Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Robert Silverberg's "Caught in the Organ Draft" (short story, science fiction, free)

Quote from short story titled Caught in the Organ Draft by Robert SilverbergDark, plausible, & quite readable. Theme is generally the same as Larry Niven's "The Jigsaw Man": a post-modern society that has found a justification for what can justifiably be called cannibalism - legally forcing others to donate their body organs for Mr X's benefit.

In Niven's story, it was by instituting capital punishment for even minor traffic offenders, & state gets to mine the organs of the executed! In this story, it's mandatory organ draft - state can forcibly draft anyone healthy & young in an organ donation program; if you have the right pull & a dying kidney, you can force me to "donate"! OK - the mechanics are a bit more complex, but that's the essential idea.

Story is narrated first person by a young man just drafted, & his anguish at the system. By the end of the story, he would have lost one kidney to draft program.

At a very fundamental level, this is also the traditional power broker's story: If you donate an organ, you get a higher right to someone else's organs than others. Obviously there are people who benefit more than others, when compared with the situation where everyone gets to keep their organs (rather than making power-brokers decide the distribution). How often do our dear politicians try this - for some resource or the other?

Indian readers will find an echo of our caste certificate racket here: story has an elaborate classification system on who has more organ reception rights than others. In fact, this classification system divides the society into castes in a manner not too different from those recognized by India's reservation laws.

Fact sheet.

First published: Roger Elwood (Ed)'s "And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire" (1972).
Rating: A
Download full text from Internet Archive.
Included in Ellen Datlow's Sci Fiction classics.