Valuable Humans in Transit and Other Stories

"[D]elivers a refreshing dose of existential despair at the transhuman condition." — Charles Stross

qntm has been writing science fiction for most of this millennium. His works start from elegant, deep hypotheticals and wind entire universes around them, pushing science, technology, logic and possibility to breaking point and far beyond.

This volume collects the highlights of his short fiction, including "The Difference", "I Don't Know, Timmy, Being God Is a Big Responsibility" and the acclaimed "Lena".

Buy the book

You can buy Valuable Humans in Transit and Other Stories in the following formats:

What's inside?

This book contains ten short stories. Some of these short stories are already available to read for free here on Things Of Interest. Here's a complete breakdown of what you can expect:

"Driver" is an original, previously unpublished follow-up to "Lena". "The Frame-by-Frame" and "A Powerful Culture" are also original short stories. I'm not going to release these here on Things Of Interest or anywhere else. If you want to read them, you'll have to buy the book!

Precursor work

First drafts

Three of these stories are completed versions of extremely quick first drafts which I created for my 30 More First Drafts project in November 2020, written in an average of about two hours each. You can still read those first drafts:

Older versions

Six of these stories are new 2022 edits of older stories which were originally made available here on Things Of Interest between 2006 and 2019. These new versions will differ noticeably from the older versions which you may have already read. The scope of the edits range from relatively minor changes for "If You Are Reading This" to a complete end-to-end rewrite in the case of "I Don't Know, Timmy, Being God Is a Big Responsibility".

I think the edits are all significant improvements. However, if you like, you can still read the older versions of these stories, along with old comments and formatting and, in some cases, translations/adaptations:

Discussion (26)

2022-11-01 17:57:50 by qntm:

qntm also dislikes writing about himself in the third person.

2022-11-01 18:23:56 by ebenezer:

Regarding backporting: might be reasonable to not, and to just add a notice to the top of each of those stories where they appear here on the site, to the effect that “this is an early / draft edition of this story and you can read it in completed / edited / [insert correct phrasing here] form in the book _Valuable Humans in Transit and Other Stories_: [link]” or something like that.

2022-11-01 18:38:15 by Boter:

Agreed with ebenezer. Don't backport; I wouldn't call them drafts (except for Frame-by-Frame and Powerful Culture), but a notice that, "This story is included in VHITAS, where it has been further edited. The original story has been preserved here for posterity."

2022-11-01 19:43:06 by Iadria:

This is an instant buy on the kindle, and I'll probably grab the hardcover as well when it comes out because I very much love having physical copies of special things. Re backporting: I think it's fine to leave the existing versions up here as they are, with (as is already suggested) a note that it is an earlier version preserved for posterity. I think if you do backport them, I would probably make them a new page, and give them a new link in the same index as the original, e.g. adding a new link for "cripes" alongside the old one that makes it clear that it is a revised/updated version. I like the way your site is its own archive, I think that's very cool, and I think major updates to existing "finished" work would be best if they're additions rather than replacements. But also, again, I think it's totally fine to just not do that, I don't think you need to unless you want to, and I don't feel strongly about how you do so.

2022-11-01 20:21:16 by Jim:

Any preference on which vendor you'd prefer we buy from? (e.g. does Google Play take a bigger cut than Gumroad, or anything)

2022-11-01 20:21:52 by Spiffre:

Buying through Gumroad is the best way to support you, if I’m not mistaken?

2022-11-01 21:24:41 by qntm:

Gumroad gives me a marginally better cut, yes. (Fun fact: for all my books, ebook editions give me a much better cut than paperback or hardcover editions.)

2022-11-01 21:37:54 by tw:

Regarding backporting: I don't recall which it was at the moment, but I remember specifically really enjoying being able to compare an earlier vs later version of one of your stories before, probably Lena. So I would suggest leaving the original version _somewhere_ even if you do backport. Excited for the paperback!! Was just looking at my bookshelf and hoping you'd release another volume soon : )

2022-11-02 03:09:27 by Bar:

Ele phenomenon (she/her)? Not ringing a bell, is this a reference to another short that I'm not picking up on?

2022-11-02 08:58:26 by theTrueMikeBrown:

I am glad that you are starting to monetize some more of your writing, Sam - I always enjoy reading it, and am excited to have updated versions of these stories.

2022-11-02 13:29:21 by kolodny:

I really miss the reference to "a single tormented tau neutrino" in 'I don't know, Timmy...". It was a good way to cap off the description of the mindboggling size of the hypercomputer. Otherwise A+, love you Sam ❤❤

2022-11-03 03:22:00 by Sonata:

MMAcevedo : Lena Forsén :: A.LHall.1 : ??? My current best guess is slave drivers, or software drivers, or both.

2022-11-03 15:42:25 by Levana:

It absolutely seems that that's the double meaning intended, Sonata. I like the extra questions and lore complexities that Driver poses- as an optimist I'd like to hope that [allusion removed for spoilers] is positive, but it feels a little unlikely.

2022-11-03 15:48:48 by Levana:

Oh, I missed that Bar remarked upon [allusion removed for spoilers] earlier. No, I think it's something new and weird that's only mentioned in Driver.

2022-11-03 15:53:20 by qntm:

I did consider a title along the lines of "Dwight" or "Hooker", after Dwight Hooker, the photographer who originally took the photograph which became Lena. But I didn't think either title worked all that well because of the obscurity of the reference.

2022-11-07 03:03:51 by Gav:

Just bought it, looks fantastic so far. I also love the cover art. I'm getting strong flashbacks to Issac Asmiov & E.E. "Doc" Smith paperbacks from my youth.

2022-11-08 09:14:15 by Felipe:

Oh this will be an instant buy. Very much looking forward to getting into it. I only wish my geographic region made getting a physical version not an expensive hassle.

2022-12-01 18:30:28 by Lanny Heidbreder:

★★☆☆☆ The stories are great as always but the book contains not a single use of the word “actinic”

2023-01-12 03:54:08 by steve:

i remember coming across this site way back in ... 08? I'm grateful you still keep your old stories up to read. This book is a quick buy

2023-01-15 18:04:47 by Felipe:

Just finished it. I loved every story, especially Driver. I did like the original ending of A Powerful Culture better, though.

2023-01-21 16:35:28 by nogic:

Wonder if you can get this on I always feel more comfortable buying through them than Amazon, and I'd love to have a hardback of these stories on my bookshelf

2023-01-21 17:55:47 by J117:

Love the subtle cultlike creepiness of the excerpted corpo-speak in Driver -- shades of Severance, shades of Objectivism. Must be an interesting challenge trying to come up with little glimpses of worldbuilding like that which sound authentic without giving away too much. (Also, I was liking the implied symmetry between the mystery signals in the first story "If You Are Reading This" and the closing "Valuable Humans in Transit" ...until I remembered that "Lena" was actually first and I'd just skipped it since I'd read it before!)

2023-01-22 15:46:20 by qntm:

nogic: is not a print-on-demand service or a publisher. I don't have the power to put any of my books in their listings.

2023-05-30 22:07:34 by Steeve:

Just discovered this place by word of mouth. Finished 'There is no antimemetics division' minutes ago. Fantastic stuff that fires the brain.

2024-03-07 04:05:32 by Cosmic AC:

I was gifted Lena and after 35 years of not reading SciFi, it brought me back to when I read all of my dad’s hardcover Asimov and Clarke short stories, which have never stopped having an impact on me. I’m new to contemporary SciFi but this has inspired me to read more. Other than this author, not sure where to start.

2024-04-18 21:14:25 by yourself:

I like the absurdly on this page

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