October 2027

My Dearest Ann, Michael, Caitlin, Patrick, Nancy, David, Judy, Bill, Helen, Martin, Shelley, Travis, Gail, Hart, Melanie, and Stacey –

I know you’re surprised to find paper letters on your pillows, in the dorm, because we don’t use paper except for special occasions. And today’s just another warm day in late October, 2027. Nothing special, really, except that this week, in much of our country, parents are telling children your age something very important. I wanted to write it on something that would last, so you can pass it on to your children.

The story begins before any of you were born.

The Obama-Biden victory over Palin-Jindal back in 2012 was a narrow victory after a brutally hard-fought, dirty campaign that nearly destroyed both parties. Everybody was alleging irregularities, corruption, tainted results. People were angry. There was street fighting. Some said the country was on the brink of another civil war.

The President, in an attempt to heal the wounds, invited the Palin entourage to the Inaugural Ball, and they accepted. It seemed a good sign. But when they entered, people noticed that Sarah’s gown wasn’t as revealing as usual, Todd’s suit seemed especially ill-fitting, and Bobby Jindal was positively round.

The three explosions killed not only the President and Vice-President, but most of the Democratic Senators and Congressmen, and half the Supreme Court.

With everybody in the direct line of succession gone, there was political chaos. What was left of Congress chose Michele Bachmann as president, with Christine O’Donnell as her vice-president. Bachman nominated the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to the Court, and they were quickly confirmed by the overwhelmingly Republican senate.

Out of this mess emerged the political party first known as the “Palinistas,” which gobbled up what remained of the Republican Party after its savaging by the Tea Party. The Tea Baggers merged with the Palinistas and dropped their name, having finally understood what a “tea bagger” was.

The Palinistas were strongest in what we called the Red States – states that had historically right-leaning politics. Some influential Palinistas thought their name “too Hispanic” and so – lacking any sense of history or irony – many Palinistas began calling themselves “Reds.”

We on the left called ourselves Blues, because we were the majority in the so-called “Blue States.” Of course there were Reds in Blue states and Blues in Red states, but the country began to polarize, with Red States getting redder and the Blue states, more blue.

We Blues believed that good sense would prevail, our educational programs would succeed, and if we simply waited out the bad times our country would revert to its pre-Palinista political state of competing parties, which we still thought was workable if a bit rough.

We failed to understand that the Red strategy was to build their base by producing more Red babies, even in Blue states. They meant to quickly increase the size of their voting bloc by ramping up their reproductive rates.

Red theorists knew that drastically shortening the interval between births quickly adds bodies to any population. Small bodies, yes, but if you’re only counting heads that doesn’t matter. And you can do it quickly, pumping out babies as fast as possible – as soon as one is born, you get started making another. Because Red mothers rarely nursed their infants (too “animal-like”) they resumed ovulation rapidly, and were ready for a new pregnancy in a month or two.

A determined couple can make four babies in three years. Two parents . . . four babies . . . two into six . . . you’ve tripled your population in three years.

The Reds got to work immediately, but were quiet about what they were doing. It was only later they began to talk about the “Red Brigades of Women.” The media reported the skyrocketing birth rate, but we didn’t interpret it correctly. Some of us thought the Reds were behaving as many animals do, increasing their reproductive rate when times are good – a kind of ecological explanation. Others saw Reds as profligate, hypocritical breeders – a kind of cultural explanation. What the Red strategists wanted was that we should not take them seriously, and that’s exactly what happened during the first critical years, as we wasted time arguing ecology and culture.

It wasn’t clear how badly they had tricked us until they made their Constitutional move, which was in the dreadful year 2014.

First, the Red-controlled Congress lowered the voting age to eight, claiming this was only “taking away a one.” Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court upheld the law.

Next, Congress passed the “Patriarchal Proxy Voting Act of 2014.” This allowed male parents to cast ballots on behalf of each of their children. Women kept their single votes. The Palinistas claimed that the PPVA merely recognized Judeo-Christian parental authority, and was consistent with “family values.” Of course the Supreme Court upheld the PPVA on the grounds that it was an obvious extension of “One Man, One Vote.”

Suddenly it became clear.

