[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] [Referral] A Common Sense Guide to Doing the Most Good, by Alexander Wales

Link post

This is one of Alexander Wales’ less-known stories, what with appearing under a pseudonym and not on his personal site. (However, the pseudonym is publicly connected to his name and main works under explicit public rules of AO3, so I am not exposing any private information by making the attribution here.)

The story follows a young Superman deciding to use his powers to make money and donate the money to charity instead of the usual “caped superhero” deal, complete with discussion of the powers as relevant, so while it is Superman fanfiction it requires little—if any—setting knowledge to be comprehensible. (It’s hard to tell for me, as even knowing the basic premise of the Superman franchise is enough to produce illusion of transparency.) Despite being under 8000 words, the story introduces a variety of EA concepts ranging from the time-value of money to cause saturation and ethical risks, so I think it would be a good fit for the contest’s aim of finding short stories that spark interest in EA.

An excerpt, as with fanfiction there may be copyright difficulties with a full crosspost:

There were two words that Superman lived by, and they were “pay me”.

His time was auctioned off in blocks of five minutes. He didn’t need to sleep, so he stopped sleeping, which meant that there were 288 blocks of his time available per day, with ten blocks set aside for administration. It was rare that any of these blocks went for less than a million dollars, which meant that after his first full year in operation as Superman, he made over a hundred billion dollars. If he were a nation, he would have been ranked 63rd, just below Morocco.

Some of that money went towards administrative expenses. Man of Steel, Incorporated had a staff of two hundred, including accountants, attorneys, PR people, and over a dozen managers to make sure that everything was orchestrated down to the second. There were ethicists, engineers, and scientists on staff too, people to support Superman in less direct ways, whether that meant analyzing ethical risk for any contracts taken, pricing in the loss of utility inherent in taking certain contracts, building special equipment for Superman, or doing an analysis of Superman’s effects on the environments he traveled through. There were a handful of computer scientists as well, mostly there to make sure that the company could stay in contact with its primary asset, though some were used for data collection, visualization, and analysis.

Clark didn’t talk to people anymore. There were meetings, endless meetings, and he’d tried to attend them early on, but it was an enormous waste of time. He sent representatives where possible, and when it wasn’t possible, he did his own brand of teleconferencing through miniaturized equipment hidden away in his ear canal and stuck to his throat. The equipment was a unique engineering challenge, since it had to survive rapid, repeated acceleration and deceleration, as well as compensate for the extreme Doppler shifts the receivers and transmitters were subject to. MoSI had a standing contract with Iridium, one of the major satphone companies: MoSI got unlimited priority sat time, and in exchange, Superman gave them satellite inspections every six months, with close-up video of every part of the satellite. Repairs, deorbits, and launches were all charged for, of course, because he was running a charity.