When a country is as champion-conscious as America, it's surprising
that no one has yet developed the ultimate contest.
Dr. McClatchie, whose recent novel, "The Last Vial," established
him as a top-ranking sf writer, now tells us the engaging
story of the geneticists' search for ...
By SAM McCLATCHIE, M.D.
Illustrated by ADKINS
The tall young man faded
back quickly, poised for an instant
and then threw a long high
pass. The crowd came up roaring.
Twenty yards from the goal
line a smaller, sturdier player
swerved quickly around the end
and took the pass in his stride.
With a beautiful curving run he
tricked the fullback, crossed the
line and then, showing no sign
of effort, trotted back up the field
and threw the ball to the umpire.
"Wonderful! What a magnificent
runner that lad is! You're
lucky to have him, George." The
speaker, a trimly built, athletic
man in his middle forties turned
to his companion, talking loudly
above the buzz of the crowd.
George Turner nodded agreement.
"We are. Every other University
in the States was after
him. He's the first Boy America
you know. We've been watching
him for years."
"The first Boy America?"
John Harmon echoed in surprise.
"I didn't know that. You did say
Boy America ... not All American?"
"He's both; All American in
football and a Boy America too."
The gun signalled the end of
the game and the two men rose
from their box seats to go out.
Directly below them the players
trotted quickly towards the
dressing rooms. Harmon leaned
over to watch.
"There he is now. A fine-looking
boy too!" He studied the
young man's face intently. "Y'know
he reminds me of somebody
... somebody I know well,
but I can't put my finger on it."
"I'm not surprised. He's Gloria
Harmon frowned. "No, that's
not it, George. Of course there's
the resemblance to his mother
... and who could forget the
glorious Gloria even after twenty
years. But it was the way he
moved, and that smile." He shook
his head. "It'll come to me yet."
They took the belt walk to the
parking area and stepped off it at
George's car. Moving quietly on
its air cushion, the car joined the
line-up out on the main road
where George locked the controls
on to Route 63. The speed rose
to eighty and steadied as the car
settled into its place in the traffic
pattern. Relaxed in their seats
the two men lit their anticancers
and puffed contentedly as they
watched the scenery. It would be
another hour before George
would need to touch the controls
as they neared home.
"So he looks like someone you
know?" George asked. "I'd like
to know who it is just out of
curiosity. As you are aware, no
one but the Genetic Panel knows
whose sperm is used to impregnate
the Mother America."
"I haven't got it yet, George,
but I will. Were you the geneticist
for this boy?"
"Yes, I was. I told you he was
Gloria Manson's. Don't you remember
when you met her?"
"Soaring satellites!" Harmon
exclaimed. "How could I forget?
You introduced me to her."
"Twenty years ago," Turner
mused. "What a crazy week that
was. I guess you were glad to
get back to the Space Force."
"In a way," Harmon agreed.
"I've often wondered where you
were since then. I never dreamed
you'd be Dean of the Genetics
Faculty when I came to the
Space Engineering School."
"I hope you'll like it here,"
George said. "They couldn't have
picked a better Director."
The senator from Alaska had
the floor. He had had it for
several hours now and the chamber
was almost empty as he
"And so, gentlemen, I feel that
the greatest state in the union,
the only state that can afford to
increase its population because
there is still some unoccupied
space, the only state where anti-conception
vaccination is not
compulsory until after four children
instead of two, the state
where ordinary people will have
room to get out and exercise instead
of being spectators, this
state of Alaska, I say, is the only
state that should be considered
when we select a fine, virile
American male as the father of
America's Child of the Year. I
would dare to go farther and say
we should also provide the female,
Mother America of 1995,
except that our President, my
fellow Alaskan, has generously
decided that no one state can
have both mother and father.
Alaska is a man's country. It
should provide the man ..."
Wearily George Turner got up
and turned off the colorvision.
The political pressures were increasing
rapidly; that was obvious.
What had started as a national
search for the most suitable
future parents in America
would soon be a free-for-all. He
would have to give the committee
his choice, and quickly! Back to
his work he went; calculating
possibilities, eliminating entrants
one by one. The National
Genetics Laboratory had been
given the task of screening the
finalists from each state and
Turner, much against his will,
had been selected by the Director
to do the work.
