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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Critical Email

Hanna was saddened to discover her coffee mug broken on the draining board of the sink in the staffroom.

Returning to her computer, she expressed her displeasure in an email, outpouring her feelings about the event and its unknown perpetrator.

The note was sent using the Whole Office Distribution List. It was never clear who then forwarded the message using the Whole Company Distribution List.

The multi-national for which Hanna worked had recently acquired several subsidiary companies. The linking of their IT systems made Hanna’s email the first in history to achieve Criticality.

It was known from nuclear physics that once a quantity of fissile material had reached a critical mass then an unstoppable nuclear chain reaction would result. It had not been understood that once an email had been forwarded to a sufficiently large number of recipients then a combination of chance, maliciousness and well meaning stupidity would result in subsequent forwarding to all inboxes on earth.

Tragically, the efficiency of junk email filters robbed Hanna of historical recognition as her email was automatically deleted before much of the global population realised they had received it.


For Zogganda from the planet Koldo it was just another day of monitoring communications from galaxies of the Epsilon Quadrant. Then Hanna’s email was detected from earth.

There were no coffee mugs on Koldo. Indeed, there was no coffee. Koldons gained their sustenance from photosynthesis, utilising the planet’s three suns. Nevertheless, Zogganda empathised with the sense of loss, anger and injustice in Hanna’s words. The Koldon also assumed that any message which had achieved planet-wide interest must have special significance.

Zogganda forwarded the note using the Whole Koldo Distribution List. It was never clear who then forwarded the message using the Whole Epsilon Quadrant Distribution List.

Expansion of the Universe since the Whole Epsilon Quadrant Distribution List had last been used instantly resulted in Universal Criticality: Hanna’s message was relayed to all life forms that had evolved intelligence but had subsequently been stupid enough to develop electronic communication. The effect was particularly marked among civilisations such as the Duraden of Beta Collaris who had given insufficient attention to the development of junk email filters.

Unknown to all, the immeasurable number of simultaneous intergalactic transmissions of Hanna’s email produced a resonance which caused the content to traverse the higher dimensions connecting branes of the multiverse.


Back on earth, Sally had apologised to Hanna for dropping her mug, bought her a new one, and all was once again cordial in the company staffroom.

Hanna gave no further thought to her former coffee mug, nor to her feelings at its loss. Nevertheless, this information would now, for eternity, be integrated with the fabric of all space-time continuums.

It was simply a matter of time before emerging technological civilisations would begin to study the residual background radiation from the Big Bangs of their own universes.

It was inevitable that they would detect patterns and analyse these with supercomputers.

The emergence of Hanna’s email would then cause something of a rethink of their cosmologies.