Originally in : Gateways
Full title being : “A Preliminary Assessment of the Drake Equation : Being an Excerpt from the Memoirs of Star Captain Y.-T. Lee.”
A clever story by Vernor ‘Singularity’ Vinge, set on the inappropriately-named planet ‘Paradise’. It’s the second mission there, and the titular captain is on like a cat on a hot tin roof, on account of the only part of the planet being above sea level is a tectonically hyperactive volcano. In addition to the tectonic forces there are human forces at play – scientific and commercial – and he has to balance those. There’s plenty of discussion of the Drake Equation there, which doesn’t descend into infodumping, as Vinge posits a potential future for humanity that doesn’t involve the singularity, neither a huge galactic community of intelligent species.