“Dead Space for the Unexpected” — Geoff Ryman

Geoff Ryman is the author of the novels The Warrior Who Carried Life, The Unconquered Country, The Child Garden, Was, 253, Lust, Air, and The King’s Last Song. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, Tor.com, New Worlds, and has frequently been reprinted in Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction series. Most of his short work can be found in the collections Unconquered Countries and the recent Paradise Tales and Other Stories. He is a winner of the World Fantasy Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, the Tiptree Award, and the British Science Fiction Award. He is also the editor of the recent anthology When It Changed. Another story of his appears elsewhere in this volume.

The 1990s gave birth to books like Microserfs and movies like Office Space—creations that sank their teeth into American corporate culture to reveal the hollow interior of a life spent in a cubicle.  There may have been stock options up for grabs and IRAs growing in the bank, but nothing could make up for soulless grind of bad bosses and constant scrutiny.

Our next story could have been written for Dom Portwood, Office Space’s detestably droning middle management icon.  If Dom had access to the kind of technology our next protagonist uses to dig into his underlings, the film would have gone from darkly funny to deeply depressing. 

This is a working world not much different from our own, a dystopian society just a few notches up the corporate ladder.