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This was a story read on freesfonline at some point... A group of beings exists in the hollowed center of a planet, the space being their known Universe.

Generations go on, with technological developments always negotiating the truism that, for this society, to dig is to create a pile. That's not the exact phrase, but the author really thoughtfully explores this concept: the universe is what's inside the unknown, 'making' space necessitates taking it up. So explorers are generally discouraged, as they create annoying rubble for the society.

But the story charts efforts to discover what lies beyond the known Universe, in the dense, rock layers surrounding their world. I think they make it to the surface, after generations of cautious attempts.

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    I believe I read this story after it turned out to be the answer to another story-id question on here, but I'm having trouble locating that question. Was the frame narrative about a man in the ocean who sees a giant sphere coming towards Earth that distorts the water into a mountain taller than Everest, and he swims to the top in order to communicate with the sphere? – jwodder Sep 22 at 22:35
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    @jwodder the policy on storyèID dupe-closing is we don't close until both are accepted, so this should be left open for now. If you're reasonably sure this is the same story, please write it as an answer; don't vote to close yet. – Jenayah Sep 22 at 22:56
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    I think I've read this. IIRC there is a scientist type who develops a boring machine that packs rubble tightly behind it, thus creating minimal piles of debris. He travels until he finds another empty massive cavern like the one he came from, a solid universe equivalent of finding a new planet – DannyMcG Sep 23 at 1:49
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As per jwodder's close comment, this does match with an answered question on the site, Story about an alien civilization that lives under the hollow core of their planet where they are trying to reach the surface. That question has an accepted answer of "Mountain" by Liu Cixin. Here's a quote mentioning the problem of piles:

“There could have been a solution to the problem; just move the newly mined rubble into the already excavated space behind the diggers,” Fan suggested. “Then you would have only lost the space needed by the explorers to sustain themselves and dig.”

>> Indeed, later explorers used the very method you just described. In fact, the explorers would only use a small bubble with just enough space for them and their mission. We came to call these missions ‘bubble ships’. But even so, every mission meant a bubble ship-sized pile of debris in our core space and we would have to wait for the ship to return before we could return those rocks into the wall. If the bubble ship failed to return, this small pile would mean another small piece of space lost to us forever. Back then we felt as if the bubble ship had stolen that piece of space. We therefore came to call our explorers by another name—Space Thieves.

And indeed, there is an entry for that author on Free Speculative Fiction Online that lists "Mountain" and links to it.

  • :) Despite this being a duplicate, you can still accept the answer by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons. It will let us officially close this as a Duplicate, and you'll get two reputation for accepting. – FuzzyBoots Sep 23 at 12:34

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