Fine Structure

  1. Every year, a random person on Earth is struck by lightning and gains superpowers.
  2. Each new superhuman is twice as powerful as the previous one.
  3. This has been going on for ten years.

Read from top to bottom.

Today in Fine Structure...

Appendices

Deleted scenes

Response

Ebooks

Further reading

Back to Fiction
Back to Things Of Interest

Facebook Twitter Reddit Email Hacker News StumbleUpon

Discussion (44)

2008-04-26 00:59:09 by A.:

Quite honestly,possibly one of the best online Science Fiction I've read in a long time!
Keep up the amazing work!
Science Fiction + Quantum/theoretical physics, ect.= WIN.

2008-04-26 20:20:22 by Yar Kramer:

Science fiction plus quantum divided by theoretical physics ...? Oh, wait. ;)

2008-04-27 03:11:51 by Stan:

I really adore your stories.

Never stop writing. Ever.

2008-04-30 23:59:39 by Ian:

This is actually what got me interested in Science Fiction to begin with.

2008-05-01 14:21:38 by Andrew:

@Stan:

Second.

2008-05-02 15:18:22 by Mike:

"The Difference", story about the man/chatbot trapped in a cell, has been updated recently and now allows comments... the missing Fine Structure story?

2008-05-03 00:22:52 by Lucas:

Loving this story :) Studing Theoretical Physics at uni, first year, woo!!

Keep up the awesomeness!

2008-05-03 19:13:21 by Val:

[I don't know, Timmy, being God is a big responsibility] not allowing comments?
... I thought it will be part of the storyline. :D
Well, it would be too easy to explain everything.

2008-05-04 11:54:06 by bob:

Hello Sam,
I found your site, and was overwhelemed with the amount of content, mainly the fiction.
Now I would like to be able to read it all, but don't know if there is a paticular order to it.
If there is, could you suggest the order to read them in, I don't want to spoil it for myself.
Thank you very much for this site.

2008-05-04 16:32:57 by Sam:

Top to bottom.

2008-05-04 19:47:27 by Val:

I bet for "I don't know, Timmy, being God is a big responsibility"
.. or would it cause an explanation too simple for your style? ;)

2008-05-04 20:46:35 by Val:

... so that would leave "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library" as the only option...

2008-06-15 15:53:51 by Thumpy:

you should seriously consider going professional with some of this stuff... your writing style is clear and your understanding of your content is substantial, two of the signs of a professional writer =)

2008-07-10 00:47:27 by Spencer:

Anyone else notice the front page is down?

2008-10-20 03:29:41 by Tarun:

Dear Sam,

I just recently found your site, and subsequently found the Fine Structure series. I've read a lot of science fiction, and a lot of hard science fiction, but nothing published that I've read has come even close to the same combination of scientific mystery and metahuman action that I find here.

Please keep writing. :D

2008-10-26 04:31:36 by Isaac:

I solved it! (kinda-ish, not really, but what the hey...)

2008-10-26 04:32:03 by Isaac:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_structure_constant

2008-10-26 10:32:08 by Sam:

Nope!

This story has very little to do with the physics concept of fine structure. I just chose it as a cool name for something else.

2008-11-10 04:40:09 by Isaac:

Dash it all! I thought I was on to something! I guess I just have to wait for the answer with everyone else, sad puppy face --> :c

2008-11-15 00:29:44 by Spencer:

About half way through. The world building is excellent. Very nice control of scope.

2008-11-16 13:35:32 by VCZO:

Oh. My. God.
Yesterday, I was reading through the stories again. When I woke up this morning, I either came up with a horrible theory or something that explains everything. Assume that nuclear and Power war has occurred. That caused the Sundown world. The last Power was a nice round power, say 2^16. For no reason I can think of yet, the lightning was stopped. Because of how powerful the last Power was, he or she was able to move at hyperluminal speeds. This let them go back in time with the Ed rules to tell Anne and Mitch to get rid of the technology. Second, the lightning. I believe it is the authorization from Unbelievable Scenes:

Finally, authorisation, long since dispatched all the way up the chain of command, hammers back down at me like a lightning bolt.

When Mitch came into our dimensions, the authorization had nowhere to go because it was trapped too. It started earthing itself in people every year. The Powers aren't using reactionless force, they're digging their bodies into 4 or greater dimensional space and pushing. The Power technology is just people finding out how to tap the lightning for their own use. Oul's Egg is the same- Anne/Mitch/someone else figured out how to earth some of the authorization through it. Someone else came up with an explanation I like, that it's information formatted for more dimensions than we can handle. Because they had been earthing the authorization, the Powers lost it and died. Anne and Mitch could handle it because Mitch is multidimensional and Anne is pretty much unchangeable. I think the die is what brought Mitch and the beast thing down- it was like non-autthorization lightning, where an upstrike opens the path for a downstrike. That's pretty much where my ideas dry up. Any thoughts?

