Phase Space: Stories from the Manifold and Elsewhere
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Tied in to Baxter’s masterful Manifold trilogy, these thematically linked stories are drawn from the vast graph of possibilities across which the lives of hero Reid Malenfant have been scattered. It is the year 2025. Reid Malenfant is the commander of a NASA earth-orbiting science platform. The platform is intended to probe the planets of the nearest star system by bouncing laser pulses off them. But no echoes are returned… and Malenfant’s reality begins to crumble around him. Huddling with his family, awaiting the end – or an unknown new beginning – Malenfant tells stories of other possibilities, other realities. The linked stories encompass the myriad possibilities that might govern our relationship with the universe: are we truly alone, or will we eventually meet other lifeforms? Perhaps intelligent species decide to turn their back on the stars, or maybe expansionist species are destined to fail. The final possibility – that the Universe as we know it is in fact an elaborate illusion designed to protect us from the fearful reality – is brilliantly explored in the tour de force novella that ends the volume.
we live in. But, Michael, neither of the two basic resolutions of the Paradox offer much illumination – or comfort. Maybe, simply, we really are alone. We may be the first. Perhaps we’re the last. If so, it took so long for the solar system to evolve intelligence it seems unlikely there will be others, ever. If we fail, then the failure is for all time. If we die, mind and consciousness and soul die with us: hope and dreams and love, everything that makes us human. There will be nobody even to
my eyes: the fact that we always marched into the places they sent us – even the happy booths – singing and waving and smiling. Mine is a generation that understands duty, a generation that risked their lives over and over to leave a legacy for our children, and we are doing it over again now. You can call that a small-town value if you like. The first American astronauts all came from out-of-the-way communities, and small-town values marked us out. It seems to me that values diminish in
day, even Earth’s orbit around the sun – was determined by the impact. But it might have turned out differently. Small, chance changes in the geometry of the collision would have made a large difference in the outcome. Lots of possible realities, budding off from that key, apocalyptic moment …’ Malenfant said, ‘So what are we looking at? Computer simulations from the great planetarium?’ ‘Phase space.’ Cornelius seemed coldly excited. ‘The phase space of a system is the set of all conceivable
that. I said, ‘The Beatles released eleven LPs, from Please Please Me through Let It Be.’ ‘You’re counting UK releases,’ said Lightoller. ‘Of course.’ ‘And you don’t include, for instance, the Yellow Submarine album which was mostly a George Martin movie score, or the Magical Mystery Tour album they released in the US, or the EPs –’ ‘Naturally not. So there was no twelfth Beatle album.’ ‘Not in this fooking world,’ said Lightoller mysteriously. John sang on, raw and powerful. Oddly
– to crawl through her structure. So she was a composite creature; her mind was broken down into modules of thought, speculation and awareness. She was a creature of parallel processing, scattered over a thousand fragile corpuscles. And Sun-Cloud’s body was constrained to be small enough that her gravitational potential could not fracture the flimsy molecular bonds which held her corpus together. Sun-Cloud, forging across the Surface of her Ocean, was just two millimetres across. At last,