Author Topic: EP405: Vestigial Girl  (Read 19309 times)

Devoted135

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1252
Reply #25 on: August 01, 2013, 04:43:50 PM
Oh, another thought.
The fact that she met this other girl who apparently had the same problems that she had, in a support group for parents and children of genetic manipulation, points to the fact that her situation is the direct result of whatever it was the scientists did, and has predictable, repeatable results.
Damn, but that's a long sentence. :P
Anyway, don't the people in charge of this thing maintain contact with their past patients? Don't they do follow-up exams and case studies? You'd think that they'd connect the dots and change their methodology of gene manipulation, or at the very least say "No, we won't do this because it has bad results."
Of course, Charlene may very well be only the second patient in the world with these symptoms and then the scientists did in fact say "No, we won't do this because it has bad results." But... I dunno.

I agree, but would argue that even if the doctors knew there was a chance that these symptoms might occur, they would continue to do the procedure (and of course forewarn the parents of the chances) if the percentage of incidence was low enough.

"Okay aspiring parents, we have several genetic manipulations available. This particular one is almost guaranteed to increase your child's IQ by 200%! Of course, I have to warn you that there is a 1.5% chance that your child will suffer severe disability with regard to motor function and verbal communication, but I assure you that all of MY patients have been happy and healthy."



InfiniteMonkey

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 483
  • Clearly, I need more typewriters....
Reply #26 on: August 01, 2013, 06:37:44 PM

Anyway, don't the people in charge of this thing maintain contact with their past patients? Don't they do follow-up exams and case studies? You'd think that they'd connect the dots and change their methodology of gene manipulation, or at the very least say "No, we won't do this because it has bad results."


Maybe they have a hidden agenda....



Scattercat

  • Caution:
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4904
  • Amateur wordsmith
    • Mirrorshards
Reply #27 on: August 01, 2013, 07:00:19 PM
There's no indication that new clones are still being made; the other "whistler" is older than the protagonist. And it's not like the medical establishment never makes mistakes or misses side effects until it's too late for at least some poor folks.  Thalidomide, anyone?



Yeine

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 2
Reply #28 on: August 03, 2013, 02:53:39 PM
I tend not to be terribly fond of the 'person with disabilities has superhuman powers in other areas' trope, but generally I liked this story very much. I found the characters very strong and the interactions between them extremely believable, and I loved how normalised the genetic splicing of same-sex parents was. One thing I struggled with was believing that Charlene had so little control over her own tongue; infants often have better control over it than most other muscles, because it's so necessary for the suck reflex. Still, if I'm going to believe that a four year old with an adult intellect but the gross motor skills of a much younger child could diagnose her own speech problems and fashion tools for self surgery, it seems like that shouldn't be the thing that causes me to trip up mentally.

Although I didn't read her inability to verbally communicate as a nod to autism, I can see why others did. Charlene's attempts to communicate - spelling words with the blocks, for example - are overlooked by her caregivers. If anything, then, it's about how those around people with disabilities can overlook their actual abilities and work-arounds because they've bought into the narrative of all that the person can't do.
I particularly enjoyed the genuine tension that I felt here, too. There were points where I genuinely believed that Charlene would not survive her ill-advised surgery efforts, and I was sufficiently invested in the story and in her as a character that I felt actually quite anxious on her behalf. This was one of my favourite recent stories.



Sfwanderer

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 2
Reply #29 on: August 03, 2013, 10:57:21 PM
This reminds me of what happened to me as a child.  I evidently had an extra tooth growing up into the roof of my mouth (I am otherwise normal) and was having it surgically removed at the dentist.  I was knocked out with the anesthesia but woke up while they were still drilling into the roof of my mouth to remove this tooth (from what I remember it was a tooth.  I don't remember ever seeing it.)  I remember them reassuring me as they finished up the surgery.  My dad felt really bad about what happened and bought me a train that shot ping pong balls out of the smoke stack on the way home.  I figured, on balance, that made it a very good day! Lol



