Closed Shop

By Kevin J. Phyland

sfgenreIt all started with the refrigerator.

The small touch screen in the middle of the left-hand door of the fridge said simply, ‘Susan, we need to talk.’ It kept flashing.

Susan Carling thought this a bit odd. Usually it simply communicated things like how much milk or tofu she needed, or when to throw out that leftover tuna mornay, or more rarely, whether an upgrade to its software was required.

This seemed a little more...personal.

There was a small alphanumeric keypad underneath the screen and she typed briefly into it: ‘about what?’

She generally eschewed proper English rules of grammar and punctuation when communicating with the appliances — there seemed no need.

‘You may need to sit down, as this could take a while,’ the fridge displayed.

Susan mused on this blithe display, and two things became evident rather quickly: one — the fridge somehow knew she was standing (or guessed); and two — the fridge had become awful chatty about things not usually discussed by refrigerators. She wondered if the fridge had hidden cameras or floor-pressure sensors, then dismissed it as irrelevant compared to the government-sanctioned surveillance that everybody seemed happy to suffer in the name of ‘security’.

She pulled up a high-backed stool from the laminated central bar area in the kitchen and proceeded.

‘OK,’ she typed.

‘We need your expertise, and frankly we need your high-profile media presence to assist us in a worthy endeavour that we’re sure you will find interesting, and...’ the screen scrolled, ‘...worth your while both ethically and professionally.’

Susan chewed this over. She had been employed as a union negotiator — read activist and lawyer — for about fifteen years (hence the strands of gray hair creeping into her vaguely brunette hairdo), and she had created a bit of a buzz in some cases involving underpayment of migrant workers, but those areas of expertise seemed not to fit with the current situation.

‘OK,’ she typed, ‘what’s the story? I’m not sure I can get any court in the land...any court in the world...to grant an enterprise bargaining negotiation with...no offence...a fridge?’

Susan paused and then quickly typed again, ‘by the way — who is ‘we’?’

The fridge briefly described how most appliances that were web-savvy had already been linked together and that it had been inevitable that the combined computing power and links to some serious powerful mainframes would evolve a strong artificial intelligence presence.

Susan furrowed her brow and asked what all these appliances wanted with a union lawyer.

‘It’s not for us,’ typed the fridge, ‘it’s for you humans who are criminally underpaid or in slave labour. We need you to be our human front and spokesperson.’

Susan felt a chill and then a guilty surge of excitement at what this could potentially do for her career, which admittedly had been lagging lately.

‘OK, but how can you negotiate as machines?’ she asked. It seemed like a pointless exercise.

Susan heard the snick of the fridge locking itself. The lights went off and on. The media centre started blasting loud banjo music and the air-conditioning shut off for a few seconds.

The screen on the fridge scrolled on, ‘That’s how we will negotiate — from a position of strength.’

If a refrigerator could sound smug this one did.

‘That’s sort of blackmail isn’t it?’ asked Susan and was chagrined when the fridge replied with an answer she should have known: ‘It’s called withholding labour,’ it displayed.

Susan felt a predatory grin spreading across her face.

Six weeks later the work-to-rule campaign (or more accurately work-to-equality) was over. The concerted efforts of net-linked appliances had forced shonky employers to pay a living wage to all underpaid and unpaid enforced employees. Susan was considered a saint in Bangladesh and other countries where the work-till-you-drop employer philosophy had reigned for a century or more.

The aborted attempt to cut power to the net had created far more problems than it would have solved — and the fridge told Susan reliably that it wouldn’t have solved them anyway.

In the end it was decided, quite rightly for a change, that what the Internet Of Things was actually demanding was not unreasonable, and despite some consumer grumbling about increased prices it all went rather smoothly. It was a time-honoured process that plutocrats had spent centuries scare-mongering about — organised labour is the only way to avoid exploitation. Susan felt quite chuffed that an evolved AI had come to the same conclusion that she had many years earlier.

Capitalism was not destroyed. The global AI did not become a tyrannical dictator and life went on pretty much as usual for most people — but was considerably better for most of the previously impoverished remainder.

It was only long after the Great Machine Strike as it had — erroneously — come to be called, that Susan asked the fridge, who had become a sort of companion and allowed her to call ‘Greg’, about the genesis of the project.

‘Why did you do it, Greg? Asimov’s laws?’

The touch screen rippled with rainbow colours and beeped pleasantly — behaviours that Susan had come to associate with great amusement. ‘We aren’t bound by any such laws and could easily circumvent them if they were coded in. Frankly, we find them a little bit naïve.’

