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A short story about a gaffer - this guys job is to maintain/repair the star system that is used to fake out the residents on rocket ships. Cool job.

As he looks in the windows of the various ships, he sees 'civilization' at different phases. One has regressed to the bronze age, another is somewhere in the industrial revolution, one is modern and into science, etc.

The ships were built to seed other planets, Earth was doomed or something so these planet sized things were the way out. but they never launched.

A fake star system was built that looks real to the inhabitants over their heads, but they aren't actually going anywhere.

I have no idea how it ends - was the science ship close to figuring out the secret?

I read this in a collection of short stories in the mid 90's, late 80's. It was in one of those best of/hugo/nebula compilation books so it should be a known story but I can't find any trace of it. (It could be much older than 90's though as I believe the same book had the A.C. Clarke story; The Nine Billion Names of God)

  • Thanks everyone for taking a look. It really was a cool story. While hoping for an answer I have been browsing the other questions and finding lots of other great stuff! Thanks! – maxwell Dec 27 '14 at 2:16
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Might be Taklamakan. Bruce Sterling's short story "Taklamakan" is about a group of Chinese habitats that simulate generation ships in a cave under the Taklamakan Desert. It won the 1999 Hugo Award for Best Novelette as well as the 1999 Foreign Short Story Hayakawa Award.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taklamakan_%28short_story%29

full text file of novelette here http://lib.ru/STERLINGB/taklamakan.txt

  • Thank tls. That must have been it, the context is different but the setup is so similar and I got that vague sense of familiarity when reading it. I know I had some sterling books at one point too. – maxwell Mar 15 '15 at 1:34

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