All along, the Reds had been planning to swamp us at the polls in 2016, and they did. Most Red families had already produced another three children. Even families who had no children before the Red Brigade of Women laid into their task with a vengeance would have at least six votes to cast: Mom, Dad, the one on the way, plus the 10-month, the 20-month, and the 30-month olds. Five votes for Dad, one for Mom. The Reds were in a state of rapture.

Now, the Blue states had always had the all first-rate universities and research centers. In 2015 we put those researchers to work on the only task that mattered – reproduction. We put our best minds, our best technologists and engineers, our medical people, to work. And although it was a very Red thing to do, we relaxed all controls and regulations and allowed researchers to do as they wished, subject only to their own consciences. The order was simple: find ways to out-reproduce the Reds.

That’s when men started having babies.

I was an early adopter. Getting pregnant was no fun. Yes, it was exciting to watch the in vitro fertilization of your mother’s eggs with my sperm, but to be abruptly taken from the microscope to have the eggs implanted in me, not so much.

Carrying the baby was no fun either. The first-generation artificial uteruses were clumsy Teflon things that I could feel inside me when I bent over or stretched, but the stem-cells-to-uterus technology matured quickly and soon I was able to grow my own.

Giving birth was difficult. My first delivery was Caesarian, but because I couldn’t have very many of them, I had to think about delivering two or three infants each time. I thought I could have half a dozen babies before my abdominal wall gave out.

But fortunately, before another year had passed I’d grown my own vagina (stem cells, again, with a little help from the surgeon to get it connected to my uterus). That was a relief – I delivered you younger kids vaginally.

The “Sperm Into Ovum Conversion” (SIOC) process was huge advance. Figuring out how to make sperm produce mitochondria (complete with DNA) was extremely difficult. Getting that working was a lot harder than anything else, but it meant that men could fertilize themselves if they wanted to.

In SIOC’s early days, the sperm were converted externally and then introduced into the man’s uterus through his vagina. In homage to the past, we called that device the “turkey baster.”

Within a year I could produce workable ova internally, needing only a hormonal trigger and some muscle contractions to pump eggs from my testes up into my Fallopian tubes to be fertilized by my sperm. (I needed a bit of surgical re-plumbing to make that work.) SIOC technology remains a closely-guarded secret.

For ethical reasons – yes, even in the rush and excitement and danger people worried about ethics – no one wanted to deprive women of their small, fixed store of ova. Before SIOC, population growth was limited by the number of ova. But sperm are a commodity item! SIOC made “Male-Only Reproductive Events” (MORE) possible, and thus for the first time in human evolution reproduction did not require women. This felt very strange to me, but even so I bore four MORE babies.

At that point – about 2018 – a man had an interesting set of choices: self-fertilization, fertilization of another man’s SIOC ova, or fertilization of ova flushed from a woman. More adventurous men combined them.

When somebody said to me, “Little Caitlin looks just like you,” I said proudly, “She is me!”

We kept SIOC secret because if the Reds ever accepted in vitro fertilization, they could press their infertile women into service. We didn’t hide the male pregnancy technology because we knew the Palinistas would never use it. They found it repulsive. Their men never allowed themselves to become pregnant. That would be, as I heard one of them say, “so gay.”

The numbers tell the story, children.

A human woman, Red or Blue, unassisted by advanced reproductive technology, can’t maintain 10-month birth intervals for very long. The Red Brigade of Women’s “Big Red Push” lost momentum after 2016, and by 2020, most Red families had only added another child or two. This meant that the Reds would go to the polls with eight or nine votes, about half what we Blues expected to have.

A Blue couple, starting in 2015, could have as many as 16 children going into the 2020 elections. To beat the Palinistas, we’d need only eight or ten. Even so, your mother and I worked hard to produce 16, which meant we cast 18 PPVA votes.

But we had to move our voters where they were needed. Hundreds of thousands of Blue families migrated to Red states, although we didn’t bother moving people into Utah. Your mother and I moved from Cambridge to Tupelo, Mississippi early enough to register for the elections, and after the elections we moved back. Tupelo wasn’t our kind of place. We were tolerated but certainly not welcomed.

We Blues were surprised by the lack of Red aggression, especially in the South. Some  think it was because Blue Christians had succeeded in convincing many Red Christians to pay attention to what Jesus actually taught.