"George," he'd said one fateful
morning, "I have a job for
"What's that, sir?"
"You've seen the report of this
new contest being run by Dee
Lish Baby Foods, haven't you?"
"Can't say I have, sir. I've been
working on that new sex gene.
Haven't had time to read the papers."
"Oh? Well it all started on
their colorvision program, the
one where they select the All
American babies. You've seen it
Turner shook his head.
"Sputtering sputniks! I know
you're all wrapped up in your
work but it doesn't have to be a
shroud. You'd better get out into
the world a little." The Director
laid a friendly arm on George's
shoulder. "This job will be just
"Why, the contest! Dee Lish
separate the babies into three
groups. There's the natural All
American baby selected from
families in the two-baby group;
then there's a prize for best baby
in the unlimited family section.
Naturally, since those parents
are in the genetically superior
group, it wouldn't be fair to pit
them against the two-baby families.
Then there's a class for babies
of artificially impregnated
mothers, both married and single.
It's a very popular program.
The prizes are wonderful and
the winners in the limited family
class are allowed to have more
children than their quota, all expenses
paid of course."
"I can see why it's popular all
right," George said, "but where
do I come in?"
"Three months ago the Dee
Lish scenario writers had a
brainstorm. They reasoned that
if they began a new contest to
pick the most suitable mother in
America and then had her impregnated,
artificially of course,
by the most suitable donor, they
would stir up all sorts of excitement
for the next nine months
and produce a baby that should
be a worldbeater. The mother
would be given a tremendous annuity,
for life, and the babe assured
of all expenses right
"It all sounds faintly nauseating
"George, you're impossible. A
geneticist who still believes in
"I'm not so darn sure we can
pick 'em better any other way.
We certainly haven't got all the
"I agree, George, I agree," the
Director's smile was still friendly,
if a little strained. "This is a
National Laboratory, however,
and the President rang me up the
other day and asked that we do
the final screening."
"The President? But this is a
"Not any longer, my boy. You
see the Russians recently came
out with a wonder drug, a sort of
gene stimulator, that they claim
produces highly intelligent and
well-proportioned children. The
Chinese now claim that, by using
a controlled environment in their
communes, they are producing a
super race. We had to do something!
Our side is going to claim
that the union of a red-blooded
American male and a modern
capitalist female will produce
offspring far superior to anything
else in the world, thus
demonstrating the supremacy of
the American way of life."
"Dear God! Why pick me?"
"You're junior to all the others,
for one thing. And besides,
you'll still be around to see Boy
America grow up."
"Each year there will be a new
contest; a boy the first year, a
girl the second and so on. You'll
have to appear on colorvision of
course. It will be a nice change
for you, and good for the Laboratory
too! New York is a grand
town for a vacation."
"New York is a grand town
for a vacation," George
thought bitterly, as he parried
the reporters' persistent questions
in the lobby of Coloraudio
System a week later.
"Say Doc, what about this super-female
from Texas," one
needler shouted above the babble.
"So what about her?" George
"Senator Bragg says she
should be the one selected for
"Look, friend, Senator Bragg
is a Texan and a politician. Naturally
he wants his state to have
the honor. I'll pick the one I
think best qualified!"
"Yeah, Doc, we know. But
what is this super-female gag
"Some women have more female
sex genes than others. She
happens to have the most ever
reported to the Genetic Registry.
Has the Senator seen her?"
"He didn't say."
"He should take a look sometime.
She's five feet five, one hundred
and sixty pounds and looks
like a Texas longhorn, without
the horns." He brushed past the
reporter. "You got any more
A New York reporter pulled on
his coat sleeve. Annoyed by their
persistence Turner shrugged
"Doctor Turner," the man
said. "What do you think of this
idea of using the Man from Mars
as the male donor?"
"You mean Captain Jack Harmon
of the Space Force?"
"Yes. He's in town for the big
parade right now."
"Look, we can't tell you who
the donor will be. It's against
the law, remember?" Turner
quoted the rule, "Under Section
48b, single females may bear
children if they wish, when authorized
by law, but are not allowed
to pick the donor. He must
remain anonymous. The local
Genetics Panel does the choosing.
