Human Engineering Project – an Excerpt




                Chaney was one of those people who preferred actual books to handheld computer screens for reading.  That made her an exception in her literature class. She’d ordered a paper bound volume of the literature to read along with the teacher.

                Chaney found the title of the classic fiction story intriguing.  “Dune”, by Frank Herbert. The teacher wanted to discuss the ideas of wild-eyed religion competing with science-induced prophecy, with a naturally bred Messiah as the central character.

                Chaney was most fascinated by the concept of both the Bene Gesserit. Here was an organization that had existed for thousands of years.  It was capable of projects that lasted many human lifetimes.  That was something sorely lacking in her own society.  The Bene Gesserit was also breeding toward the superhuman character. Their god-like creation that was the main character in the story. The main character and his descendants were beyond human in ability, but they were naturally bred and made children the old fashioned way. They also fell victim to human attachments like love despite better breeding and fantastic training. If better DNA didn’t result in perfection, or even the expected, what good was the improvement if it wasn’t really an improvement? Chaney wondered if the teacher chose this novel because that paralleled the current debate on genetic engineering. 

Chaney knew that literature was supposed to be selected to foster debate on the subject while couching it in a fantastic futuristic situation.  However, as the lectures began, she found herself torn to both extremes of the debate.  She personally was not in favor of extreme genetic manipulation. Fixing defects was wonderful. Making ones children beautiful was vanity. In that, she was an agreement with the teacher and most of the class. 

However, her parents had decided before her conception that they wanted what was now called “a golden child”. Those who denounced genetic engineering hated it in all forms – and sometimes those who had been shaped by it. Chaney found it difficult to join the class discussions knowing full well that either side she took would be used against her if anyone found out. That it had been done by her parents was irrelevant. She was guilty of the crime for merely existing. No one talked about the freaks born by genetic accidents; the novel mentioned the Bene Theilax, who represented that disaster in full detail. The argument today was about enhancements alone, and whether they should be allowed.  

One class member was openly discussing his parent’s decision to cure their cancer tendencies. He’d had two grandparents die of cancer, and his parents wanted to ensure he was spared that pain. He said genetic engineering was medically necessary in some cases – like his.  He was the only person who openly favored genetic engineering in the class of over a hundred students. 

Mid-semester, Chaney spoke up. “What about antibiotics?”

“Excuse me?” the professor asked.

“Antibiotics are a form of interference in natural processes.” The professor looked perplexed. “By your logic, are they not an example of meddling in biology?”

“The first antibiotics were sulfa series and penicillin. They were naturally derived, and thus natural. Just as the honey based antibiotics we now rely upon are naturally derived. The completely artificial antibiotics of the late twentieth century and the evolution of multi-drug resistant strains that followed are proof of the failure of artifice in the face natural evolution. Good example.” The professor glanced at the class display and her name. “Good example, Chaney.”

The one lone voice pinged. “What about chemotherapy drugs? How many tens of millions of lives have those supposedly toxic chemicals saved?”

Someone was prepared for that example. He was shot down by posted statistics others called up on how many Baby Boomers were dying now because of cancer therapies they’d taken two and three decades prior. That they had lived long enough to suffer the after effects was ignored. As was the lone dissenter. Seeing his classmates call out against him was far greater censorship than the professor would have dared do. Political correctness and the censorship it wrought had been fought against in their lifetime, and further acts to force PC on students weren’t tolerated by those paying the bills. But peer pressure was still completely acceptable in quieting an opinion. And the lone dissenter fell silent.

Chaney also found out he was also the only person to fail the course later that semester. 

Chaney had noticed those who remained silent in agreement as she did. Who only spoke when spoken to. She wondered how many were in the same situation she was in, modified or enhanced or corrected, but not advertising that fact.  And she wondered how many of them simply were friends and family of “the others”, as the teacher called those who were created unnaturally? Other than natural, other than normal … other than human?

Or did they secretly with their parents had added a few IQ points or fixed that god-awful axe of a nose on their face that could only be fixed now with surgery or nano-implants?

Chaney wrote a neutral review of the teacher on the last day, just as she wrote waffling essays on the biological modification controversies the teacher kept bringing up. “Frankenstein”. “Brave New World”. “Alien”. Different stories, but all the same lesson. Any changes of the natural state of the universe were bad.

At the end of the semester, she walked up to the listing of the grades. Under “Chaney Lewis” was the "A" she expected.  She considered it the hardest one she had ever earned.

But because of what her parents did before she was conceived to make it easier for her, she couldn’t help wonder if life was only going to get harder from here.