Needless to say, we swept the 2020 elections – Congress, the White House, every State governorship and most of the statehouses too. Out of courtesy, migrant Blues didn’t cast votes in local elections.

We had nothing to do with the bunker-buster bomb that was accidentally dropped on the Supreme Court building when the Court was in session.

Congress quickly repealed PPVA. Many migrants moved back, and relative calm prevailed in our country. In the seven years since then, we’ve contested elections in the old way, although the Democratic and Republican parties have disappeared. It’s just Reds and Blues now, and I’m glad to say that power’s been mostly in Blue hands, but we’ve never shut out the Reds as they shut us out. Both parties agree that there should never be another reproductive race, but that it’s not the sort of thing anybody should legislate.

My girls, it’s time for me to tell you our greatest secret. It’s been kept until this year – kept even from ordinary Blues. This week, the last week of October, Blue parents are revealing the secret, and that’s why I’m writing this letter.

The first group of Blue babies are now about 12, and you girls know what that means. Although we’re hoping you’ll wait a long time, you could begin to have babies soon.

I know you’re wondering what effect this great population bulge may have on the country and the planet. It worries us all. There have always been more young people than old, but there’s never been a difference like this. There are millions more young people between 7 and 12 than there ever have been. If they all go on to have two or three children, our population – and that of the world – will explode. It would be immoral to let our race for political control destroy not only our country, but others.

Now, we foresaw this problem early on. I led the team that developed what we call JOB – “Just One Baby.” It’s a DNA sequence that suppresses the ovulation-controlling GNRHR gene, and when it does, egg production shuts down. We inserted it into a retrovirus that finds GNRHR (it’s on chromosome four, in case you’re wondering). The retrovirus cannot insert itself into in eggs or sperm, so it cannot pass to the next generation. It works by monitoring hormone levels, and when it recognizes a live birth followed by lactation events, it permanently suppresses GNRHR.

The JOB virus was usually inserted during the SIOC process. It can also be inhaled, ingested, or picked up by contact. We made sure it was present in all Blue maternity hospitals.

It won’t affect anybody outside of the bulge, because we found a way – using tooth enamel isotope ratios – for it to sense whether a girl was born in North America during the time of our reproductive surge. In those girls – yes, my daughters, that means you – it arms itself and waits for them to reproduce. In anybody else it does nothing.

We have put it into all of you. It cannot be disabled.

I should tell you that we’ve taken special care to test its delivery in substances Reds prefer, and in places they typically go. I’ll say no more than that. We accepted responsibility for what we were going to do, and that meant dealing with the consequences. Helping Reds do the same is a simple favor.

Well. We can talk about all this after dinner, if you want to.

Love,

Dad


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DON MITCHELL is a writer and ecological anthropologist, born and raised in Hilo, Hawai'i (where he graduated from a public high school -- in Hawai'i, that's important). He has published academic works, poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and both published and exhibited photographs. He recently published a story collection, A Red Woman Was Crying, and is working on a novel set on Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea, where he did fieldwork. He lives happily in Hilo with his college girlfriend, a poet and yoga teacher, whom he lost for forty years but, lucky for him, finally found.

77 responses to “A Modest Response”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    Oh my God.
    Bravo, Don. Bravo.
    Terrifying.

  2. Don Mitchell says:

    Glad to see you first, Z, and glad you liked it.

    My abdomen’s been hurting all week — in sympathy.

    • Zara Potts says:

      I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t real as I read…

      It’s very frightening in that ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ way – where it’s not such a big step to imagine such a thing to actually happen.

      I’d never really given any thought to the politics of reproduction (other than environmental or ethical) until I was talking to Richrob one day and explained the very real, very scary possibilities to me, just as you have done here.

      Great piece!

  3. Don Mitchell says:

    Most people aren’t familiar with the concept of “birth interval.” And yet it’s a very important parameter, sometimes much more significant than the rate of natural increase, particularly in the short term.

    I was thinking of Richrob while writing this, because I’ve never written speculative pieces before.

  4. Holy crap, that was a classic. Too many great lines… but I think this might have been my favourite: “The Tea Baggers merged with the Palinistas and dropped their name, having finally understood what a ‘tea bagger’ was.” Or maybe the Palinistas deciding their name was “too Hispanic.”

