Science Fiction Studies

#105 = Volume 35, Part 2 = July 2008

Cat Yampell

When Science Blurs the Boundaries: The Commodification of the Animal in Young Adult Science Fiction

The history of homo sapiens is firmly rooted in the delineation of differences, often to the complete exclusion of samenesses—woman from man, child from adult, nature from culture, and nonhuman animal from human-animal.1 In contemporary Western culture, animals are so labeled to perpetuate anthropocentrism. By calling all that is not human-animal “other,” human-animals define other animals through the language of deficiency. They are not human-animal; thus, they are inferior and subject to the whims—and experiments—of the dominant species. In Of Grammatology (1974), Jacques Derrida writes, “Man calls himself man only by drawing limits excluding his other... : the purity of nature, of animality, primitivism, childhood, madness, divinity” (244; emphasis in original). Entrenched in a position that maintains their subjugation and ensuing limitations, women, children, animals, and other subaltern groups are often discouraged or dismissed. In order to ensure dominion, human-animals (a category which does not necessarily include all homo sapiens) create and celebrate hierarchical boundaries and privilege that which separates over that which unifies.                

Bruno Latour explains in We Have Never Been Modern (1993) thatmodernity is comprised of two processes—purification and translation—“which must remain distinct if they are to remain effective” and if modernity is truly to exist (10). Purification stresses boundaries between culture and nature, separating human-animals from “nonhumans,” subjects from objects. In contrast, translation creates completely new beings, hybrids of nature and culture (10-11). Modernity strives to separate the two practices completely; however, as Latour elucidates, purification and translation are symbiotic: the existence of hybrids necessitates the work of purification, and without separation acts of translation would be unnecessary or extremely limited. Striving to create or perpetuate definitive barriers between nature and culture is always already doomed to failure because of the double logic inherent in modernity’s undertakings. Purification and translation cannot be separated; thus, “we have never been modern.”               

As a post-Enlightenment project of modernity, science, particularly experimentation in biology, biotechnology, and psychology, is consistently grounded in distinctions that perpetuate and promote speciesist demarcations. Those who transgress separatist ideologies and cross discriminatory borders, such as society’s others and Latour’s “nonmoderns” (47), are able to escape the continual, oppressive bombardment of normative philosophies, politics, and behavior. Literature reproduces social disruptions as well as hegemonies, representing voices of those who cannot speak for themselves as well as the voice of the dominant, speciesist, Western, patriarchal majority. It provides an arena in which science’s anthropocentric experiments fail, nature/culture boundaries blur, borders between separation and purification dissolve, and hybrids proliferate.                

In this paper, I focus on two young adult (YA) sf novels that obscure binaries and disturb and disrupt speciesist perspectives. Through a subtle privileging of hybridity and the ensuing implication that “becoming animal” may constitute an evolution rather than a devolution, Peter Dickinson’s Eva (1988) and Ann Halam’s Dr. Franklin’s Island (2002) reflect and subvert dominant anthropocentric ideologies, and rupture delineations that maintain the separation of human-animals from animals.2 In the creation and exploration of a future that continues to include and accept practices of separation, speciesism, animal commodification, and irresponsible biotechnology, these texts interrogate and problematize distinctions that would maintain modernity’s separation of nature and culture, animal and human-animal, object and subject. Dickinson’s and Halam’s animal/human-animal hybrids illuminate differences that enable speciesist bias as well as similarities that could (and should) promote human-animal/animal affinity.                

Part One of Dickinson’s futuristic Eva is entitled “Waking,” and teenager Eva Adamson awakens from a supposedly “irreversible coma” (20) resulting from a horrific car accident. It is gradually revealed that human-animal Eva has become the subject of an experimental neuron memory procedure that recreates the “pattern” (21) contained in the brain’s neurons. This pattern is equivalent to an individual’s personality, “different from any other pattern that ever was or will be.... The pattern actually ‘remembers’ how it got there [in the brain]; and given the right treatment and an ‘empty’ brain, it can be persuaded to go through the whole process over again” (21). Eva wakes in the body of a chimpanzee previously known as Kelly. Eva’s parents and Professor Joan Pradesh, the scientist responsible for the procedure, appear never to struggle with moral or ethical dilemmas in their use of the animal Kelly to save the human-animal Eva. Eva’s father attempts to justify his choice by arguing, “Of course, we have a moral responsibility to all living things.... As a zoologist, life is my trade, so I feel this more strongly than most. I feel it especially toward chimpanzees. Still, it is different from the responsibility we have toward any single human being” (26). The decision to preserve a human-animal life is seen to be ethically valid and to make exploitation of the animal Kelly insignificant.                

