史上最伟大的科幻小说

版面寸土寸金的英国nature一般只发表科学领域具有原创性、开拓性的研究论文。不过最近,非常非常出人意料的发了一篇“史上最伟大的科幻小说”。 找出来这篇“史上最伟大”研究完了,还是没能看懂为什么是史上最伟大。   小说其实是一个投稿故事。主人公是科幻小说家,由于屡遭退稿,感叹“如何才能写出编辑喜欢的东西?”   从事量子回路研究的朋友听后,用量子计算机程序帮他构建了一个量子概率波函数。这个“波函数”的厉害之处在于:“只要有人观测书里的内容,函数就会变成观测人喜欢的内容。”   可是,主人公依然收到拒信:“这是有史以来最伟大的科幻小说……可是你居然以为一字不动地把阿西莫夫的《日暮》照抄过来,还不被发现吗?”      量子力学说一切东西在没有测量前是不确定的,这不确定就是一种概率函数,一旦有人去测量它,这个充满无数可能的波函数就“坍缩”,取而代之的是一个确定的测量值。问题就在于,杂志编辑脑中对最好的小说并非不确定的函数,此人早就认定《日暮》是最好的小说。   没明白此小说好在哪里?希望高人剖析一下。 以下是小说内容: 我展开一页单薄的信纸,署名是科幻年选的编辑,起首语是我的名字——这开头依然能让我感到一丝温暖,哪怕经历了这么多年的退稿。 “祝此文能于他处另寻高就”,这还是一封退稿信。我把信胡乱塞进文件,突然觉得一阵绝望,也许我就不是当科幻作家的料。 第二天,在办公室附近的餐馆,我对卡勒布说(他是和我共事的一位量子回路专家),这辈子我不指望我的名字能上杂志了。 “别放弃,”他说,“你是很棒的作家。”他读过我的小说,以便告诉我哪些地方的科学部分被我弄错了。 我耸耸肩,“如果我不写编辑想买的东西,再好也白搭。” “为啥不写呢?” “为啥不写?说得容易,”我说,“我根本不知道编辑喜欢什么。” “这么说这是主观的了。”卡勒布咬了一口汉堡,若有所思地嚼着。 “是啊,”我说,“一个编辑觉得根本不值得发表的东西,在另一个编辑看来可能是有史以来最伟大的科幻小说。只是凭我的运气,喜欢我文章的编辑大概不存在吧。” 卡勒布说:“你错了,你需要一篇能够自己适应编辑口味的小说。” 我拿起一块纸巾在嘴唇上蘸了两下。“我刚告诉过你,我不知道怎么写他们想要的东西。” “没错。”卡勒布从我手中夺过纸巾,在桌上摊平,从口袋里掏出一支笔,随手画了条曲线。“这是个概率函数,正确的文字组合让他们买下小说,错误的组合意味着不买。而如果这是概率函数的话,量子计算机可以处理它。”他草草写下一个方程,“伙计,这玩意会带来一场出版业革命的。” 我茫然地盯着他。 “这本书印在纸上,但它的文本是用量子计算机写成的,类似于我们办公室那台计算机。我们利用程序制造一个量子概率波函数,直到有人去观测书里的内容时,函数就会坍缩。”卡勒布面带满意的笑容。 “而当波函数坍缩时……”我还不太明白这意味着什么。 “这本书会针对那个使之坍缩的人,变成(对此人而言)有史以来最好的书。”卡勒布身体前趋,“我们可以拿它来确保你的名字上杂志,你愿意成为有史以来最伟大的科幻小说的作者吗?” 稿件准备复印,我盯着打印机里的一摞纸。“你确信我不能看一眼吗?” “如果你看了,波函数就会坍缩,故事就会变成你眼中最好的小说,而不是编辑眼中的,他必须第一个看到。”卡勒布说。 两个月后,我收到回信。我拿着它去了办公室——我想和卡勒布一起打开。 扫过我的姓名,我念出声来:“在我看来,这是有史以来最伟大的科幻小说。”我的心脏要跳出嗓子眼了,“这无疑是你投递过的所有小说中最好的一篇。可你到底发什么昏,居然以为你能一字不动地把阿西莫夫的《日暮》(注:《日暮》是科幻小说家艾萨克·阿西莫夫1941年发表的短篇小说,因其构思独特,成为科幻小说的经典样板)照抄过来,还不被发现吗?” 下面是我在自然杂志官网上复制的原文: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v467/n7319/full/4671146a.html Nature | Futures Previous article The greatest science-fiction story ever written Eric James Stone Journal name: Nature Volume: 467, Page: 1146 Date published: (28 October 2010) DOI: doi:10.1038/4671146a Published online 27 October 2010 A real page-turner. Article tools Print Email Download PDF Download citation Order reprints Rights and permissions Share/bookmark Connotea Cite U Like Facebook Twitter Delicious Digg I tore open the self-addressed, stamped envelope and unfolded the single sheet of paper inside. The letter was signed by the editor of Analog Science Fiction and was addressed to me, personally, which still gave me a warm feeling after all those years of form rejections. But what I craved now was an acceptance. And … this wasn’t it. Good luck placing this elsewhere, the letter read. I shoved the rejection in my overstuffed file with the rest of them. Eyeing the four-inch-thick wad of paper, I felt a wave of despair. Maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a science-fiction writer. Maybe I should just give it up — after all, I worked for a quantum-computing start-up. That was almost science fiction, even if all I did was manage the website. Maybe that was as close as I’d ever get. The next day, while having a mint Oreo shake at a restaurant near my office, I told Caleb, one of the quantum-circuit experts I worked with, that I doubted I’d ever see my name in print. “Don’t quit,” he said. “You’re a great writer.” He’d read a few of my stories to give me feedback on where I’d got the science wrong. I shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, if I’m not writing what editors want to buy.” “Why don’t you?” “Why don’t I? It’s not that easy,” I said. “There’s no way of knowing what an editor will like. I write the best story I can, but apparently that’s just not good enough.” JACEY “So it’s subjective.” Caleb took a bite of his burger and chewed thoughtfully. “Yeah,” I said, playing with the last spoonful of shake in my cup. “What one editor thinks isn’t worth publishing, another might think is the greatest science-fiction story ever written. It’s just my luck that the editor who would love