Monday, January 18, 2010

N-Words by Ted Kosmatka

The “N” is for Neanderthal. In the future Neanderthals are brought back into existence using fossil genetic material. The narrator is the human wife of a Neanderthal man. As the title suggests, they encounter prejudice similar to African Americans and other people of color. It’s a theme that resonates strongly -- “anti-miscegenation” laws were still enforced in 16 states until they were ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1967. I suspect that the same sense of appalling injustice that those racist laws now evoke will soon be turned toward today’s unjust laws banning gay marriage. I digress.

The story is set at a high emotional pitch throughout, as the wife grieves for her Neanderthal husband who has been killed in front of her. The author makes his case too airtight by making Neanderthals superior in every way: physically, mentally, and morally. This undercuts what should have been a strong ending where the wife’s frozen grief thaws into anger.

“N-Words” by Ted Kosmatka first appeared in the anthology Seeds of Change (Prime Books, 2008) edited by John Joseph Adams.
Link: Year’s Best SF 14 summation and table of contents

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