Conditionally Human (eBook)

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  • 14,284 Words
  • 52 Pages

In CONDITIONALLY HUMAN (February 1952), gene-alteration raises animal intelligence to near human levels, posing ethical and emotional questions for those involved in the animals’ care. Miller handles the story’s horrifying implications with prescient force and cool detachment. He had only been writing for publication for a little over a year when this story appeared GALAXY, and this, the first of his two contributions to the magazine, showed that he had already achieved full control of his talent. The ethical questions raised here (“Are they therefore human?” “Can we continue to treat them like property”?) are at the center of societal concern and debate sixty years later and are nowhere closer to being resolved. This version of the novelette is significantly shorter than the version which appears in the major 1980 collection THE BEST OF WALTER MILLER, JR. and it is reasonable to speculate that the version published in GALAXY was a reduction by its editor Horace Gold, who was well known to have engaged in that kind of imperious editing. There is no question that this more economical version fits better into GALAXY’s format and serves Gold’s views of editorial consistency. Miller’s own views of the presumed alteration are unknown but the fact that his COMMAND PERFORMANCE appeared in the magazine nine months later suggests that he found this editorial intervention acceptable. (Some of GALAXY’s authors did not. Theodore Sturgeon was notably discontented and Isaac Asimov left the magazine and science fiction writing in the late 50’s, probably for that reason.)

In CONDITIONALLY HUMAN (February 1952), gene-alteration raises animal intelligence to near human levels, posing ethical and emotional questions for those involved in the animals’ care. Miller handles the story’s horrifying implications with prescient force and cool detachment. He had only been writing for publication for a little over a year when this story appeared GALAXY, and this, the first of his two contributions to the magazine, showed that he had already achieved full control of his talent. The ethical questions raised here (“Are they therefore human?” “Can we continue to treat them like property”?) are at the center of societal concern and debate sixty years later and are nowhere closer to being resolved. This version of the novelette is significantly shorter than the version which appears in the major 1980 collection THE BEST OF WALTER MILLER, JR. and it is reasonable to speculate that the version published in GALAXY was a reduction by its editor Horace Gold, who was well known to have engaged in that kind of imperious editing. There is no question that this more economical version fits better into GALAXY’s format and serves Gold’s views of editorial consistency. Miller’s own views of the presumed alteration are unknown but the fact that his COMMAND PERFORMANCE appeared in the magazine nine months later suggests that he found this editorial intervention acceptable. (Some of GALAXY’s authors did not. Theodore Sturgeon was notably discontented and Isaac Asimov left the magazine and science fiction writing in the late 50’s, probably for that reason.)


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