Besides, Harmon has been in
space for months. Who knows
what changes there may be in
his sex glands."
They reached the conference
room and entered. The Dee Lish
representative looked at his
watch and raised his hands.
"Gentlemen, no more questions
please. We have a program
on the air tonight and Doctor
Turner has to be prepared."
When the room cleared he turned
to George. "Doctor, will you be
ready to name the winner on tonight's
Turner shook his head. "You
know I've interviewed all the finalists
but one, Miss Gloria Manson.
Until I see her I can't decide.
I haven't talked to her at all but
her press agent promised he
would have her here this afternoon."
"That's Gloria Manson the actress-dramatist?"
"Yes, the one who wrote The
Canals of Mars and takes the female
"Roaring rockets! If she wins
what a blastoff that will be."
"I don't understand."
"We have arranged with the
Mayor of New York that the winner
will ride with Captain Jack
Harmon tomorrow in the big parade
celebrating his return from
Mars. And Miss Manson is the
star in a hilarious hit about
space. What could be better?"
"To stop the whole damn foolishness
altogether," said George
gloomily and ignored the hurt
look on the press agent's face.
They were getting up to leave
when the door burst open and
slammed against the wall. A
tall, beautifully dressed and
shaped brunette brushed aside a
little man who was trying to talk
to her and strode into the room.
Her green eyes narrowed like a
cat's after a bird.
"Which of you is the geneticist?"
she demanded, and then
to George, "You ... you must
be ... you aren't dressed like a
business man. Your suit is five
years out of style."
Abashed, George looked at
himself. "What's wrong with
"You'd never understand and
I haven't time to tell you. What
I want to know is, who gave you
the right to use my name in this
silly Mother America contest.
And you," she turned on the Dee
Lish agent, "quit gawping at me.
I'm not going to blast off. Who
are you anyway?"
"Miss Manson, please!" The
little man was in front of her
again. "If the reporters hear
about this ..."
"Oh shut up, Harry! All right,
Doctor, what's your excuse?"
George rallied and attacked.
"I haven't any, Miss Manson. I
didn't ask for your name. It was
submitted to me as a possibility
from the Dee Lish Company. You
needn't worry, however. You are
displaying adequate reasons for
me to disqualify your entry right
"Oh, an advertising stunt, is
it? Harry, this is your idea ...
you and that pap purveyor!"
"But Gloria, think of the publicity
... the big parade with
the man from Mars! Why your
play would run for years!"
"OK, I'll do it!" she said with
a big smile and watched the ad-men's
gloomy faces change to astonished
delight. "There's just
one little thing ... if I win!"
She prodded Harry in the chest
with a long stiff finger.
"Yes, dear ... anything!"
"YOU have the baby!" The
scowl came back to her face.
"You utter idiots ... you misfired
missiles! How in the Universe
do you think I can play a
romantic lead wearing a maternity
George chuckled with delight
at the thought and she turned
"What's so funny, Doctor?
And what do you mean I'm disqualified
from the contest?
What's wrong with me?"
"Not a thing, Miss Manson."
He grinned happily at her. "But
if you can stand having dinner
with a man in an old-fashioned
suit, I'll tell you why Mother
America should be a contented
cow instead of a tantalizing tigress."
"Hm, this is one orbit I haven't
travelled." She smiled and
nodded her approval. "Set me a
They moved towards the door
"Doctor! The program tonight
... have you forgotten?"
George looked back and waved
airily. "Don't worry. I'll be there.
And we'll name the winner too!"
"Well now, Gloria, the dessert!"
George was saying.
"What'll it be, crepes suzette?"
She smiled across the table.
"Mm," she considered the menu
carefully. "I think I'll stick to
good old American apple pie and
"A genuine American small
town girl, with small town likes
and dislikes! That's what you
are underneath the glamour.
She laughed and raised her
champagne glass. "And this is
from the home-town vineyard
George leaned towards her, his
face a little flushed with the
wine. "Gloria, with your ability
as an actress we could play the
biggest practical joke in the history
of colorvision. If only I
"What's your idea, George?"
