The story is in the form of a one-way chat communication addressed to the reader, with implied responses from the reader. The reader is an uploaded mind and the communication is from the company that owns and maintains the computer equipment that "hosts" his mind, as well as the minds of other uploaded people.

The gist of the conversation is that the person's stock options / mutual funds / trust fund / etc. are not performing well enough to pay for his hosting costs anymore. As per his contract with the hosting company, they are permitted a few options:

  • slow him down so his hosting costs are cheaper -- this means he'd lose pace with all of his friends

  • put him into a suspended state -- same problem as above, with the added concern of not knowing when you'd be "resumed"

The last option, which the person chooses (based on the response of the company in the communication) involves a form of working to pay off his hosting costs, which is best described as karma or payback due to the nature of the person's line of work before they were uploaded.

Prior to being uploaded, the person was a spammer; the option he reluctantly chooses to be able to continue affording his mind hosting is to manually filter through millions of emails for spam, since apparently uploaded minds are better at that than spam filters.

I thought this was originally published as a "Futures" short-short story for the journal Nature but I cannot find it. It's possible it was a science fiction piece on Slate; it was very likely published online.

  • 1
    I'm pretty sure I read this in one of David Hartwell's Year's Best SF anthologies, but I'm drawing a blank on the name. The Wikipedia page I linked lists most of the books with the titles and authors though. HTH!
    – Niall C.
    Jul 31, 2014 at 17:29
  • I remember a vaguely similar premise, but different, premise where a person uploaded into a Dyson sphere found they could run a zillion copies of themselves, then they received the bill.
    – user253751
    Feb 26, 2020 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


This was indeed in Nature's Futures; it's "New Hope for the Dead" by David Langford, which was anthologized in Year's Best SF 11.

Hello, Mr Hormel, this is your hosting system at Nirvana Infomatics. We apologize for interrupting your regular afterlife, but unfortunately the message is urgent. Otherwise we would not have intruded on your VR sex athletics competition.

We are sorry to hear that you were going for a new high score. Nevertheless the message is urgent.

In accordance with your contract for postmortem uploading and long-term maintenance as an Electronic-Golem Artificial Neurosystem, or EGAN, we regret to inform you that your trust fund is not performing adequately. This is a result of global economic problems, arising from the continuing states of emergency in Iraq, Iran, Korea, France and the US Pacific Northwest.


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