One of the things I really appreciate about current trends in F&SF publishing is the amount of translated work being published from Asia. Take, for example, this Korean story about transformation from Bo-Young Kim.
The tiger laughed . . . human laughter. “What’s so piteous about me?”
“If you can speak human languages, it means you have a human mind; and if you have a human mind, you once were human, despite your present, animal form. I don’t how you came to take the shape of a beast, but it’s sad, isn’t it? How could it not be pitiful, to lose that original form which you inherited from your parents?”
“What does original form mean, anyway? Ought every creature to spend its whole life as a newborn infant?” the tiger quipped. “You say you were born in a human form, but your ancestors were once bears and tigers, snakes and fishes, and birds and plants. Now you fight to hang onto this human shape, but ultimately you’ll realize the effort is pointless. What’s so precious about dying in the same form you were born into? I might look like an animal, but I chose this form: I wanted to fill my belly with the work of my own two hands . . . and this form is the result.”
I had nothing to offer in reply.
“Do you know that in the old days,” it continued, “it took aeons for creatures to change from one form to another; that it took many ten-thousands of aeons for any kind of differentiation at all to develop. Things aren’t better or worse now—it’s just that a different kind of adaptation is necessary these days. Nature chooses its survivors without considering good, or evil, or superior, or inferior. Even the human form is just a single means of survival chosen by nature. Humans are frailer than rabbits, when they’re not in a group or deprived of their tools! A pathetic weakling like you . . . pitying me? How insolent!”
The tiger bared its razor-sharp fangs at me, its wrath apparent, so I shut my eyes and tensed in anticipation of the coming attack . . . but as long as I waited, it didn’t slash open my throat. When I dared to open my eyes, I found the tiger quietly watching me.
“Say it,” the creature finally said.
“What is it you want?”
“I don’t want anything,” I said. “I just don’t want to be discovered by anyone. I want to live and die without anyone finding me.”
The tiger said, “You should become a bug, then. Since you can’t get over this fixation on people, it’d be best to become a maggot or a fly. Or . . . how about a worm? Worms enrich the soil. You’d be more useful to people that way, than whatever it is you are right now.”
Though every single word he spoke dripped with insult, I couldn’t think of any suitable rejoinder to offer him.