2008-11-19 21:44:23 by VCZO:

A little more now that I've thought more- the pain the Powers go through is their minds being reformatted into 4+d so that their minds aren't wiped. Not sure how that would work for the artificial ones.

2008-11-21 14:00:54 by Tarun:

VCZO, it's impossible for a Power to reach past the speed of light. Due to the constraints of Special Relativity, their speed will start asymptoting as they accelerate closer and closer to 299792458 m/s.

2008-12-02 21:27:01 by VCZO:

DAMN YOU, PHYSICS!
Fine then. Some other form of time travel.

2009-01-11 05:05:02 by Isaac:

I almost wish that this will never be completly solved, for then where would the fun be? (Don't get me wrong, I still want to TRY and figure it out!)

2009-02-03 23:04:23 by Aegeus:

So, can I assume from the plot summary that Mitch Calrus and Mikhail Zykov are two different people? Probably, because Mitch uses his real name even in the far future. In that case, I'm betting that Mikhail is the evil enemy that Mitch trapped here, and he is trying to escape in the same way.

2009-04-13 06:15:14 by Josh:

Wow. Great stuff.

2009-07-18 23:41:28 by Kostas:

Hello Sam.

Regarding your wishes on getting your work published.

1. Do it.
2. May I suggest you reconsider your inference concerning publishing your work online. Particularly, this statement of yours might not be valid:
"[...] we run into the different issue that all the Ed stories have already been published online, *which makes them harder to sell*." (taken from your E2 node "Ed stories")

I cannot base my point upon statistics, but there are cases when publishing work online prior to releasing it in paperback form resulted in excelling profits (were I not lazy, references would go here). I, as a romantic, have the opinion that good fiction will attract readers no matter what. And readers like reading books made of cellulose. Publishing your work online is not a means of reducing the readership that may pay you money; on the contrary - I think that publishing the text online is one of the best means of advertising a book. Think of it in this way: if people found a science fiction book written by some Samuel Hudges, they would first need to be convinced that the book was worth its price. They would probably read the back cover and extrapolate finally concluding whether to buy the book - just because they would be too lazy to do some research (and you know that this is the nature of man). *The success in selling of a newly published book, I think, is hugely determined by the impression created by the back cover.* If, on the other hand, the work had been published online before, the writer would already have a stable readership.

This hypothesis is, of course, yet to be verified (and this may pose problems as, in this case, it is hard to construct a control group...)

Anyway, I think that a small PayPal banner/link would not distort this website's layout. And it would tell how many romantics are reading your site. If you happen to decide to put such a link on your site, do expect to get some donations with messages similar to "Hello, this is whoever, and this is to show you that I would buy your book - not because I haven't read the content but because I *have*."

I wish you the most optimum (from your perspective) quantum states of your life collapsed into definite past
- or, in other words, the best of luck.

2009-07-18 23:46:04 by Kostas:

Oops, sorry for misspelling your name. But it just further serves the point expressed there, I suppose.

2010-01-07 11:19:11 by SubjectSeventeen:

I for one, would definitely buy said book, and a copy for some friends come birthday/christmas. Especially if you went back and expanded on some chapters ;-)

Maybe even toss in some goodies such as notes, margins, etc for a special hardcover edition? =]

Honestly, I stumbled across this site in an xkcd forum thread that I was reading at like 3 am because I was bored, started reading fine structure, and keep doing so until I basically passed out at ten am the next day. It's now i around 5:30 i think, and I'm gonna do the same thing again. I've done a lot of reading in my life, but I haven't encountered anything nearly as enjoyable as this.... epic.

2010-01-17 04:13:05 by TimMcCormack:

Oh heyyyy... is that RSS? Sweet!

2010-01-28 09:37:48 by Kwak:

Sam,

I suppose the preferred reading order is the order of the links on this page.
Would you consider making this available as a pdf for people that would like to read it offline? Or would you approve of me copying the text to read it somewhere else?(only for myself or course, i would not distribute it in any way, and direct people that want to read it as well to this website)

2010-02-01 05:21:07 by fzzrmiller:

I made a tvtropes page for Fine Structure here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FineStructure

It'd be great if everyone checked it out and contributed.

