Because of overcrowding, people reproduce by intermingling basic traits of their personalities into a young computer program. When the program has matured long enough it can be downloaded into a living body (which might not even be humanoid depending where in the solar system they live). Once in a living body, they are considered a person, regardless if they 'upload' again, but until that point the parents can choose to delete the program at any time.

I don't even remember if it was novel or short-story.


  • 1
    If I recall, it has two of the 'programs' swap to allow one that is going to be deleted get incarnated instead.. THEN announce what they have done once it's too late to do anything about it. (There was also a segment involving skiing that started with an orbital drop.) I had the story in a collection of SciFi for teenagers, but don't seem to be able to find my copy at the moment.. The main character was a girl, if this helps differentiate it from the Greg Bear novel others have mentioned.
    – K-H-W
    Jun 17, 2013 at 15:36
  • 1
    I remember this one too. One of the teens started a "virtual human rights" organisation and her mother was vigorously campaigning for her right to terminate her unborn (fifteen year old) child.
    – Valorum
    Feb 13, 2014 at 21:26
  • I'm sure it was a short story, possibly in a more recent anthology (5-10+ years ago)
    – Valorum
    Feb 13, 2014 at 22:14

3 Answers 3


Sounds like Greg Bear's Eternity, sequel to the fantastic Eon. Olmy and Suli Ram Kikura create a son, Tapi, in City Memory, and when he's passed his "incorporation tests" there he is eligible for a real body.

Working in city memory for eight days (almost a year in accelerated time) they and their partials had combined the parental mysteries, selected large blocks of parental memory for endowment at certain growth stages, and overlaid the templates with great care to create the mentality they would call Tapi. [...] Some conceived in city memory had as many as six parents. Tapi was biparental, with a predisposition toward masculinity.

  • Agreed. Eternity was my first thought as well on this.
    – beichst
    Apr 9, 2013 at 2:17
  • 2
    Sorry for the long delay, I was reading Eternity. Not the story I was thinking of. In the one I was thinking of, humanity was confined to the solar system. The programs spent most of the story in 'school'.
    – pohsyb
    Apr 18, 2013 at 20:02

The story is 'Incarnation Day' by Walter Jon Williams, originally published in 2007 in "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume One"

The story of growing up is the story of slowly moving away from being completely dependent on your parents and becoming your own person. But, what if you parents didn't have to let you grow up? What if they could simply delete you?

Best Science Fiction

There's a readable copy here;


Your story sounds a bit like Ted Chiang's novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects (2010). A start-up company breeds and trains AI creatures called "digients" to be sold as virtual pets.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.