Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

By Andy McGee

sfgenreSuzi loved working at the isolation laboratories at Davenport on the south coast of Yorke Peninsula. It was a designated location for one of Australia’s intended nuclear-fusion power plants, but to date was simply a series of laboratories and housing for research scientists. Currently power was provided by a solar farm and batteries — and water came from a local desal station.

Suzi worked as a geochemist, studying the biodegradation of oils in situ.

Her career concentrated on how bacteria had evolved naturally to eat hydrocarbons and in the process, destroy them.

“You know,” said Suzi to her visiting manager, Mark, “Plastics were developed by finding the right conditions to polymerise simple hydrocarbons, creating long molecular chains. Back in the fifties they were seen as a miracle, creating an array of new businesses. They provided the packaging for sliced bread allowing it to stay fresh.”

Mark nodded, “Thousands of other uses, too. But now they’re an abomination, cluttering all of the earth’s ecosystems because they don’t break down.”

“Yeah,” sighed Suzi, “Although some bugs also naturally evolved to eat plastics. But they do it so slowly. This new bacteria colony might just do it, though. They produce just the right enzymes to break down the polymerisation of all of our known plastics and allow the bacteria to gobble up the remains.”

“But what about controls?” said Mark, “We need to be absolutely sure that we have complete command on what the colony eats.”

“We’re on to that. Salinity is our best control. The bacteria cannot survive high salinity, so we create our dumps in saline lakes and salt pans. Plastics are decomposed in situ and if we keep a suitable lid on it all we can collect the methane residue as fuel or industrial feedstock. We can drive out and inspect the current site, if you like. It is just a short distance out.”


As they finished their tour, Suzi could see that Mark was impressed with her progress. While they drove back to their accommodation, she explained how the entire facility was made from natural materials containing no hydrocarbons at all; just metals, natural rubber, carbon fibres and other similar products.

“You have a truly amazing process in place,” said Mark. “Congratulations to all of your team. We should be able to monetise this in no time at all. Let’s celebrate over dinner.”


Mark loved his Tesla EV. He’d left it parked on the bitumen out front, plugged into an adjacent charging station.

Suzi’s latest strain of bacteria loved Mark’s Tesla EV too. They’d lodged in one of its yummy synthetic rubber tyres as it crossed the pilot plant, and were now releasing enzyme to break down the polymer.

The tyre kept its shape for quite a while, but the colony started to grow in size — exponentially. Every few minutes the colony doubled. Soon it was a small clump stretching around the tyre.

Eventually, the colony devoured the tyre, spread through the hydrocarbons in the bitumen and started on the other tyres, then spread along the plastic coating on the charging cable to the charging station, and on into the building.

Inside, Suzi and Mark chatted merrily as they enjoyed their drinks, pleased with their work.

Meanwhile, the bacteria were equally pleased with their latest food source. They loved the synthetic carpet on the restaurant floor.


Suzi absently scratched at an itch on her thigh and realised she was touching bare skin.

“What’s tha —” she began to say, then shrieked and jumped to her feet as her clothing crumbled away from her body. Naked, she grabbed for her phone from the bar, but the plastic case crumbled away, leaving bare electronics.

Nearby, two surfboards adorning the bar crumbled to pieces, as the bar itself began to come apart — the glues and fillers eaten away. A fire alarm squeaked into action as one of the power supply batteries exploded, but was quickly silenced by a lack of connected energy.

Mark was naked now too, except for a leather wristwatch strap on his right arm and a mobile phone clutched in his right hand.

They fled the building as Mark made a call. “Cut the roads and power lines and get ready to firebomb Davenport,” he screamed at his immediate boss, hoping like hell that she would heed his advice. “This is an emergency. A rogue plastic-eating bacteria is on the loose.”

Suzi and Mark ran for the safety of the nearby beach.

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About The Author

Andy McGee

andy mcgee bioAs a sixties hippy to an exploration geophysicist, I have travelled the globe for work and pleasure.

My many weird, funny, poignant, educational experiences have led me to writing short stories and novels.

Spreading the word of basic science and energy issues is my current aim, all done with a sense of fun and overall optimism. Let’s unite on solutions rather than forever bickering over options. Basic science is often neglected in these battles.

You can check out my blog ‘Science Kept Simple’ at <>.


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nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.


mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.


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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 248

A Taste For Salt
by Noel Osualdini

Better Ballers
by Salvatore Difalco

First Choice
by Vanessa Kittle

Forever In Time
by Shane O'Halloran

Frozen Moments, Stolen Out Of Time
by George Nikolopoulos

That Monster Show
by Bart Meehan

The Last Word
by Roger Ley

The Tower
by Mathew Nelson

by Ishmael A Soledad

Wet Paint
by Simon R. Gardner

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AntipodeanSF February 2019


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AntiSF's Narration Team

david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <>

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <>

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <>.

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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SF News

SF News

"White Fire" by Laurie Bell Published

That's right, AntiSF author and narrator, Laurie Bell, is the author of "White Fire" available for your reading pleasure now at booksellers online in paperback and ebook. <Booktopia> or <Amazon>.


Upcoming Cons

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention — will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <>.

Swancon 2019 — 18/04/2019 - 22/04/2019,  Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges 46-54 Marine Terrace, Fremantle WA 6160. Swancon is Australia's longest-running science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction convention, and is the premiere event in Perth for fans of all forms of speculative media. More information: <>.

Continuum 15 Other Worlds (Natcon 58): Continuum 15 is the Australian National SF Convention, to be held in Melbourne on June 7–10. More information and memberships <>. AntipodeanSF will be at Continuum 15 and celebrating Issue 250 of AntiSF!

Worldcon Dublin 2019 — An Irish Worldcon 15/08/2019 till 19/08/2019, The Convention Centre Dublin (CCD). <More info here>

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antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

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SF Quote

Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

Larry Niven