I'm looking for a short story that I'm positive I've read online a few years ago (possibly unpublished) about a guy who discovers that we live in a simulation and accidentally gets admin access.

He starts copying things around, IIRC because that's about the only thing that can be done safely and does not require special knowledge (This points towards the story being hard-ish SF, of the “one big lie” variety.)

He copies a cup on his table, and then erases the copy by copying air over it and leaves a dent in the table because he missed it by a few millimeters. He then copies a bird outside the window.

I do not remember more about the story other than it reading like early Sam Hughes such as the Ed stories.

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    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 12:33
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    Gains admin access and then by accident he types rm *. *
    – Hans Olo
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 12:42
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    Sounds like something Tom Holt would write.... tried to find something by him that sounded like it could be.... "Falling Sideways" was close, so was "Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Sausages" and so did "Snow White & the Seven Samurai"... generally don't know what his books are about until I've just about finished them anyway. Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 13:45
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    @Muzer Do you remember any other details that might help me tell if this is the same story?
    – bob256
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 14:14
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    Potential spoilers Did this end with the humans in the simulation hacking into 3D printers in the real world, printing bodies for themselves, downloading their consciousnesses into them, and invading the real world? Also the simulation was made by sentient beings in a reality where sentient life naturally evolves a get-along, peaceful sort of trait, and they simulated us to see what would happen if sentient life could evolve without that, and were prone to fighting/war.
    – BlackThorn
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 15:56

2 Answers 2


The story I was looking for is Quantum Holography by Marcus Holm (June 2016) (also published under the title Quantum Coursework).

It is the fifth result for the following google query: "the duplicate glass" bird

The protagonist starts a simulation on his computer and starts copying things because he does not know how to do better:

Since he still didn’t really understand the format of the data in the hologram, Anton didn’t really know how to manipulate it. He didn’t know how to add energy into the system and heat things up, how to push solid objects, or anything like that. But because he could draw stuff in correct 3d positions, he knew how to associate spatial coordinates with locations in process memory. It was enough.

He copies a glass in the simulation:

For the first time, his program produced a sound. Anton heard a distinct tap when he saw the copy of the glass appear on screen. He zoomed in to it and observed it closely — it looked just like his used drinking glass, crusty smear of pancake-greased lips on the rim and everything. He zoomed out to see how Anton-in-the-screen was taking it.

He erases the copy to cover tracks because the simulation is identical to his reality:

Anton selected a box of air and pasted it over the duplicate glass. It vanished. He ran his fingers over the spot where the glass stood and felt a shallow depression where he accidentally cut into the desk. His hands moved to the Ctrl and Z buttons on the keyboard, but he stopped himself. He hadn’t implemented an undo function. In fact, he couldn’t implement an undo function because the old data was gone.

He later copies a bird outside the window:

A bird popped into existence in mid-air, grasping a short twig in its little feet. It squawked sharply, dropped the twig, and flapped to catch itself before flying off out of sight.

The story was first posted by author on Reddit in February 2016 and sure enough has received immediate comparison to Off To Be The Wizard. Back then he has stated to be working on expanding the concept to a full novel, but i have no idea whether he went through with it.


It sounds somewhat like Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer.

Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.

What could possibly go wrong?

An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin… and not, y’know, die or anything.

Off to Be the Wizard front cover

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    Can you provide anymore details that suggest similarity? Especially given you're suggesting a 370 page book for something that was identified as being a short story.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 14:03
  • Hi, welcome to science fiction and fantasy. Please take a look at the tour and check out what we look for in answers on the help center page. Thanks! Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 14:40
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    The premise is clearly very similar, but the events the OP describes didn't happen in *Off to Be the Wizard" so I don't think this is it. Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 1:52
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    None of the examples given seem to fit OtBtW even closely, from my recollection. The general idea is identical, but that is all.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 3:50
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    This is still a good answer, even if not the right one, because it may help others looking for similar books.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 14:02

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