It's nice to know my alumni association pays attention. The University of Chicago Magazine sent out a tweet about my story "Eight Maids A'milking" over at the 12 Days of Christmas story blog.
I've been doing some thinking about that story, and how it could or should be described. I probably should have written something happier, sweeter and funnier for a Christmas anthology, but that's what came out, so there it is.
Believe it or not, I saw the ending as a positive one. Ultimately, mankind is going to get all kinds of benefits from the AIS. The material benefits aren't what make the story positive, though. It's the compassion that the scientists feel toward their subject, even in the face of the pressure to focus on profit at any cost.
Meixu doesn't want to make another AIS. Her work is moving as fast as possible toward a more humane technology that is much more respectful of life. Jackson backs her on this, even if he could make a gazillion dollars by making more AIS cows.
I felt pretty good about these guys. What does that say about me?
This is not unalloyed compassion and virtue, of course. In the real world, things are never black and white. The almost incalculable benefits are being weighed against the suffering of Daisy. While this individual animal loses, its suffering helps them to draw the line - this far, and no farther.
But what if this is just Chapter One of a longer story?
In considering how to expand it, the obvious question is, what happens when they (Meixu and Jackson) are confronted with pressures from both sides? Who would want this project expanded? Who would want it shut down? How will they hide the truth? How will they hold the line? What happens if they fail? Will they be celebrated as heroes, or vilified as monsters? Together or individually? It was Meixu's work, but it was Jackson's money.
So many questions...
Why would I want to expand this? I don't even know how to describe it as it is.
I thought of it as science fiction, but the comments certainly describe reactions to it primarily as a horror piece.
So which is it? And does it matter?
It matters because a story that can't be well categorized, especially if it comes from an unknown author, has a much lower chance of being published. This story was too horrible to be conventional science fiction, but it's too grounded in reality and science to be conventional horror (no demons, no magic, no fantasy elements).
What do I do? Limit myself to sci-fi that is surprising, dystopic, etc., but NOT scary and horrible? Write full on horror, and let the reality-based sci-fi elements fall by the wayside?
Or should I just write it and see where the story takes me?