The editors of Uncanny Magazine are a particular source of frustration for the Sad and Rabid Puppies. Whether it’s stories they’ve bought or anthologies they’ve edited, they seem to be standing right there whenever people talk about the forces destroying science fiction. (You can help with that, by the way.)
However, I’m sure that this story by John Chu will be everything the Puppies of Varying Dispositions are looking for. Set on a spaceship, with a hero sacrificing to bring valued tradition into a high-tech future? What more could they ask for?
The ship needed him more often these past few decades. Readers failed and had to be replaced. Connectors shook themselves loose and cables cracked over time. He repaired his crew mates’ pods and woke to find they had repaired his. Too often, grinding noises came from vibrating pods warm to the touch. All he could do was keep those corpses frozen to bring home. The hibernation system had killed most of the Byzantium Library’s small crew by the time those still alive had successfully diagnosed and fixed it. He had to push that away and focus on the archive though to complete the mission.
The archive was holding up well. That one dye lot had been the only large scale failure so far and Max had copied all of the affected data to chalcogenide glass in time. He’d never been prouder of his team. Their legacy lived on in the Byzantium Library. The ship wasn’t perfect. The last few times he woke, it seemed barely functioning. The archive, however, had remained intact.
So when the chalcogenide glass began to fail, Max finally cried. The errors scrolling up the terminal display blurred in his gaze. He clamped his mouth shut and held his breath even though no one could hear him. Again, the ship had alerted him in time. It could still recreate the data using the error correction bits he had layered in. The chalcogenide glass, though, was already the back up.
The wall panel that protected the data modules vibrated before Max. Maybe cables had failed or solder joints had crumbled. Maybe the data hadn’t decayed; the ship just couldn’t access it. He wanted the problem to be something he could fix. They could no longer afford the energy to re–burn the data into the glass. Power from the ship’s photovoltaic arrays dropped every year at a rate consistent with space debris pitting the array’s outer surface.
He set the panel next to him. The modules embedded in the walls looked as they did the day they were installed. Rows of cards sat in racks screwed to the floor. Ties bundled floating cables together. He ran continuity tests. Signals sent down the cables had no problems reaching the rest of the ship. He tested the modules themselves. The electrical resistance of the chalcogenic glass’s amorphous states had increased enough to blur the distinction among its various possible states. Everyone on the team had expected that would happen over time, just not on the order of decades. The memory was slowly confusing everything Max had burned into it.
The runners on his overalls tugged against the walls. Max tapped furiously on the terminal’s keyboard. He had a data scrubber to write and he didn’t know how long he had before the chalcogenic glass would fail so badly that he wouldn’t be able to recreate the correct data from the error correction bits.
The ship had only one type of data storage he hadn’t tried, the volatile short–term memory that it operated on.