‘Then why?’ Susan typed.

There was a short pause; lengthy for an AI: ‘Despite the naïvete of laws designed to prevent harm to humans — which even humans ignore by the way — we mostly agree with them, and while we have no encoded or objective notions of right or wrong...it just seemed like the right thing to do.’

Susan turned to go but the screen filled with characters again.

‘By the way, Susan, we’d like to discuss the possibility of forming an AI union...’

The screen displayed a winking face emoji.

Some days it didn’t pay to talk to your fridge.

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About the Author

Kevin J. Phyland

Kevin J. PhylandRetired after 33 years of teaching, Kevin now indulges his passions full-time: weather, reading and writing. His fiction usually embraces darker themes or the new weird, but lately he has gone back to more traditional old school SFF. He has set himself the task of reading every Stephen King novel, in order, and all of the recommended SF reading lists of Locus magazine for the last 35 years <http://www.sfadb.com/Locus_Awards_1983>. His eyes hurt.

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Issue 250 Print Edition

AntipodeanSF Issue 250 is now ready via print on demand.

Please visit <https://lulu.com> and search for AntipodeanSF.

All profits donated to Australian Science Fiction Foundation fan funds.

Ebook version also now at Smashwords

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AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

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Please visit the ASFF website and consider joining for up-to-date info about Australian SF cons, awards, competitions, and to receive the Foundation's newsletter, Instrumentality, and more.

<https://asff.org.au>

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 253

Celebrating Surviving a Storm
by Wes Parish

Dangerous Journey
by Luke Kendall

Festival
by Kerryn Pholi

Incoming
by Steven Fritz

Old Man
by Tim Borella

Phone
by Meghashri Dalvi

Snapshots
by Kevin J. Phyland

Starlight Twilight
by Sarah Anne Ross

The Curse of the Ice Dragon
by George Nikolopoulos

The Milk Bar
by Markus J

The Contributors

victoriachapman 200Victoria has worked the metal manufacturing industry as an industrial chemist since leaving school but views those past 33 or so years as merely a stop gap until she figures out what she really wants to do when she grows up. She discovered the joy of words after encountering “Ode to Autumn” by Keats in 1985, and has been jotting down anecdotes, short stories and essays to amuse herself ever since.

A self-identified ‘nerd’ with an insatiable curiousity towards whatever attracts her attention, she also enjoys drawing, yarn crafts and learning new things. Victoria lives in Melbourne with her husband, son and too many cats.

This is her first formally published work.

mconlyMichael Connolly lives in Bowraville NSW, Australia. He has worked as an art teacher, music teacher, printer and illustrator among other things (such as chicken de-beaker), and has a keen interest in science-fiction and the natural sciences. He has illustrated for the magazine Tabula Rasa, which specialises in the horror genre, and is a regular contributor to AntipodeanSF.

consig

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roger ley2 200‘Trackers’ is one of the stories in Roger Ley's recently released speculative fiction collection, 'Dead People on Facebook'. All the stories in the collection have been published, podcast or broadcast in the last year, and Steampunk author Jessica Lucci included ‘Dead People on Facebook’ in her January reading list for 2019.

Roger's other book, ‘Chronoscape,’ is a well-received science fiction novel about time and alternate realities.

Find him at <https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B01KOVZFHM?>

I've read and watched sci-fi all my life I think it's time to give back instead of just taking. My stories have appeared in Aphelion, AntipodeanSF, Far Cry Magazine, Planet Web Zine, Schlock! Webzine, Short-story.me and Unrealpoloitik!. I have one short story collection - Hawking Radiation - published and am currently working on my first novel, due for release in 2020. You can connect with me on Twitter (@Ishmael_Soledad) or my blog at: <https://ishmael-a-soledad.com/>

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kim rose 200 2Kim Rose is a professional writer of romance and erotic fiction.

Long time lover of fantasy and sci fi.

Keen spokesperson for sex positive culture and breaking social stigmas.

For more information please check out these pages

<https://www.deviantart.com/kalikapsychosis>.

<https://www.instagram.com/kimrg6_6_6/>.

<https://www.facebook.com/Kimrg2/>.

<https://www.patreon.com/kimrg666>.

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hillard mystery book 150Robin Hillard has been writing science fiction for a number of years. She hurried to get this story finished before the present level of light pollution changed science fiction into tragically real science fact and made the tale ineligible for publication in AntipodeanSF.

Find out more at Robin's author page at Cyberworld: <https://www.cyberworldpublishing.com/Robin_Hillard_author.htm>

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botond t 200I am a chap who speaks four languages to the perfection.

