"The Shapes of Wrath" by Ian Creasey — story background

When we were sixteen, we got our first new bodies.  It was the highlight of the school year, because we had a week off lessons to get used to our new shapes.  We still had morning assembly, of course, when we sang "Strength Through Diversity" in unison.  But after that it was mostly games: football and athletics, and team challenges where everyone's different shape was supposed to be good for something.

One type of science fiction is the "if this goes on" story, examining a current trend by extrapolating it into the future, and exaggerating it to vividly illustrate what the implications might be.  Such stories are often satirical, and can easily be seen as mocking contemporary preoccupations, or warning against going too far with them.  (These aren't the same thing.)  I have a fondness for this kind of story, because I enjoy writing satire.

Today, diversity is a hot topic.  It seems there is never enough diversity, as there are always complaints about domination by a particular gender, race, class, orientation, etc.  The pressure is all one way: everyone argues for more diversity.  In many situations, this is perfectly understandable.  But I found myself wondering, "What if this goes on?  How far can diversity stretch?"  And so, in a spirit of devilment, I wrote "The Shapes of Wrath".

Our teachers explained that the evils of history stemmed from humanity's tendency to divide into groups, and mistreat other groups.  White people enslaved black people; men oppressed women; nations and religions fought each other.  Rainbow Village had been founded by idealists who resolved to end these conflicts by abolishing their source.  The Morpher machines could change people's bodies.  And so it became compulsory for everyone to take a unique shape.

When everyone looks different, there is no majority or minority.  In a truly diverse society, there is no conformity or oppression.

That, at least, is what we all wrote in our test papers when we were quizzed about History or Civics.

The story suggests that the end point of ever more diversity is a world where everyone must be different.  But when everyone must be different, the ultimate form of rebellion is to be the same....

Page last updated: 9 April 2019