The Human Genre Project

New Look

The paparazzi swarmed around the podium like locusts. Indeed, some still bore insectoid adaptions — so last year. A trendy mammalian appearance was all the rage now, and many of the journos bore fur, horns, hooves or claws.

No-one better exemplified the dash for fur than Robert Wellman, director of Wellman Bioforming. He strode confidently into the limelight, his immense form patterned on a polar bear. Wearing, absurdly enough, a tuxedo. A few old-fashioned cameras flashed, just for show, while the paps jostled beneath the so-called 'Father of Bioforming'.

He silenced the press conference with one gesture of a massive paw.

"Thanks for coming," he said, his voice booming. Anyone could get a boombox modded into their throat these days, but in his case, it was the real deal. Perhaps the only bit of him that wasn't modded.

The journos held their breath. The ones that could breathe, anyway. Rumours about Wellman's new project had multiplied across the Internet. One credible source suggested a bold redesign of centauroid torsos, fixing all the embarrassing design flaws which had plagued them for decades. Another said Wellman had created transparent body parts, to be accompanied by a marketing blitz for highly dyed drinks. A respected columnist had even suggested a new kind of bioforming was imminent, dispensing with the clinic weekend to pick up the latest mods, in favour of an overnight transformation in your own bed.

"I'll bet you're all itching to see what we've been working on," said Wellman, a surreal grin incised on his white muzzle. He glanced at the large curtain covering a doorway into the room. A few journos with canine mods sniffed, eager for that new biomod smell, but they caught wind of nothing unusual.

"Depending on your point of view, this is either the most radical bioform we've done yet, or the least interesting." Wellman clearly enjoyed baiting the crowd. "I'm guessing you've all heard of the Twenty Year Rule. What goes out, comes back in."

The curtain twitched.

"And it's been twenty years since bioforming — hardcore, deep bioforming — became the norm. And now? You can walk through some neighbourhoods without seeing a single baseline human. My company helped make this world, but now... now we feel like we need some old-school humanity."

The curtain fell, and six nude humans entered the room. Six, proper, baseline humans with natural skin tones. An uncanny sight. Retro as hell. And beautiful for it.

The whole room was silent, bewitched.

"We're calling it Human Classic," said Wellman, "Of course, we've left out some old friends, like bad backs, vitamin deficiencies, sunburn and all the other problems we used to have. But otherwise, what we've got here is pure Olympian homo sapiens."

That did it. The room erupted with applause. Some of it wasn't even synthetic.


Later, at the reception, Wellman sipped a glass of champagne as he gave an unofficial interview to one of his favourite reporters. They'd been friends for a while, though Wellman didn't expect it to go any further than that. Her taste for quirky reptilian mods wasn't really his thing.

"Another triumph, Robert. The Internet's loving you at the moment."

Wellman had switched his implants off — somehow the glow of the press room was more invigorating than the chatter online.

"Well, we do our best. Give people what they want. Anyone could see baseline human nostalgia was coming our way, why not catch it while we can?"

She nodded, her lizard frills amplifying the gesture.

"I wouldn't have expected you to be the one, though. Won't this dent your market share?"

"If it was just about market share, I wouldn't be doing this," said Wellman, "You have to see the bigger picture."

"And what's that? With the Twenty Year Rule... things come back. But only for a while. Space Hoppers, Star Wars, Pokemon, Twitter, they burn and then they fade. And people investing in them just get burned."

"Yeah, but if they burn brightly enough, they become etched for decades. Part of the landscape. Self-sustaining subcultures. That's sort of what we're aiming for, Cammy. We've got plans for a whole series of tie-in products to go with Human Classic, pianos, potter's wheels, painting sets, archery lessons and so on. You have to try out the hands on those babies," — he indicated the six biomodels, hob-nobbing with the crowd, — " simulations don't do it justice. We think they'll appeal to people who've grown used to thinking of dexterity as a stat you raise in MIOs."

Cammy looked thoughtful, her long blue tongue playing over her fangs. "You'll still make money, especially if Wellman is associated in the public mind with 'going back'. But come on, Robert, handicrafts is never going to bring in serious money. By its very nature, it's low-end stuff. Pre-industrial, however you package it."

Robert placed his white paws on the table and gave Cammy a serious look.

"Well, I could give you a hint of what we are up to. But this is off the record. Right off."

She nodded, and with an imperceptible twitch, took her implants offline.

Robert lowered his voice, his muzzle barely moving. "By associating Human Classic with ourselves, we disarm our critics. The biocons can't criticise it directly, whilst we turn the traditional human look into just another lifestyle choice. No some god-damned holy heritage we should all be thankful for. And once Classic has run its course, the public will be gagging for something new."

Cammy stared at him. "A false flag operation," she said, so quietly so only Robert could hear. "What are you really up to?"

Robert lit a cigar, and took a long puff. "Really radical stuff. That columnist was on the mark. No more clinics. Downloadable genes from the Internet. Rewrite yourself at will. Biological autopotence."


"It's early days yet, but we think we've got the basics cracked. But what we don't need is the biocons talking us down and winding the public up. Or lunatics throwing grenades at us."

"This is big, Robert. But my lips are sealed. Until you give me an exclusive, on-the-record interview about it?"

"Definitely." Robert stood up. His ursine form dwarfed Cammy. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to meet people, do things. But if you want another little exclusive, I'll be putting this body," — he pointed at himself — "up for a charity auction. I'm trading it in for a Classic."

Alexander Chisholm