Ecofeminist and animal activist Carol J. Adams blames anthropocentric speciesism for such views, suggesting that “scientists can be irresponsible toward animal rights because they are focused on a ‘higher’ right, the rights of humans to survive” (Neither 46). Eva does not view the decision as quite so facile: “Her last thought was to wonder what had happened to Kelly, the real Kelly, the one who used to live in this furry skin. Where was she now?” (22). At first cognizant both of the divide and the physical-Kelly/psychological-Eva hybrid, Eva gradually becomes aware of Kelly’s psychological presence as well.                

Although Eva literally awakens from a coma, “Waking” also alludes to Eva’s philosophical awakening. Kelly’s brain has been reprogrammed with Eva’s “pattern”; however, Eva experiences memories that are neither hers nor could they be Kelly’s. She remembers trees—climbing and swinging, trees tangled into one another, sunlight filtering through leaves and branches, wildness, a sense of danger and excitement—but this environment no longer exists on earth, and Kelly never experienced it. Through Kelly, Eva gains access to the chimpanzee collective unconscious and her dreams, memories, and thoughts all become hybridized.

Kelly was dead, gone, would never come back, but something was still there. Not a particular chimp with particular memories ... but a chimp still, with older, deeper memories. You couldn’t just invade a chimp body and take it over with your human mind.... Eva’s human neurons might have copied themselves into Kelly’s brain, but ... that left a sort of connection, an interface, a borderland where human ended and chimp began.… The only way to become whole was to pull the wall down, to let the other side back in, to let it invade in its turn, up into the human side, the neurons remembering their old paths, twining themselves in among the human network until both sides made a single pattern. A new pattern, not Eva, not Kelly—both but one. (37-38)

As Eva learns to embrace Kelly and Kelly’s memories and instincts while simultaneously struggling with her own losses, she begins to realize her responsibility to the animal being of which she is now a part.            

When similar experiments fail, Pradesh speculates that Eva’s acceptance of the procedure is linked to her background. Since before the age of three, Eva has spent a great deal of time with the chimpanzees in her father’s research pool. Pradesh rationalizes the Eva/Kelly success by suggesting that Eva “may well have learned to think of [herself] as actually being a chimpanzee as well as a human, and that deep in [her] unconscious mind [she] still do[es]” (134). Eva has learned to respect chimps and treat them as equals, and thus she is unable (and unwilling) to become completely absorbed into the hegemonic anthropocentric ideology. She cannot accept chimpanzees as other or inferior to human-animals. Her unconscious rejection of society’s normative ideology saves her life; she is well-positioned to accept herself in Kelly’s body and the chimpanzee memories and thoughts in her mind. Eva’s acceptance—the acceptance of both/and in contrast to either/or—is the primary reason her experiment is the only one of its kind to succeed. More importantly, Eva is one of the few human-animals in the novel to understand that life is sacred regardless of species. As “both but one,” Eva is uniquely situated to enact change, altering society’s perception of animals, specifically chimpanzees, and preserving their lives.            

Ann Halam’s Dr. Franklin’s Island is a contemporary re-visioning of H.G. Wells’s 1896 classic The Island of Dr. Moreau. In contrast to Dr. Moreau and his methods of vivisection, Dr. Franklin utilizes genetic engineering to alter human-animals Semirah (Semi) Garson, Miranda Fallow, and Arnie Pullman into animals. These teenagers become unwilling participants in his transgenic experiments after a plane crash maroons them on Dr. Franklin’s island. Wells’s Dr. Moreau explains that he performs his experiments because, “I wanted—it was the only thing I wanted—to find out the extreme limit of plasticity in a living shape.... To this day I have never troubled about the ethics of the matter” (56). In contrast, Franklin aspires to the creation of “a commercial proposition.... You take a pill, or a couple of injections.... You wake up in a five-star underwater hotel, on your ocean safari. Or on some kind of luxury cliffside flying lodge, on the wall of the Grand Canyon. Spend two weeks exploring the deep ocean, or flying like a bird” (Halam 171). Ethics is never mentioned; for Franklin, both human-animal and animal lives are meaningless as compared to his success, fame, and fortune.            

