Friday, July 22, 2016

Seven Kill Tiger, by Charles Shao

This story published in There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House, December 2015

This review contains spoilers. Don't click on "Read more" if you don't want to read the spoilers.

A Chinese factory head in Zambia is looking at serious, even life-threatening, political problems because the innately criminal nature of the language. sub-Saharan Africans is bringing down both productivity and the safety of Chinese workers and their families to an unacceptable levels. And no, Shao doesn't even try to dress up what he's saying in more camouflaging language.

Spoilers below this.

You have been warned.

Seriously.

He comes up with a Clever Plan, though, relying on a young scientist who has developed an infectious agent, or stumbled across someone else's development of it, that will kill sub-Saharan Africans, and only sub-Saharan Africans.

As stunningly racist as this is, Shao doesn't seem to understand that his Clever Plan not only won't, but can't work. It's very simple. This idea rests on the assumption that there is some specific genetic marker that says "sub-Saharan African," reliably enough that a virus can be designed that would only affect sub-Saharan Africans. Unfortunately for this idea, Africa contains most of the genetic diversity of the human species. Designing a virus that would only affect Han Chinese, as Stephen Baxter postulated in Titan, would be a huge, huge reach, but if you let go of reality far enough, it's conceivable. Sorta. Conceptually.

But it's critical to what passes for a plot in this story that this created virus will only affect sub-Saharan Africans--no one else. We need to be clear, here. This is a virus that is supposed to be 100% lethal against the extremely genetically diverse population of sub-Saharan Africa, and affect no one else. At all. Chinese intelligence informs the CDC, underhandedly, that the US doesn't need to retaliate when it happens because it won't spread outside Africa, and specifically and most importantly, it won't affect more than a vanishingly tiny number of people in the US, and they will be recent immigrants and probably not even citizens.

I was left feeling that I was supposed to be left feeling that this was ruthless, inhumane, but ultimately beneficial to everyone--except, of course, the Africans.

It takes my breath away, but not with the quality of the story. Not recommended.

I received the anthology containing this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Award voters' packet.