Short Story #64: Where There's Hope by Jerome Bixby

Title:  Where There's Hope

Author:  Jerome Bixby

Summary

Worlds of Science Fiction - November 1953
A colony of people have landed on "New Earth" to begin establishing new life and prepare for larger populations to make it there in 20 years or so.  Though they have only been there six weeks, they have run into some trouble.  The environment takes some getting used to and the local lifeforms are problematic--particularly the bigger beasts which are thus far proving impervious to kill by human technology and have caused several deaths of the colonists.  All of this has made the women feel quite cautious about the desire to procreate.  They have uniformly protested and refuse to procreate for a few years until they can be assured it is safe.  Therefore, Hugh Farrel, Chief Medical Officer is left to try to convince couples to procreate and he isn't having much success.  He meets with Ralph and Mary Pornsen to try to convince them but Mary brings up a variety of issues that include safety against the native creatures but also the concern with all of the radiation exposure they have suffered on Earth and on New Earth.  Farrel explains that regardless, if people don't start procreating soon, there may be no chance to actually procreate.  She continues to refuse and then Farrel explains that the humans planned for that before leaving Earth.  He presses a button that causes them to pass out.  Doctors come in and afterwards, the reader is told that the chairs the Pornsens sat in had the ability to inject hypnotic drugs into them.  Once under the drug they were instructed to have sex.  Once completed, they were returned to their normal status and allowed to leave (not remembering entirely what occurred).  They would be expected to return the following week.  Farrel believed that once one couple gets pregnant others will follow more willingly.  The story fast forwards twenty years when the other colonists arrive.  The story ends by coyly saying humans had been significantly mutated by the radiation but that everyone got used to it pretty quickly.  

Reflection

The story in some ways reminds me of the Battlestar Galactica episode wherein the question is raised of what do you do when the entire species of human is in jeopardy.  Is it fair to regulate men and women's bodies in such instances?  Bixby's story is a bit more haunting than the Battlestar Galactica episode.  That the couples are drugged into having sex and therefore not giving consent means that both male and female are raped by Farrel in this story.  They both say "no" but Farrel coerces them unwillingly into sex.  I don't blame Bixby for writing it--it's not hard to imagine that it is entirely possible in some version of the future.  However, what concerns me would be if Bixby thought it was entirely the right thing to do.  That is, does he condone this action?  That's left to be decided.  The ending with mutated humans being the next generation could suggest that going that route irrevocably changes us or that we had to change (i.e. accept these questionable acts) in order to survive.    

Short Story #64 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  3/2/2014
Source:  I purchased this short story for free on Amazon Kindle.  The story can also be found on Project Gutenberg here.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.




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