re just going to have to go to the site to finish reading it.


The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model