I'm looking for a short piece (probably a novelette) about a near-future where it's possible to clone people without their consent from a small scrap of skin (etc.). It's not common (and probably terribly expensive), but it's widely known to be possible, so public concern about the risk is very high. The story features vignettes - a child gets a small cut on a slide and nearby parents panic about the possibility that someone has placed a sampling device on the slide, an older brother taunts his sibling with the claim that his parents bought the younger sibling on the black market (causing long-term psychological harm to the younger child, I think), a child finds out that he actually is a copy, a parent is hassled about picking up his child at the school, etc.

I thought it was by Robert Reed, but none of the titles seem quite right. Probably late 1990s or early 2000s.

1 Answer 1


It is by Robert Reed. The story is If We Can Save Just One Child. According to ISFDB it was only ever published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 2007.

As you say it's a series of vignettes called:
The Pool
The Fair
The Sandbox
Saving One Child

The scene with the slide is from The Pool. It's set at a water park where a slide has a piece of sandpaper stuck onto it to collect skin cells:

Two hours later, the fearful woman was sitting alone, napping until the umbrella’s shade pulled away from her tiny, lovely face. When she woke, she noticed two police officers talking to a young boy. With pride, the boy was showing off a fresh scrape on his leg, and then with a matter-of-fact gesture, he pointed the officers toward the smallest slide.
The woman instantly shouted for her two children.
Her oldest was a girl at least as pretty as her mother. She looked a little worried, but impressed. “It’s inside the tube,” she reported. “Down at the bottom of the slide.”
“What is?”
“The thing.”
“What thing?” the woman asked.
“It’s sandpaper, I guess. Stuck there with glue.”
She began to tremble.

The scene with the sadistic brother is from The Sandbox:

When Evan was at a very delicate age, his older brother tormented him with the idea that he was a clone.
“You were born in Brazil,” his brother claimed one day, pointing with authority at a random, erroneous point on a brightly colored map of the world. “You and your clone brothers ... you were being raised by cannibals.”
“I wasn’t.”
“Oh yes, you were,” the eleven-year-old warned him. Then with a grim smile, he added, “Those cannibals had you living inside cat cages. You couldn’t move, and they force-fed you all sorts of goodies.”
Evan was a pudgy, desperately insecure child.
“Know what veal is?”
“We ate it last night. Right?”
“That was veal made from a fat calf. But you were going to be a special meal for somebody else’s family.”

  • 1
    Thank you very much. I looked for a description of that story, and didn't see a reference to cloning so I thought I was on the wrong track
    – Andrew
    Commented Jun 18 at 10:35

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