In the story, a scientist discovers that cities have more or less a gestalt consciousness, and that they communicate with each other indirectly through people. He decodes this communication, and begins communicating with a city by having people wear colored t-shirts and go to particular places.

The city he communicates with experiences a sudden and rapid downturn...he "asks" the city why, and the city indicates that the other cities think that "he" is crazy. Why? Because he hears voices from nowhere! Your voice!

Cool story...may have been in Amazing Stories, or Asimov...possibly Omni.

I believe I read it in the mid to late eighties, and it was a short piece in an anthology. I remember the anthology being the smaller, paperback-size like Asimov was, I think. It was definitely a researcher who dispatched volunteers with t-shirts...contemporary, non-fantasy setting. I'm nearly 100% sure on the t-shirt aspect.

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    I've been looking all over for this story. You gave a good description but it doesn't seem to be enough to pull up the story. Is there anything else you can think of or can you attempt to remember the title? I've found similar stories but nothing matching your specifics. Otherwise I'm tempted to say write the story and publish it and wait for someone to tell you who you ripped off. Feb 13, 2012 at 17:47
  • Not the answer but the first story in Grey Area by Will Self is along similar lines, and you can read it for free on his website: will-self.com/category/books/grey-area Apr 30, 2012 at 9:44
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    Reminds me of Jack Hawksmoor from 'The Authority' Jul 26, 2012 at 3:36
  • Maggie Furey's 'Aurian' series of books features mountains that have distinct consciousness', and can communicate with each other. This isn't the answer to your question, but they are an interesting series of books along a similar theme. Jan 28, 2013 at 11:00
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    I presume from your bounty that you've carefully ruled out all of the existing answers and suggestions in comments...?
    – Valorum
    Oct 12, 2020 at 15:47

3 Answers 3


I'm not confident at this answer, but since I can't post it as a comment, I'll post it as an answer:

Though far from a perfect match, what you describe seems to have many elements in common with Fritz Leiber's "Our Lady of Darkness", or the short story "The Pale Brown Thing" on which the novel was based.

It features an occult science called "Megapolismancy", but that science is more used for predicting and controlling cities, than communicating with them. That being said, I have not read the short story version, which may be different.

  • Not it - contemporary, non-magic setting is 100% certain. Oct 20, 2020 at 17:01

Could it be City Come a-Walkin' by John Shirley, circa 1980?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1123715.City_Come_a_Walkin_ http://www.darkecho.com/JohnShirley/city.html

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    Why do you think this is the correct answer? Based on the reviews it seems bear only the vaguest resemblance.
    – Valorum
    Oct 12, 2015 at 20:47
  • Not it - contemporary, non-magic setting is 100% certain. Oct 20, 2020 at 17:01

Did China Miéville publish short stories in anthologies? This resonates with anthropomorphic elements in Kraken.

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    Can you flesh this out by adding the specific elements in Kraken that match the question's description?
    – user1027
    May 14, 2013 at 17:48

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