Whilst putting together my short fiction from the past 21 years, I realised that I had lost at least two stories. Then I came across a collection of old school magazines in which I had been writing fiction 1986-7. Whilst none of it is of the top quality, I thought it might be an idea to preserve it on here. It is fascinating looking back through magazines of the 1980s (I found copies going back to 1983) and to see the concerns of late teenagers, living in prosperous suburbia in that era. I know I was involved with the magazine from 1984 onwards, but I only began writing short stories from 1986.
I suppose thes magazines would be useful cultural material. We all seemed very angry and very trendy in those days. I suppose that was a combination of brash politics and brash fashions. Those of us writing for school magazines were those who had the energy to get concerned about things, so I suppose in some ways things have not changed that much. I suppose the fear quotient has fallen a little. Reading the non-fiction articles there are some frivolous bits, but there are loads of pieces about the danger of nuclear war, A.I.D.S., Vietnamese boat people, human rights, animal rights and unemployment. We feared that not only would we not get a job but we would die in a nuclear war or from some incurable disease. The late 2000s are beginning to look a bit like the 1980s, but looking back, we are not there in terms of terror, quite yet.
This story comes from March 1986 and looks at fertility treatments and genetic engineering, another of the scary developments of the time that we were becoming aware of. I think it was influenced by a studio-based drama that I had seen on BBC2, but I cannot remember the name of. That ended with a holographic projection of a minotaur on a small round table. Like a lot of people writing in the 1980s I tried to be very serious and shocking whilst being wry at the same time. Being only 18-19 in 1986 I was not really that adept at writing even mundane stuff, let alone things that straddled all those elements; a lot of the themes are laid on very heavily. As far as possible I have stuck to the punctuation of the original story, though in those days everything was produced on a typewriter so a occasionally there had to be some intervention with tippex and a black pen.
Man Made Man?
An Unpleasant Short Story
"... and this is our new ward, the achitect called it the Pasiphae ward, but to most of us it's just the 'test tube ward'." The doctor guided his small group of new arrived nurses, through the immacrulate, modern ward.
"Hello, Mrs Kirby, it won't be long now," he turned to a woman sitting dozily in her bed; her husband held her hand.
"Ah, hello doctor, my wife's a bid dry, I was just saying she must be patient, and it's worth teh wait. It'll be over soon."
"Keep up the good work, it's always nice to see husbands giving support." The doctor smiled and turned back to his group.
"A decade ago, it would have been impossible for a woman such as Mrs Kirby to have any children, but advances at this and other hospitals mean that now she can, like any normal woman."
The group continued on through some swing doors.
"This is our genetic research area, where we seek to make human life better and free from problems before and after birth. Just over here is where our artificial insemination takes place. As you can see, we are preparing for Mrs Kirby, who should be in within half-an ..." The doctor's sentence was broken by the ringing of a fire bell. The doctor froze, then said calmly but with stress, "move thes trolleys out, Nurse Lawrence and Warren; you others help with the patients."
The was the sound of extinguisher foam nearby, as staff hurried back and forth; the smell of smoke fused with the chemicals' odour and the noise of the bell with the shouts.
The two nurses pushed the trolleys of test tubes, as directed.
"Look out!" The trolleys collided and the racks fell over. The two quickly snatched the loose rolling tubes and placed them back on the trolleys.
"Be careful!" bellowed the doctor, "Keep the test tubes separate."
Within twenty minutes the area had been cleared and the fire put out.
"Don't worry there'll just be an hour or so delay, Mrs Kirby, but we should be ready for you this evening." the doctor reassured her.
Nine months later...
"A success, a lovely baby boy," the nurse declared cheerfully, " would you like to hold him, Mrs Kirby?"
The woman nodded and the child was passed to her. As she held it, its soft fleshy tail wrapped around her finger. There was a scream ...