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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

“The Growth of the House of Usher” by Brian Stableford

First appeared in Interzone. It was up for the Interzone Readers Poll, reprinted in genre retrospectives by Gardner R. Dozois and  John Clute, David Pringle and Simon Ounsley. From the collection, Sexual Chemistry and Other Tales of the Biotech Revolution.

The faceless narrator visits Rowland Usher on the Orinoco Delta. They had been civil engineers together in college where they worked with engineered bacteria that rebuilt raw materials into various architectures.
Now the narrator finds Rowland and his father have built a house in memory of his sister, whom they loved dearly--in multiple senses. All of the Ushers have been dying of the same genetic malady

Commentary with Spoilers:

Rowland kicks the bucket, and the narrator spots worm-like creatures who bear resemblance to the sister. They crawl out to cuddle/be cuddled and die.

This follows the "plot" of Edgar Allan Poe's “The Fall of the House of Usher” if it can be said to have a plot. This story departs enough, twisting so that it maintains reader interest.

Genius title.

Does it comment on where we're headed with societal mores? Although a case could be made (even that genetic monkeying leads to decadent moral decay), the other tales don't support the sudden land change. This tale wallows less in moral decay than in a futuristic Poe. Perhaps that's two sides of the same coin.

Rather, the pivotal final image may have been the seed that the author lacquered around, building backwards logically to create a society in which this might have happened.

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