Sunday, August 4, 2019

In This Moment, We Are Happy, by Chen Qiufan


(SF) Four different groups of people explore the pros and cons of different ways to reproduce in the future. (12,725 words; Time: 42m)

"," by (translated by Rebecca Kuang, edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 155, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.438 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story contains four different interleaved stories: a busy Chinese mother who hires a surrogate to bear her child, a man who wants to conceive and bear a child as an art project, a lesbian couple who’re the first to produce a child where they’re both the genetic parents, and a secret organization that wants to change the nature of human reproduction forever.

The third segment, about social reactions to two women both being the genetic parents of a child, was decent although it went on too long.

The MOW45 segment had a lot of potential to make an interesting story all by itself.

Con: The four pieces just don’t come together. They’re like four different stories merged into one for unknown reasons.

The first is the worst, since it’s loaded with anti-surrogacy misinformation—at least as far as the US goes. Eric and I evaluated surrogacy not long ago. We spoke with surrogates. We spoke with parents. We talked with providers. Surrogacy is often the only way for couples, including gay men, to have kids. It deserves to be considered fairly. So, for the sake of anyone in the US who, on the basis of this story, might want to consider surrogacy or anyone who might think less of someone who did, I want to offer a corrective:

  • Surrogates are motivated by the desire to help people. The money is secondary.

  • The couple and the surrogate will spend a lot of time together. Surrogates often donate breast milk for up to a year after the birth of the child.

  • Surrogates rarely get attached to the child. Remember, they are not the biological mothers. The egg comes from someone else.

  • Legal problems (like a sperm or egg donor asking for rights) are a thing of the past. The process is very standard now.

  • Multiple implantations are a thing of the past, largely because multiple births are harder on babies and surrogates both and because implantation success rates have gone up.

  • No one implants multiple embryos and then aborts some of them. Sex selection and testing for genetic diseases happen before implantation.

  • Some of the abuses in the story did indeed happen with overseas surrogates, but most of those countries (e.g. India, which is mentioned in the story) responded by banning surrogacy almost entirely.

The second part, a man trying to emulate childbirth as an art project and then dying in the process, was just ridiculous.

The third and fourth parts might have made decent stories on their own, but they’re not well-enough developed here.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I think of this piece of literature differently. I think it is a brilliant story! First of all, this work is not written for a US audience, but for a Chinese one where things might be different than in the US. US readers are just reading a translation.
    Second, this is a piece of fiction and does not underly real facts. It's just imagination (that might be based on reality, but does not have to) and this is what makes science fiction science fiction. You might be right about the facts on surrogacy and it's great that you reveal the truth, but again, it's just fiction. And this part reflects very well the importance of raising boys and the problem of femicide which results from it (this has changed in urban areas, but in rural it is still an issue). I think that all four stories connect very well to each other as they all raise the question how reproduction (which is a very big issue in China) might develop in the future. I would like to suggest readers to try reading this piece of art which is quite unique in China for the representation of homosexual main characters as well as of the notion that in the future people could choose their gender or even live genderless. We ought not to forget to honor this.

    1. If it is true that the story can only be appreciated by people who live in China and who read it in Chinese, then it was a mistake for Clarkesworld to print it, and I was right to recommend against it. More generally, it would be very wrong for me to pretend to like a story when in fact I had to force myself to finish it.

      Did you read the story in Chinese? Did you enjoy it as a story? Or did you mainly value it for its message?

  2. Author website: