“New World Man” (science fiction story)

images-2What? More free reading for you?  Why not?  It’s summertime, kick back, take it easy.  And here’s a mind-blowing little gem, a short story from my Reality Machine collection that I think, in all honesty, is one of the ten best I’ve ever written.

“New World Man” owes its origins to some time I spent with…I guess you’d call him a street kid.  I met him at a record store/head shop after we moved back to Saskatchewan (from Baffin Island) in the mid-90’s.  Hung out with “Kyle” (not his name), met his extended family, seven or eight young people sharing a grotty one-room apartment, sleeping bags spread out on the floor like nests, music constantly playing.  Kyle was a Rancid freak and tried to convert me–didn’t take, pal, sorry.  He introduced me to someone who morphed into the “Marvin” character and gave me a peek at a sub-culture, a way of viewing the world that was invaluable to the writing of the story.

But “New World Man” also reflects my growing misgivings as I watch the increasing prevalence and attraction of video games; we’re on the cusp of functional virtual reality, full immersion in an invented, interactive environment.  What will that do to relationships, the role of family and friends, regular social intercourse with strangers on the street, at the market? More on this subject in a future post…

A German editor selected “New World Man” for an anthology of the 20 All Time Best Science Fiction Stories (Goldmann Publishing); he told me with some glee that my tale bumped one by Ike Asimov from the book.  My name even made the cover, along with Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick and William Gibson.  Wow.  The story also appeared, I should add, in the Canadian science fiction magazine On Spec.

If you really love this tale, you’ll find it in my book The Reality Machine, which is available through my virtual “Book Store” (above)–you can also pick it up from Mark Ziesing Books, Amazon, abebooks.com, etc.  Originally published in 1997, it contains some of my favorite short pieces, including “Also Starring”, “While You Were Away” and “RSVP”.

Now get reading:

Click here for a free download of my short story “NewWorldMan



  1. detrexer

    Dear Cliff,

    Years ago, I bought the science-fiction anthology you mentioned in a german second hand store as a present for my dad (by that time i was about 10). Sadly he never found the time to read the book, so a few years later i found it in the bookshelf and started reading it by myself. I really enjoyed your story. Actually about a year after that, a friend of mine and i made a schoolproject based on new world man.
    It must have been about that time when i first searched you on the internet but only found a few plain text sites mentioning your name. For a reason i can’t explain i googled you about half a year ago and i was really happy to find this blog. And today i finally managed to write you those few lines to tell you on what strange ways a german teenager found your blog.
    I am so happy that i finally have the chance to read your story as it was written by you and ask you a question that bothered my scince the schoolproject we made: What happened to Karen? Is she okay or did something happen to her?

    greetings from germany
    your reader and fan (who is hoping for an answer 😀 )

  2. Cliff Burns

    Thomas: I can thank my appearances in a number of German anthologies–Das Grosse Horror Lesebuch and others–to a German editor who worked for Goldmann publishing (in Munich). Sky spotted my story “Also Starring” in an anthology and sought me out (and at the time I lived on Baffin island in the Canadian Arctic, so that took some doing). He bought German rights for “Also Starring” and various other short stories by yours truly over the years, doing much to raise my profile on the German scene. Delighted to hear the tale made an impression on you, even in translation. The Phil Dick touches are fairly obvious, I should think. I’m a big PKD fan.

    As for the fate of Karen…well, I’m not one to give anything away but let’s just say I’m not hopeful. Every revolution has its victims and each new order demands its sacrifices.

    Good to hear from an overseas fan. Stay in touch…

  3. Walter Vermeir


    Thanks for the free book. Some feedback;

    PDF is very anyoing file format for reading an ebook on an ereader. It is good for printing it out but when you read it on a 5 or 6 inch screen.You can never do wrong with plain text. Also MobiPocket and ePub are common formats.

    PFD’s can be reconverted, but that format is made for it. The end result I have from this PDF to text is a file with wrong line breaks and weird symbols in the text due to conversion problems. It can be read but it is not nice.


  4. Cliff Burns

    Walter: Drat. Another individual who read the PDF version of my novel SO DARK THE NIGHT on an e-Reader (I believe it was a Kindle) wrote to me and said they had no problems reading it, very few glitches due to formatting, even with the footnotes I employ throughout the book. Sorry to hear your experience was different. I’m not too tech-savvy so changing the file format into something other than PDF may be beyond my capabilities. Of course, the obvious answer to this problem is printing an actual physical book. But POD (print on demand) comes with a learning curve and requires time and energy…both of which are in short supply right now as I pound away on this editing. But it’s something I definitely have to look at and soon. Good grief…

    Thanks for writing, Walter. Keep reading and seeking out fine fiction…

  5. Cliff Burns

    Here’s a little tech help from EBook Guru, a site specializing in digital books and e-readers. For those of you who might be having trouble reading the PDF version of my stories on them thar high tech Sony and Kindle devices:

    “If you are like me and prefer to read eBooks on a mobile device, converting it for a reader is quite simple. Use the MobiCreator software to import the PDF file and then build it as an eBook. The created mobi file will be readable on all major eBook readers (including a Kindle).”

    Is that helpful?

    Any further feedback on this point would be appreciated.

    I’m getting tons of visits from sites devoted to e-Readers and lots of these folks are downloading my stories and novels for reading…

  6. Cliff Burns

    Enjoy the work and if you’re stumbling across my writing for the first time, please help spread the word. There’s over 250,000 words of free fiction to download here and intelligent, discerning readers are welcome to it…

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