I read the short story “Each to Each” by Seanan McGuire in Lightspeed’s “Women Destroy Science Fiction!” magazine. It is a story in which humanity has decided to literally dive deeper into exploration, namely, that of the deep sea. While space exploration is still happening, it is mainly an endeavor left to the rich because of the lack of the promise of sustainability of life. In the deep ocean, however, there is an abundance of life, minerals, resources, food, etc.
The United States Navy, among other government and non-government entities, are leading the exploration efforts of the world. While there is much to be said about the role of gender in this particular story, especially when it comes to how women are viewed/treated in this futuristic world, I want to focus on the idea of biologically modifying the human body in order to survive and adapt to life in the deep ocean. In this story, the soldiers are subjected to surgeries to adapt their bodies to be more like that of sea creatures to increase mobility, communication, and other aspects, such as being able to breathe underwater and withstand the high water pressures. Soldiers are able to choose which “mods” they want and are given the abilities of such species. There are soldiers with stinging spines like lion fish, bio-luminescent appendages like angler fish, and so forth.
This is obviously fascinating in the sense of future technology and development in evolution, but what really highlights how intriguing this concept is when the main character talks about the promise that the government gave her and other soldiers of “reversal,” or becoming a normal human again. What if the technology to enable such exploration wasn’t just an added-on suit, but a complete change to what we know as the biological human?
An excerpt from the short: “Can you put the bones back into a jelly’s feet, just because you think they ought to be there? Questions better left unanswered, if you ask me.” Those are definitely some questions that should be considered, not to mention the questions that would already need to be asked in order to start the process of changing humans in such a way to begin with.
Finally, the short ends with the main character being approached by another modded human that was the result of a privately-owned genetic modifier. She tells the main character of a “New Atlantis” where those that have become “one with the sea” can go to live without being chained to a governing body, such as the U.S. Navy.
There are so many interesting questions posed by this story, and it makes me wonder what the future of exploration will look like, as well as what the future of the human being will look like? Will that change in any way? I personally find it hard to wrap my mind around that idea, but it certainly is an intriguing concept..