The Cull — Robert Reed

Robert Reed is the author of more than 200 short stories, which have been published in magazines such as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Postscripts, Daily SF, and Tor.com. Much of his short work has been collected in three volumes: The Dragons of Springplace, The Cuckoo’s Boys, and Eater-of-Bone and Other Novellas. Reed is a Hugo Award winner (and an eight-time nominee), and he has also been a finalist for the Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and John W. Campbell awards. His latest novel, The Well of Stars, is part of his Great Ship milieu, in which he is currently writing a new trilogy.

“To cull” is a verb. It comes from the Latin word colligere, which means “to collect,” and it describes the process of sorting out a group into those constituents the collector wants to keep and those constituents that no longer belong. A stamp collector might cull her collection of stamps when she decides she only wants to collect holiday-themed stamps. A button collector might take all his two-hole buttons to the Salvation Army, keeping only the four-holed varieties in his button display.

But of course, the word cull is most commonly used by animal breeders and wildlife officers, who remove the undesirable animals from their breeding populations. In most cases, a culled animal faces a kind of death penalty. And in that sense, “to cull” is a verb that most people hesitate to use.

In our next story Robert Reed has created a society ready for a cull. But you might just ask the question: What is the collection—and who is the collector?