I cannot recall the title of a story that explored the social consequences of introducing StarTrek-like replicator technology in current society.

The plot centered on a village-sized community that (like other communities) received a recently developed device that could manufacture anything cheaply. It was running 24/7, and every person (or family?) was given a time-share on the device to produce whatever they wanted. Initially this was very nice, people fulfilling their needs and wants, and most of them quitting their day jobs.

However, this means that eventually emergency services and law enforcement cease to function, and the society degrades to anarchy – the protagonist (or their relative?) escapes after an attempted rape that noone cares to prevent, and in the end they enter a commune based on a requirement to work (even to produce goods that could be replicated) and also share in military/defense duty.

I believe that I read it some 2-3 years ago; and I probably read it on the internet – I'm not sure if it has been published on paper. It wasn't a short story but a longer one, and I think that I stumbled on it on some article that listed various very different possible results of replicator-like tech, and listed stories that described opposed beliefs about what would be the result.

  • Damon Knight's A for Anything alias The People Maker is a rather famous story on that theme; however Knight's replicators are individual hand-held gismos, if I remember right.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 23:52
  • 1
    The economic consequences of replicators are also explored in George O. Smith's Venus Equilateral series of short stories, but I don't think that's what you're looking for either.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 0:00
  • Those aren't it. The story might be as old as those you posted, as the world was as if pre-internet. The story followed the experience of a single protagonist (possibly a single mother with a teenage daughter) throughout these changes; and an early theme was the social attitude towards "weird" people who continued, say, cooking food or growing things despite being able to get better meals from the replicator device.
    – Peteris
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 0:19
  • Bruce Sterling's "Kiosk" deals with a lot of these themes; wired.com/2008/01/fantasy-and-sci
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 0:53

2 Answers 2


This sounds very like the Nancy Kress short story, Nano comes to Clifford Falls, first published in the July 2006 Asimov's and later printed in her story collection of the same name.

It tells the story of Carol, her deadbeat husband Jack, and their three children as civilization collapses because nobody needs to work anymore.

It has the people sharing time on the machine:

... "A car? A whole car?"
"Sure, why not? Nano can make anything. The town is starting with one request from each person, first come first served." ...

and later in the story:

Every morning people lined up to pick up whatever their food order'd been from the previous day, enough for all that day's meals plus a little over to store.

It has the people losing or quitting their jobs:

By late August the factory in Minneonta had closed. Most of the men in town who didn't farm were out of work, but nobody seemed to mind much. The Crow Bar was full all the time, groups playing cards and laughing at TV.

It has the attempted rape scene:

Clifford Falls wasn't that bad. But it wasn't that far out from the city, either. Kitty and I were watching TV one night, the kids in bed, when the door burst open and three men rushed in.
"Look at this—not just the one, two of them," one man said, while I was already reaching for the phone. He got there first and knocked it out of my hand. "Not that it would help you, lady. Not a lot of police left. Kenny, I'll take this one and you take the fat girl."

It has the commune (Hal Bellingham's farm) where people have to work:

July again and we are eighty seven people now. Word spreads. About half are people who fled nano, like me. The other half embraced it because it let them do whatever they'd wanted to do before. Some of those ones have their own nanomachines, little ones, made of course by other nanomachines. Hal allows them to use nano to produce things for their jobs, but not to make food or clothing or shelter or anything else we all need to survive, except for some medicines, and we're working on that.

And finally, it mentions people doing guard duty at the farm:

He also farms and does guard duty and lays pipe and cans and cleans and cooks, of course. Like all the rest of us.

  • 1
    Yup, this is the one, thanks!
    – Peteris
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 1:07
  • Also available in at least one of the best of [year] anthologies. Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 1:43
  • @dmckee Yep.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 6:59

There was an earlier science fiction story about replicators that focused on the disintegration of retail sales. A department store has a visit from an alien who leaves a replicator when it departs. The store immediately starts replicating the machine and selling it to people. Needless to say all retail stores are soon out of business because everyone has a replicator and no longer needs to buy almost anything.

I read this sometime in the early 1950s in an anthology of short stores. Perhaps it was Harlan Edison that wrote it as I was a huge fan and he often delved into humor like this.

  • If anyone comes back to this old question, this other answer refers to "Business as Usual, During Alterations" • (1958) • novelette by Ralph Williams.
    – OmnivoreNZ
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 5:32

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