Review of James Beamon, “Three Meetings of the Pregnant Man Support Group”, Apex Magazine 109 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.
Imagine, if you will, aliens who come to earth after deciding that humans make excellent hosts to incubate their offspring. Imagine that this has become a known – if still controversial – aspect of every day life. What might that experience be like for the men so impregnated? The result might be this surprisingly thoughtful story.
I’m going to be honest with you – the premise of this story did not sit well with me. Growing alien fetuses in men’s appendixes seemed too weird, too gross. But the concept is grounded in strong writing, nuanced world-building, and a group of well-developed characters. This is a story that had to work to win me over, but it did a good job.
The world-building starts with the left-handed student desks that the men sit at in their support group, that identifies the group to anyone at a glance, even before the men walk in. See, the alien fetuses grow in their appendixes, so the pregnant men develop huge bulges on the right, rendering them off balance. The desks give them an opening for their side bellies, and something to lean against to counter the unbalanced weight. Every detail in the story is that well thought out.
This is a very human story. Yes, there are aliens, and we have to assume they have spaceships and a planet, but none of that matters here. This is about relationships – between the narrator and his sister, the support group, and his own body. It’s also about choice, as the men struggle to understand why they were picked for this role, what it means.
The problem in this story lies in the gender essentialism, which I did not pick up on the first time through, but which I saw discussed elsewhere and feel the need to address here. It presents the concept of pregnant men as a science fiction oddity, when there are real transmen who can, and sometimes do, carry children. This story does those men a disservice and could be hurtful to certain people, so be warned.
I still believe this is a good story for people who like human-sized, thoughtful SF, but with some reservations.