"I'm sick of all this pseudo-scientific
nonsense about genetics,"
he said, "and I'm even sicker
of the crass commercialism
and political propaganda surrounding
this Mother America
"George, you surprise me more
and more! I thought you did this
for the money and publicity, to
say nothing of the great honor."
"Stop kidding, Gloria! You
know I was ordered to do it by
the Department. All I get is an
expense account from Dee Lish
Baby Foods. The thing that really
bothers me is the type of winner
I have to pick."
"Have to pick? You have free
choice, don't you?"
"Not really. The people who
watch that program, from the
President on down, including our
Director too, expect a sweet
wholesome type ... you know,
curvy in the right places like a
Miss America but wouldn't think
of posing in a bathing suit. They
want an adolescent dream girl
type, the kind that goes well with
a rose-covered cottage and four
rosy-cheeked kids all waiting for
Daddy to come home."
"But most women work in
"I know but the dream remains,
along with the cowboy,
the daring Air Force pilot, the
self-made business tycoon and all
the other romantic stereotypes
of the first half of the century.
She makes togetherness seem
right, and God knows we have so
many people today we're together
whether we like it or not. So
that's the type I have to pick."
"Where does the joke come
"If you'd play the part of the
American dream girl you'd win
that contest going away, like a
four stage rocket booster."
"But I don't want to have a
baby by remote control."
"You wouldn't have to. You
can always withdraw before the
"Suppose I do it, what's the
"Well for one thing, you'd
show how easily people are fooled
by appearances and smart propaganda.
As a geneticist I can only
go so far and be honest. I can
make sure you have good heredity;
that you have no obvious
physical or mental defects; that
your chance of having certain
disabling diseases are small;
that your intelligence is high,
and so on. I can't really measure
things such as initiative, wit,
courage, determination, all the
things that make one human so
much better than another of
equal physical and mental capacity."
"Educated people know that already."
"True, but it needs constant
emphasis or it is forgotten under
the propaganda. Besides, I don't
believe in mating people like cattle
or slaves. That's why this
whole thing is a travesty of love
and marriage. I hate being used
to give it a semblance of scientific
authenticity. I'm going to declare
the top four contestants
equal. They are, as far as I am
concerned, genetically speaking.
The audience will decide the winner.
They'll love it and so will
the sponsor. The other three are
real American dream girls. I
want you to outsmart them at
their own game ... and tell
America later what a farce it all
"You really are a romantic,
underneath the cynicism," Gloria
said wonderingly. "I didn't
think scientists were built with
hearts any more." She reached
across and took his hand. "But
I like you that way. Do you think
I could do it?"
"Easily. Just pretend you are
Ellen the Earthling from that
comedy of yours. That's the type
"Yes, but when I bow out later
they'll be calling me Marina the
Martian Menace ... that won't
be so funny."
"They won't, Gloria. You can
laugh it off as a publicity stunt
and get them laughing with you.
Who knows, it might even stop
this mad fad of career women
having babies without a proper
home and a father to raise them."
She laughed. "Are you afraid
you're going to be replaced by a
machine, George?" her eyes
twinkled with amusement.
He grinned. "Oh, we still have
our uses. Time to go. Will you
She stood up. "I'll play it by
ear. If the audience is the type
you say they are, it will be a
The parade was over. Now, as
they waited for the banquet
and the speeches to begin, John
Harmon spoke to Turner.
"You're a lucky man, George."
"Spending so much time with
Gloria. She had me laughing all
the way up Wall Street with her
remarks about the parade. If I
didn't have to go back to the base
tomorrow I'd steal her for a
date." He turned to Gloria. "I
mean it, honey. You really leave
Gloria smiled at him. "I'll take
a recount, John. We can blast off
some other time."
After the banquet the Mayor
of New York made the major
address of the evening. "And so,
ladies and gentleman," he concluded,
"you have seen today two
people who represent the end of
one era and the beginning of another.
The lovely lady on my
right is to be the first Mother
America. For the first time in
history, our nation is actively
planning our future citizens. It
is true that for years now, with
the help of the Genetics Laboratories,
represented so ably by
Doctor Turner, individual citizens
have planned their parenthood,
but never before have a
President and Congress given
their approval, their official
blessing, for such a purpose.
