Review of “Kill Switch” by A. P. Howell

This is more of an essay. There isn’t a plot as such.

The reader is told that what is referred to as a “kill switch” is more complicated than a single switch. What is referred to as a gene is more complicated than a single gene.

“That’s the history of genetics right there. Applying chosen labels to half-understood phenomena of infinite biological and social complexity.”

The narrator is a working technician. Just the same, he (or she?) says if she’d been born a generation earlier, he’s been regarded as a wizard. Nevertheless, he’s happy with no more reward for his tweak here and snip there than a regular paycheck.


The message of the essay is obvious from the opening paragraph when the narrator makes a point of identifying “morons.” This appears to allude to the infamous 1927 Supreme Court decision, Buck v. Bell, in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote denying that the 14th Amendment protected people from forced sterilization—if they didn’t measure up. Regarding plaintiff Carrie Buck and her family, he rather uncharitably added, “Three generations of morons are enough.”

This decision lent justification to the eugenics movement in the United States. The movement lost steam after the horror of the Holocaust and Nazism was revealed, but the recent resurgence in white supremacy shows how often a bad penny shows up.

There are other allusions, of course. Author A. P. Howell has done her homework.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add, despite its harrowing warning, the writing itself tends to be dull. This may be intentional, underlining another point the author wished to make, but it can strike the reader like reading the same sentences several time.

I liked this sad little piece, but I would not read it a second time.


In her author’s blub, author A. P. Howell has held various jobs, from ice cream scooper to webmaster. Her work has appeared in Corvid Queen and the anthology XVIII.

The story can be read here.
Title: “Kill Switch”
Author: A. P. Howell
First published: Daily Science Fiction, January 20, 2020

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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