Featured Story
Recent Stories
Stories by Topic
News
Make the universe a better place! Support DSF with a donation:
small-go-arrowdonate
Take me to a...
Random story
top-rated stories only
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
small-go-arrowsearch
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private

Breaking News
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Kindle Edition
Kindle Edition
DSF stories are available in monthly digests for Kindle!
DSF for Kindle
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
Submit your story
Check story status
Not just rockets & robots...
What is Science Fiction?
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.
close






art by Jeffrey Redmond

Contagion

Regardless of the literary category, Bruce Holland Rogers has won numerous awards for his stories. Some of his honors include the 2006 World Fantasy Award for best collection published in 2005 ("The Keyhole Opera"), 2004 World Fantasy Award for best short fiction published in 2003 (“Don Ysidro”), the Pushcart Prize in 1999 (“The Dead Boy at your Window”), the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction in 1998 (“The Dead Boy at your Window”), the Nebula Award for Best Short Story of 1998 (“Thirteen Ways to Water”), and the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy novelette of 1996 (Lifeboat on a Burning Sea). He has also won the Micro Award for best flash fiction multiple times. [This is what I found online. Doubtless there are more recent honors that have been overlooked. -Editor]
Public service ads produced by the Big Three had been running in all the major media: television, radio, magazines, and web sites. Each of the Big Three took a slightly different approach, targeting different consumers, but the basic message was the same. The Brent virus was dangerous. It didn't kill, but it caused permanent changes to brain chemistry. Initial symptoms resembled the onset of the common cold. There was no vaccine. No cure. The best defense was prevention. The ads emphasized frequent hand washing and basic hygiene. Anyone feeling the first signs of a head cold should stay home and submit to a quarantine order.
But the ads were not why representatives of the Big Three were meeting in Washington with the directors of the National Security Agency and military intelligence. The ads were the public face. This meeting was to discuss the campaign's other face.
"We have a brand affiliate program," said the CEO of the first company. "People get free product samples in exchange for trying the product and telling other consumers about it. Word of mouth is great for shaping opinion. Our brand affiliates have lots of social contacts. They like to talk. They would be perfect for spreading rumors."
"They must not know that these are manufactured facts," said the NSA man.
"Of course not. We wouldn't contact them. You would. We would give you the list of brand affiliates. You would plant the rumors. An agent posing as a UPS driver could deliver a package and say he'd heard the virus had been engineered by North Korean doctors."
"Iran," said the NSA man. "We decided on Iran."
"Nice symmetry," added the general. "The mullahs are saying that the virus was engineered in America."
A CEO said, "I imagine that their way of life is every bit as threatened as ours."
"For our part," said the second CEO, "we have a division for feeding tips and comments to bloggers. We can seed rumors, provide links to conspiracy sites...."
The NSA man frowned. "Too transparent. If one of your operatives leaked, we'd have problems."
"Not really. Everyone we employ for this work has a history of serious mental illness. We specifically filled our payroll with people we can easily discredit."
Everyone at the table laughed.
The third CEO had a plan to pay television scriptwriters to refer to the supposed secondary effects of the Brent virus: impotence, birth defects, memory loss, and cancer. "Since we're not placing a product," he said, "we don't think we'll have any trouble adding a joke here, a story line there, and getting it through to production. We can add jokes to the late night shows immediately. Prime time will take longer. However, I'm confident that we can establish things about the Brent virus that---" He made quote signs in the air with his fingers. "---everybody knows."
"This is a start," said the NSA man. "But I want you to put your heads together. Don't think of one another as rivals. If we don't stop this virus, we're all sunk."
"Are we?" said the general.
The other men looked at him.
"If every person in the country, in the world, caught this virus, yes, things would change. But if I'm reading the reports correctly, the only long-term effect is that the virus makes people happy. Persistently and unassailably happy. Some people are actively trying to catch the disease."
"Were," said the NSA man. "Were trying." The advertisers hadn't heard of this, but no one asked any questions.
"Strategy means thinking through all the possible outcomes," the general went on. "Have you considered what the world would be like if we and our enemies were happy?"
"You're saying we don't have a problem? Surely you appreciate the role of emotions in security!"
"And in advertising," said a CEO.
"Well, what do we want security for?" said the general. "Why do we buy beyond what we need? Isn't the ultimate objective of secure borders, leather seats or a second home... happiness?"
The NSA man fixed a smile in place and said through his teeth, "Tell me, General. Do you consider yourself a happy man?"
Blood drained from the faces of the CEOs as they considered the implication. Each of them had shaken the general's hand. Each of them now looked at the door leading to the lavatory where they could find plenty of soap and hot water.
"Gentlemen," said the general, "I'm playing the devil's advocate, that's all. If I were happy, would I care whether we won or lost?" He smiled a grim smile. "And I do care."
The tension around the table dissipated, but not by much. No one was entirely happy with the general's line of thinking, and at the next meeting, someone else represented military intelligence, a senior officer with a real grasp of the danger, a man who looked appropriately and reassuringly unhappy.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 13th, 2012

RATE THIS STORY
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.1 Rocket Dragons Average

SHARE THIS STORY

JOIN MAILING LIST
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):
 
Copyright Info
Tell a Friend
Send Feedback
About Us