Rejected by his peers because of the immorality of his experiments, Franklin’s wealth enables his private research. Miranda remembers hearing about Franklin from her anthropologist parents:

Dr. George Franklin was famous, in science. He had all kinds of ideas about how humans might be changed, in the future, by genetic engineering.... Imagine if people could fly, imagine if people could live under the ocean.... He got prosecuted for doing some cruel experiments on chimpanzees. That was the end of his public career. My parents and their friends used to use his name as an example of a mad scientist, science gone bad. (77-78)

Franklin’s experiments indicate a complete disregard for life—any life—whether animal or human-animal, and his lack of hesitation not only to experiment on human-animals but also to sacrifice them at the end of the experiment complicates an interpretation of Franklin as solely speciesist and anthropocentric. His ultimate goals, however, clarify his biases. His dream of enabling human-animals to explore the lives of “others” as other,for entertainment purposes, clearly indicates anthropocentric tendencies. Furthermore, his years of immoral animal experimentation directly support a speciesist analysis of his character. Eva too upholds this derogatory portrayal of scientists as Pradesh unhesitatingly persists in sacrificing animal lives despite her experiments’ continued failures. Although her experimental human-animal subjects are fatally wounded, and surgery is their sole opportunity for any form of survival, Pradesh is consistently depicted as placing her quest for knowledge and the advancement of science over the lives of individuals.            

Always already situated in the governing ideology and its hierarchical power structures, both novels’ protagonists have begun to formulate their identities. Notwithstanding the potential for resistance or transgression, the teens are aware of their position as human-animal adolescents in anthropocentric adult-governed societies. While awaiting the plane that will carry the teenaged winners of a contest sponsored by the “Planet Savers” television show to the Ecuadorian rain forest and the Galapagos Islands, Halam’s protagonist, Semi, a self-proclaimed outsider, begins to compare the group of teens, including herself, to animals. Although she begins imagining everyone in a rain forest, she immediately alters the setting to a zoo, needing “to find the enclosure where I belonged” (2; emphasis added). Semi’s placement of the “animals” in a zoo not only foreshadows her own imprisonment and treatment as an animal by Franklin but also represents the power structures of dominion already in place.            

At this point, Semi clearly comprehends hegemonic dictates and hierarchies. Her recognition of the adults on the trip as authority figures places the other teenagers, her fellow “animals,” as well as herself, in a position of subordination. Confined to a zoo even in her imagination, she imprisons the teen “animals” in a structure managed by adult human-animals—a compound in which animals are completely dependent for their most basic needs upon human-animals. This is an establishment that serves animal conservation but also commodifies animals for the amusement, entertainment, and profit of human-animals. Although the imagination offers occasion for freedom from social and realistic limitations, Semi is a product of the dominant ideology; she is conditioned to conform to social expectations and normative behavior, even in her mind. Despite her later appreciation and enjoyment of herself as “Semi-the-fish,” her socialization into and acceptance of the governing ideology is one of the key factors that both enables and forces her to retain her “humanity” during Franklin’s experiment.            

Likewise, as Eva recovers she expects to return to her human-animal life. She anticipates skiing, attending school, and socializing with her friends. Eva does not expect, however, that she no longer may be free to make her own choices. As animal, Eva may now “belong” to her sponsors—those corporations that funded the Eva/Kelly experiment. Eva does not initially realize that human-animal society no longer considers her an individual with inherent rights; however, as she slowly learns of her “duty” to her sponsors, she begins to understand that, regardless of the way she perceives herself, other human-animals view her, first and foremost, as animal and thus as object. Arriving for her first camera appearance, she notices “a camera trained on her as though she were some kind of thing you didn’t have to say Do-you-mind to” (Dickinson 50; emphasis in original). Eva gradually becomes aware of the loss of her subjecthood and endeavors to enlighten others about the affinity between chimpanzees and human-animals and the harm perpetrated upon animals through commodification and scientific experimentation. The majority of adults, however, cannot or will not listen. Eva’s recognition that human-animals will not cease to objectify animals forces her to take radical action for herself, for Kelly, and for the future of chimpanzees.           

