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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?

About John DeNardo (12056 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

10 Comments on Can You Name This Story? (Part 17)

  1. This was also on Metafilter, just trying to spread the word. Thanks in advance for any help!

  2. satoribomb // June 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm //

    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.

  3. I have no idea, but whatever it is it should be a short film.  That’s a genius idea!

  4. My thought was that it sounded eerily familiar to “Mimsy Were The Borogroves” by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, which appeared in theaters a few years ago as The Last Mimzy.  But there, the object was a child’s toy.

  5. 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.

  6. The Monitor, by John Richard DeRose.  Writers of the Future volume IX.

  7. Justin O. // June 10, 2010 at 11:21 pm //

    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. 

  8. Bob Hawkins // June 11, 2010 at 12:59 pm //

    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.

     

  9. 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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