The short story “Maxim Fujiyama and other persons” by Claude Lalumière was published for the first time in 2014.
Maxim Fujiyama tries to survive as he can, rummaging here and there in the Vancouver area where he lives looking for food and anything that might be useful to him. Other people went to live in the building where he has settled but Maxim only counts on himself. Sometimes he meets other people and can’t help but wonder what it means to be a person.
“Maxim Fujiyama and other people” is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the protagonist Maxim Fujiyama, cut off from the rest of the world after the total collapse of communications along with the rest of civilization, wanders through Vancouver and meets other people and animals. He’s uneasy using the term person because he started wondering who or what a person is, whether only human beings are people or individuals of other species are too.
Maxim Fujiyama’s reflections are not only philosophical but also have some roots in recent years’ paleontological and paleoanthropological research. Advances in genetic techniques made it possible to recover DNA not only of very ancient homo sapiens but even of extinct hominids such as the famous Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans, discovering that these species interbred.
Maxim Fujiyama thinks about the research that showed how the DNA of modern humans can contain Neanderthal and Denisovan genes. Researches that reconstructed the genetic traces of homo sapiens migrations also showed the presence of different genes of other hominids in modern humans depending on their ethnicity. The protagonist wonders how many other species of which we don’t even have fragments of DNA interbred with each other, citing for example the hominids of the Red Deer Cave in China.
Despite the presence of this scientific element, “Maxim Fujiyama and other people” is not a hard science fiction story. Claude Lalumière mentions only basic notions related to that kind of genetic research without going into technical details, so you don’t need any specific knowledge about these subjects to understand them.
Claude Lalumière uses the reflections on the interbreedings between various species of hominids to bring Maxim Fujiyama to go beyond certain divisions. In his normal life before the fall of civilization there were generally accepted definitions, but in a situation that has completely changed what’s the point of those old divisions? In a world where there are few remaining humans and who knows what else – or who else… – he can meet, certain mental paradigms have to change radically.
Breaking up a certain way of seeing the world and the old clear separation between people and other creatures allows Maxim Fujiyama to reach a new way of relating to what the Other is. Considering the damage that such a separation caused to the world, certain reflections would be useful before civilization collapses. You can find this short story for example in the anthology “Other Persons – Altre persone” published by Future Fiction in English and Italian.