As Latourian nonmodern texts, both Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island suspend divisive practices.3 As Latour contends, neither nature/culture nor animals/human-animals can be separated; the drive for purification produces hybrids because “they were created together. They reinforce each other” (31). In both novels, scientists actively create new hybrids. Their hybrids struggle as they battle with purification and their own difficulties in maintaining a clear separation between their human-animal and animal aspects, moving toward growing acceptance and celebration of their animal selves. In order to survive and succeed in a nonmodern world, Semi, Miranda, and Arnie, like Eva, must accept and embrace both aspects of their new hybrid selves.            

Dickinson and Halam use science’s actualization of an animal/human-animal hybrid to imbue the animal with abilities and knowledge beyond and superior to that of the human-animal alone. Eva traverses both the human-animal world and the animal world. Her newfound memories of a chimpanzee collective unconscious and her new physical agility and strength, combined with her human-animal recollections, knowledge, and life experience provide her with opportunities for unprecedented understanding, and thus an ability to enact change, not simply for herself but for human-animal and chimpanzee societies. Semi, as human-animal, requires glasses. As animal, her eyesight is corrected and when she returns to human-animal form, albeit still in a genetic hybrid or transgenic state, her perfect vision remains. Semi believes some type of trigger will enable her to return to her fish form at will; she intends to find and activate it to savor the best of both the human-animal and animal worlds. Eva, after facing her own and her parents’ emotions over the loss of the beautiful, human-animal Eva, enjoys her adjustment to her new physicality and its challenges and benefits. Her childhood experience with animals enables an easier acceptance of her animal hybridity than is experienced by Semi and Miranda. In contrast to Semi, who struggles to retain her grasp on her humanity and reject the exultation of being fish, Eva endeavors to embrace her “chimpness.” The more Eva contemplates humanity and its behavior, the more she appreciates the society of chimpanzees. Eventually, despite her continued efforts to uphold her anthropocentric socialization, Semi acquiesces to the sheer joy, peace, and beauty her manta-ray self provides. As readers are permitted access to the thoughts and emotions of the animal/human-animal hybrids, the animals become more than experimental bodies or objects; they gain subjecthood.            

In the beginnings of both Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island,however, the animal is significant only because of its use-value. Society’s future, as depicted in Eva, is bleak. Large animals are long gone, crowded out as the human-animal population has expanded. Zoos have been dismantled; housing one large animal in a great deal of space is deemed unnecessary and wasteful when a film of that large animal is so much easier to maintain. “A real rhinoceros, living the life it was made for, needs a dozen square kilometers. A taped rhinoceros only needs a few cubic centimeters” (Dickinson 19). However, as Eva learns early in her youth, “Chimps were different. Chimps were a special case because they were so close to humans, our cousins but not us. It was worth keeping real chimps alive for research you couldn’t do on humans, a pool of chimps big enough to breed from, so that there were animals to spare for scientists to use” (19).            

The International Chimp Pool, of which Eva’s father is Director of Primate Zoology, is maintained solely to provide entertainment and research opportunities for human-animals. In The Pornography of Meat (2003), Carol J. Adams contends that “pleasurable consumption of consumable beings is the dominant perspective of our culture. It is what subjects do to objects, what someone does with something” (13). This is what Eva’s sponsors do to and with her. In both Dickinson’s futuristic society as well as our own, chimpanzees survive primarily because of their value as commodities. In captivity, they are observed, studied, or trained; in the wild, they are observed, studied, or hunted. Chimpanzees are both literally and figuratively “consumable beings.” As in Dickinson’s grim future, rain forests diminish daily and endangered or extinct animal lists increase as animals living in the wild decrease; human-animals maintain, if not amplify, their consumption of animals as they continue their carnivistic customs.4 The powerful continue to consume the powerless.            

