London, 1992: the accountants of a major publishing company decide it would be more profitable to stop publishing all their midlist titles and focus everything on a few blockbuster authors. One of midlist authors, in an attempt to save his career, suggests to the company that the midlist titles would be a lot more successful if there were fewer things distraction people from reading, like TV and computers. Consider the increase in sales of books if an EMP was set off over London… to which the accountants agree and cheerfully start trying to procure some plutonium.

The story takes this ridiculous idea fairly straight, like going to the Imperial War Museum and buying one of their spare V-2 rockets, and a team of hard SF authors calculating the necessary trajectory. Though it does feature the company accountants as single-minded, to the point that one of them even whispers, “Money,” in her sleep. And I can’t help but laugh at the last line.

The Midlist Bombers by Charles Stross

Availability: free online

Word count: 6,000

First published: Far Point #3, March/April 1992, Victoria Publications

Where to find it: on Stross’ website here

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