6

Please can someone help me identify this story:

  • It was a novella and I read it in an anthology in 1995 (but the book was quite tattered so it may be older that 1995)
  • It was set in the near future on Earth, where rich people are very privileged and poor people live what we would consider to be fairly ordinary lives
  • The protagonist is a teenager called Boy Wonder or Kid something - his genes have been altered to make him look like a much younger boy
  • This genetic alteration process is called 'twanking' and rich people do it all the time just for fun.
  • His best friend has also had his genes altered to make him look like a dinosaur - he's called 'Stennie' after the kind of dinosaur he resembles.
  • He meets a girl who is a descendant of Scott Joplin and she teaches him the benefits of an 'ordinary' life without all the trappings of great wealth.

Any ideas?

7

"Mr. Boy" by James Patrick Kelly, collected in Think Like a Dinosaur and Other Stories and other places.

Excerpt of this review:

"Mr. Boy", a long novella which is also part of his novel Wildlife. Mr. Boy is 25, but his mother keeps him somatically and emotionally at the age of 12 by repeated "gene twanking". His friends are a 13-year old boy who has been twanked into a dinosaur form, and an artificial intelligence his mother bought him as a companion/bodyguard. Mr. Boy's life begins to come apart when some illegal "corpse porn" is traced to him, and his understanding of his life is shaken when he meets a 17-year old "stiff" (read: untwanked) girl and starts to fall in love. The background details of the story are excellent, very Sterlingesque: Virtual Environment parties, his mother's chosen "twanked" form (Mr. Boy doesn't just live with his mother, he lives "in" her), smash parties, the mall franchise families, and so on. The main story itself is affecting, but a bit obvious: we know from the start just what Mr. Boy needs: to grow up.

And, a magazine cover:

Issac Asimov Science Fiction cover

  • Searching for "twanking" was the key to finding it, unsurprisingly enough. :) – FuzzyBoots Sep 26 '16 at 10:53
  • It's a good collection --it also includes "Standing on the Corner With Mr Jimmy". – Chris Sunami Sep 26 '16 at 17:33
  • It's stuck in my mind (not entirely accurately as it turns out!) since I read it all those years ago; I think I will shop around for some more of his stories. Thanks! – Peter Hull Sep 27 '16 at 18:41
  • ^_^ Glad I could help. And welcome to the site! – FuzzyBoots Sep 27 '16 at 19:02
  • 1
    I just reread this collection, and was surprised to find all the stories were actually better than I remembered them --it's the rare science-fiction that has actually improved with age. Sure, some of the concepts are cliched (and others are painfully blunt!) but ultimately these stories are all about the nuances of these characters and their decisions. They also include characters of color more frequently and less awkwardly than the vast majority of science fiction of that time. – Chris Sunami Sep 4 '18 at 21:05

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