“The Engineer and the Executioner”

My look at the stories in Brian Stableford’s Sexual Chemistry collection continues.

Review: “The Engineer and the Executioner”, Brian Stableford, 1975, 1991.

Cover by Bruce Hogarth

While this is the oldest story in the collection, it is the most extravagant in its speculation and simplest in plot. The Brian Stableford Website says that Stableford rewrote it slightly for this collection but that the changes were minor and done to make the science correct.

The plot is simple. 

A robot, the Executioner, shows up at the asteroid Lamarck. It’s been hollowed out and used as a vast experimenal lab by the Engineer, Gabriel Samarra. While the other stories in this collection feature genetic engineering on earthly biology, the Engineer has created artificial life with various modifications including a double set of chromosomes each carrying a complete genome. The modifications facilitate constant mutation and give the organisms the ability to incorporate the forms of other organisms. 

The Executioner has shown up to take the Engineer off the asteroid and send it into the sun. The Engineer’s artificial lifeforms are deemed too dangerous to allow their continued existence. The Executioner cites the possibility of it seeding “Arrhenius spores” into space that would find their way to Earth.

The Engineer dismisses this as nonsense and sneers the robot can’t understand life because his kind can’t reproduce or evolve. The men who sent the Executioner are just afraid of what they don’t understand, and the fruit of fear is murder. 

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