    Oh and it’s so horrifying because it’s so easy to imagine.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Thanks, David.

      I did live in a place with out-of-control reproduction, and although it was mostly caused by the absence of any form of contraception, there was a clearly-stated feeling that it was important to out-reproduce other societies you feared.

      The average birth interval dropped from several years to less than two. But that’s a posting for another time, or maybe never. With two other anthropologists, I wrote a book chapter about it. Maybe I’ll scan it and put it on my site, even though it’s academic prose. But not bad academic prose! I think I wrote the final draft.

      I can’t think of any real place I know where short-term goals don’t outweigh long-term ones. I’d like to think there are such places, though.

      I’ve been following your travel adventures but, sorry, not commenting. And I found your blogging in Korea posting just fascinating (and horrifying).

      I should have commented about remembering the years in which I looked on S Korea as a horrible, repressive right-wing dictatorship . . . and then, somehow, it wasn’t. And I confess that I wasn’t paying attention to how that all came about.

      I really value your eye-into-Asia, David.

      • Thanks, man. Korea’s an interesting place, to say the least. It’s really tough to imagine it without being there, or even if you do visit, then if you visit the capital you still don’t really get much of a taste of the reality. Which is probably true of many places…

        Over-population is a bit frightening, and I’ll never understand the drive to out-reproduce your rivals. I suppose, though, with the benefit of knowledge we know the dangers of such things, whereas it might appear logical to some. It’s alarming, though. Even looking at the population growth over the past few decades… It makes you wonder just how long we can keep rolling along…

        I really don’t know much about China yet, but I get the impression that this is a place with at least some interest in the future. They may take interesting approaches (I’m watching my language here – they’re watching me!) but they are certainly interested in stemming the problem of over-population, and ensuring that the country continues to grow financially and otherwise in the coming decades. But then again, I’m fairly ignorant to the realities of the situation – that’s just my gleaned-from-BBC-news knowledge.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        For what it’s worth, I did post that paper “Culture Change and Fertility in Two Bougainville Populations.”

        http://wiasi.net/Wiasi-site/Culture_Change_and_Fertility.html

        The writing is more academic than I remembered, and I also misremembered how far the interval dropped — it dropped to about 2.7 years, not to under 2 years.

  5. Good, scary stuff, Don. Very Anthony Burgess-like. Except I think it would have been Obama/Clinton vs. Romney/Thune. And call me Rand Paul, but I find myself not entirely against the Just One Baby movement…..

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Thune? I’m ashamed to say I know nothing about Thune.

      You’re right about Obama/Clinton, though. I confess I was more interested in just getting the stage set, so I could go on from there, than in who the actors were going to be.

      Call you Rand Paul? Sean, I like and admire you. Why would I insult you?

      JOB raises the specter of Maoist-style fertility control, of course, which was pretty bad.

      I think population is the biggest world problem, but this isn’t the place to argue it. Just as the saying “all politics are local” has considerable merit, so too does “all population problems are local.”

  6. Unfortunately, I think we’re all going to get a heavy Thune dose before too long. If only because the Repu party (in the same way Fox started this movement to say “the democrat party” instead of “the democratic party”, we should all start calling Republicans The “repu” party) will soon realize that Romney’s brand of gameshow Mormanism ultimately makes The Mitt unelectable.

    I do actually find the issue of population control fascinating, much more than my smartass JOB comment implies, and would more than welcome your thoughts on it in a separate post. I agree with you that it’s one of those problems that generally goes unaddressed, probably because no politician is able to sum up the issue in one simplistic sentence, and therefore would be pillioried as a Maoist, eugenicist, or anti-catholic before an honest discussion ever came about. It also makes me think I should write a post championing my own personal solution to this planet’s exponentially expanding population: Worldwide Enforced Homosexuality.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Population control is a hot topic in conspiracy theory circles. The thinking goes that the primary reason the Bilderbergers (or whatever you want to call the People In Charge) begin unnecessary wars and eschew mass cures of diseases in sub-Saharan Africa is to keep the world population in check. This is the sort of thing they discuss at Skull & Bones after they’re done pissing on John Kerry, apparently.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Nice. And of course the evidence that They are keeping population in check is the excellent progress on, well, keeping population in check.

