I already posted this story last year. I’m reposting it now as one of the 2012 Hugo nominees.
Nancy Fulda is an editor and short story author who is, as so many do, working on a novel. Hopefully it will be as good and as thought-provoking as this story.
“Would there be side effects?” My father asks. In the oppressive heat of the evening, I hear the quiet Zzzapof his shoulder laser as it targets mosquitoes. The device is not as effective as it was two years ago: the mosquitoes are getting faster.
My father is a believer in technology, and that is why he contacted the research institute. He wants to fix me. He is certain there is a way.
“There would be no side effects in the traditional sense,”the specialist says. I like him even though his presence makes me uncomfortable. He chooses his words very precisely. “We’re talking about direct synaptic grafting, not drugs. The process is akin to bending a sapling to influence the shape of the grown tree. We boost the strength of key dendritic connections and allow brain development to continue naturally. Young neurons are very malleable.”
“And you’ve done this before?” I do not have to look to know my mother is frowning.
My mother does not trust technology. She has spent the last ten years trying to coax me into social behavior by gentler means. She loves me, but she does not understand me. She thinks I cannot be happy unless I am smiling and laughing and running along the beach with other teenagers.
“The procedure is still new, but our first subject was a young woman about the same age as your daughter. Afterwards, she integrated wonderfully. She was never an exceptional student, but she began speaking more and had an easier time following classroom procedure.”
“What about Hannah’s…talents?”my mother asks. I know she is thinking about my dancing; also the way I remember facts and numbers without trying. “Would she lose those?”