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July 14, 2008 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Name that science-fiction story (yes, another one): I recall reading an SF short story in which everyone carries around a little gadget that always tells them what to do, which everyone willingly obeys, and without which everyone is helpless. I think the gadgets were called "little brother." The story probably dates back to the 50s or 60s (I read it in the 80s—this has nothing to do with Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother," which I have not read).
posted by adamrice to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There's Paul di Fillipo's "Personal Jesus", involving the "godPod", but that wouldn't fit your date I guess?
posted by edd at 9:52 AM on July 14, 2008

...and one random guy's Little Brother gets damaged and tells him to do minorly anti-authoritarian stuff like play in the streets and make out with a pretty girl, whose Little Sister reports him. I know the one you're talking about - it's in one of the big anthologies. Will keep checking.
posted by ormondsacker at 10:10 AM on July 14, 2008

There's also something currently on the Web with the same plot. Can't quite put my finger on it. But it's the same concept.
posted by WCityMike at 10:24 AM on July 14, 2008

>There's also something currently on the Web with the same plot. Can't quite put my finger on it. But it's the same concept.

Are you thinking of Manna, maybe?
posted by xbonesgt at 10:54 AM on July 14, 2008

Try looking at Philip K. Dick, whose stories tend to revolve around the social aspects of SF. Sounds like him.
posted by BorgLove at 11:01 AM on July 14, 2008

The short story that you are thinking of was printed in an international anthology of science fiction (one available via the Quality Paperback Book Club) and may have been written by a Scandanavian author. The gadgets were indeed "little brothers". I haven't been able to find the title or anthology but will keep looking.
posted by yz at 11:03 AM on July 14, 2008

Finally. (By the way: "Scandinavian". Damn.) The story is "Codemus" by Tor Åge Bringsvaerd (1967). The anthology mentioned is The World Treasury of Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell (Amazon link; entry (with contents) in the Locus Index to Science Fiction).
posted by yz at 12:29 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually, some additional notes concerning the date (1968?) and proper title: the Locus entry for Bringsværd contains:
Codemus, (ss) The Best from the Rest of the World, ed. Donald A. Wollheim, DAW 1976; “Kodémus, eller Datamaskinen some tenkte at hva faen”, from Probok 1968.

* The World Treasury of Science Fiction, ed. David G. Hartwell, Little Brown 1989; tr. by Steven T. Murray
The author's name is also "Bringsværd", with the æ ligature.
posted by yz at 12:40 PM on July 14, 2008

There was also an episode of Outer Limits (I am reasonably sure, though it may have been the new Twilight Zone series) that followed the same story.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:43 PM on July 14, 2008

Awesome! That was going to drive me crazy for the rest of the day. I really enjoyed that story, I'll have to look it up again.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:01 PM on July 14, 2008

Thanks, yz. That helped me find this essay [pdf], which mentions it and makes clear that it's what I had in mind.
posted by adamrice at 1:10 PM on July 14, 2008

Nice get, yz. Can I note that this guy sucks at plot summary?
posted by ormondsacker at 2:00 PM on July 14, 2008

That reminded me of the Ian MacDonald book, `Out on Blue Six', where everyone has a `famulus', a bio engineered companion which acts as their guide.
posted by tomble at 5:34 PM on July 14, 2008

I know you've already picked a favorite answer, but a great little story on this exact topic is Bruce Stirling's "Maneki Neko".
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:23 PM on July 14, 2008

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