Original Short Fiction

 “Abductive Reasoning”

Analog Sept/Oct 2017

A humorous tale of a first contact between a UFO believer and a real alien, which doesn’t go at all the way either one expects.

This story appears in the September/October 2017 Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

“Abductive Reasoning” is a first for me in a couple of ways. For one, it’s the first actual short story I’ve ever sold! Everything else I’ve done has been at least novelette length (my previous shortest, “The Weight of Silence,” was 7600 words), but this one’s a cozy 4100 words. It’s also my first Analog story, and my second original work after “No Dominion,” that belongs to neither the Only Superhuman universe (for want of a better term) nor the Hub universe. It’s a completely standalone tale, for now. (Well, technically there’s no reason it couldn’t share a universe with “No Dominion,” but they don’t exactly go together stylistically.)

Like my previous three original sales, this is another story I wrote ages ago, abandoned for years, and then revived. And this one’s a record-setter — I wrote the first version nearly 21 years ago for a story contest, my longest interval yet between writing a story and getting a version of it published. That story was called “An Update from the Flying Hubcap Front,” in which a real alien encounters a UFO cultist and systematically demolishes his beliefs. But it was little more than a self-indulgent polemic, and when I revisited it, I recognized the need to give the main character more motivation and investment in the core debate of the story. I ended up rewriting it from top to bottom, injecting a number of new scientific concepts I’d picked up in recent years, adding more emotional and philosophical depth, and completely changing the climax and resolution. It’s essentially a whole new story, and I was pleasantly surprised to sell it on my very first try.

I changed the title because the original seemed too labored and snarky, though I was never too happy with “Abductive Reasoning” as an alternative. I intended it merely as a pun on alien abduction and deductive reasoning, but Ina Rae Hark informed me that there actually is such a thing in logic as abductive reasoning, in which you “take away” (abduce) a best-guess conclusion from an observation, draw an inference that may or may not be correct but seems likely given your understanding of things. It’s actually one of the most common forms of reasoning, the way we determine the likely cause of an observed result. It’s how detectives determine who to charge with a crime, how doctors arrive at diagnoses, how scientists form hypotheses.

However, abductive reasoning is only as good as the assumptions you make, and doesn’t guarantee a correct result — which is why hypotheses and diagnoses need to be tested and criminal charges need to be proven in court. Two people observing the same situation with completely different worldviews will probably abduce completely incompatible inferences. In that sense, I suppose, the title actually has more relevance to the story than I’d intended.

Spoiler discussion and notes


Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman

(Robot and Cover Design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics)

When the line between life and technology blurs, humanity must adjust its understanding of the universe. From bestselling author Christopher L. Bennett comes Among the Wild Cybers, eight tales portraying a future of challenge and conflict, but also of hope born from the courage and idealism of those heroes willing to stand up for what is right.

  • An intrepid naturalist risks her future to save a new form of life that few consider worth saving.
  • An apprentice superhero must stand alone against an insane superintelligence to earn her name.
  • A cybernetic slave fights to save her kind from a liberation not of their choosing.
  • A seasoned diplomat and mother must out-negotiate fearsome alien traders to save a colony’s children.
  • A homicide detective serves in a world where curing death has only made murder more baffling.

These and other heroes strive to make their corners of the universe better—no matter how much the odds are stacked against them.

Includes the brand-new tale, Aspiring to Be Angels, prequel to the novel Only Superhuman.

Available in trade paperback and e-book from:

Includes:

“Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 1998)

“Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2000)

“The Weight of Silence” (Alternative Coordinates, Spring 2010)

“No Dominion” (DayBreak Magazine, June 13, 2010)

“The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” (Buzzy Mag, November 13, 2014)

“Murder on the Cislunar Railroad” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2016)

“Twilight’s Captives” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January/February 2017)

“Aspiring to be Angels” (original to Among the Wild Cybers, August 2018)


The Hub series

Includes:

Hub Space: Tales from the Greater GalaxyHub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy

The Hub is the most important place in the galaxy — the single point through which all interstellar travel must pass. Yet no one in the galaxy understands how it works. David LaMacchia, an unimportant man from an unimportant planet called Earth, is determined to change that. He’s got no qualifications and no skills. His only friends are a cynical, sharp-tongued space pilot named Nashira Wing and a smugly philanthropic alien named Rynyan, and they both think he’s crazy. On top of that, the powers that profit from the Hub might just be trying to kill him. Still, that won’t stop David from trying to prove that humanity can make a difference to the greater galaxy.

Now the tales of the Hub from the pages of Analog are collected for the first time in one volume, newly revised and expanded! Includes “The Hub of the Matter,” “Home is Where the Hub Is,” and “Make Hub, Not War,” plus exclusive bonus material!

  • “No hard core science fiction fan could resist the premise…  The characters are irresistible too.  So is the humor.  Biting dialog is icing on the cake.  Intrigue.  Misadventures.  Culture clash.  Sexual clash.  Personality clash.  Very few science fiction stories are this much fun.” — Carl Slaughter on “The Hub of the Matter,” Tangent Online

Published by Mystique Press.

Now in trade paperback! Available from:

And as an e-book from:

“The Hub of the Matter” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2010)

“Home is Where the Hub Is” (Analog, December 2010)

“Make Hub, Not War” (Analog, November 2013)

“Hubpoint of No Return” (Analog, May/June 2018)

“…And He Built a Crooked Hub” (Analog, September/October 2018)

“Hubstitute Creatures” (Analog, TBA)

 

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