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Sci-fi story from late 90's or early 2000's collection book that was about a starship survivor who is ejected in a lifepod only big enough for himself that has an AI that keeps him in a matrix-like reality as it drifts eons through space.

The story ends with the machine AI landing on a planet with the bio-remains of the survivor, long dead, which the machine has altered through accelerated evolution to create beings that somewhat resemble the long gone spaceship survivor.

This was part of a collection of stories.

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2 Answers 2

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It's likely Coffins by Robert Reed (1992). Anthologized in The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction A 45th Anniversary Anthology (1994, Ferman & Rusch, eds.), pp.153-164. It begins and ends:

He sits before a projected clerk, confessing his fears.

“You can’t assure my safety. I know this. You can’t tell me that my ship won’t strike a comet or explode on its own. There’s an attrition rate with star travel, isn’t there? It’s got its inherent dangers, and no technology can absolutely guarantee my survival. Am I right?”

The clerk, sculpted from light and designed to nourish confidence, offers an easy smile while nodding. “Your heart,” it offers, “is a chaotic organ, sir. There’s a measurable statistical chance of complete failure sometime during an average thousand-year life span. A tiny chance, but quite real.”

A factory rises on the barren ground. Humming machinery and molds work night and day, producing new citizens by the thousands.

Launchpads shake, mighty rockets driving skyward.

Most are bound for nearby suns, but a few have a more distant and personal goal — capsules bursting open in deep space, shiny figures like dust en route to the ancestor’s homeland.

Multitude and the computer are eventually destroyed in an industrial accident, an experimental plasma drill all but evaporating both of them. And the others, following strict instructions, take what remains to the sea and let the tides take them away. Human faces weep. Human voices sing a light, almost happy song from some vanished world called lo. Then it’s back to work, to life, much to be done and the possibilities without number.

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  • answer via Ask MetaFilter, where this question has been bugging people for years.
    – scruss
    May 18, 2022 at 14:44
  • Excellent! This does indeed fit the question very well.
    – DavidW
    May 18, 2022 at 14:59
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    And welcome back!
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 18, 2022 at 14:59
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    thanks, @DavidW - I knew about the IA link, but didn't know what the protocol was here about linking. There's a cleaner copy in IA's scan of The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction A 45th Anniversary Anthology (1994) , which is why I mentioned it over the 1992 original publication in my answer
    – scruss
    May 18, 2022 at 15:20
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    @DavidW - noted. The text I pasted did come from the book: most IA books (and I've contributed a lot) end up with decent OCR
    – scruss
    May 18, 2022 at 20:08
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Somewhat similar to the episode Rimmerworld from the TV series Red Dwarf.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rimmerworld

While the ship is in danger, coward Rimmer takes the only escape pod and ejects. He lands on a barren planet and Teraforms it, creating a population cloned from his own DNA.

The two creators of the show fell out, and dissolved their partnership. Both of them wrote novels based on the show, but in separate continuities. I don't know if either of them included this episode in their novels.

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    Rimmerworld doesn't appear in any of the authorised script books
    – Valorum
    May 16, 2022 at 22:59

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