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Galactic Stress by David Levine

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“Galactic Stress” is a 2009 science fiction short story by David Levine. It is about an astronomer who has an accident while doing research inside a virtual model of the universe.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

A relativity experiment.Dana is a lucky woman – she is receiving cutting edge medical treatment for her poor eyesight, and she has finally been awarded a time slot on the most powerful astronomical computer in the world. Unfortunately events occur in that order: eyesight drugs, then computer research time. Shortly after receiving her first injection she begins to feel a little light headed and wobbly, but that isn’t going to keep her from her long awaited research. As she attaches the computer’s interface directly to her visual cortex she is immediately immersed in a large scale simulation of the universe – and the cool thing is she can both see and feel it! However, things get a little bit stressful when she accidentally loses the remote that lets her control what is going on, and now it is only a matter of time before the situation gets terminal.

By the time she reached her lab she was beginning to realize that something strange was happening. She felt funny — giddy, lightheaded, maybe even a little woozy — and everything seemed brighter, bolder, more dynamic, more colorful.

She spent a few minutes watching the cream swirl in her coffee — it reminded her of the Whirlpool Galaxy — before she thought that maybe she should call the clinic. She had been warned that there could be perceptual side effects, and they might want to know about this. Mind you, this wasn’t so bad. A little trippy, but not unpleasant. But still…

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • This story reminded me of the fun I had watching Star Trek: The Next Generation – from the Geordi La Forge glasses to the astro-physics lab to the holo-deck – it was filled with totally cool ideas that gave me gadget envy!
  • David Levine is a great writer and “Galactic Stress” is a fine example of his work. The detailed descriptions were amazing, and totally made me feel like I was part of the experience.
  • The view from inside the HVF dataset was awesome! Not only was it fun reading about it, but it helps provide people with an interesting way to comprehend the magnitudes of distance in our universe – and that is very cool.

• The bad:

  • There is one instance of mildly strong language. Definitely not worth skipping the story for.

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 8
• Word Count: 4,760

Where you can find “Galactic Stress”:

  • This short story first appeared in February 2009 in the online anthology Diamonds In The Sky.
  • You can read a free online version of “Galactic Stress” at the very excellent Diamonds In The Sky web site.

Some Interesting Links:

  • Did you know that David Levine won the 2006 Hugo Award for his short story “Tk’tk’tk”? Yep. Check out my review of Tk’tk’tk.
  • Did you know that the Diamonds In The Sky online anthology was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation? Yep. You can learn more about it at their web site.

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Collapse, about an astronomer who believes the universe has begun to contract, by Michael Burstein.