The Pre-persons

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Oct 1974

I’m not sure what kind of marriage problems Dick was going through at this time, but after “Cadbury, the Beaver Who Lacked” we get another cynical story about women. 

In the world of this misguided story children can be ‘aborted’ all the way up until they are twelve (the arbitrary age the state decided a person gains a soul) if their parents don’t want them anymore.

Walter, who just turned twelve, is still scared of the abortion truck that drives around the neighborhood picking up kids even though his mom assures him he no longer has anything to worry about. Another boy gets rounded up by the ‘bort truck, and his father insists to get picked up with him. For some nonsensical reason the state has determined the soul enters the body when a child learns math. The boy’s father claims he doesn’t know anything about math, although he is actually a Stanford graduate and just wants to expose the absurdity of the whole situation. He does manage to get some minor media publicity when the abortion facility lets the man and his son free, and afterwards the men of the story complain about how they feel trapped by the women in their lives. “The Pre-persons” is ridiculous and dumb no matter which side of the pro-choice argument you are on.

Cast of characters

  • Walter Best – a twelve-year-old too old to be ‘aborted’
  • Cynthia and Ian Best – Walter’s parents
  • Oscar Ferris – driver of the abortion truck
  • Earl Fleischhacker – a kid picked up by the ‘bort truck
  • Tim Gantro – gets picked up by Ferris for being a stray
  • Ed Gantro – Tim’s father
  • Sam B. Carpenter – runs the county abortion facility