Birthday Reviews: Kara Dalkey’s “Bouncing Babies”

Birthday Reviews: Kara Dalkey’s “Bouncing Babies”

Not of Woman Born
Not of Woman Born

Kara Dalkey was born on November 4, 1953.

Dalkey was nominated for the Mythopoeic Award in 1989 for her novel The Nightingale, a retelling of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales in a Japanese setting. Ten years later her novel Heavenward Path was also nominated for the Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature. She was also nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award in 2004 for her short story “Lady of the Ice Gardens.”

“Bouncing Babies” was published in the anthology Not of Woman Born, edited by Constance Ash in 1999. The story has never been reprinted.

Although the people who live in the world of “Bouncing Babies” may see it as a utopia in which people don’t have to worry about giving birth unless they want to and the need to work is obviated, it is also a world in which a person’s worth is based solely on their ability to provide reproductive material. Teenage girls are genetically tested and if they prove to fit societal requirements are paid ten million dollars to have their eggs harvested, their genotype then used to determine their ability to fit into society.

Ms. Goodwin has long since had her eggs harvested and is living a life of luxury when she receives a notification to visit the Reprotec Bank. Not having any clue what they want to talk to her about, she goes in and discovers that her eggs are no longer genetically desirable. In fact, a child born from them was returned as defective by its parents. The bank has seized her assets to regain their investments and Goodwin realizes that she has nothing to fall back on.

The story ends with her trying to figure out what she can do with all avenues cut off and a non-work economy in place. A sudden change in economic climate comes to her aid by chance, but Dalkey only hints at the repercussions for society as a whole. A follow up showing the immediate aftermath of the latest societal change as it ripples outward would certainly be interesting.

Nearly twenty years after the story was published, there are definitely reflections of modern society here, which show that things which people are attacking as new have been around a lot longer than some would care to admit. Goodwin’s explanation that she is a “personal icon color consultant” seems like something directly out of the modern social media age, but in fact predates it.

Reviewed in its only appearance in the anthology Not of Woman Born, edited by Constance Ash, Roc/Dutton NAL, 1999.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Webinar: Web Sites” in The Tangled Web. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

Figured it would probably be Kara Dalkey, who did some very nice work. I was wondering, per the ISFDB, about famous writer Michelangelo Buonnicoti, though.

I suppose the only other candidates were M. T. Anderson (I’ve liked a couple of his recentish short pieces a fair bit) and an interesting one: Babette Rosmond, who had a couple of pieces in UNKNOWN in the early ’40s, then a quite interesting short novel, ERROR HURLED, in a Fred and Carol Pohl anthology in the ’70s.

Rich Horton

Rosmond of course was an important editor — first at Street and Smith (Doc Savage was one of her titles) and later in magazines like Seventeen. She also wrote several contemporary novels (including one set among pulp editors), and she was an activist for more woman-led treatment of breast cancer. Interesting person.

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