Diabolical Plots #56, October 2019

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Diabolical Plots #56, October 2019

“Tracing an Original Thought” by Novae Caelum

“Save the God Damn Pandas” by Anaea Lay

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Two stories dealing with sex and gender in very different ways appear in the latest issue of this on-line publication.

The setting for “Tracing an Original Thought” by Novae Caelum is a colony world in the far future. In order to eliminate sex discrimination, all the inhabitants are without gender, and reproduce asexually. Even more startling is the fact that the people have their thoughts constantly monitored for originality. Not enough originality, and one winds up on the dregs of society. Too much originality, and one becomes the unwilling servant of the elite.

The narrator’s job is tracking down those with highly original thoughts. The trail leads to a person who has undergone surgery to become female instead of neuter. The discovery makes the narrator ponder the society in which they both live, itself a dangerously original thought.

The premise is an interesting one, if not very plausible. It’s not clear how the originality of thoughts is determined, or what use the elite make of those with highly original ideas. The background seems like an Earthly future dystopia, and the extraterrestrial setting adds little to the story.

Despite these misgivings, I found this to be a worthy parable of conformity. The author is self-described as non-binary in gender, which adds an intriguing touch to a tale of a world where gender is forbidden.

The narrator of “Save the God Damn Pandas” by Anaea Lay is a man whose job is to persuade a pair of pandas to mate and reproduce. This is a future where the pandas, through neurological surgery, have increased intelligence and the ability to speak. The fellow is frustrated by the pandas, who have little interest in sex and reproduction, and by his own inability to find a woman with whom to have children. He lives in a platonic relationship with a gay male roommate. The two men find a solution to at least one of the problems.

For the most part, this is a mildly raunchy comedy, filled with profanity and the narrator’s anger at the uncooperative animals. The point of the story is that sex is not a prerequisite for parenthood. The living arrangement of the two men, and the story’s resolution, are nearly as hard to believe as talking pandas, and seem more like something out of a television sitcom.

Victoria Silverwolf thinks pandas are cute.