Short story or novella.I read this about 2005 but it seemed to have been written much earlier. I remember looking at the publication date and noting it was written before humans were capable of genetic engineering.

The protagonist worked at a place that modified animals (possibly chimpanzees, possibly other species too) by irradiating the fertilised eggs.

For some reason either legal or biological, he and his wife cannot have a child of their own. They adopt one of these modified intelligent animals. I don't think they are legally allowed to adopt the child.

There is a fight for the legal rights of these creatures.

It is not Jerry was a Man. It is not any of David Brin's Uplift stories.

  • 1
    Hmm... probably not Sims unless I've forgotten that plotline coming up.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Apr 3 at 11:34
  • I thought Freefall from the title. Commented Apr 4 at 10:35
  • I am not familiar with Freefall. Maybe I should check it out since I really enjoyed this story Commented Apr 4 at 11:46

1 Answer 1


Could be "Conditionally Human" by Walter M. Miller, Jr. It is not a perfect match, but close to your description.

It was published in Galaxy Science Fiction, Feb. 1952, and can be found on Project Gutenberg.

unfertilised animal ova are precisely irradiated with alpha particles to alter their genes. The aim is to create human-like pets as child substitutes - most can talk, but none are able to develop beyond young childhood. The most human-like are the chimp-derived "neutroids" or "newts". Newts' development is strictly limited and they can never learn more than a few words.

All couples are assigned to classes as part of a eugenics program. The protagonist and his wife are Class-C, allowed no children but can have either one neutroid or two "lesser units".

He works with the modified animals, but as a "bio-inspector" - part of the system that polices the animals, disposing of any "deviants" (mutants that might develop further than allowed by law).

A rogue operator has created an unknown number of deviant neutroids that can develop further, and will even be able to mature sexually. The protagonist finds one that can string together sentences like a normal child, and that has been taught to "play neutroid" when an inspector comes around.

He takes it into custody, but instead of killing it he decides to forge a new class certificate and raise her as his own child. He applies for a job modifying animals so that he can make her a husband, and "see if a pair of chimp-Ks can do better than their makers."

  • 2
    Yes, this is it. I had not remembered much of it accurately. 😀 Commented Apr 3 at 13:07
  • 2
    I must thank you for this answer. Just read the story and liked it!
    – Andres F.
    Commented Apr 3 at 23:04
  • 2
    Wow, same author as A Canticle for Leibowitz, too!
    – Andres F.
    Commented Apr 3 at 23:06

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