Monday, August 29, 2011
Extremes in Anthropomorphism (as the Ultimate Sci-Fi Plot Device)
Humans think that all other animals aspire to be like them. As if! Bogus, I'll tell you right now. Why would we obviously superior mammals (I am speaking, of course, about us felines) want to degrade ourselves and become human? It doesn't sound like all that much fun, to paraphrase (and take out-of-context) the John Mellencamp lyric from "Authority Song" (1983), which, interestingly, Mellencamp characterized as his attitudinal version of "I Fought the Law" by the Bobby Fuller Four (1966), which I just blogged about a few days ago.
Some humans also seem to hold the misconception that all other life forms on the planet (and probably elsewhere) are designated for their own exploitative purposes. Only an egocentric species could think like that. (Incidentally, for those fond of Biblical citation [Gen. 1:28, NRSV, in particular; but cf. Theodore Hiebert's rebuttal], allow me to offer the example of Saint Francis of Assisi and his humane treatment of animals. There are lots of kind humans out there, in the world today and throughout our long history. Sadly, the converse is also true.)
Inhumane animal treatment, vivisection, and animal experimentation were hot topics in late-19th Victorian and early-20th century Edwardian England. Some of the ethical discussion seeped into literature, championed by great authors like H. G. Wells. His novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, which was first published in 1896, closely examined these social and ethical concerns, and the reader is given much food for thought. (Wells was educated as a biologist under the legendary Thomas Henry Huxley, so he, Wells, was intimately familiar with scientific animal experimentation.) The book endures today as a classic from the formative days of science fiction, when Wells and Jules Verne were the literary luminaries who, along with Arthur Conan Doyle, essentially created and popularized this genre.
Naturally, my Library has a handy book trailer to entice you to read the book.
Check-out any of the many editions of this book from our Evergreen Indiana catalog, if, of course, you have an E.I. Library Card.
For those of my readers who like a little more plot with their literary pie, allow me to elaborate. Evil Doctor Moreau, who does mean, unspeakable nasties to animals, has been found out by our unlikely hero, Edward Prendick, who was abandoned by a supply ship on Moreau's island after an exotic animal delivery. Now Prendick has fallen victim to Moreau's perverse experimentation. Many readers see this work as simply an exciting science adventure story, while others wrestle with the weightier moral considerations. Wells was a grand storyteller, so there is much there to hold your interest, regardless of your appetite for more philosophical fare.
Naturally, there have been several movies adapted from the book, and we have gratefully borrowed images from the 1977 version for our book trailer. The 1996 movie version is readily available, too. I know some folks prefer watching movies over reading books, but, trust me, there is more meat-and-potatoes in the novel than on film. There always is. You cannot surpass the original masterpiece.
Hey, here's a thought. Perhaps people could aspire to be more like felines. But that would be a perfect world, wouldn't it?
Welcoming a Better World, If We Make It So,
Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Readers' Advisory News Beat
P.S. Here is the music video (1984) for "Authority Song," by John Mellencamp.