The Trouble With Bubbles

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First published in If Sep 1953

A global ennui gradually took over the Earth as humans failed to find life on other planets in the solar system. To cope with this everyone retreated into Worldcraft where they could play god and evolve entire civilizations contained in small globes. This culminates in contest parties to judge the most successful world, and at least in the contest party that opens the story, everyone then smashes their worlds in a melee of destruction. 

The Directorate member and intellectual Nathan Hull is appalled by this behavior. He recognizes these Worldcraft bubbles as a substitute for man’s desire to discover new things and be in control, but Worldcraft doesn’t truly satisfy this urge and that energy turns destructive. 

Hull introduces a bill to outlaw Worldcraft on the humanitarian grounds that these are real lives being destroyed, but it is overwhelmingly defeated. Just then Terran Spaceways announces the discovery of a civilization in the Proxima system. This means Worldcraft will now be abandoned as humans can direct their energies outward toward new worlds.

As Hull and his girlfriend leave the Directorate Hall they hear about an enormous earthquake that demolished the newly constructed transportation tube across the Pacific. Only Hull seems to understand the horrible implication that they might be in an artificial bubble world themselves. 

Cast of characters

  • Nathan Hull – member of the Directorate and the Intellectual class
  • Julia Marlow – Hull’s girlfriend
  • Bart Longstreet – works for Terran Spaceways. Member of the Industrial class
  • Lora Becker – wins the Worldcraft contest party
  • Eldon von Stern – Directorate Floor Leader
  • Forrest Packman – inventor of the Worldcraft bubbles