James Alan Gardner (Jim) earned a couple of math degrees from the University of Waterloo, after which he immediately started writing fiction instead. His most recent novels are ALL THOSE EXPLOSIONS WERE SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT and THEY PROMISED ME THE GUN WASN'T LOADED. He has published numerous novels and shorter works, including pieces that made the finalist lists for the Hugo and Nebula awards. He has won the Aurora award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Isaac Asimov's Magazine Readers Choice Award. In his spare time, he teaches kung fu to six-year-olds and indulges the vices of his pet rabbit.

Organisms - Selected Stories by James Alan Gardner

A selection of Gardner's short fiction, Organisms is a Story Bundle exclusive. These eight short stories and novellas, including one previously unpublished work, have never been gathered together in one place. Selected from stories published in anthologies and magazines, it is a great introduction to the clever, moving sense-of-wonder fiction for which he is known.


Jim and I first got together through our mutual friend, Rob Sawyer, over fifteen years ago. Since then we've attended a number of writing retreats together where I was not only impressed by his writing diligence but also by his eclectic and often humorous observations on a multitude of subjects. When I asked him for a book to include in this bundle, he proposed gathering some of his stories into a new collection. It was a real treat to put Organisms together and offer it for the first time to Story Bundle. – Hayden Trenholm




The Young Person's Guide To The Organism

(Variations and Fugue on a Classical Theme)

Theme: Organism

(Allegro maestoso e largamente)

(With good speed, majestic and sweeping)

A treat. Come to the window. An Organism is passing the Outpost.

There, where my claw points. It is very faint. It is nearly invisible because its skin absorbs almost all the electromagnetic radiation it receives. Do you know what I mean by electromagnetic radiation? And what else besides light? And what else? And what else? Gamma rays, child. Gamma rays.

When you sleep tonight, I will see that you dream of physics.

You cannot tell from this view, but the Organism is very large. Twelve kilometers long, ten kilometers in diameter at its midsection. That is comparable to the Outpost itself. It is larger than any ship or orbital yet constructed by your race.

If you look closely, you will see that from time to time its skin glistens slightly with thin ghosts of color. It is beautiful, is it not? A thing of splendor, though it is nearly invisible. It is black, but comely.

Can you identify my allusion? The Song of Solo-mon. From a human celebration text. I have made a study of such texts, child; they hearten me. Whenever I despair that your race is entirely consumed by petti-ness, the celebration texts remind me that humans also recognize greatness.

Recognize the greatness of this Organism, child. It is magnificent: huge, ancient, serene. When such an Organism passes by, ephemeral species like yours will dream dreams and see visions. Its presence stirs a resonance within you; some races claim these creatures are the shadows of gods, slowly gliding through our universe.

We do not know where this Organism comes from. It has been in deep space for centuries. If it does not choose to settle down in Sol's system, it will travel many more centuries before it reaches another star. It has been alone a long time.

No...why should we stop it? We have no right to interfere. Once it is past the Outpost, it is within human jurisdiction.

I don't understand your question. Why should it matter whether the humans can "handle" the Organ-ism? This is their system——they are its children and its masters. We will not tamper with human affairs, not even "for their own good." We have neither the right nor the wisdom to meddle. You know that.

Yes, you are human yourself, child, but only in the coils of your DNA. In your brain and heart and soul, you are the chosen envoy of the League of Peoples. By the time humans step beyond the edge of their system, you will be ready to serve as intermediary between our two races. But before you can act, you must learn; and in order to learn, you must observe.

Observe the Organism as it passes, child. We do not know where it came from, nor can we predict where it goes. We cannot tell how much it is moved by instinct, how much by intellect...yet I say unto you, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.

Yes, another allusion. And unfair to Solomon. I expect he was a marvel himself.