5

The title contains most of the relevant information of this question, I think.

Some years ago, I read a short story, I think by the sf writer Greg Egan. It is set possibly in the far future, when an intelligent computer on the outskirts of the solar system senses an electronic wavefront travelling outward from Earth which identifies itself as Marco Polo, and has a conversation with it, as it/he leaves the solar system. The plot is sufficiently unlikely even for a sf story that perhaps it would be better described as science fantasy.

I wanted to read it again, but it is difficult to look for it without a title. To my surprise, Google seems unable to identify this story. Also I don't recognize the story from the titles at Greg Egan's own Bibliography, so maybe I am wrong about the author, though it does seem like the kind of story Egan would write.

I don't recall many other details. I think there is a sequence where Polo recalls his travels, possibly in China. It doesn't seem like the sort of plot that could easily be confused with another story, and I suspect if someone has read it they will remember it. Thanks in advance.

UPDATE: Thanks to beichst for this (difficult) identification. This story has not been much reprinted, but I see that I read this in The Arbor House Treasury of Science Fiction Masterpieces, which I think I borrowed from the Chapel Hill Public Library. I see they have it in their catalog. Isn't the internet handy?

  • Frankly, the story sounds too character-oriented to be Egan. If you could remember whatever the Big Scientific Idea was in the story, that might help us pin it down faster. – Kyle Jones Jun 29 '13 at 17:38
  • @KyleJones: I don't think there was a Big Scientific Idea as such. There is no explanation given how Marco Polo should be travelling through the solar system as a wavefront, nor is it suggested that an explanation is necessary. It is really more of a SF mood piece. – Faheem Mitha Jun 29 '13 at 17:42
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I believe you are seeking the collection The Amount to Carry by Carter Scholz. The short story is "Travels".

Amazon description of contents

In "Travels," we meet up with the spirit of Marco Polo, as the spirit's thoughts travel outward in the galaxy, carrying on a conversation with a sentient computer lodged on a small planet in orbit about a dead star. The computer's gain is Polo's loss all the while the colloquy carries on.

  • That's the one. So I did get the author wrong. Hmm, I've never heard of Carter Scholz before. Thanks very much. – Faheem Mitha Jul 2 '13 at 7:48
  • Glad I could help. – beichst Jul 2 '13 at 11:28

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