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Rogue Farm

by Charles Stross

(First published in Anders, Live Without a Net, 2003. Reprinted in Hartwell, 9th Year's Best and Dozois, 21st Year's Best SF.)

Review by Peter D Tillman

I think this is my favorite Stross short story so far -- which is saying something, as I've never yet read a Stross short (or long) I haven't liked, and some are great. Such as "Missile Gap" and "Jury Service"[1] and "A Colder War" and "Antibodies" and....

Anyway, I just reread the story for the third or fourth time, and it's pretty near perfect. A standalone set in deepest Cumbria c. 2060, a burnt-out software engineer and a deeply-disturbed ex-soldier are just getting by selling "Hand-raised, not Vat-grown" beef, when a rogue farm squats nearby.

"Even though it was only a young adolescent, it was already the size of an antique heavy tank... It smelled of yeast and gasoline..."

"I'm a nine-legged semiautomatic groove-machine!" crooned the farm in a warm contralto. "I'm on my way to Jupiter on a mission for love!"

Unfortunately, its 'mission for love' will involve firing a whole grove of stage-trees, which will burn out Joe, Maddie and a hundred hectares around them. Something Must be Done...

This is British rural humour updated for the mid-21st century. Even though "Rogue Farm" is Stross Light, it's still dense with invention, and polished to a mellow glow, with nods to Niven, Pratchett and Varley. And with lovely throwaways, like Bob the family dog:

"'At farm been buggering around the pond?"

"Growl exclaim fuck-fuck yup!"

So, join us for a pint at the "Pig & Pizzle" in outer Outer Cheswick.... Great stuff, absolutely not to be missed. I will say, the ending is jarring, presumably intentionally so.

Rogue Farm was adapted to anime video for Scottish TV in 2004.

Usenet discussion of "Rogue Farm":

Happy reading.

[1] See for my (long-ago) comments. "A fractional-dimensional parasitic turd-gobbler from outer space?" Huw says. "Have I got that right?" [...back to top]

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