“Auspicium Melioris Aevi,” by JY Yang.
Short story. Published in Uncanny, March/April 2017.
The story of a school for clones. What do they study? Ah, that depends whose clones they are…
Rocket Stack Rank praises the story as “Clever; makes you think”.
Charles Paysuer, at Quick Sip Reviews, observes:
The story really to me seems to be about the way that people are prepared to be just copies of the past. Fed the biographies and skills and ideologies of the “great men” of the past so that we can all go out into the world and contribute to industry. So that we can land good jobs and uphold the status quo. And yet as Harry shows the system is rigged. It doesn’t have the flexibility that really serves it. […]
It’s a point that the ending does a magnificent job of driving home, that rebellion in some ways is easy. That resisting a bad system is in some ways easy. What is more difficult is to imagine a better system and to try and take steps toward it. A wonderful read!
On “Pretty Terrible,” Natalie Luhrs reviews the story:
I really don’t want to spoil the ending of the story, but it went in a somewhat unexpected direction that makes total sense when looking at the overall shape of the story and the character of the fiftieth Harry Lee. I loved the care with which each Harry Lee was drawn, even those who appeared only briefly—even though they are copies, they’re also individuals.
I really found this story quite enjoyable—Yang has a crisp, clear writing style that conveys precisely the information needed. Despite the seriousness of what’s going on in the story, there are still flashes of humor and grace, both of which are often lacking in stories that tackle issues like freedom, self-determination, and the weight of history. This is the first story of Yang’s I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last.
A.C. Wise, in “Words For Thought,” writes:
Yang touches on questions of destiny and predetermination on a genetic level and an environmental level. What makes a person who and what they are, and can similar circumstances recreate that? Despite both nature and nurture trying to fit him into a template, it’s clear the fiftieth Harry Lee has free will, and a mind and personality of his own. [..]
The clones are meant to use their free will to choose to conform to their template. However, being bred for that one choice his entire life, leaves Harry to realize the possibility of freedom – when it is ultimately offered to him – can be just as terrifying as constraint. Faced with infinite possibilities, Harry is paralyzed.
What’s your take? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments below!