        But stuff like that never stopped a good conspiracy site.

        • Yeah, whether it’s ZOG or The 7 Families or the Rothschild heirs or Bechtel or whoever is really behind the curtain pulling The Big Strings, they’re not doing a very good job, are they? Randy Quaid and his wife obviously have a few answers, as does Mel Gibson. But, they’re currently being held in a steel room deep beneath NORAD with Saddam’s doubles, Kim il-Jung’s doubles, and the real Manuel Noriega, so we’ll never find out. I’ve gotten lots of positive email about my Immodest Proposal of WEH as stated above, by the way.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Well, I’ve already done my part by getting snipped so I’m hoping for a heterosexuality waiver. In the event, however, that there are no exceptions to the WEH policy, I call dibs on Johnny Depp or Ian Somerhalder (sorry, Simon).

          What? There were times when I thought I might end up in prison. It makes a guy think about… stuff. Don’t judge me.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Done, Anon. Long as I get the dude who played the twins in the Facebook movie.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Done and done, Greg, though this is making me very happy I didn’t mention river rafting, banjo playing or pretty mouths in my “Love Letter” piece.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Can you share any of it? (The amusing WEH emails?)

  7. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Wow, you seem to know enough about the science behind this to convince me this scenario could be a very real possibility. Next thing you’re gonna tell me is that we evolved from monkeys.

    Also I love the Republicans reducing the voting age to eight and explaining they’re “taking away a one.” This too, sounds like the logic we’ll see in the near future.

    Thanks for this very fun read.

    • Zara Potts says:

      I loved that bit too. “Just taking away a 1”

      Fatal logic. Scares the shit out of me.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Nah, not from monkeys. From apes. But don’t get me started on the widespread confusion between monkeys and apes, as in chimpanzees as “monkeys.” They aren’t, and we didn’t evolve from them, either. But I know you were only joking, so I’ll shut up about it.

      You don’t need to know nothing about no stinking logic. That’s for the elites. We’re just gonna do it our way, which is the right way. Other people have their cultural blinders on, but not us. Know what I mean? People like Sotomayer were affected by their upbringing and culture, but not us. We just grew up knowing what was right, because it’s innate, and by God it’s right.

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      If Arnold, our governator, can become pregnant with Emma Thompson’s baby, Don can do it too. But scarier than the biology is the very real possibility of Palin sticking around in politics.

  8. Greg Olear says:

    Brilliant, Don.

    Todd would do whatever his wife told him to do, up to and including the scenario described here, but no way Sarah makes the leap to Repu-martyrdom…she’s too much of an egomaniac. She’d draw the line at either kicking a guy in the balls on TV or stomping on a liberal’s head. ; )

    • Don Mitchell says:

      No, no. You’ve got it wrong. The egomaniac thing is totally irrelevant.

      The Unseen Forces deftly inserted a different virus into the moose population near Wasilla. When Sarah was practicing her field-dressing, in preparation for the 2012 campaign (this was in case anybody actually asked to see her field-dressing a moose) she nicked her finger on that big Buck knife, and the virus entered her system.

      It was the virus known as MCPV “Male Control Priesthood Virus.” Once infected, a woman is completely under the power of any man who understands how to activate it. I’m not going to disclose how it’s activated on a public site, but I’ll say that it’s not difficult, only involving techniques already known to “MCP” men.

      MCPV interferes with serotonin reception and other aspects of brain chemistry, producing a hyper-suggestible state that, obviously, can be exploited. It’s a bit dangerous, because improperly-triggered MCPV can cause the brain to produce benzodiazepine-like results. This is how she was programmed for the detonation.

      In general, women need not fear MCPV because the likelihood that any given woman will cut herself while field-dressing a moose is very low.

      In any case, Greg, I’m surprised that you didn’t know all this. It’s just the sort of thing that your friend Taylor would have been all over.

  9. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Don, terrifying but at points hilarious (“That would be… ‘so gay.’”). I’m generally a peaceful man these days and very appreciative of life in all its forms. Yet, after all the political bullshit of the past few decades, I find myself wondering, “So if – just if! – I wanted to pull the plug on the whole fucking mess, how exactly could I do it…?” Reading this piece is making me ponder it a little harder… just in case.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      I don’t know whether I want to work out the nature of your “pondering.” Do I?

