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I’ve started my next podcasting series of fiction-in-progress. This time I’m reading “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth,” a new story about an apocalypse that arrives on the heels of a catastrophic Internet worm. When the trump sounds, the world’s systems administrators are all in their sealed data-centers, and so they survive the carnage.

He piloted the car
into the data-center lot, badging in and peeling up a bleary
eyelid to let the retinal scanner get a good look at his
sleep-depped eyeball.

He stopped at the machine to get himself a guarana/modafinil
power-bar and a cup of lethal robot-coffee in a spill-proof
clean-room sippy-cup. He wolfed down the bar and sipped the
coffee, then let the inner door read his hand-geometry and size
him up for a moment. It sighed open and gusted the airlock’s load
of positively pressurized air over him as he passed finally to
the inner sanctum.

It was bedlam. The cages were designed to let two or three
sysadmins maneuver around them at a time. Every other inch of
cubic space was given over to humming racks of servers and
routers and drives. Jammed among them were no fewer than twenty
other sysadmins. It was a regular convention of black tee-shirts
with inexplicable slogans, bellies overlapping belts with phones
and multitools.

Normally it was practically freezing in the cage, but all those
bodies were overheating the small, enclosed space. Five or six
looked up and grimaced when he came through. Two greeted him by
name. He threaded his belly through the press and the cages,
toward the Ardent racks in the back of the room.

Here’s the part 1 MP3

19 Responses to “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth, Part 01”

  1. RobW

    You misspelled “modafinil”. HTH. HAND. Sorry for the bitchy spelling flame, but I’m afflicted with Assburger^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hperger Syndrome and spelling errors tickle the back of my brain until I correct them. (:

  2. Cory Doctorow

    The story’s not done, but I’ve started writing on it again, so it’ll be in the can before long. Did 2k words yesterday on the Eurostar and plan on doign 4K more next week going and coming back from Chapel Hill. That should wrap it, more or less.

  3. Gard

    Oh my God! The CN Tower!

    Samantha was going to write about this happening, and now you did it before her. (Not that I have any idea where she is at the moment, haven’t heard from her for years).

    Hard to imagine a Toronto in that state… which brings me to… *sigh* I miss walking through the streets of T.O…

  4. citizen428

    The “After the siege” podcasts were already pretty good, but the first episode of “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth” really got me hooked, especially since you’ve done a really good job of making it attractive to us geeks and nerds, without being superficial.

    I really hope you have to travel a lot over the next few weeks, because I desperately want to know what’s going on in Toronto and how the sysadmin’s will survive once all the Pizza delivery guys are dead… ;)

  5. Tim

    I first caught your podcasting of “Siege”, and I wanted to say “Way to go!”. The modern short story is seeing a revitalization thanks to writers like you. Great job, and I can’t wait to hear the next installment of “Sysadmins”.
    Your streaming audio also reminds me of the radio serials from the 20’s and 30’s… it gives the story a great flavor. Keep it up!
    -Tim, in Philadelphia

  6. 71m

    i loves it!! i really does :)
    reallly really like all the stuff that I have managed to get hold of.. listened to “after the seige”, which had me refreshing iTunes every day in anticipation of the next episode. Then I listened to “Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom” read by Mark Forman. Which I liked even better, especially after he stopped the paragraph, tune, paragraph, tune thing..
    And with SysAdmin… you have really surpassed yourself… :) by far my fav as yet.. i got itunes refreshing every hour purely cause of this story..
    you getting it published in any form? i would be straight down the shops to buy a copy… got space in my bookshelf ready for it ;) anyways. Keep up the great work…

  7. Cory Doctorow

    Hey, 71m! Thanks so much — yup, the story’s gonna be published in issue 2 of Baen’s Astounding Stories, a new electronic, DRM-free, pay-for-download sf magazine that’s launching shortly.

  8. Adam Rakunas

    This has been good stuff, Cory. Looking forward to seeing how this all wraps up. And to see if everyone finally gets to take a shower. Eesh.

    By the way, the comments form doesn’t like my domain name (which I can’t even type in here). I swear it’s not pornographic, only Italian.

  9. Kay Friedlein

    Greetings from Germany:

    That is great start for your new story —
    I’ve just finished “After the siege” and now I’m hooked to the sysadmins.

  10. Plurp

    Thanks for the interesting story. But – jeez! – learn how to record audio. Your first installment of this story was so overmodulated that it nearly blew out my headphones (and my ears). The background noise isn’t a problem; it’s just the recording quality. Even something easy and cheap like the Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio would help.

  11. Tim

    Haha, yeah Cory, some of that good ol’ Sony soft is what you’re looking for…
    I love a sense of humor.

  12. Me

    Very good, the only thing I don’t like is the stream of names of technologies, acronyms and names of companies, gets tiring if you hear those same names at work and slashdot every day.

    But thankyouverymuch, good story. :)

  13. MsJaye

    Excellent work — nice to have some fiction that’s properly technically savvy as well as a good listen :). Waiting for more.

  14. Drew Thaler

    Agree about the quality. It was way too loud and seriously clipping. Could be your recording sw, but I think you just need to step back a couple of inches.

    Helpful hint: if you can actually _taste_ the microphone as you’re recording, you’re probably too close. ;-)

  15. jagripino


    Incredibly cool. You convinced me that I MUST listen to audiobooks, a format I dreaded until I downloaded your reading of this short story. You almost got me crying with the “2.0” part… Being a nitpicker, I have to complain about the audio quality, maybe a better microphone or some editing would help you clean the audio a bit.

    Now where’s part two?

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