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"Vilest Beast"  
Analog Sept1985
Author Harry Turtledove
First Appearance Analog
Collected A Different Flesh
Series A Different Flesh
Publication date September 1985
Followed by "And So To Bed"

"Vilest Beast" (first published in Analog, September 1985 under the Eric Iverson pseudonym) is the first story chronologically in the A Different Flesh timeline. It lays the foundation for this timeline. In it the reader learns that the Western Hemisphere is inhabited by Homo erectus (popularly known as "sims") rather than Homo sapiens, as well as megafauna long extinct in the known world. Consequently, the colonization of the New World by Europe has been a far more difficult process. The story also introduces the themes that the collection will grapple with, as various characters debate the nature of the sims, and their role in human history. Many characters are convinced of the need to exterminate the sims as some sort of demonic creatures. Others are not so convinced.

This story is set at England's Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1610. Edward Wingfield (a historical figure) must rescue his infant daughter Joanna from the tribe of wild sims who kidnapped her. The story traces Wingfield's conflicted views of the sims. Wingfield was once viewed the sims with contempt, especially after a group killed Captain John Smith. However, as Wingfield has had continuous contact with the sims, he's grown more sympathetic to them, especially as the sims have shown an ability to learn and reason. Ironically, it is when the sims take his daughter that Wingfield comes to view them in a positive light, as the sims took his daughter only to study her.

"Vilest Beast" begins with a prologue in the form of a mock-excerpt of a book entitled The Story of the Federated Commonwealths by Ernest Simpson. The book is a history of North America, and provides background information as to the nature of this timeline, providing details that might not be easily shoehorned into the brief short stories. We learn that Spain has not been terribly successful in South America, and that Jamestown is the first English colony in North America. We also learn that the United States as we know it does not exist, and its analog is the Federated Commonwealths of America.

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