Sheri S. Tepper I Am Not

When I was searching my papers for a scrap of ElfQuest fanfic, I also came across this gem, from the same era, and I just had to share it with you. ...You'll see why in a minute.


There are stories from the Old World of witches turning people into newts. That happened to me shortly after I was born. Except that it was more of a warlock -- his name's Dr. Mortimer Latsley. And I wasn't a newt -- I was a neut. short for neuter. You see, some two decades ago, Latsley perfected the science of sex changing. And he created a new sex -- neuts. Then he suggested to the World United Government Seats -- yes, W.U.G.S. -- that 96% of Terra's population be turned into neuts -- and that the other 5% be composed of the most talented and gifted people of our era, that their genes would be the only ones passed on. It didn't quite work that way. The ones with the most money and power to buy testing answers were the ones to keep their -- ahem -- well, you know. The rest were changed.

And every parents has the option to neut their children. It's done a lot. and when the WUGS think we're running out of "real" people, they take some of those kids and turn them back. Needless to say, this has done a lot for Male-female equality. And the world's population problem. Anyways, the neuts were all given to "real" people, who live in huge private estates. In fact, the neuts were treated a lot like slaves. I'm one of the luckier newts -- I live in the S. American region, where newts have more rights. We can do what we like, within reason, if you don't bother our -- well... -- owners. But all of this is background. You want to know the interesting parts -- about the Underground Revolution.

I first met them after the Riot Scare -- violent neuts were rioting to take over estates. I was caught in the start of one riot but was pulled back into an alley. "Stay back, fool," hissed an unfamiliar voice, "those guards will kill you!" I'd never seen a riot before -- or the guard-robots who sprayed random laserlight into the crowd. It was a terrible scene. The more I saw, the more I wanted to look away. But I couldn't; I was paralized with fear. It ended with a huge pile of dead neuts -- something was put on them so there was just a pile of dust, which blew quickly away on an evening breeze. I started shivering, then trembling, then outright sobbing there in an alley, with a stranger. "Shh... be still. We're not safe here. I'm B-Storin. Who are you?" he asked. Oh -- that's another aspect of life as a neut. Your name starts with B or G (for Boy or Girl) -- that denotes what you were when you were born, and whether you're still called he or she -- though you're still an it. "I'm G-Dilphine. How can you stand that -- carnage?"

"I have to. Come on. This way." He led me further into the alley, which was far from clean, to a dead end. He spoke, "B-Storin to G_Pirou. Enter." The dead end slid open noiselessly, revealing steps down.


Graceless prose and exposition aside -- and overuse of em dashes, which I do to this day -- it looks like I was trying to work out some Big Ideas, but I didn't have a good framework for understanding them yet (and, hey, I was in the 8th grade, so that's OK.) It was very likely influenced by a book I still half-remember in which swapping sexes was a casual activity. Probably by John Varley. My current activist self cringes.

I actually remember writing this on one of many hot summer days spent home alone, doing whatever I could to entertain myself. (Other things I did: Callanetics; Duck Tales; singing.) I don't quite remember where I was going with it. This is probably for the best.