      • Andrew Nonadetti says:

        It involves the Large Hadron Collider, a particularly clever lemur I’ve addicted to heroin and a large turnip. I can say no more….

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Oh, that plan. Yeah — I do think it should work, except the way I heard it, the lemur isn’t going to be as effective as a Golden Lion Marmoset. See, the marmoset is from this hemisphere, and that’s better.

          Maybe we should run parallel plans, just in case. I could go with the crack-addicted marmoset, a rutabaga, and the Fermilab accelerator.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Done. Sadly, should either of us succeed, neither of us will know! 🙂

  10. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Wicked! I laughed! I cried! I hurled! I must admit, though that your shining humanism comes through in this story and makes me realize how misanthropic I am in comparison. When I saw the “Now, the Blue states had always had the all first-rate universities and research centers.” I thought the scenario would be something along the lines of the blue states developing a line of war-gaming super-children while simultaneously developing nanomachines to infect the hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs we have lying about from when we realized how much they were complicating our work in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Blue Unis’ nanites would while enhance each cluster ordnance unit with smart targeting capability, and program the targeting to the census of Red households, and would prepare to load them onto the subset of bombers available to Blue Air Force and Navy pilots and release these in a surprise, anti-Red dawn raid. But because the potential implications of such a move were so complex and potentially catastrophic, they’d first of all run it by the greatest prodigy among the war-gaming super-kids, who, assuming there was no way the Blue leaders would possibly do anything so destructive on his advice, would authorize the Anti-Red Dawn Obliteration Raid (ARDOR).

    As my imagination was continuing to run wild without its pants on, I caught in my head a glimpse of the name of that prodigy: Ender Wiggin, and then it all collapsed around me as I realized how derivative are destructive speculative scenarios, and realized the originality of your story upon continuing to read it 🙂

  11. Matt says:

    With the midterm elections looming nigh, I must admit I’m wetting myself with terror at how much of this sounds even slightly plausible. Much in the same way I find Dr. Strangelove both hilarious and horrifying.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Wetting yourself much? Depends.

      +1 on Dr Stangelove. I had a relative (by marriage) who was in the Air Force, SAC-related, and one time I was visiting him at Altus AFB, in Oklahoma. We’d been drinking beer and were in the men’s room pissing and, I swear this is true, he really said, “You know, we can lob one into the men’s room at the Kremlin.” I didn’t know what to say, because I’d already seen Dr Strangelove.

  12. “…before another year had passed I’d grown my own vagina…” – I love it when that happens!

    This reminds me of the “pulp” science fiction stories I used to read, which sometimes stemmed from The Big Event That Changed Everything. I’m too young to have read them in their original format, but my dad had compilations like Astounding Stories and Spectrum Anthology, plus I gobbled up everything I could get from the library. I put “pulp” in quotes because it’s slightly derogatory, but I loved that stuff. Not long ago I came across a huge “Best of Pulp Science Fiction” anthology – not only was the work as imaginative and entertaining as I remembered, but the writing was superb too.

    So I hope you understand that “pulp”, in this instance, is a compliment!

    • Don Mitchell says:

      It does give “go fuck yourself” an operational definition.

      I didn’t do a lot of pulp SF when I was a kid, but I knew it was out there. In our small town it wasn’t on the newsstands. SF comic books were, though, and I saw a lot of those. Even now I can remember the plots of a couple of them, because they were so bizarre and yet made sense to me (I’m talking the 11-12 year old me).

      As for The Big Event . . . , I’m with you there. It’s a sweet plot device. This isn’t quite the same thing, but I remember reading an interview with Larry Niven (my favorite SF guy, at least with his earlier work) in which he said that if you’re going to write SF, you have to make a fundamental decision — is there going to be faster-then-light travel, or not. Everything you write is going to depend on that. And as you probably know, he invented an Earth that didn’t have it, and then did, and everything changed.

  13. Irene Zion says:

    Don,

    Occasionally, you write as though you are living in an alternate universe.
    This, right here, is an example of one of those times.

    Wacky Don
    Boredom’s balm.