evrgrn_monster

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 356
  • SQUAW, MY OPINIONS.
Reply #30 on: August 04, 2013, 11:55:22 PM
Oh, another thought.
The fact that she met this other girl who apparently had the same problems that she had, in a support group for parents and children of genetic manipulation, points to the fact that her situation is the direct result of whatever it was the scientists did, and has predictable, repeatable results.
Damn, but that's a long sentence. :P
Anyway, don't the people in charge of this thing maintain contact with their past patients? Don't they do follow-up exams and case studies? You'd think that they'd connect the dots and change their methodology of gene manipulation, or at the very least say "No, we won't do this because it has bad results."
Of course, Charlene may very well be only the second patient in the world with these symptoms and then the scientists did in fact say "No, we won't do this because it has bad results." But... I dunno.

I agree, but would argue that even if the doctors knew there was a chance that these symptoms might occur, they would continue to do the procedure (and of course forewarn the parents of the chances) if the percentage of incidence was low enough.

"Okay aspiring parents, we have several genetic manipulations available. This particular one is almost guaranteed to increase your child's IQ by 200%! Of course, I have to warn you that there is a 1.5% chance that your child will suffer severe disability with regard to motor function and verbal communication, but I assure you that all of MY patients have been happy and healthy."

You know, that completely makes sense. I think the story would've benefited from just a quick blurb, stating something along these lines. Take some of the guess work away from us overthinking readers.


benjaminjb

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1389
Reply #31 on: August 07, 2013, 03:25:10 PM
On an abstract level, I thought the story was fine: small child facing obstacles, overcomes them, becomes closer to family. And I can see why some commenters hear thought the story punched hard in the emotional kidneys. But--and I realize this is just one of my biases--I am not very moved by brilliant kid stories.



eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
Reply #32 on: August 11, 2013, 12:00:06 PM
From an emotional and storytelling aspect, this story worked for me. I followed along and was interested throughout. But I did not find it plausible at all - just too many places where my disbelief was stretched beyond breaking point. She is physically limited - she can't climb or pick up large objects - and she is apparently incapable of the motor control necessary for a computer touchscreen interface. But she was somehow able to find pictures of the human vocal system? Did her parents just leave them around her room? If she could google image "vocal folds", she could also write "hello dads" on the tablet/computer.

Also, even now there are special touchscreen and computer interfaces available for children with motor disabilities. I cannot imagine that in this future there will be no special interfaces designed for people for whom normal gesture recognition doesn't work.

And how in the world did she learn to spell? Or indeed, learnt the word "tardiloquous"? You can't just pick up English words and their spelling by being intelligent - you need to be exposed to them. And I assume that her parents weren't just leaving books containing words they probably didn't know within reach in her bedroom.

Finally, and this was brought up by others here too - what happened to all the doctors/speech therapists/child psychologists in this world?  Didn't anyone ever think to look down her throat? Or to figure out a means of communication that does work? Again, I know people who work with communication with severely disabled children. Even when the parents can't think of ideas, there are professionals whose job it is to try every avenue of communication. Did no one think to ask her "do you understand me? whistle if you do. Great! Now, make two short whistles followed by one longer whistle", and then you at least know that she's aware and can understand English, and at the very least, teach her to whistle in morse code or something.

Maybe, if Charlotte was unique, I could buy that her parents just couldn't afford proper care and the doctors she saw just ignored her. But if this is common enough that she could meet a second child with the same symptoms, then presumably someone studied these cases. And trust me - if there's a new speech impediment that affects even a small amount of the population, there would be doctors, researchers and others jumping at their chance of being the one to find a treatment that works - not for altruistic reasons, but that's because that is how you build your career.

So yeah, overall - a decent story as far as stories go, but seriously (in my eyes) hurt by its lack of plausibility.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2013, 06:42:23 PM by eytanz »



zoanon

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
Reply #33 on: August 22, 2013, 05:40:00 PM
seems to me the monster is some vestigial feature brought out of her DNA by the cloning processes.



oliverbuckram

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Reply #34 on: September 01, 2013, 01:31:18 PM
I loved it.  Gripping.



