“Breeding True” by Orson Scott Card
Reviewed by Eric Kimminau
Orson Scott Card has a legendary history in science fiction and is active in the worlds of film, television, music and literature in general. This is my first foray into his InterGalactic Medicine Show (IGMS) and before reading I tried to get some idea of what to expect. This month’s issue is the special 10th Anniversary issue and is filled with stories from Mr. Card’s Literary Bootcamp participants, just like the very first issue, as well as a brand new story by “Uncle Orson” as well. I will enter with an open mind and high expectations.
“Breeding True” by Orson Scott Card details a future event in which our solar system receives an “artifact” headed directly for our sun. Upon further inspection it contains nothing but tiny markings etched all over the inside, later discovered to be the entire human genome, both male and female sans a few changes, both additions and deletions. Debate begins over whether it is good or evil, monster or the second coming, human or alien. Enter Sunk and Audny, a pair of scientists who decide to explore the discovery and in vitro implant a male and female pair into Audny, create a family and investigate the result. They soon realize that they are not the only ones to do so and that their progeny are far more aware and far more informed and evolved than originally understood. An interesting commentary on the original human civilization choosing to evolve and eliminate itself at the same time. Mr. Card, this could be an incredible series of books and this is but the first taste of a fantastic future. Well done.
“Like a Thief in the Night” by Alethea Kontis presents Shadow Street, an eerie world populated by various monsters who walk only at night, except for “loners, shadows and street sweepers.” Sun, the main character, was all three and was making his street sweeper rounds and pondering how to keep his Stoner “father,” Pierre, from dying. Sun is a “day walker,” a shadow who could travel, and loved, the daylight hours, when no other of the dead from Shadow Street would dare travel. Sun had endured a severe beating just to try and discover some way of helping his gargoyle “parent” live forever when he was sure that most other gargoyles would have lived a far longer life. This was a much jumbled story, presenting races, concepts, scenes and interactions that seemed a horrible mess of scattered thoughts with only brief glimpses of an interesting tale.
“The Curie Priest” by Chris Phillips tells of Stephen Tinett and his wife Lois, deep in grief over the death of their son on a fueling station orbiting Sirius B, the result of a defective radiation storage unit breaking open near his school, killing more than 20 children. His wife has chosen the technical path to recovery, engaging an anti-grief service capable of simulating a life in a number of disturbing ways. Stephen has chosen the path of faith, engaging a Curie priest, a highly irradiated sect seeking their place in the pattern of the Path. This is an interesting attack on technology in favor of faith in something, learning from the mistakes of your past and taking the guidance of those on the path to return you to happiness, or at least towards recovery. I found it unsettling, yet strangely comforting in the end.
“The Price of Love” by Dantzel Cherry is the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs told from the premise that the Queen was being manipulated by the man in the mirror who was her one true love. Nothing really new and not much of a stretch to think the mirror was at least partially manipulating the Queen through jealousy and betrayal.
“For the Bible Tells Me So” by Edmund R. Schubert or “Angels, Rapists, and Other Drunken Heroes” as it is sub-titled, for me is a disgusting story, implying that in the future society has translated the bible in such a way that both homosexuality and inbreeding are each the command of god through the bible. The story is placed within the context of survivors who have been traveling on the generation ship Voyager that embarked from Earth on a 250 year voyage to Kepler 186f approximately 800 years in the past. The remaining crew is suffering from genetic mutational meltdown.
The story begins with the resurrection of Mr. Jeremy Fallgood (Falwell, anyone?), born October 10, 2669, in New Detroit, Ontario, Canada, from one of the few remaining cryopods which survived from “the Wrecking.” This was an event shortly after launch that was supposed to provide ice for water and methane for the journey but which resulted in multiple collisions with massive ice comets. Voyager was “always intended to be a one way trip” and returning to Earth wasn’t an option, so the remaining crew has struggled onward. Mr. Fallgood is a homosexual who believes cloning is the only blessed and proper way to continue the species while the survivors have made their own biblical translation defining that all should procreate with any and all, to the detriment of the remaining gene pool. A short paragraph near the end of the story sums up the author’s message: “Let love be without hypocrisy, right Michael? That’s what he always said. That was my new prayer, every day.” That the protagonist has made a deal that apparently allows him to determine who will receive the benefit of his genetic material, with provisions to allow him the deviant (to me, and to characters in the story) pleasure of both sexes is the obvious conclusion. Personally, I couldn’t get to the end of this anti-Christian reimagining of the Bible quickly enough, though of course your mileage may vary.
Xenocide is the act of selectively killing populations of aliens. “Life With Slug” by Paul Eckheart starts out innocently enough with an unnamed exile from the colony on the alien world Opal Seven, discovering a young girl of 8 or 9 sleeping beneath a native putamba bush. On further examination it seems she has eaten ivaltoe berries which emit the smell of wintergreen. They are deathly poisonous. Willing to suffer the wrath of his “keeper” to save the life of the girl, the exile takes the young girl back home and gives her an herbal remedy which cleanses her system of the toxins. Such a thing is forbidden by the Colony. Only his keeper is allowed to visit him. Then we discover the events that lead to the exile and with brief glimpses we discover that the exile was somehow affected, or rather transformed by those events. I have already given away too much already. An interesting final twist of atonement releases the young girl from his debt for saving her. I enjoyed this new take even if it did come with a tie back to Xenocide (1991), the third novel in the Ender’s Game series of books.
I hope you enjoy this issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show as much as I have. A few gems are well worth the time, although there were also a few I could have done without.
Eric Kimminau is a BBS geek turned IT professional seeking those of like mind and character with whom I may share in wit and wisdom.