Creation Myth for “And Then There Were Infinite”

Where do you get your ideas?

There were a lot of things that went into the making of this story, and most of them got cut out before the end. As for the pieces that survived…

The names “Heather Erisova Rifkin” and “Hale Imamovich Miller” both came from a story I was trying to write about a world where combustion was impossible, and all technology relied on the heat output from acid/base neutralization instead of from fire. It was a terrible story and I abandoned it quickly, but I liked the names enough, mainly just for initials, to save them from the wreckage.

Likewise, “August Domino” was a character in another terrible story that wound up in the trash, and I’m glad that he survived to see his name in print. The Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones is named after a real person — a U.S. naval officer who played some sort of pivotal role in early Californian history. I was taking a California history class at the time, but that’s essentially all I remember of it, just this one dude’s name. It’s a cool name, though.

I originally had a lot more technical detail about the weapons and engines in this universe, but all that’s left in the published story are the “lensors” — weapons that use reflected and concentrated light. Essentially, mirror-weapons. I hope someday to sketch out that technology in another story. That idea came about after reading a science fact article or book (or Wikipedia article) about photon propulsion. I liked thinking of a ship out in space that carries no fuel or reactor with it, but accomplishes all propulsion, weaponry, and power generation by gathering and redirecting photons from the infinite stars around it. Not a very practical technology, but certainly a poetic one. Ships that wage space-battles by bending the rainbows of alien stars at each other.

The core of the story is, of course, the time travel. I can’t remember which time-travel story it was that first triggered the idea (perhaps it was The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold) but it doesn’t take long watching and reading stories about people meeting copies of their past or future selves to realize that if you have time travel, you also have a duplicating machine. And if you have that, then you potentially have infinite resources. I wanted to write that book, the story of a star-spanning civilization with unlimited material and military might, whose armies were perfect duplicates of one or two perfect soldiers. But I always have too many book ideas and only a limited amount of time to actually write books. If I ever want to see any of these ideas in print, I have to put them out as short stories first, and then come back to them if and when I ever have the chance.

So “And Then There Were Infinite” is the origin story of a much larger space epic. The Omega point is my pseudo-scientific scapegoat based on a galactic super string or other exotic-material object floating around in space, just ready to be used for human time travel. The trick of using time travel to send a slower-than-light space fleet across interstellar distances in time to make a difference is very handy. I suspect that I’ll be using it again.

The battle happens off-screen in this one — I’d originally planned to have little space marines launch an assault on the docking station like all the orbital platform missions in StarCraft, but ended up liking the stripped-down, logic-puzzle format that the story wound up in. The Infraviolets and Ultrareds perhaps take the “red vs. blue” imagery a bit too far, but that’s all right with me. I had the lists of chemicals needed for successful cryogenic sleep hiding in my notes from some long-ago story idea, and they got conveniently recycled here. I cannot remember the original web article that I used as a reference.

One of the final changes I made to the story was the reverse-chronology of events, a trick I especially loved from Memento, which seemed to fit perfectly with traveling backwards in time. And the title, of course, is adapted from my favorite Agatha Christie book, “And Then There Were None.”

Finally placed it on, and earned myself a nice little mention in the introduction to issue 32. They also included a brief interview.

Number of rejections: 10