FireTurtle

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 898
Reply #35 on: September 04, 2013, 09:27:47 PM
Interesting, but I had to many suspension of disbelief issues to really immerse myself. Most of them have already been addressed in the comments before mine.

I will only add that -as a professional- it is incredibly difficult to put a endoscopic camera down some else's throat and see their vocal cords, let alone your own without anesthesia. Even with anesthesia its tricky. And that's with a functioning and coordinated neuromuscular system. So...put another one in the "unlikely" column. And where a grey membrane could hide where an ENT couldn't see it? Where is that?? There ain't nothin' grey down there.

Interesting concept, I had no difficulty figuring out that it was a weird problem with the "cloned" kids. And BTW, that technology exists. Just barely.

http://www.nature.com/news/stem-cells-egg-engineers-1.13582


“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. LeGuin


mb

  • Guest
Reply #36 on: September 12, 2013, 07:43:02 PM
scary as hell, weird as fuck, but amazingly brilliant!!!
yes, there are a couple of things that do not add up, such as why it is taking her so long to do certain things, and why she can't communicate in certain ways if she can do other quite complex things. but somehow it didnt matter, the atmosphere itself is sufficient to make this a good story



Varda

  • Rebound
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2710
  • Definitely not an android.
Reply #37 on: October 14, 2013, 09:14:34 PM
This is, to date, the only SF story I've ever heard that plays in my little branch of science (Speech-Language Pathology), so I always wanted to comment on it before you guys flushed me out of lurker mode.

So the end product is a super brilliant child with very little motor control and a benign cancerous growth in her larynx.
The doctors didn't spot it because in its natural position it lay flat against the vocal membranes, and appeared as standard tissue in most imaging technology (MRI, CT, etc'). Only when she learned that she can flex it did it become visible (when she flexed it) to the most obvious of diagnostic tools: the endoscope. And why didn't she flex it when she was at an ENT or something? Well, maybe she hadn't been to one since she learned that she could flex it.

That's more or less what I thought too. It's useful if you see the vocal folds in action, so check out this video for a visual. The little girl in this story has an extra membrane stretched directly across the opening leading to the vocal folds which probably dampens their vibration. To put it another way, think of the vocal folds as a jump rope you and a friend are wiggling, and the membrane as dropping a towel on top. Kills the vibration, and therefore kills speech.


I will only add that -as a professional- it is incredibly difficult to put a endoscopic camera down some else's throat and see their vocal cords, let alone your own without anesthesia. Even with anesthesia its tricky. And that's with a functioning and coordinated neuromuscular system. So...put another one in the "unlikely" column. And where a grey membrane could hide where an ENT couldn't see it? Where is that?? There ain't nothin' grey down there.

Not too tricky at all if you only need to look at the glottis/larynx. This is a standard examination in Speech-Language Pathology (to be fair, I'm a student, and therefore haven't performed one yet myself, but I've seen them done). Getting a camera past the glottis is definitely tricky, though. To get an idea of how close to the front of the throat we're talking, the Adam's apple (aka thyroid prominence) basically marks larynx position, and you can move it further up your throat if you want (put your hand on your throat and swallow to see what I mean).

All this aside, I can't for the life of me figure out why, in the world of this story, no one bothered to give her a thorough speech evaluation when she was language-delayed. Kids do fall through the cracks, but since there was a second girl with the same issue, seems strange to me. Still, I'm not complaining, as I wish there were more great SF of this sort involving interesting medical puzzles, and with such great characters to boot.

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
http://rckjones.wordpress.com


CryptoMe

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1139
Reply #38 on: November 03, 2013, 08:11:00 AM
Thought the story was just okay.
Best part for me was the discussion on the forums. Particularly the medical details from the professionals at the end. Very interesting!



hardware

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 192
Reply #39 on: January 30, 2014, 07:39:28 PM
This story was very well done, as a father of a five-year-old, getting emotionally involved was a no-brainer, and I really like how the world is shown through the story, and without info-dumps. Now for the thing in her throat, I thought this was in fact part of whatever next step of evolution she was, and that the whistling was probably a superior kind of communication that she nevertheless chose to cut off to be able to communicate with her fathers.