I am looking for a rather humorous short story that I believe I read in an anthology within the last 10-15 years (possibly originally published in an SF magazine in that same timeframe).

It was about an alien manufacturing ship that was trying to dump different alien manufactured products that were defective by teleporting them into the sun. Their calculations were a little off so the defective products began appearing on earth. People found them and thought they were superweapons or gifts from the gods, because, even with their defects, they did miraculous things.

1 Answer 1


This is Cleaning Up by Iain M. Banks, anthologised in The State of the Art.

An alien factory ship's disposal unit is buggy and ends up depositing items randomly on Earth instead of the intended location on the surface of the sun. They eventually reach the attention of Cesare Borges, head of the Industrial Military Combines Corporation (name doubtless no coincidence), who is an over-the-top caricature of a Cold-War-obsessed US politician. What makes the story is the interplay between Earth's befuddled fiddling with the objects and the bureaucratic shitstorm among the aliens once they discover what's happening. There's a nastily funny ending that plays well into Banks's frequent theme of the difficulties of interaction between radically different levels of technology and humanity's hair-trigger instincts. A bit dated due to the strong Cold War sensibility, but lots of fun.


  • First thing I thought of too. Certainly fits the humourous criteria too. Jan 2, 2018 at 12:12
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    YES!! Thank you! Being the biggest Iain Banks fan, it had to be in one of his short story collections, since I have read all of his novels several times. Jan 12, 2018 at 1:21
  • @OldManSciffy - You're welcome
    – Valorum
    Jan 12, 2018 at 1:23

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