One of my favorite short stories ever, “Slow Sculpture” looks, on the surface, like so many typical science fiction stories: beautiful young woman with incurable disease meets eccentric mad scientist who cures her, they fall in love and live happily ever after. But hear the metaphor author Theodore Sturgeon weaves through the story. The mad scientist has a hobby: he raises bonsai trees.
As he explains, caring for a bonsai tree is an ongoing conversation. The gardener looks at the tree, sees the potential and decides to encourage more growth here, less there. The methods are gentle at first: cover the roots, change the direction the light is coming from. If the tree responds, the conversation continues. If not, sterner measures might be necessary: using wire to bend a branch just so or as a last resort, pruning a wayward shoot.