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Goblins

Desmond Thames was raised by two nerds and five assorted cats, in a house where the drifts of books were often waist deep. He studied creative writing and geology at Oberlin College and he currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is pursuing a PhD in paleontology. This is his first science fiction story to be published.
Goblins. At the time, it must have seemed such an elegant solution.
On the one hand, much of the underdeveloped world was in a constant and losing battle with starvation. On the other, the developed world was producing plastic waste at a truly staggering rate. The landfills were swollen with it, the gutters were choking on it, swirling islands of the stuff covered miles of what once had been open sea. And so the project was undertaken.
Tinkering with the germ line of living organisms was rapidly becoming trivial, even in those days. An army of embryos was recruited, taken from the wombs of the swamps and the slums and the shadow lands. The new humans were given powerful jaws and tough, leathery linings to their mouths and stomachs. Their teeth were sculpted into chisels and the juices of their stomachs distilled down into a potent vitriol. Most importantly, their guts were repopulated with a host of specialized bacteria, originally cultivated to help governments clean up oil spills. To help these new adaptations spread through the population, the virility of the subjects was artificially enhanced, while--as a safety measure--their innate intelligence was carefully damped down.
Exactly when the modified humans' descendants became known as "goblins" is uncertain. Likely the term was in use even in those early days when waste plastic was still abundant and the goblins' consumption of it was seen as a boon. After a few generations--and goblin generations are swift compared to our own--plastic was less plentiful. Now the goblins labored on vast work farms in exchange for their daily ration of crushed soda bottles and baled grocery bags. And when the rations ran out....
There are millions of goblins now and they are desperate. They have attacked factories and oil refineries. They have hunted down cars and trains and even airplanes, pulled them apart and gnawed them down to their steel frames. They have overrun whole cities, devouring computers and credit cards and children's toys.
But the solution is elegant. On the one hand, we have a growing population of refugees, driven from their homes by goblins and now faced with starvation. On the other, we have an overabundance of nutritious meat, walking around in the form of goblins. It is time to undertake a new project.
Trolls.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 19th, 2020


For me, this was a story about the power of hindsight. The narrator can clearly see the mistakes of the past, and is just as clearly oblivious to the horror they are about to unleash. I was definitely inspired by the case of the invasive cane toads, where good intentions paved a road to ecological devastation throughout Australia and South East Asia. Goblins are, however, even more dangerous than cane toads, perhaps because they represent not only our habit of recklessly tinkering with the natural order, but also our habit of dehumanizing our most vulnerable people.

- Desmond Thames
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