The story appeared in Gardner Dozois' 32nd edition of The Year's Best Science Fiction. It wouldn't make sense to re-tell the story here; I think the question can only be answered by people who have read it. It's not really a spoiler, and it's simple: Does the last paragraph imply that the protagonist was wrong about her daughter? (I thought not, and it didn't occur to me, until somebody else pointed it out to me; now I'm curious.) It's of course also possible that Bunker left it intentionally unclear.

Below is the last paragraph, following Rand's suggestion.

Michael did not marry again. He was devoted to his daughter and lavished all his love and attention on her. As she grew older she would sometimes speak about people in the world outside the village in strange ways, almost as if they were people that she knew. Her father only smiled at this, and didn't criticize her for her odd ideas.

  • Opinion-based questions aren't allowed on this site. – Rogue Jedi Apr 24 '16 at 23:44
  • @RogueJedi Sure, but questions that invite answers based on canon and reasonable deduction are. Remove the last two words and this would be fine, I think. (Though it might help to actually have the last paragraph included in the question, for easy reference.) – Rand al'Thor Apr 24 '16 at 23:46
  • I felt that my answer to this one was pretty solid. Is there anything else you'd like me to add before considering an acceptance? – Valorum Jul 2 '16 at 12:19

Yes, she was clearly mistaken. Her worry was that her daughter's sense of community (the thing that the virus had taken from humanity) was utterly absent. however the final passage in the story demonstrates that while that sensibility may have been heavily suppressed, it wasn't non-existent, as it was in the other villagers.

As she grew older she would sometimes speak about people in the world outside the village in strange ways, almost as if they were people that she knew.

Since we know that the virus was intended to alter the DNA of those infected, the clear implication is that the virus is no longer active and that her (uninfected) DNA has overcome the limitations placed on it by the infection. Assuming her daughter breeds this trait back into the human race, their passivity will eventually be overcome.

  • Interesting that it is so clear-cut to you. I originally thought it was but a faint echo of her mother's attempts to teach her which had fallen on barren soil. Much like we would remember a grandmother's fairy tale or childhood memories she recounted, even if we normally weren't into fairy tales or history. This makes the story even sadder (obviously). – Peter A. Schneider Apr 25 '16 at 12:38
  • @petera.schneider - The whole point of the virus was to utterly dispose of communal empathy. All the teaching in the world shouldn't be able to break through something that's been removed at a genetic level, any more than you should be able to teach someone to use their coccyx as a tail. – Valorum Apr 25 '16 at 13:30

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