  14. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    The heebie-jeebies started with mention of Jindal’s name. I’m from Louisiana. I’ve watched what he’s done to this state through the years. What’s going on now is a toxic mix of opportunism, hubris, and short-sightedness. America, don’t be fooled.

    Once the baby explosion set in, I was fully creeped out. Good work, Mr. Mitchell.

    I myself have been trying to focus on an alternative narrative of the future. Without this uncharacteristic curve toward hope, I might as well jump into my poisoned Gulf of Mexico.

  15. Don Mitchell says:

    You know, Ronlyn, my first versions of this were meant to be more funny than not. But as I worked on it, it became less and less funny for me, too.

    I’m sorry to have creeped out you, though.

    It’s really the short-sightedness thing — everywhere — that bothers me, no doubt as much as it bothers you. It’s not just short-sightedness, though, because that in itself doesn’t have to be always bad. It’s short-sightedness leading to consequences that can’t easily be undone that’s bad. I don’t know what can be done about it, because it’s everywhere.

  16. Richard Cox says:

    Oh, my God. Don. This is hilarious. It’s fabulous. There are so many great lines. MORE, and “that is so gay,” and my favorite:

    “When somebody said to me, “Little Caitlin looks just like you,” I said proudly, “She is me!””

    So awesome. And yet so terrifying. While I doubt the reds would be able to pull off this feat on purpose, it seems as though it’s going to happen anyway. Most of my friends on the blue side have no children or one child. Whereas my red friends more often have large, plentiful families.

    It’ll take longer than what happens in this fantastic speculative piece, but the net effect might be similar.

    Excellent story. And great timing.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Thanks, Rich. Coming from you, TNB’s speculative fiction wizard, it means a lot to me.

      My friend Caitlin liked that line, too.

      Differential reproduction by political orientation is only scary if the kids never learn to think for themselves, to state the obvious.

      • Richard Cox says:

        It’s true what you say about learning to think for themselves. As an example, I’m the only one of three kids in my family that sees the political landscape differently than my parents. And in fact I might be one of the few in the entire extended family. So my experience is fairly one-sided and bothers me. Not that any one ideology is necessarily the right one, but that it seems as though learning to think for oneself isn’t all that common. Thoughts?

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Sad to say, it’s not as common as it ought to be.

          It’s difficult to see beyond the beliefs kicking around in any given family, and that’s normal. It’s my impression that kids from smaller families do better at poking around to see what kind of belief systems out there might suit them, and those from larger families do less well. That’s just another way to saying that you’re socialized/enculturated by your siblings as well as your parents and other adults.

          I can’t cite any research supporting that — it’s my own anecdotal evidence and nothing more.

          A poet friend of mine — more than 80 years old, so he’s seen a lot and thought about a lot — said to me once that the worst situation is when people have been taught not only that there’s only one right answer to every question (which is bad enough) but that once you know that answer, you can stop asking the question.

          And he wasn’t talking about whether 2+2=4, or not.

  17. Gloria Harrison says:

    This is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious – a fascinating balance. The future you spell out here makes my heart sink. Thankfully, it’s fiction.

    All that aside – you’re an amazing frickin’ writer, Don. Economy of language, perfect punctuation. Kudos. An enjoyably disturbing read.

  18. Gloria says:

    Also, and I’m surprised no one said this already – nice nod to Jonathan Swift with your title.

  19. Don, this is terrifyingly, hilariously excellent. I’m waiting for the movie! Sarah Palin can star as herself. It will be very meta . . .

  20. Don Mitchell says:

    Gina, thanks.

    The special effects and prostheses ought to be fun, too.

    Thinking about your recent posting . . . will I get hate mail or phone calls?

  21. Simon Smithson says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party on this one, Don – as others have pointed out, the Vonnegut comparisons are inescapable.

    Oh, America. Why can’t Reds and Blues all just get along and be Purples?

    Oh, yeah, that’s right. That colour’s gay.

    Heh.

    I laughed, but I also felt the cold wind of prophecy brush the back of my neck, and I realised that, if I’m to have the courage of my political convictions, I’d better be ready to wine and dine myself before too long.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      You were frightening yourself out there in SF, no?

      Nobody picked up on my use of “benzodiazepine” in my response to Greg’s comment. He was the guy who snuck “sildenafil” into “Totally Killer,” which is why I snuck my generic in . . . more to your worry about wining & dining, nah, sildenafil will do it for you. Or to you. Or with you. Or something.

