The Best Australian Yarn: Magdalena McGuire’s sci-fi story Born For You explores ‘personalized babies’ and ethics

At the start of Magdalena McGuire’s short story Born For You, a woman browses a website selling “personalized babies”, infants who can be ordered with skin color, gender, eye color and “any other characteristic ” that the buyer wants.

But this is not the start of a sci-fi tale in which children are conceived for profit in a dystopian future, but rather an incredible exploration of themes of motherhood, childlessness and of the ethics of becoming a parent.

The Melbourne-based mother-of-two is a finalist in the $30,000 Best Australian Yarn competition, a partnership between The West Australian and Minderoo Foundation that seeks to find the best news in the country.

Her story centers on an unnamed woman who buys a lifelike doll from a company called Born For You. While his wife is out of the house, she surreptitiously tends to the child with all the tenderness of a new mother, while grappling with the guilt of wanting, deep down, to become one for real – “to bring a child to a planet”. it’s overcrowded, overheated, overrun by fascists”.

Camera iconMagdalena McQuire. Credit: ©Martin Philbey/©Martin Philbey

Ms McGuire, who works in the research ethics department of a children’s hospital and has a background in social issues research and policy, said she was fascinated by the questions raised by the story.

“Even though I have kids, there’s this whole question of when is it right and ethical to have kids, and did I do the right thing in having them,” she said. declared.

“I feel like I have them now, but it kind of ties into the anxiety I sometimes feel about the world.”

Ms McGuire said the seed for the idea was planted when she came across photographs of people holding babies, which she soon realized were actually dolls. “I was kind of put off by that,” she said. “I found it really interesting, this push and pull when I saw the images of these dolls being made to look like babies. I could feel both tenderness towards them and also a kind of revulsion.

Although it was written years before, she said the pandemic has shed a whole new light on the story. “That’s another thing that makes you think about the state of the world, world events and how you’re parenting in these troubling times, what does it mean to be moral with all of this” , she said.

Ms McGuire, who was born in Poland and previously lived in Perth, has been writing for about seven years and was persuaded to enter The Best Australian Yarn competition by a good friend from WA.

She said she was “blown away” to make it to the long list – which recognizes the top 50 stories from a pool of nearly 5,000 – especially since writing is something she hopes to focus more on.

“Writing is definitely not my way of making my money, like with a lot of people,” she said.

“It’s a passion project.”

The winners will be announced on November 18.

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