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By Murray Leinster

"Nobody ever observed the message-torp. It wasn't to be anticipated. It got here in on a direction that prolonged backward to someplace close to the Rift—where there was once Huks—and for a truly, very good distance it had traveled as merely message-torps do shuttle. It hopped part a light-year in overdrive, and got here again to normality lengthy adequate for its photocells to examine the star-filled universe all approximately. Then it hopped one other part light-year, and so forth. For an extended, very long time it traveled during this jerky fashion."

A compelling brief tale via Murray Leinster.

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Fish’s importance or his statements’ weight) — Schmidt said he could tell from their faces that the men knew quite well what Antitrend was about, the Shadow Markets like Punk contra Disco and Cadillacs contra high-mileage compacts and Sun and Apple contra the MS juggernaut. qxd 4/13/04 2:10 PM Page 36 36 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 sh 34 reg 35 D a v i d F o s t e r Wa l l a c e He said they could if the men wished talk at some length about the stresses on individual consumers caught between their natural Godgiven herd instincts and their deep fear of sacrificing their natural God-given identities as individuals, and about the way these stresses were tweaked and-slash-or soothed by skillfully engineered trends, and that but then, by sort of the Third Law of Motion of marketing, the MCP trends spawned also their Antitrend Shadows, the spin inside and against the larger spin of in this instance Reduced-Calorie and Fat-Free foods, nutritional supplements, Lowcaf and Decaf, NutraSweet and Olestra, jazzercise and liposuction and kava kava, good v.

It was probably the squad cars and their garish lights at the curb that caused so many other cars on Huron Ave. to slow down or even pull over to see if there’d been a death or an arrest, forcing one of the officers to spend his time trying to control traffic and keep cars moving so that the avenue remained passable. qxd 4/13/04 2:10 PM Page 40 40 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 sh 34 reg 35 D a v i d F o s t e r Wa l l a c e the very first pedestrians to stop and look up and was now using broad motions of all four limbs to report or re-create for a policeman all she had witnessed up to the present who’d paused to ask whether to the officer’s knowledge the strangely costumed figure’s climb could possibly be a licensed stunt for a feature film or commercial television or cable program, and this was when it occurred to some of the other spectators that the lithe figure’s climb was conceivably being filmed from the upper stories of one of the other commercial skyscrapers on the street, and that there might in particular be cameras, film crews, and /or celebrities in the tall gray vertiginously flèched older building directly opposite 1101 E.

This was the most simple and obvious example of the sort of complex system of large groups’ intragroup preferences influencing one another and building exponentially on one another, much more like a nuclear chain reaction or an epidemiological transmission grid than a simple case of each individual consumer deciding privately for himself what he wanted and then going out and judiciously spending his disposable income on it. The wonks in Demographics’ buzzword for this phenomenon was Metastatic Consumption Pattern or MCP, Schmidt told the Focus Group, rolling his eyes in a way that invited those who were listening to laugh with him at the statisticians’ jargon.

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