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Morrison, William – “The Model of a Judge” (1953)

06/18/2013

On a colony on a moon orbiting Saturn, a forcefully-remade alien (“He was a kind of wolf, they tell me”) acts as a judge in a cake-baking contest. The clash between this setting and his barely-repressed instincts sets us up for a great deal of black humor, culminating in his selection of a young woman as the winner after he overhears her husband telling her “You’re good enough to eat yourself” (internal monologue: “He’s right. The man’s right. Not in the way he means, but he’s right.”).

Even though he had been reformed both psychologically and surgically, as an ex-wolf Ronar still has highly acute senses (hence his position as cake judge), and most of the story takes place in his head as he eavesdrops on people who assume he can’t hear them. Gender is brought up both critically (when a man is having second thoughts about the shame he’ll suffer if people realize he has submitted a cake to the contest) and stupidly (as when Ronar thinks of human kissing as being, “within the ranks of the female sex, a formality behind which warfare could be waged”). The issue of evolved-alien-wolf suffrage is brought up, but so is the fact that Ronar hates human food, was much happier as a vicious carnivore, and fantasizes about ripping a hole in the plastic bubble around the colony, which only he would survive.

Modernity is a fragile thing.

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