This then is a milestone we have
passed, a point in our history we
will never forget."
"They'll never forget me either
when I back out," Gloria
whispered to George. "I'm getting
worried. We're in too deep."
"Don't be scared, baby,"
George said. "I'll get you out of
it, if you have to fall sick to do
it." He patted her arm reassuringly
but somehow, without the
rosy glow of a bottle of wine to
color this view, the joke didn't
seem as funny as it had the previous
The Mayor continued. "Another
point in our history was
passed when this young man on
my left, at that time Captain,
now Major John Harmon of the
Space Force, returned from
Mars. He and his crew represent
the end of our isolation in space.
The Moon, after all, is a satellite
of Earth. Mars is another planet,
and Major Harmon has landed
there. We are not likely in our
time to see another such event
since the next big step, beyond
the Solar System, will require a
technology we do not possess. So,
ladies and gentlemen, you, tonight,
are witnessing the beginning
of a new age, an age of supermen
borne by women of
America, such as Gloria Manson,
and led by heroes such as John
Harmon. I propose we drink a
toast to them ... together."
Afterwards, in Gloria's
apartment, the three of
them sat and talked until late.
Then John Harmon looked at his
watch and got up to leave.
"I have to catch the ramjet out
of La Guardia," he said. "We
start planning the next space
trip in Colorado tomorrow, or
rather this morning. It's been
fun." He shook George's hand
and kissed Gloria quickly. "I'll
be seeing you one of these days."
George shut the door behind
him. "I guess I'd better go now,"
"No! Have one for the road,"
Gloria said quickly. "I want to
talk to you."
George poured another Scotch.
"You still worried?"
"A bit," she admitted. "What
is the next step?"
"Now I'm supposed to pick the
"I thought you'd done that already."
"No. You see we have to know
what blood types the female has
and what her genetic structure
is; whether she has any antibodies
against sperm and so on,
before we pick the male. To do it
before the winner is picked
would entail a lot of unnecessary
"Then we still have some time
before the impregnation ceremony?"
"I can stall for maybe four
weeks ... no longer. You see I
have to consider your cycle too."
He got up to go. "Gloria, I guess
I was half lit last night. I'm
sorry. It was a damn-fool idea."
She came close to him. "But
you really do believe in the old-fashioned
marriage, even if not
in the old-fashioned girl?"
"Yes, I do. I still think people
should be in love and not just
mated because a calculating machine
says they'll produce superior
"You're sweet." She put her
arms around his neck and kissed
him. The kiss lasted ... and
lasted. Finally George broke it
"My God!" he mumbled. "Don't
we have enough problems, without
Three weeks later, on Monday,
George announced he
had a suitable donor. The New
York Genetics Panel, in session,
considered the records and announced
that permission was
granted for one Gloria Manson,
spinster, of New York City, to
bear a child by artificial impregnation.
The date was set for
Wednesday. On Tuesday night
George went to Gloria's apartment.
"What are we going to do?"
Gloria asked as she watched
George wearing a path on the
rug. "We've left it awfully late."
"I couldn't do anything else,"
George said. "We can't plead illness
as I'd hoped to do. This afternoon
the panel decided on a
last minute independent medical
check to be sure you're OK. That
means I can't fake it and there's
no time to give you a cold or some
mild illness now. Somehow I've
got to stall past the fertile period
and then we will have another
month to think of something."
"How long is the fertile period?"
"Our tests show that in your
case it is approximately twenty-four
hours and begins about
"Couldn't I disappear for a
day or pretend I'm frightened of
having a baby and call it off?
Goodness knows we're both getting
frightened right now." She
poured out two stiff drinks.
"You can't just quit, Gloria.
The whole nation has been
whipped up into hysteria over
this business, both by the politicians
in their anticommunist
speeches and by the sponsors on
Coloraudio system. I never
dreamed it could put a whole
country into orbit ... but it
has. We'll both be ruined if I
can't figure a way out that doesn't
anger the public." He drained
his glass and began pacing
"If I have to go on with it
can't you at least do something
to prevent conception?" Gloria
asked. "I don't mean vaccination.
I want to have children later.
I can stand the ceremony if
I know I won't become pregnant."
