Creation Debt: short trans sci-fi about rescuing an enslaved android

One of the oldest and most venerated goals of science fiction is using a speculative setting to metaphorically discuss a real-world phenomenon. Creation Debt succeeds at this brilliantly, using the literal enslavement/indentured servitude of sentient androids to condemn abusive parents who see controlling their children as their reward for bringing them into the world. Written by a trans author and starring a trans main character, author Lore Graham zeroes in on the way some parents can harm their trans kids/adult offspring by refusing them to be anyone besides the version of themselves that exists in the parent’s mind. This is incredibly destructive behavior the damage from which can take a lifetime to unpeel.

So: I liked the metaphor/comparison, and found it very effective. I liked the character of 141 and the way xe completely threw the MC for a loop, defying his expectations about what a rescued individual should act and feel like. For one thing, like many allies, the MC needed to be reminded that if he was truly there to help liberate 141, he needed to respect 141’s wishes on the matter, for example, including how xe wished to be addressed–still with xyr number for now, rather than a new chosen human name. This is only one of philosophical challenges 141 poses to the MC, expanding his mind while they’re stuck there in space escaping together. 141 has a very independent and intelligent mind, and xe doesn’t always say or feel the things that the human MC OR human reader would expect.

Something I was less comfortable with: the violence necessary to free the androids–I suppose this is realistic for the situation but it’s hard for me not to feel at least something for the patients in the hospital, even though the hospital’s being staffed with forced labor. I’ve been in and out of hospitals watching family members die a little too recently to just laugh that off as “these characters deserved it by going to this particular hospital!” It wasn’t enough to ruin the story for me, obviously. Also, I found the sexual arc of the two main character’s relationship a little abrupt; I felt that their emotional interaction/conversation was better developed than that part.

Other than that, though, it’s a good read and worth checking out. By the way, this story has all trans leads (not only the MC & 141, but also one of the MC’s human accomplices) so anyone looking for that in SFF should check it out.

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About Shira

Queer Jewish feminist author
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