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In the 1990s (I think), I read a short story in Asimov's magazine that used the then-popular (though never really accepted in the scientific community, I think) theory that mankind evolved from apes that dwelt on the shorelines and spent substantial time in the water. In this story, someone had recreated a group of such apes to populate a beach near his mansion, and an enemy used the apes in some way to murder the owner of the estate (perhaps by modifying his own body briefly to impersonate such an ape, to get into close proximity to the owner without detection). It feels like an Egan or Stableford story (though I'm probably thinking of Egan's "The Extra" which is not quite the same — though has the same culture of wealth and decadence).

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  • What does Asimov have to do with it? You've got his name in the title with no explanation in the question itself.
    – JK.
    Oct 17, 2022 at 23:29
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    @JK. He's got "Asimov's" not "Asimov" in the title. I'm guessing he read it in a 1990s issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine.
    – user14111
    Oct 17, 2022 at 23:34
  • Yep - sorry about that. I've updated the post to make that clearer
    – Andrew
    Oct 17, 2022 at 23:36
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    @Andrew It was clear enough for us science fiction fans. I suppose some of the Harry Potter, Star Wars, and comic book fans have never heard of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.
    – user14111
    Oct 18, 2022 at 1:06
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    Those who may be curious about the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis can find more about it here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquatic_ape_hypothesis Oct 18, 2022 at 1:38

1 Answer 1

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This is almost definitely "Reef Apes" by David Smeds, Asimov's August 1992.

Sometime in the mid-distant future Louis Sheldon has re-created a species of reef apes in a sanctuary off the East African coast.

"Note the bipedal gait, the humanlike noses, the lack of body hair, the pendulous breasts. We've only evolved our Proconsul stock one point five million years into the aquatic phase, and already they've clearly entered the genus Homo. Say hello to your great-great-great grandparents."

He wishes to rise to the status of adept in biology (he is currently a mere master), but half the reason for his drive is to seduce a woman named Veronica Rizal he had a fling with a hundred years previously. He arranges to encounter her, but she is completely uninterested in him, and shuts him down.

In rage and jealousy he mimics the shape of a lover of hers in order to sleep with her. When she discovers this she tries to have him charged but her lawyer convinces her that she wouldn't be able to prove it. (He patterned his shape after her lover, but ensured his DNA stayed his own, which is a crime but hard to prove.)

5 years later, alone in his sanctuary, he is attacked by Jerry, one of his apes. Except it isn't really Jerry, it's Veronica in the shape of an ape. (Taking the shape of something that isn't a person is not a crime.) She proceeds to half drown him, break his arms, and he is facing an indefinite period of excruciating pain at her hands before she leaves him dead.

(Note that death is a temporary condition and his body will heal. But he will remember.)

The story is available at the Internet Archive.

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    What a strange-sounding story! I will read it.
    – releseabe
    Oct 18, 2022 at 8:07
  • So, Louis Sheldon's only crime was Shape Impersonation, not the bed trick?? With DNA not being changed, surely rape by deception is easy enough to prove? ... Or that he's alibi-ed up so nothing can be proven?
    – Malady
    Oct 19, 2022 at 19:26
  • @Malady I guess the idea is that if Veronica can't prove he wasn't wearing his own face, she also can't prove he deceived her?
    – DavidW
    Oct 19, 2022 at 20:06

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