Old Grump

All the views unfit to print

Short Story of the Week: The Last Question

Posted by Eric M. Klein on July 27, 2008

Every Sunday I will be posting an entry to a short story viewable for free on the web. These will be stories that have inspired me, made me laugh, made me think, scared me, thrilled me, or otherwise tickled my fancy.

This week’s story is The Last Question,” by Isaac Asimov, published in 1956. It is possibly the only story about a supercomputer that takes over the universe…benevolently. Here’s a little more info, and some caveats courtesy of BestScienceFictionStories.com:

Story Length

  • Page count: 12
  • Word count: 4,434

“The Last Question” garnered the following awards:

  • It was ranked 15th on the 1971 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll for short fiction
  • It was also ranked 15th on the 1999 Locus All-Time Poll for short story

A few caveats for those who don’t read a lot of older science fiction:

  • This is a thinking story – there is not much (if any) action in it.
  • It consists almost entirely of dialog – just lots of people speculating about the end of the universe.
  • It was written in 1956 so there are some quaint notions of computing – like the “future” computer that still prints out answers on a teletype.

Story is available here. Forget about Skynet. All hail MultiVac!

Please feel free to post your thoughts about the story in the comments.

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