royalty-free-writing-clipart-illustration-1146779 RSR rating: hard SF, published in Asimov’s. This one is also on the novella recommended reading list for the Nebula Awards.

Tess is a journalist writing an article on a new communicable disease, Gamete Diploidy Syndrome (GDS), which causes women to reproduce by parthenogenesis. This means their eggs divide without sperm and they give birth to clones of themselves. During her research, Tess reviews a number of social, medical and political issues that the new disease has kick-started. The narrative switches back and forth between the article and Tess’s viewpoint.

I agree with RSR that this is hard SF. There’s no hardware and the issue is subtle, but it’s one of those rare efforts to make a “what if” projection for the future. Fischer has a degree in physics and a MFA. He’s well equipped to write it, and it seems like he’s done some research to get his ducks in a row. Fischer has also done an excellent job of thinking through the social, medical and political implications of this kind of change in reproduction.

This story starts off with a high impact hook, and then settles into a slow, leisurely pace. RSR complained about the info dumps, but mostly they worked okay for me as part of the research Tess does for her article. Fischer adds background for Tess, who is pregnant from donor sperm, but the fact that her mother bought drawer pulls adds nothing to the story and comes across as padding.

I do have to pick at the science a little bit. The disease is represented as caused by a drug resistant bacterium (obligate intracellular parasite), but after six years there’s still no test to identify it. Despite the species-wide threat, there’s no apparent frenzy to produce a cure. If there’s no test for this, how does Kelli (with no children) know she’s GDS positive? Hm.

I’ll give this story a 4.5. I’m impressed with the hard SF, the predictive quality and the style, but I’m slightly offended by the visible structuring (how to write an award-winning story) which intrudes a bit on the flow. This novella has a high diversity rating, as Tess is a woman-of-color and a lesbian. Because of its position on the Nebula reading list, it has a high chance of award nominations. (More on this tomorrow).

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