The Gender Plague
K. D. Wentworth
From the many reprints I was sent for Shine, there were only two that I considered very seriously: one is in the final Table of Contents (and the competition about that will begin in a few weeks), and this was the other one.
The premise—a virus that causes a person to change sex overnight—might be a bit wonky (although, with all the crazy performance-enhancement drugs out there I’m not so sure), but this story is a great example that it’s not really the idea itself that matters, but what you do with it. KD takes this crazy (well, it’s becoming less and less crazy in this modern world) notion and runs with it. She runs with it so well that the end result feels completely natural.
Some people think that if well-established (or so one thought) boundaries between things begin to blur, civilisation as we know it comes to a grinding halt. Personally, I think this is just another form of future shock, and once we get used to the newer, richer, crazier and more interesting reality, then we might get a world not unlike “The Gender Plague”…
Lance woke up female again on Tuesday—for the third time in the last ten weeks. When the clock-radio blasted him awake with a particularly wrenching rendition of “Your Cheating Heart,” he rolled over, then stiffened as several unexpected mounds of flesh pressed into his chest—breasts, definitely. Damn!
Heart pounding, he peeked under the sheet—not a goddamned hair anywhere on his now very generously endowed chest, and just when he had an important presentation to make to that officious Japanese outfit gearing up to sell seaweed tacos in the good old U.S. of A. Freaking nano-hackers, screwing around with a man’s basic equipment just for the hell of it! The fact that infected women all over Dallas were bound to be waking up male at that very moment was no consolation to a fellow whose family jewels had gone south somewhere in the depths of the night.
Well, that was what came of refusing to wear those stupid plastic gloves every time he left the apartment, but even the most unobtrusive pair made him look like an absolute wimp, and the more extensive plastic-film suits that protected your exposed flesh had all the appeal of full body condoms. In the advertising game, where first impressions were everything, he could not afford to look foolish. Why the hell didn’t the National Institutes of Health develop a real cure instead of a half-assed purging treatment that changed you back, but didn’t prevent additional infections? He had a good mind to start cheating on his taxes like everyone else. Continue reading