"In that case I could give you
a shot of antiserum against
sperm," George said. "That
would stop pregnancy all right."
"Would it make me sterile for
"Oh no ... no! I wouldn't
use pooled serum from all types
anyway. You see we make some
specific serum when we are testing
each donor and it works only
against the sperm of that particular
"Then we're all right? All I
need is a shot?"
George shook his head. "I'm
afraid to risk it, Gloria. They'll
probably examine your blood tomorrow.
If they found the specific
antibody, or even a general
antisperm antibody, that would
really get us into trouble for
fraud." He shook his head. "No.
I'm afraid that's not the answer.
I don't know what to do." He
poured another drink and downed
"George," Gloria wailed, her
control breaking at last, "I don't
want a test-tube husband, a parent
by proxy. I want a man!"
She began to cry.
He came over to the couch and
dropped down beside her. "Darling,
please! Please don't cry.
There must be a way to beat
this." He took her in his arms.
The aircar warning light came
on and the buzzer sounded.
George unhooked the automatic
pilot and took over. They swung
into University City and across
the campus to the Faculty residential
"I certainly was lucky to find
a job here on retirement from the
Space Force," John Harmon
said. "It was good of you to invite
me to stay the week-end.
Are you sure Mrs. Turner won't
"Quite sure." George smiled.
"She's been looking forward to
meeting you." He pulled the car
into a spacious port and opened
the front door of the house for
Harmon. A tall, good-looking
brunette moved to meet them.
"So nice to meet you, Mrs. ..."
Harmon began automatically.
"Great mountains of the
moon! Gloria ... Gloria Manson!"
He turned to George. "You
didn't tell me."
"You mean you didn't know?"
Gloria asked, and kissed him affectionately.
"I found out that he didn't.
He was back in space at the time
we were married." George said.
"I wanted to surprise him." A
happy smile creased his face.
Harmon stared at him. "Oh
no!" he said and began to laugh.
They watched him, astonished.
He tried to talk. "George ...
ha, ha ... Wonderful!" He
convulsed again, struggled to a
chair and collapsed. "The boy ..."
he whispered weakly between
"The boy? Then you guessed!"
The wide smile split George's
"Yes, that smile ... couldn't
miss it. But how?" Harmon had
recovered. They went into the
living room and sat down to
"So there we were," George
concluded, "tanking up on lox
and nothing coming out but
smoke. I was getting a bit woozy
when Gloria asked me what time
"I looked at my watch. 'It's
midnight,' I said. That did it.
"'Midnight!' she screeched and
gave me the green-eyed tiger
look. 'Well, George Turner, maybe
you can't think of something
... but I can!'
"About nine in the morning
the secretary of the panel called
my room at the hotel. 'The ceremony
is at ten, Doctor!' she said.
'We are waiting for you.'
"Man, what a head I had!
You could have pushed the Destruct
button and I'd never have
known. Anyway I got to the hospital
and there was Gloria, looking
absolutely beautiful. There
were press photographers everywhere.
We went through with the
ceremony and that was that.
Nine months later, with a lot of
sonic booming, Boy America
was born. You saw him today."
"But he looks like you," John
"He should," Gloria said.
"But ..." John hesitated. "I
don't want to pry, but how can
you be sure?"
Gloria laughed. "Well, I know
what we did the first couple of
hours after midnight. You tell
him the rest, George."
"There isn't much else to tell,"
George said. "After the ceremony
I gave her a shot of the
specific antiserum as soon as I
could get her alone. Later the
committee examined her blood.
They found she was pregnant so
nobody even thought of testing
for antisperm bodies. Then the
boy was born. Naturally I was
a bit concerned. I took blood samples
and did genetic studies.
There was no doubt. He was my
"And nobody ever suspected?"
"No," Turner said. "The law
prescribes examination before
pregnancy but not afterwards.
We were married three months
later and everybody was very
happy. As for the boy looking
like me, everyone who has noticed
it assumes I picked a donor
like myself. It would be a natural
"So much for planned parenthood
in the new era," Harmon
chuckled. "The poor Mayor of
New York! If only he knew." He
grinned slyly. "Somehow I always
did like the old way best."
This etext was produced from Amazing Stories December 1961. Extensive
research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.