Thursday, March 12, 2015

Actuarial Speculative Fiction 2015 - The Stories

It's that time of every-other year when I give quick overviews of all the stories entered into the Actuarial Speculative Fiction contest.  For this 11th event, sixteen stories were submitted, including my own.

As I mentioned before, you can find the stories here.  Up till this coming Sunday, you can also vote for your three favorite stories, and the one with the most votes will get the reader's choice award.

After reading all the entries, I'm a little depressed, as the competition is pretty strong, and I don't think my entry is the best I've written, but then again, I'm always blind as to how good/bad my stories are.

I'll go ahead and get my story out of the way before presenting the other fifteen.

The First Actuary - Gog is a caveman who invents numbers and uses his intelligence to help his tribe survive and beat other tribes.  But something's wrong.  The numbers don't add up.  Before Gog can figure out the answer, he first needs to learn what the problem is.

Now I will introduce my personal favorites, of which I will choose three when I vote tonight.  These stories not only touch on actuarial topics, but they also have fun plots, and I think they're just cool.

If you only have time to read a couple, I recommend choosing from the following.

Proteus (Michael Anderson) - Tom Volker, an actuary, comes to realize his life is one big waste.  That is, until a unique opportunity comes along with a company that manufactures super bio-suits that monitor one's health and provide extra strength.

Chance of Failure (Gregory A. Dreher) - Richard Diamond, while suspecting foul play, investigates John Smith, the Actuary, and his company, which produces nanotechnology that extends a person's life.

Life After Death (Ken Feng) - After Hubbard Scientific (affiliated with the Church of Scientology) introduces a radical technique of preserving brains after death and implanting them in robot-like containers, an actuary Ken decides to investigate the company.

The Cascade Model (Kevin C Jones) - One day, Antonio Echevarria is tapped by the Actuary General herself to oversee a very important model in relation to a major energy breakthrough.  During his first day on the job, he's amazed to learn what really goes on behind the scenes, including seeing some very impressive complex models.

The Illustrious Career of Mister James Stephan, FSA (Steve Mathys) - Hoping to be inducted into the Humans Against Humanity Society, James Stephan presents his story of all the despicable acts he committed just to become chief actuary.

While not my favorites, the following stories are still enjoyable.  They also have fun plots, but they don't jive so much with my personality.  Chances are, you may find you like some of these better than my personal favorites.  In fact, the ultimate winner usually comes from my batch of second-favorites.

Dangerous Knowing (Karissa Burgess) - An unnamed actuary infiltrates a high-security facility in an attempt to obtain evidence to expose a massive government cover up involving children vaccinations.

Global Health (Marilyn Dunstan) - In this near-farcical story, several Russians combine forces in a clever attempt to fleece the American actuary, Rufus, who is gathering information to form the best healthcare system.  When you're done reading, you may start to wonder exactly how Obamacare came together.

For What It's Worth (Chris Fievoli) - After a lawyer loses another girlfriend to his job, he takes his friend's advice and tries out a new dating service ... run by actuaries.

The Ares Conjecture (Jerry Levy) - Peter Mir, who works for Predictive Global Conflicts, is tasked to get information from a retired actuary suffering from Alzheimer's.  While models are predicting a major incident building in the Kishrabia region, Peter hopes to find a way to diffuse the situation.  But what the retired actuary knows could change the world.

Closed Block (Ellen Torrance) - An unnamed protagonist writes in her diary as she starts a new job as President of a large insurance sub-sub-subsidiary covering North America.  She's excited with the opportunity to increase profits and get a big bonus.  However, she quickly learns that she's been shafted, and every idea she tries fails.  That is until she finds a creative way to get those profits.

The Twenty-Three (Nate Worrell) - Tom, an actuary, thinks he's about to score with a hot chick, but he doesn't realize that he's about to be abducted by a famous group of terrorists called the Twenty-three, bent on stopping the practice of gene splicing.

This last group contains a few stories that dive heavily into actuarial topics, containing not much plot beyond the ideas being presented.  As such, I predict that one would have to be an actuary to fully enjoy them.  They are nevertheless all interesting reads.

Hotel Zukunft: The Future is Different (Craig DeAlmeida) - Arthur, the ZRO at Hotel Zukunft, must find a way to explain a 10% increase of holdbacks to his superiors so that they can make the right decisions to prepare for the future.  This story is sprinkled with several different cool visions of the near future.

Two Improbable Suggestions (A. Haeworth Robertson) - Alex Morgan is an actuary who discovers an innovative new product to better calculate competitive cash surrender values on a life insurance policy.  I noticed that this exact entry also appeared in the contest 4 years ago, so I just now copied-and-pasted my previous overview.

Virtual Insurance (Rodge) - Roger must find a way to price insurance that covers the contingency of losing productivity due to getting lost in Virtual Reality games.  Even though I think this story is mainly for actuaries, I really enjoyed this one, finding it to be both intelligent and funny.  Maybe it's because I really like video games.

Blockchain Insurance Company (Gennady Stolyarov II) - While an actuary, Euclid Jefferson, travels in a self-driving car, an automated system presents to him a new type of auto insurance with very innovative policy terms.  This story provides a fun look into one possible future.

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