75

This short story would obviously have been written no later than the 1980s, though in my recollection the style was more reminiscent of the 1950s or early 1960s. Darker than a typical Asimov, but fitting his style.

A Soviet researcher is working on a model of the food energy consumption (and hence efficiency) of the Soviet Union. I don't recall the details, but he has statistical data for how much food is produced, consumed, wasted, etc. (net inputs) and how many people are doing what activities and hence their energy expenditure (total outputs).

He finds there is a statistically significant discrepancy between the amount of available energy and the amount of energy usage that can be accounted for. He carefully and thoroughly examines the data and finally is forced to conclude an unknown factor is parasitically draining a percent or two of total human energy.

He writes up his findings and they rocket upward through the bureaucracy, leading in short order to his being asked to present his paper to the Party bosses or the Politburo or some such august assembly

all of whom are vampires.

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    A story that could only have been written before the fall of the USSR, since it later became clear that the Soviet bureaucracy would not have tolerated the maintenance of accurate statistics. Oct 28, 2019 at 15:21
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    @jeffronicus. Sort of. There were two types of statistics, just as most products had an export and internal variety. It's unlikely that a lowly math guy would have had access to the accurate variety. Oct 28, 2019 at 19:35
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    @jeffronicus A story that could only have been written before the fall of the USSR, by a foreign author, and for a completely different reason than you mention. In the late 80s USSR, criticism of the inefficiency of their agricultural practices was all over the Soviet press. A lost percent or two? Ha. Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha....
    – Headcrab
    Oct 29, 2019 at 5:54
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    Of course there are parasites feeding on the human race. They call themselves governments. Oct 30, 2019 at 6:02
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    @Headcrab 1 - 2% would be an acceptable tolerance/wastage in pretty much any production operation, in the USSR you'd be talking an order of magnitude more as being normal - not to mention that record-keeping in the USSR was, um, "creative" in the extreme. Hence this story is actually quite hilarious for me.
    – Ian Kemp
    Oct 30, 2019 at 13:32

1 Answer 1

89

This is The Report of the All-Union Committee on Recent Rumours Concerning the Moldavian SSR by D. C. Poyer. As far as I'm aware, it was only printed in the Mid-December '87 edition of Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact. (Link is to a PDF copy at the Luminist Archives.)


The story is basically as you've described. A Soviet-era agricultural statistician discovers an anomaly and (unwisely) takes it to his superiors who're already (unbeknownst to him) aware of the problem.

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    That's gotta be it, and I definitely read that Analog; I remember the serialization of Falling Free. Thank you!
    – DavidW
    Oct 28, 2019 at 15:10
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    Interesting. I read what sounds like a similar German short story by Dietmar Dath about a decade ago. I don't remember its title, but it was in his collection "Höhenrausch: Die Mathematik des XX. Jahrhunderts in zwanzig Gehirnen" (ISBN 978-3821845357). The statistician in his story was a fictionalised version of real-world probability theorist Andrey Kolmogorov. Oct 28, 2019 at 20:28
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    @virolino In case you're still here, and still interested, this issue is now available from the Luminist Archives.
    – DavidW
    Jan 21 at 20:58
  • @DavidW: thank you for the heads-up, I will have a look.
    – virolino
    Jan 22 at 6:04

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