Not too long ago, David Malki !, Ryan North and Matthew Bennardo put out a call of submissions for a new high concept short story collection called Machine of Death. The concept was simple. A machine had been invented that would give a simple, albeit mysterious, answer to the question “how am I going to die?” It was based on an entry in Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics.
I was fascinated, because I had always enjoyed the classic Heinlein short story “Life Line.” Which was based on the invention of a machine that would tell you exactly when you would die. And was the first short story Heinlein ever published.
So I lept into writing a story to submit for the collection. And after forty-five hundred words it was ready.
The problem was, I had written an updating of “Life Line,” operating from an entirely different principle. See, “Life Line” had detailed the reaction of the world — most exactly the insurance industry — into this discovery of the moment of death. And that fascinated me. Besides, I didn’t think there were enough dark fantasy/sf stories about actuaries.
Which meant my high concept wasn’t the high concept. I had a story about a machine that would predict the moment of death, barring lifestyle change or misadventure.
So I wrote another story to submit. And then, right as it was ready for submission (and had been read by several people with advice), I hit the same dry period that the rest of my writing and online contact hit, and so it never went to them. Ah well, I’ll include it here sometime.
In the meantime, please enjoy “Death is a Moving Target.”
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