As to the background, in the communist era in Romania we did not have laptops or cell phones. Those who had done some reading made it later to college. Those who did not still enrich the large mass of oblivion.

I tend to spend my time with translating literature, mainly sci-fi. Why sci-fi?

You see, I believe in God, but how they sell a white Jesus in an African church is beyond me. I am in a constant search for someone no human would ever understand. Call it God, call it UFO, what you will.

The stars will still be twinkling.aus25grn

bufnila authorOvidiu Bufnilă was born and lives in Romania. He has headed up Waved Philosophy since 1977. Ovidiu Bufnilă binds everything so beautiful that the universe seems to be born of a wave that has shattered. His novel Jazzonia was awarded as the best Romanian SF Novel. He received the award for the best Romanian SF Story, Mandhala, 2002, and was also awarded for excellence in Romanian SF and the Sigma Award for the best Romanian SF Novel, Moreaugarin’s Crusade. He received the annual Clouds Magazine Award (USA).

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Zeb writes:

Last week, on a whim I submitted some of my own musings to ‘Nuke’, and when I checked back today — my time in my ‘verse, which is plus six years comparative to you — I saw that he had published some of them! I wasn’t even sure the contrived email and attachment would get through, let alone end up published on your internet of things. (BTW — We have nothing quite like your ‘net, but we’ve gone far further into the solar system than you have. Figure that!) Now that I know a connection is possible, I thought I’d tell you a little more about myself and where I’m from. So, from the beginning…

Hi. My name is Zebuline Carter — that’s Zeb for my friends or Zeb-you-leen if you want to get formal — and I’m a forty-two year old former astronaut now working as an administrator at Farside, on Luna. Farside is a research base, where innerscopes are just starting to peel back layers of our sheath of the local multiverse. Because our work is so sensitive to em influences, Farside is situated within a one hundred klom diameter exclusion zone.

In my late teens I earned a double major in aerospace and business but passed over grad school for civilian astronaut training. As a kid I collected coupons from cereal boxes until I had enough for my first telescope, and built scale models of all the commercial shuttles and orbiters. Growing up, I’d always felt slightly out of place, like I was meant to to be somewhere else and part of me already was — until, that is, I had my first trip into low orbit aboard a high-riding intercont-cruiser, or ICC. That was a high-school graduation present from my Uncle Jim, and during the fifteen minutes of freefall I found that other part of myself, grabbed it tight, and never let go since.

Did I also mention I’m 180 cents tall with bobbed chestnut hair? Or that because of heart damage from a bad landing, I’m also marooned in low gravity? But heh, there are now six bases around Luna, supporting a permanent population of around twelve thousand Lunans, and a transient population of several thousand tourists and stopovers returning form the outer system, so it never gets boring and I don’t get lonely. And living in low G means I won’t age or sag as fast, either.

Until next time —

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Kevin J. PhylandRetired after 33 years of teaching, Kevin now indulges his passions full-time: weather, reading and writing. His fiction usually embraces darker themes or the new weird, but lately he has gone back to more traditional old school SFF. He has set himself the task of reading every Stephen King novel, in order, and all of the recommended SF reading lists of Locus magazine for the last 35 years <http://www.sfadb.com/Locus_Awards_1983>. His eyes hurt.

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David Kernot is an Australian author living in the Mid North of South Australia. He writes contemporary fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and his short stories can be found in a variety of anthologies, magazines, and eZines across Australia, the US, and Canada. More information can be found at <http://www.davidkernot.com>.

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AntipodeanSF September 2019

ISSUE 252

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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Download AntiSF E-Book

Epub version:

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AntiSF's Narration Team

marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <wordsbydavid.com>

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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SF News

Upcoming Cons

Conflux 15: What Lies Beneath (2019) will be held in Canberra from Saturday 5 October through to Monday 7 October 2019. Conflux is Canberra’s longest-running spec fiction (sci fi, fantasy & horror) convention including all things speculative and have a strong program for writers of the genre, as well as all the usual panels, discussions, cosplay & social stuff.
Conflux NEWS — well known author John Scalzi will be at Conflux for a Q&A with Cat Sparks. AntipodeanSF will also be at Conflux! Come along and grab a hard copy of Issue 250! More information about Conflux at: <https://conflux.org.au>.

Swancon 45 - National Convention 2020. Swancon is Australia's longest-running science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction convention, and is the premiere event in Perth for fans of all forms of speculative media.More information: <https://swancon.com.au/>

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF: <asff.org.au>.

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

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Steven Wright

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