Tag Archives: The Pre-Persons

“The Pre-Persons” (1973) by Philip K. Dick

A hilarious passage by possibly my favorite SF author:

“Let’s have an abortion!” Cynthia declared excitedly as she entered the house with an armload of synthogroceries. “Wouldn’t that be neat? Doesn’t that turn you on?”

Her husband Ian Best said dryly, “But first you have to get pregnant. So make an appointment with Dr. Guido—that should cost me only fifty or sixty dollars—and have your I.U.D. removed.”

“I think it’s slipping down anyhow. Maybe, if—” Her pert dark shag-haired head tossed in glee. “It probably hasn’t worked properly since last year. So I could be pregnant now.”

Ian said caustically. “You could put an ad in the Free Press; ‘Man wanted to fish out I.U.D. with coathanger.’ ”

“But you see,” Cynthia said, following him as he made his way to the master closet to hang up his status-tie and class-coat, “it’s the in thing now, to have an abortion. Look, what do we have? A kid. We have Walter. Every time someone comes over to visit and sees him, I know they’re wondering. ‘Where did you screw up?’ It’s embarrassing.” She added, “And the kind of abortions they give now, for women in early stages—it only costs one hundred dollars… the price of ten gallons of gas! And you can talk about it with practically everybody who drops by for hours.”

Ian turned to face her and said in a level voice. “Do you get to keep the embryo? Bring it home in a bottle or sprayed with special luminous paint so it glows in the dark like a night light?”

“In any color you want!”

“The embryo?”

“No, the bottle. And the color of the fluid. It’s in a preservative solution, so really it’s a lifetime acquisition. It even has a written guarantee, I think.”

Ian folded his arms to keep himself calm: alpha state condition. “Do you know that there are people who would want to have a child? Even an ordinary dumb one? That go to the County Facility week after week looking for a little newborn baby? These ideas—there’s been this world panic about overpopulation. Nine trillion humans stacked like kindling in every block of every city. Okay, if that were going on—” He gestured. “But what we have now is not enough children. Or don’t you watch TV or read the Times?”

“It’s a drag,” Cynthia said. “For instance, today Walter came into the house freaked out because the abortion truck cruised by. It’s a drag taking care of him. You have it easy; you’re at work. But me–”

“You know what I’d like to do to the Gestapo abortion wagon? Have two ex-drinking buddies of mine armed with BARs, one on each side of the road. And when the wagon passes by—”

“It’s a ventilated air-conditioned truck, not a wagon.”

He glared at her and then went to the bar in the kitchen to fix himself a drink. Scotch will do, he decided. Scotch and milk, a good before- “dinner” drink.

You can read the whole short story here: