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Ms Fnd in a Lbry

Ms Fnd in a Lbry or, as it is probably intended to be spelled out, Manuscript Found in a Library is a satiric science fiction short story by Hal Draper written in 1961.

Table of contents
1 Plot
2 Influences
3 References


The plot is about an anthropologist from an alien civilization that investigates the remains of our civilization several billion years into the future. It turns out that mankind's fall was brought about by information overload, inability to catalogue and retrieve knowledge properly.

The title of the short story comes from the fact that all redundancy has 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 stored away in a drawer-sized box by means of subatomic processes. However the access to that information required complicated indexes, bibliographies etc, which soon outgrew the side of all knowledge.

The use of indexes grows exponentially, comprising a pseudo-city, pseudo-planet and eventually a pseudo-galaxy of information storage. At this point, a case of circular reference is encountered, and the civilization needs to refer to the first drawer-sized box to find the error. However, this drawer has been lost in the pseudo-galaxy, and soon all of our civilization falls apart while trying to locate the first drawer.

It turns out that the anthropologist's civilization is actually heading down the same path.


The story of Ms Fnd in a Lbry is remarkably close to that of our information-crazed culture and its problems with things like the World Wide Web, Wikipedias, Project Xanadu and Rosetta Diskss, why it has been remembered as a very original and funny science fiction story.


This story first appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1961.