I remember the plot quite clearly but can't really find the title of this short story that I think I read in the online version of an American science fiction magazine on archive.org. It was originally published somewhere in 1960s to 1980s and had a presumably American author.

It's about a world where the main entertainment is "world-building", but more like "world-growing" really, since one does actually create the physical world - with people almost like real ones in it, no less - in a glass tube, like a vivarium.

In the short story universe, there are even contests between "world creators". But then the newly created worlds always end up being viciously destroyed - as in, the tubes are physically smashed - by the creators themselves in the end, which is a cause of no small controversy and even an attempt to legally ban the practice altogether.

The twist ending is that

there's a massive earthquake in the very end of the story, with a heavy implication that the entire story universe is someone else's "glass tube" as well

  • Welcome to the site. When did you read this, and when do you think it might've been published? Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 18:45
  • Thank you! I read it a few years ago in one of the online editions of some SF magazine (the title of which has, again, completely, eluded me). It was published somewhere in 1960s to 1980s, I believe Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 18:47
  • American magazine and American author, if I remember correctly Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 18:49
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    You could improve this question by going through the checklists here and editing in any relevant info you can think to add.
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    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 19:40
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    Thanks! And thanks for taking the time and trouble to improve it yourself as well :) Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


This is "The trouble with bubbles" by P.K. Dick. According to Wikipedia :

In the story we see Nathan Hull, the protagonist, attending a contest to judge who has created the best Worldcraft universe. A contestant subsequently smashes and destroys her bubble after being announced the winner. Hull, feeling the immorality of the control owners have over the lives within the bubbles, works to have laws passed against creating any more Worldcrafts.

And your spoiler ending:

At the end of the story, Hull is about to drive through a newly built tunnel to Asia when an unexpected earthquake breaks it up, implying his world is a Worldcraft as well.


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