  22. Mary Richert says:

    Holy cow, Don. I can only echo what everyone else has said already. This one really goes above and beyond.

  23. Don Mitchell says:

    Thanks, Mary.

    Is “above and beyond” just another way of saying “over the top?” Or is it more like TMI?

  24. Cheryl says:

    Holy guacamole! I’m breathing into a paper bag. It would be even more hilarious if it didn’t sound downright plausible after the abysmal mid-term elections (from my political POV). A lot of great lines here.

    So, which of my Blue-state friends will adopt my family if this goes down? I’m looking you Gloria. Gloria?

    I am now residing in a nice oasis of blue in a super-red state (in Austin, TX), but we’ll need to high-tail it if this plays out. We have a pick-up truck and guns, so we can shoot our way out, if need be 🙂

    • Gloria says:

      I’m there for you, sister.

      Except, of course, Oregon is not a blue state. You know that, right? I mean, Portland couldn’t be bluer, and we definitely have a disproportionate influence, but Oregon is cattle country. Fo’ sho’.

      Portland is Austin.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Isn’t it true that Oregon safety these days only requires saying something like “How ’bout those Ducks?” That shows which side you’re on.

        Actually, the Ducks are amazing. I watch whenever I can. I’m fairly certain they could beat the Bills.

        • Gloria says:

          You lost me at Ducks, Don. People start quacking about the ducks and beavers and I pretend like I’m a deaf mute with cerebral palsy. This is a fairly effective way to end any conversation about sports.

        • Cheryl says:

          Oh yeah. We compared at length, and yet I just didn’t want to believe it. I guess “Red’ and “Blue” are no longer dependent on that Mason-Dixon line. Damned tea-baggers and their quest for national domination. I’ll leave all my corsets and petticoats at home, since we apparently don’t need them in 2010 and beyond (unless maybe you’re a Red in 2015)

          I guess we’ll all have to move in to my friend Melinda’s 500 sq. ft. New York apt. (:

          Don, Arkansas is already on the road to surpassing that Red birth-rate number you imagined up there, so who do we need to call to get a jump-start on this male pregnancy thing?

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Cheryl, I’m not revealing that on a public site, but the pathway flows through J.B. Hunt’s operation in Fayetteville and then on to Razorback land.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      If you dress carefully and talk right, your pickup alone ought to get you out of Texas intact. Then eventually you can get to California.

      I think that somewhere on TNB I told the story of planning to drive through Texas (to California) in 1969 in a foreign car. I had facial hair, long hair — not extreme, but hippie-ish. My then wife had long hair, too. A Texas friend told me to pack a pair of haircutting scissors in the glovebox and if the car broke down or things otherwise didn’t look good, to have my wife quickly cut my hair short. I was worried enough to follow his advice. Didn’t have to use the scissors.

      • Cheryl says:

        Glad you didn’t have to cut your hair, Don. It’s a big state and there are some very inhospitable places here. On the other hand, it’s my home and I do love it. It’s full of contradictions and outlandish characters and tall tales.

        The pick-up might make it out – even with the Ganesha bumper sticker on it, if only because most rural Texans don’t know who Ganesha is. If we have to, we’ll install a gun rack to throw them off the scent.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          You could say, “You boys ever hunted Blue Elephant? They’re seriously dangerous. And not only that, where they live there’s this four-armed girl who’s seriously bad-ass.”

  25. Erika Rae says:

    Don – I love the sci fi quality to this piece. I mean, I assume it’s not going to really happen.

    It’s not going to really happen, is it?

    Oh, for a uterus made of teflon.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Not if we don’t let it happen.

      About non-biological uteruses – when I was in college I worked in a fertility lab (washing glassware in acid, cleaning the animal room) and we had an experimental artificial uterus. The researchers never did get it working properly, but they tried hard (it was a serious project). It could handle mice, but that was about it. Every now and again I’d come into work and people would say with awe and respect, They’ve got one in it. That meant that they had a human fetus and were trying to save it. They always failed, and although they still had the device when I left to go to grad school, I’m sure they must have given it up or we’d have all heard about it.

      Anyway, glad you liked it.

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