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I would have read this around 1985-1998 because I remember being in school at the time. It may have been in a short story collection with "The Ugly Little Boy" and a story about a family dealing with people in the future coming back to enhance the intelligence of their baby with enfante terrible results. A boy, grade school age or so and very intelligent, discovers (or possibly just decides) that there are drugs in the food that prevent one from thinking critically. The details are kind of fuzzy in my head, but I remember that he at one point distills the chemical from his cereal, which he'd detected as having a high concentration, and overdoses. He's convinced that the government is trying to silence him — a scene that sticks out in my mind was him falling on a moving sidewalk and tearing his clothing as he tries to escape two "men in black" type figures that are pursuing him. The short story ended with him deciding that he was better off just consuming the food and being happy in his ignorance.

Years later, as an adult learning about mental illness, it struck me that the story was slightly ambiguous as to whether there actually were chemicals, and that the use of drugs that dulled his creativity and intelligence, and the decision to take them anyhow, was reminiscent of the feelings that manic people have toward their medications.

Anyone know what this one was?

  • sound like something recent from the guardian – santiagozky Mar 13 '14 at 15:08
  • I think this was actually a New York Times article from last October describing one of Snowden's revelations about unauthorized NSA activities. – John O Mar 13 '14 at 18:23
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    The story about "a family dealing with people in the future coming back to enhance the intelligence of their baby" is "When the Bough Breaks" by "Lewis Padgett" (Kuttner & Moore). As far as I know the only anthology containing both "When the Bough Breaks" and Asimov's "The Ugly Little Boy" aka "Lastborn" is Tomorrow's Children, but that doesn't seem to contain a story matching your description. I don't have a copy of that book, but I'm familiar with – user14111 Mar 13 '14 at 23:13
  • most of the stories in it. Well, I've never read Gertrude Friedberg's "The Wayward Cravat", do you think that could be it? – user14111 Mar 13 '14 at 23:16
  • Dang it... doesn't sounds like it from the summaries I found online. Many of those stories do sound familiar, so I think I read that anthology, but maybe this was in another one. I read so many books when I was a kid... it gets confusing trying to remember them. – FuzzyBoots Mar 14 '14 at 3:19
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I suspect this is "A Bowl of Biskies Makes a Growing Boy" by Raymond F. Jones.

Summary from this review site:

Our young hero in the near future notices that all the foods that he eats have one ingredient in common. Curious, he tries to discover what that ingredient does. Not only do his investigations come to naught, a very suspicious accident occurs that could have been a murder attempt. When he tries eating only natural food, he experiences violent withdrawal symptoms. Finally, he is shipped off to a special school, where through a combination of drugs he is reduced to the mental level of an imbecile.

I wish I could claim this is down to my encyclopaedic knowledge of SF, but actually it just came up in the answers to Looking for late 70s short story anthology, we'd call it YA now. May have included Leiber's "A Pail of Air".

  • That indeed sounds correct. Thank you. Sadly, my local library lacks a copy, but I'm going to see if I can get it via ILL, see how my memories stack up to reality. – FuzzyBoots Mar 14 '14 at 11:33
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    I did read it. It's much more explicit than I remembered that he really did find a government plot to keep people passive and the ending is much more horrific than I'd remembered. – FuzzyBoots Dec 18 '14 at 15:17

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