NOT OF WOMAN BORN

Edited by Constance Ash

Subterranean Press, Eos/HarperCollins / 272 pages / May 2002

ISBN: 1931081549

Throw down those ovulation predictors! Cast aside those thermometers! Of what use are those fertility pills now? In the future, new humans are going to be popping out of every test tube, artificial womb, and industrial-size mayo jar if you look away for an instant. All that and keeping your girlish/boyish figure. Ah! Progress!

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Some of these new methods may take you by surprise, but Constance Ash and her herd of authors are already putting aside money for their neuvo-neonates’ college tuition. If there’s a high-tech way to reproduce, chances are it’s covered in Not of Woman Born. And covered well.

Ease your way into this area with some bizarre and quirky tales of science gone overboard. Enjoy the insanity of “One Day At Central Convenience Mall” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and wonder if this technique isn’t already in practice at your local galleria. Didn’t you see a news story on E! that was eerily like “Doppels”? And don’t start spending that big advance until after you check out Kara Dalkey’s “Bouncing Babies.” Sure, they’re all kind of nightmarish, but you can look ahead to it and laugh.

In the mood for something a little bit more… chilling? Follow the path of the Great White Hunter into what is left of Africa in Ash’s “The Leopard’s Garden” a horrifying glimpse of a decimated Earth and the drive to repopulate. Ponder the nature of human taboos and the law of the jungle with a bio-engineered scientist and loving son in Sage Walker’s unsettling outer space tale, “Hunting Mother.”

No one said it was all going to be sweet and sunny.

In a more somber vein, two stories explore the emotional toll of selective reproduction. Can a young woman work out all of her problems with her mother, if she just gets a second chance? Janni Lee Simner probes one painful relationship in her heartbreaking tale, “Raising Jenny,” that is far too accurate for comfort. The search for perfect offspring carries its own pain and loss, in Walter Jon Williams’ “Daddy’s World.”

The stories are every bit as diverse as you would expect from looking at the list of authors. And this is only at the fiction stage; what will it be like when all of these inventions are actually options? Pro-Life and Pro-Choice debates will become infinitely more intricate when reproduction takes place outside the human body. (Will they start bombing test tube manufacturers, then? Send snipers after egg donors? Oh, the… humanity, I guess.) What a relief to imagine a future where hyper-fertile people don’t try to have children by the litter. And every infant has a chance to be whole and healthy.

It may well be the number one topic in the new millennium. You might as well get a jump start on the questions, now. Open your eyes and your mind to the possibilities. There is no better way to do it than with the precious, and semi-precious, gems in this anthology. And, it won’t hurt a bit.