Flip – Afterword
This was one of those organic stories. The seeds of it came to me some time ago as the result of a comment exchange from a BCTS member who told me she has Klinefelter syndrome. I did some research into it and started wondering what might happen if it might be possible to separate the male and female aspects and copy the rest. From this Phil/Philippa sprung into existence.
After that, the story took on a life of its own. It seemed natural that Wiesner would have ideas on how to use Phil’s special abilities, and that he would be a good guy. The first mission came out of the blue, as so many things did in this story. With the Wexler raid, I still didn’t have much of an idea what he was after, so the concept of a fairly generic multi-use invention filled the gap. I didn’t know Phillip was going to get caught there until it happened.
After that the confusion over who was the good guy just rose out of the mess. The authorities who arrested Phil were going to put themselves over as the good guys and cast Wiesner into the role of villain, and that’s where things get messy.
I’m often reminded of a conversation between Granny Weatherwax and The Quite Reverend Mightily-Praiseworthy-Are-Ye-Who-Exalteth-Om Oats in Carpe Jugulm:
Oats: “It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of grey.”
Granny:“There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby.
I love the quote, and in context (talking about sin) I find I agree with it, I believe there is an absolute expression of good and evil. The problem is, when dealing with people, we are all some shade of ‘white that’s got grubby’ and deciding who to side with becomes difficult when you allow yourself to think about it — the reason in my mind why most people choose not to.
Deus ex Machina wasn’t even a glimmer of a thought when I started the story. I hate the use of Deus ex Machina in stories — just lazy writing in my mind — but I liked the idea of a real life Deus ex working to make things right in the world, and it seemed likely that Wiesner would not be working alone. Besides, in order to be truly one of the good guys, he’d have to accept the limitations of the human condition and accept the need for accountability in his actions. I see Wiesner as someone who tends to view the world in black and white. People like this have a tendency, once they have seen something they regard as white, to be unable to consider anything that challenges it, hence the need for others to balance him out. I think that’s what Phil saw and liked in him: the capacity to acknowledge his own flaws and deal with them.
The issue of world population entering into the story was news to me as much it was to Phillip when Wiesner explained it to him in the car. Once that was in place, the nature of what Phil had to steal on his third mission became clear. I didn’t expect him to get burned on the way in, and when it happened, I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was. I didn’t expect there to be monster hybrid dogs in the lab, although once they were there, Louie was a must. I did write in a bit where Phil asks Wiesner about the possibility of the fertility virus crossing into other species, and worrying about the affect this would have on endangered primates like orangutans, but there were a number of times when the writing lost direction and I had to go back to a couple of forks and pick up again. In the rewrite, there was never an option to put the question back in without it seeming forced.
I had no solution for Phil’s burns when it turned out that they weren’t going to heal completely. I’m grateful that Wiesner did, and I guess the outcome was somewhat inevitable once it was put on the table.
The whole world population problem thing ran away with me a bit. It was never intended to be such a big part of the story, but the more I found myself wrestling with it, the more Phil struggled too. Personally, if I had the same choice to make, I’m not sure how well I’d do. The logical side of me knows that something has to be done if my grandchildren (one so far, but I’m hoping for more) are going to grow up in a world worth living in. The emotional side feels that allowing even a well intentioned group of individuals — especially a specific demographic that doesn’t represent the whole world population — to make decisions like this isn’t right. My muse wouldn’t tell me what he chose, and even now I don’t know. That being said, I don’t feel that outcome is important to the story. What is is that Phillip/Philippa/Faith managed to use his/her unique blend of male and female to reach a conclusion that felt right to him. Like Wiesner and Stacey, I trust his instincts more than my own, so I imagine the future will turn out alright.
On the subject of the blend, it seems evident to me that we all have elements of female and male inside of us. Perhaps the blend is a little more even within the LGBT community, but society pushes us into moulds which means we don’t have much of a chance to express the full spectrum. Phil/Philippa did have it, so was able to apply both the intuitive female side — capable of taking a large number of complex factors and combining them into a group of feelings — and the pragmatic male side — able to focus on individual aspects and reflect on them logically without allowing personal feelings to influence the outcome — to work his way to a solution that neither side could reach on its own. I hope you are able to trust Phil as much as I and accept that he made the best decision.
I wrote a short story a while ago entitled Scout that alludes to a similar idea of mixed male and female in a personality allowing for a more rounded approach to solving problems. It’s a lot short and differs quite a bit from this effort. Up to you if give it a try.
As to what happens next, my Muse isn’t saying much. A story is only ever a segment of a person’s life, and this is where this one ends. The lovely thing about stories, though, is that you can continue them in your own imagination. Me, I imagine Faith and Stacey will marry (matching wedding dresses, but then that’s just me) and settle into what appears on the outside to be a same sex marriage; this is the twenty-first century after all. I imagine both of them will eventually be invited to join Deus ex, and that Faith at least will apply herself to her studies and become a leading biologist or geneticist. In the future I imagine she may even work alongside Dr Wiesner on some other project (without putting himself or anyone else in danger). I don’t know if Stacey will have any children, or if this will become common around the world, but I imagine she and Faith will be happy. I imagine Philippa will remain under the surface most of the time and only makes occasional appearances other than her nightly visits. Faith may continue to use her to make decisions that his male side can’t sort on its own, but overall I imagine he’s choosing to grow old with his wife, and that Philippa will only start to emerge later. What she will experience or achieve in the life she has I cannot imagine. A young and vivacious woman with an old man’s experience and knowledge strikes me as an exciting adventure, albeit one that will inevitably start with a painful loss. I hope she will be okay.