my stuff isn’t actually an editor anywhere.” “No, no,” Caleb said. “You’re looking at it all wrong. What you need is a story that adapts itself perfectly to the editor.” I dabbed my lips with a paper napkin. “I just told you I don’t know how to write what they’re looking for.” “Right.” Caleb grabbed the napkin from my hand, flattened it out, took a pen from his pocket and sketched a curve. “It’s a probability function. The right combination of words makes them buy the story, the wrong combination means they don’t.” “I suppose,” I said dubiously. “And if it’s a probability function, then our quantum computer can handle it.” He scribbled an equation, crossed part of it out, then added something. “Oh, boy. This will revolutionize publishing.” I stared at him. “What are you talking about?” He stopped scribbling. “Imagine you open a book, and from the very first word, it’s exactly what you want to read. Every word is perfect, the characters fascinate you, the plot thrills you …” “That’d be cool,” I said. “And someone else opens their copy of the same book, and it’s perfect for them. Only if you compare the two books, the words aren’t the same. The story and characters aren’t even the same. The book has adapted itself to be the perfect book for whoever first opened it.” I frowned. “You mean, it’s like an e-book that changes based on personal preferences?” “No, this would be printed on paper. But the text itself would have been composed using a quantum computer, like the one we have at the office, using a program to create a quantum probability wave function that doesn’t collapse until someone actually observes what was printed.” Caleb sat back with a satisfied grin. “And when the wave collapses …” I said, not quite sure that I understood the implications. “The book becomes the best book ever written for whoever collapses the wave. It’s brilliant.” Caleb leaned forward. “And we can use it to make sure you get your name in print. How would you like to be the author of the greatest science-fiction story ever written?” I stared at the sheets of paper lying facedown on the printer. “You’re certain I can’t take just a peek?” “If you do,” Caleb said, “the wave function will collapse and the story will become the best story for you, not for the editor of Analog. He needs to be the one to see it first.” “Can I at least know the title?” I felt kind of awkward submitting a story that I knew nothing about, even though Caleb assured me that I could still be considered the author, as the computer could not have been programmed to create a probability wave function for science-fiction stories without my help. “Nope,” he said. “I’ve hard-coded your name and contact information into the printout, but the rest remains undecided until the editor reads it.” With a sigh, I slid the manuscript into the manila envelope and sealed it. Sixty days later, my SASE returned. I took it unopened to the office the next day — I wanted to open it with Caleb. “Could be an acceptance or a rejection,” I said. “Open it,” Caleb said, looking at the envelope. “You have to collapse the wave function. But I’m sure it’s an acceptance.” I opened it. “Read it out loud,” Caleb said. I looked past my name and began reading. “In my opinion, this is the greatest science-fiction story ever written.” My heart leapt within me, and I continued. “It is undoubtedly the best story you have ever submitted to me. But what on Earth made you think you could get away with submitting a verbatim copy of ‘Nightfall’ by Isaac Asimov?” Author information Author information Comments Affiliations A Writers of the Future contest winner, Eric James Stone has had stories published in Analog, InterGalactic Medicine Show and various other venues. His website is http://www.ericjamesstone.com

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