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Approaching Perimelasma by Geoffrey A. Landis

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“Approaching Perimelasma” is a 1998 science fiction novelette by Geoffrey A. Landis. It is about a tiny downloaded human who agrees to take his spaceship into a black hole and hopes that an untested scientific trick can pull him back out again.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

A black hole in front of the Milky Way.  (By Ute Kraus, CC 2.5 license)Wolf, a cloned copy of a real human being, has recently downloaded himself into an extremely fast, super strong, ant sized body. In this dialog that he prepares for his original self he lets the reader know that he is much more than just a copy – he is also a pilot, a physicist and a unique and separate identity. As he prepares for an unprecedented voyage into a nearly perfect black hole, he treats us to a history lesson, a physics lesson and a lesson about relativity and time travel. But when the moment of truth arrives and he dives into the event horizon, he discovers a bizarre “twist” that leaves him stranded in a very strange place indeed!

My body seems weird, too big and at once too small. The feel of my muscles, my vision, my kinesthetic sense, everything is wrong. Everything is strange. My vision is fuzzy, and colors are oddly distorted. When I move, my body moves unexpectedly fast. But there seems to be nothing wrong with it. Already I am getting used to it. “It will do,” I say.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • The wormhole engineering was an extremely cool idea! I really enjoyed how this story described in detail how humans set up a galaxy wide network – very nice!
  • You can tell that Geoffrey Landis is a *real* scientist – the detail with which he describes what is happening as Wolf descends towards the black hole is phenomenal!
  • The end of the story – where Wolf describes an unexpected twist in the space-time continuum – was awesome! Not an idea I had ever seen before!

• The bad:

  • Even though I enjoyed the entire story, people who don’t like hard science fiction may have their eyes glaze over a little bit as they read through the more technical sections of this story. In all honesty though, Geoffrey Landis does a much better job with it than some other authors I’ve read.

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 17
• Word Count: 10,351
“Approaching Perimelasma” garnered the following awards:

  • It placed 5th in the 1999 Asimov’s Reader Poll for best novelette.
  • It also placed 12th in the 1999 Locus poll for best novelette.

Where you can find “Approaching Perimelasma”:

  • This novelette first appeared in the January 1998 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
  • “Approaching Perimelasma” is included in Geoffrey A. Landis’s short story collection Impact Parameter: And Other Quantum Realities .
  • You can read a very nice free version of this story at Mike Brotherton’s excellent Diamonds in the Sky anthology.

Some Interesting Links:

  • Did you know that Geoffrey A. Landis was a visiting professor of Astronautics at M.I.T.? Yep. You can learn more about this science fiction author by reading the bio page on his web site.

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like The Planck Dive, about a group of beings who are sending cloned copies of themselves on a scientific journey into a black hole, by Greg Egan.

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