There was a short story in one of my dad's books about a seismologist living in California who was predicting 'the big one' on the San Andreas fault, but kept arguing with the computer about the math. I can't remember the author, title or any other identifier, but the last line was something like:

"Well, I'll be. The computer was right!"

There may have been mild profanity.

Everyone else leaves California, but instead of California falling into the Pacific, the rest of the country falls into the Atlantic. He is the sole survivor.

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    Roughly when did you read the story? Was it in an anthology? Magazine? Website? What language was it in?
    – phantom42
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 2:24
  • I believe that it was over ten years ago when my dad sold his library, including the book with this story. There were other short stories in the book, but I do not remember them at all.
    – hildred
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 2:27
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    The computer's estimate of the seismic vector was 180 degrees off from his. That story is in Cosmic Laughter, an anthology of humorous science fiction short stories edited by Joe Haldeman, which I read circa 1985 (I remember the cover photo of a metallic-painted hand drawing a smiley-face in the substance of the starry sky with its finger). I don't remember the title or author of the story, but I'll see if I can dig it up...
    – Beta
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 3:01
  • Sounds like a comedy.
    – user15742
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 21:09
  • @fredsbend, not exactly, but Fun nonetheless.
    – hildred
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 22:17

3 Answers 3


Ben Bova's short story "A Slight Miscalculation", first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1971, available at the Internet Archive.

Beyond the parking lot, where the eucalyptus trees used to be, was the edge of a cliff, where still-steaming rocks and raw earth tumbled down to a foaming sea.

Nathan staggered to the cliff's edge and looked out across the water, eastward. Somehow he knew that the nearest land was Europe.

"Son of a bitch," he said with unaccustomed vehemence. "The computer was right after all."

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    @user14111 - I wish there was a wiki article on the quotes you've provided in your bio. They all sound like bits of interesting fiction I should be reading...
    – Tim Reddy
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 13:44

From memory, it sounds like Arthur C. Clarke and Mike McQuay's "Richter 10" where Lewis Crane tries to predict and prevent earthquakes (by spot welding the plates). However, their computer system is compromised to make a earthquake prediction months earlier than it actually happens.

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    No, It was definitely a short story. Otoh, care to guess what gust got added to my reading list?
    – hildred
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 14:48

"A Slight Miscalculation" by Ben Bova. is the story you have descrbed, and one I have been looking for many decades! I couldn't remember the title nor the sci fi short story collection where I found and read the story. I read it in college in 1984. No "old" comments, please. ;>)

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    – Kalissar
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 9:32

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