To read the rest of the story, visit "Human Engineering Project".



Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 3, 2018 - 2:12pm
To read more by Tamara Wilhite, visit her Amazon author page.
Tubularsock Added Apr 3, 2018 - 2:56pm
Tamara, like your work. Tubularsock has a feeling that Chaney is in for some surprises. When Tubularsock has a break in work Tubularsock will wonder back and just see what happens. Thanks.
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 3, 2018 - 3:15pm
Tubularsock Thank you for the praise. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read the story for free.
Pardero Added Apr 3, 2018 - 5:02pm
Tamara Wilhite, 
I really like your timely subject matter. 
Dune was all the rage when I was young. I never did figure out why the movie didn't really work. Maybe should have been in 3 parts. I liked the actors, costumes, and sets. It didn't flow right. We played the Dune wargame for years. It was brutal and we barely avoided fights because it was so realistic and you had so much invested in your 'house' even if you were House Harkonnen.
Someday, I hope to check publishing dates to verify, but Canadian writer Gordon R. Dickson wrote of a specially bred 'Messiah' type character in a galaxy of specialized planets. The resemblance to Dune is uncanny, but without a desert planet, though there was warrior planet, home of the Dorsai, from whom the name of the series is derived.
I will be keeping an eye out at Amazon because Harlan Ellison is finally releasing Blood's a Rover after 40 years or so! Ellison is cocky and won't even sign books anymore. 
If you can find the time, do you have a paperback available, that is the equivalent of a novel, even if it covers a period of time exceeding a lifetime, that you would recommend? Or a collection of short stories where an adventure or situation is resolved in each one? I am pretty simple in that I like an adventure where the guy gets the girl(or robot girl). Or at least goes on his merry way with his dog. ; )
I like old fashioned paperbacks. Don't have Kindle.
Jack Vance and Frank Herbert were pals, you know.
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 3, 2018 - 6:03pm

Pardero My short story collection "Humanity's Edge" and intergenerational space epic "Sirat: Through the Fires of Hell" are available in both print and Kindle eBooks on Amazon.
You can find print copies on Barnes and Noble, as well.
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 3, 2018 - 6:14pm
Pardero You can buy a hard copy of "Humanity's Edge" here. Same page links to the Audible audio book version.
I'm having trouble finding a print version of "Sirat". The ebook version is here:
Pardero Added Apr 3, 2018 - 6:47pm
Tamara Wilhite,
I ordered "Humanity's Edge."
I may have to consider one of those Kindle gadgets. I don't read a whole lot, anymore. I will have to think about it.
None on e-bay, either, but I have found scarcer items with patience. I can check Abe Books, too.
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 3, 2018 - 8:30pm
Thank you very much, Pardero.
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 3, 2018 - 8:42pm
Note that you can install the Kindle App on a computer, so you can read Kindles without having to buy the device.
Pardero Added Apr 3, 2018 - 8:52pm
Ahh. I will look into it. Thank you, Tamara Wilhite.
Dave Volek Added Apr 4, 2018 - 3:49pm
You got me hooked. I'll be ordering Humanity's Edge in the next few days. I would like to see how you work things out in this very controversial and paradoxical social issue.
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 5, 2018 - 9:43am

Dave Volek Thank you. I do touch on cloning and genetic engineering in the short stories in "Humanity's Edge". My novel "Norn Born" and a number of other stories question what makes us human.
Some of my stories are also available for free on Hubpages.

When Time Should Have Stood Still, a Sci-Fi Short
All of Humanity’s Children, a Science Fiction Story
Throwback, a Scifi Short Story

Dave Volek Added Apr 5, 2018 - 10:54pm
I bought the book. I have something else that needs to be finished.
I know you tend to lean to the politically right, but I am curious to find out where you are taking this story. 
Dave Volek Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:43pm
I got into the book last night. Very good story so far!
Spartacus Added Apr 7, 2018 - 12:21am
Dang.  I don't have a Kindle.  I have an Audible account and use it all the time.  
Any chance this book will show up on Audible . . . or another way to read it besides hard-copy?
Thanks for sharing Tamara!
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 7, 2018 - 11:03pm

William Stockton My short story collection "Humanity's Edge" is on Audible. It is the only one I had turned into an audio book.
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 16, 2018 - 10:44pm
William Stockton If you were looking for the "Humanity's Edge" Audible book link, it is:
Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 17, 2018 - 6:56pm
Other free stories by me that you could read:

There Are No Third Chances by Tamara Wilhite

Another Tragedy in the Making by Tamara Wilhite