Can You Name This Story? (Part 17)

John Klima writes in with another story description looking for a title.

Do any of our readers out there know the title of this story?

I need help finding the title and author of a science fiction story. The basic plot goes like this: A guy finds a graffiti-covered box (looks like a telephone box or a power box) in the woods and realizes it is a puzzle. He opens layer after layer of the box to find harder puzzles that involve high math and even chemistry. He eventually is stymied and gives up. Turns out the box is an alien test to see if we are ready for first contact.


Can you name this story?

10 thoughts on “Can You Name This Story? (Part 17)”

  1. Sounds eerily similar to Alastair Reynold’s short piece “Diamond Dogs”.  But, in his, it’s not a box, its an artifact and its on a barren planet not in a forest.  No graffiti that I recall, either.   But the premise is practically spot on.

  2. I’ve read this story.  It’s in an old Writers of the Future anthology, mid to late 1990s.  I’m at work now, but will check the library tonight and find it.

  3. Sounds eerily similar to Alastair Reynold’s short piece “Diamond Dogs”.  But, in his, it’s not a box, its an artifact and its on a barren planet not in a forest.  No graffiti that I recall, either.   But the premise is practically spot on.

     

    It’s a fairly common theme, and one which I think Carl Sagan used in Contact and Lem brought up in His Master’s Voice. Here’s another challenge: Can anyone come up with the written example of aliens testing humanity to see if it’s ready for first contact? I’m sure it must’ve popped in Asimov’s books at some time. 

  4. Of course, in Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Sentinel” from the early 1950s, the test was getting to the moon to find the artifact, and using an A-bomb to force it open.

     

  5. Isn’t the full title “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future volume IX”?  You wouldn’t want to leave off the critical marketing tie-in!

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