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Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The Examination" by Felix C. Gotschalk

First appeared in Robert Silverberg's New Dimensions IV. Reprinted by Harvey A. Katz, Martin H. Greenberg & Patricia S. Warrick, and Robert Silverberg. It was one of the stories that prompted his nomination for the John W. Campbell award for New Writers.

A psychologist interviews a seemingly slow-witted eight-year-old African American girl in order to assess her intelligence. As they progress, her command of language keeps surprising him. She not only scores well at her age range, but also higher. And higher.

The tables get turned.
Discussion with Spoilers:
As she scores well even for an intelligent adult, her voice loses its homespun pronunciations. She sounds more and more like a machine until she announces she's an alien and that she is conducting an examination of his and his species' intelligence.

He attempts to communicate with the secretary outside the office to escape, but she foils the plot. She says she is adaptable, mold-able, and impossible to destroy. She asks questions about him and these tests. When liberators arrive at the door, she warns him not to divulge her identity as she now looks like a girl to them. Nonetheless, he announces she's an alien with all the details, and police officers cart him away.

The words they select in the examination have some parallel to his thoughts and their discussion, cleverly commenting on the surrounding text. In fact, the whole tale is pleasurable apart from the too-easy ending. It offers a critique of current intelligence assessments although it offers no alternatives.

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