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Confessions from the Consortium of Rogue Gene Scientists
Confessions from the Consortium of Rogue Gene Scientists: An Open Letter to Our Two Children was written by loving parents and addressed to their genetically engineered children. It is now being published pseudonymously—and posthumously. The letter explains the parents’ decision to develop and use genetic technology despite the prohibition. Their goal was not only to keep their heritable diseases from impacting their children but also to create a fundamentally new option for human reproduction. They argue, in effect, that a ban on human genetic engineering violates their religious freedom. At the request of the authors this letter is being posthumously released to the public. Though their children are the primary audience, they hope that by sharing their story and world view, it will help to usher in greater public understanding and acceptance of gene technology. It functions as a declaration of intent to the scientific community, a persuasive argument for the general reader, and a personal letter to the authors’ children. Part love letter from parents to their children, part manifesto on the potentials of gene editing, part exploration of our individual and collective responsibilities to the entire species, Confessions from the Consortium of Rogue Gene Scientists is a stirring look at the immense potential of the future of genetic research—if we are brave enough to take an unbiased look at ourselves and our biology.
This provocative short story takes the form of a letter written by “Charles” and “Cassandra,” scientists who violated a ban on genetic engineering so as to protect their descendants from inherited disease. In 2017, Cassandra dies of cystic fibrosis; in 2019, Charles has a fatal cranial hemorrhage resulting from hemophilia. This missive to their orphaned children is then released anonymously to the public. Cassandra and Charles believe their genetic flaws uniquely qualified them to illustrate that using science to extend the lives of the disabled does humankind no evolutionary favors; they hope their children, engineered to be “physically, mentally, and emotionally healthier,” will help the human race grow stronger over time by handing down the healthy genes from their parents as well as the engineered ones that remove their parents’ flaws and provide useful traits such as seeing ultraviolet light.

Tackling complex concepts in straightforward language (“No one consents to existing”), the Does explain that their children were conceived in love, encourage them to be existentially aware, and recommend a non-religious, joy-focused worldview. They punctuate their lessons with clever poems referencing Occam’s razor, Plato’s cave, and Fermi’s paradox. Discussing possible solutions for overpopulation in an age of dwindling resources, they explicitly reject eugenics, instead advocating to “make access to genetic technology a universal human right,” but readers may struggle to believe that individuals choosing which of their traits to eliminate would be much improvement over authoritarian eugenics programs.

Those who read widely and are acquainted with the philosophical and scientific concepts underpinning this story will have a leg up on enjoying it, but the conceit of the letter being written to young children makes it surprisingly accessible. The unusual concept, epistolary form, and surprising playfulness of the writing result in something special, perfect for both casual reading and philosophy classroom discussion.

Takeaway: Science fiction readers and philosophy students will enjoy contemplating the ideas in this provocative epistolary work.

Great for fans of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain, Neal Shusterman’s Unwind Dystology.

Production grades
Cover: C+
Design and typography: C+
Illustrations: -
Editing: A+
Marketing copy: B