MS Fnd in a Lbry

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"MS Fnd in a Lbry" (probably intended to be understood as "Manuscript Found in a Library") is a satirical science fiction short story about the exponential growth of information, written by Hal Draper in 1961. The title is a play on "MS. Found in a Bottle", a story by Edgar Allan Poe.


The story is in the form of a report written by an anthropologist from an alien civilization who investigates the remains of human civilization several billion years into the future. It turns out that humankind's fall was brought about by information overload and the inability to catalog and retrieve that information properly.

The title of the short story comes from the fact that all redundancy - and vowels - had been removed from our language in order for the information volume to shrink. Finally the sum of all human knowledge (which was sort of finite) was compressed by means of subatomic processes and stored away in a drawer-sized box. However the access to that information required complicated indices, bibliographies etc., which soon outgrew the size of all knowledge.

The use of indices grew exponentially, comprising a pseudo-city, pseudo-planet and eventually a pseudo-galaxy devoted to information storage. At this point, a case of circular reference was encountered, and the civilization needed to refer to the first drawer-sized box to find the error. However, this drawer had been lost in the pseudo-galaxy, and soon the civilization fell apart while trying to locate the first drawer.

It turns out that the anthropologist's civilization is actually heading down the same path. Presumably, the report was given the name "MS Fnd in a Lbry" after the fall of the anthropologist's civilization by another anthropologist from another alien civilization that is also heading down the same path.


This story first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1961. It was anthologized in the collection 17 X Infinity (1963) edited by Groff Conklin.

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