“Space-faring monkies with a mirror fetish?”

“Yup. In The Day Ambrosia Paled by Kinstev Ramod, chapter six.”

“Damn. Okay, uhh… how about ice cream that turns your teeth green and carries a rare strand of the bubonic plague? Unleashed on a modern colony?”

“As a government experiment: Fire Warden by Jack Strapley. As a mad scientist’s coup de grace: On Being Trembleton by Emilia d’Oernga. With a time travel sub-plot: Terra Infirma by Marguerite Bloc. Sorry, Glenn. It’s all been done.”

Glenn groaned and leaned back in his chair, running his hand through the long part of his hair and pulling it out over his eyes, staring at the brown strands in frustration. “Damn it all! How am I supposed to write if there aren’t any original ideas?”

“Hey, come on, Glenn.” Neil grimaced at his friend in sympathy. “You’re just not thinking outside the box. Look, I know it’s tough, but there’s got to be something you can do that’s not already in here.” He gestured at the Central Database terminal he’d been using, the letters on the keyboard nearly worn off from the fruitless searches he’d made.

Neil’s words were encouraging, but his tone was not—it’d been months since Glenn had come up with his last viable story idea, and he still remembered the celebration they’d had. Now their fridge was bare, and there wasn’t a drop of alcohol in the house. Neil let out a long sigh. “Look… maybe you need a rest, yeah? Let’s go out for a while. We’ll go to the club, see Jeannie and the guys, and just relax. I bet it’d help. What do you say?”

Glenn made a noise of frustration and sat up straight again. “No. No! We’re almost out of cash. What good is going out going to do? That’ll just make things worse. I have to think of something, and fast!”

Neil sighed and turned back to the terminal. “Glenn, we’ve been at this for hours. You’re gonna make yourself sick.”

“No. No, I’ve got one.” Glenn turned sharply, his face lighting up as his eyes latched onto Neil. He paused dramatically. “How about… a guy with writer’s block trying to figure out what to put in a story?”

Neil groaned loudly and threw a stylus at Glenn. “Do I even have to answer? I think it’d break the database if I tried a search on that. Billions of billions of hits.”

Glenn chuckled. “Yeah, yeah, I know. Geez. I just wish that for once I could write something without caring that someone else already did it.”

“Wouldn’t sell.”

“Yeah, I know. I know.”

The two men stared in silence for a moment, Glenn at the ceiling, Neil at the screen that was nothing more than one massive search field.



“How about a story about a writer who hacks into the Central Database and erases the old records so that editors will think his story is original?”

“You know,” Neil said with a slow grin, “I don’t think that one’s been done yet.”