2010-02-01 08:58:43 by Fjord:

Hey Sam, it's a fansite! Congrats!

Out of curiosity, fzzrmiller, why would you feel the need to make this? You can already hang out either here or at E2. (This question is asked because I'm puzzled, not trying to be disparaging.)

2010-02-01 13:53:24 by fzzrmiller:

tvtropes is a wiki for media and the patterns therein, I just made the page for Fine Structure.

2010-02-10 04:38:11 by Xartavion:

Sam, I'm inclined to agree with Kostas (I think, the guy saying online publishing would help sales of a physical book). While people may be tending towards piracy of software, music and movies (things all enjoyed electronically anyway), there is definitely still an appeal to having a collection of books on one's shelf which represents a cross-section of one's interests, strengths and personal delusions.

There are many things online which are indeed free (browser based games chief among them) to which I regularly donate in support of the fine work of all the people with skills I do not currently possess and likely never will. I support freeware software by registering or donating when I find it's stuff I use regularly and it makes my life easier (which reminds me, Winzip, I still owe you guys).

I recently read a book online called Sheepfarmer's Daughter over at Baen Publishing - the entire book, not an excerpt or a handful of chapters - and I then turned around and got a used bookseller (because at the time, I Was unemployed and broke) to hunt down about ten books by that same author, including the one I read.

I can categorically confirm that there is a subset of your online readers who would either donate, buy your book, or both. I have in the past done so (when not in fear of becoming destitute) and will continue to share my money with those who enrich my life expecting little or nothing in return.

Best regards, Sam, and god-willing may my writing prove as popular as yours someday,
~Brad Hickling.

2010-03-23 20:25:52 by ClarisseThorn:

Hi -- sorry if this is dumb, but I didn't see any relevant links. I'm wondering if this is available in its entirety as one big download? Loading each part separately would be hugely annoying given my current Internet access.

2010-03-23 23:44:45 by Sam:

Sorry, right now Fine Structure is just a series of web links. The largest chapter is 100kiB of HTML and most of them are substantially smaller; if that's a problem, there's very little I can do to help?

I guess I will have to look into using TeX to generate a nice PDF of this so people can read it offline or something. You can just print the pages off, of course. They are pretty print-friendly.

2010-04-14 08:44:01 by Fjord:

I wanted to print it off a while back, so I made a PDF. I'll send it to you, Sam.

2010-08-03 17:56:19 by Kyle:

The one thing that confuses me about these stories is wether Mitch is the savior and the destroyer of the future, or only its destroyer. It seems that he is both, but without his influence, we could've gone on to do great thing.

2010-11-05 00:37:27 by Alex:

This has been the best fiction I have ever read. I am an avid reader, but I believe that a certain amount of abstraction must be necessary to actually comprehend this at all because of it's non-chronological order... which somehow leads it to be such a great and intense story. Ever hear of a book called Ender's Game? Yes, well, in my opinion, this tops the famous novel- not by much, though. I am a major math geek and a slightly less major science geek, and absolutely loved this.

2010-11-13 08:50:41 by MJ:

Just re-read all of FS on a whim. A-fucking-mazing. Can't wait for your next big saga =)

2010-11-15 15:06:00 by JimB:

I subscribed to your full-RSS for your blog posts, but it wasn't long before a Fine Structure story appeared. I was really impressed, but hate reading fiction on a computer screen. Now that I own an ebook reader, I was going to convert the stories to epub, but someone got there before me! :)

For anyone whose interested, the epub contains all the stories, including all of the subdirectory contents in the order that they appear in the link (up to the date of this post). The only things missing are the two feedback threads in the final folder.

2012-10-28 18:52:56 by Kostas:

Hi Sam,

this comment should be under "Ed stories" -> http://qntm.org/resolution, however it seems you've disallowed comments under that page.

I merely wanted to ask - out of pure curiosity, I might add - could it be that some inspiration (in terms of ideas for example) was taken from:
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_jet%C3%A9e (a fine film first and foremost aesthetically, in my opinion; you might like it if perchance you haven't seen it);
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine_%28Greg_Egan_novel%29 (motivation for the chasm (on some indirect metaphorical level)
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schild%27s_Ladder (energy virus; I know that such notions have been in circulation for a long, long time, etc.; I am merely curious whether you've e.g. heard of this author (and whether you like him, if you've read anything by him, if you are up for a comment by chance. You might like his "Diaspora", btw.))

I enjoy reading your work - quite a bit! Kind regards.