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Story premise

February 9th, 2008 (11:19 pm)

A common science fiction premise is using genetic engineering to create some sort of superior human. Sometimes the new breed is superintelligent, or telepathic, or immortal. Good stories in this vein cover how normal humans react to the new supers—do they welcome them? fear them? kill them?

Now, what if you wrote of a world where humans didn't have some ability that we consider standard—color vision, or hearing, or proprioception—and someone creates people who do have that ability?

Standard stories in this vein are driven largely by wish fulfillment. This would be something harder: you'd be working to make the reader appreciate an ability they actually do have, make them feel how marvelous it is that they can see colors, hear music, know where their hands are without looking. Also, you'd have to think hard about not including anything in the society that shouldn't exist without the missing ability. Without proprioception, for example, stairs would be much more dangerous, which means that very few buildings would be more than one story high. Without hearing, there would be no music, but there would also be a greater tolerance for industrial activities in cities. (Imagine what having an airport in the neighborhood does to property values when there's no such thing as noise pollution.)

If I tried such a story, I think I'd choose proprioception. It's so little noticed, it'd make for a more interesting challenge. The new breed could be the first dancers, or just the best; either way, they'd be stunningly, obviously different—you couldn't miss one walking down the street—without necessarily being able to outdo normal people at most jobs.

Comments

Posted by: Siderea (siderea)
Posted at: February 10th, 2008 06:36 am (UTC)

Standard stories in this vein are driven largely by wish fulfillment. This would be something harder: you'd be working to make the reader appreciate an ability they actually do have, make them feel how marvelous it is that they can see colors, hear music, know where their hands are without looking.

Or not. It might be a story which calls into question whether such an ability is all that important, by showing how such a culture gets on fine without it -- or maybe even does better without it. (I haven't read Varley's "Persistence of Vision", but I gather it's along these lines.)

Posted by: metahacker (metahacker)
Posted at: February 10th, 2008 06:57 pm (UTC)
feet

See "The Country of the Blind", H.G. Wells.

(http://www.online-literature.com/wellshg/3/ -- yay internet.)

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: February 11th, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)

Interesting. Thanks!

Posted by: Alexx Kay (alexx_kay)
Posted at: February 12th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)

My wife's thesis has a chapter about The Persistence of Vision, which discusses (among many other aspects) the ways that it is in dialogue with the Wells story.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: February 11th, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
Persistence of Vision

Interesting; I'll look for it.

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