Both Franklin and his assistant, Dr. Skinner, maintain that the animals lost, maimed, and altered in their experiments are of absolutely no consequence in Franklin’s grand scheme of creating transgenic human-animals. Skinner admits, “We’ve had plenty of losses. And some survive in very twisted forms. But our goal is to take humanity beyond all the limits. Of course there’s a price to pay” (Halam 72). Animal lives are the price, but the mathematics justifying this loss work only in anthropocentric societies in which animals are expendable. Donna Haraway questions endeavors that value human-animal life at the expense of all else, requiring that we at least consider if “the suffering caused to the research organisms [is] balanced by the relief of human suffering” (Modest_Witness 113). In a world in which privileged white male human-animal subjects commonly dictate the use and thus the life of marginalized others, Susanne Kappeler points out, this dominant subjectivity is unimaginable without those subjects it excludes, because “subject status equals supremacy over an other, not intersubjectivity. Only then does it produce the feeling of pleasure, the feeling of life” (154). Adams agrees, elaborating, “We [men] need you [women] to be something so we can know we are someone” (Pornography 38; emphases in original). Although Kappeler and Adams are referring specifically to the subject/object relationship between men and women, their ideas easily translate to the human-animal/animal relationship.            

Human-animals need animals to be something so human-animals can know they are someone. The bondage of animals enables the freedom of science and its practitioners. As a bird, Miranda wears a black band around her leg that monitors her position and can transmit varying degrees of electrical shocks to control her. Semi is imprisoned in a concrete swimming pool, controlled by her dependence on water to breathe. Eva, however, is bound by more than simply human-animal-made confines; she is constrained by her love for her mother, her respect for her father and his work, and the duty she believes she owes to the Chimp Pool. Nonetheless, she explicitly rejects humanity when, during a televised press conference, “Using all her strength, she ripped the overalls apart right down to the crotch and let go. The yellow cloth crumpled around her ankles. She stepped out of the mess and knuckled away naked.... The bay of the human pack dwindled along the corridor” (Dickinson 145-46). By shedding her human-animal attire, she symbolically sheds her membership in and acceptance of human-animal society and its speciesism; she chooses chimpanzee. Human-animals diminish in importance as Eva listens to the dwindling bay of the “pack,” foreshadowing, like the fading baying, the fading of humanity’s sovereignty and time on Earth as she simultaneously compares human-animals to the animals they so disdain. Listening to the human-animal pack, she thinks of their unacceptable and cruel treatment of animals and wonders which species is really the beast.            

The doctors and scientists in both Dickinson’s and Halam’s worlds neither consider their “patients” as subjects nor do they concern themselves with the mental, emotional, and physical pain their “property” must endure. Eva’s is the only successful experiment, for example, but not the only experiment. Other human-animals who undergo the neuron memory procedure and awaken in chimpanzee bodies reject their “hosts” and the ensuing opportunity to live. As fully integrated subjects of an anthropocentric speciesist society, they prefer death to life as an animal. After her attempt to communicate with the latest failing experiment, Stefan (human-animal)/Caesar (chimpanzee), Eva explains to Pradesh, “They’re both there. They don’t want each other” (134). Previously attributed solely to Eva’s willingness to “become chimp,” the success of the Eva/Kelly experiment is complicated by Eva’s explanation that “They don’t want each other,” which empowers chimpanzees with consciousness and language comparable to that of human-animals— i.e., with agency and thus subjecthood. Pradesh is confronted with information that has the potential not only to destabilize but also to rupture completely the a priori basis of knowledge from which she operates. As articulated by Stefan/Caesar through Eva, other experiments are not failing because the human-animals reject the chimpanzee hosts and life as animals, but, more significantly, because the chimpanzees in question also reject the human-animals who invade their minds and bodies. In the shadow of another failure, Sasha (human-animal)/Angel (animal), Pradesh addresses a press conference, attempting to justify her continuation of the experiments:

I certainly have no right to expend the life of a member of another species on frivolities. But I have no doubt at all that I had, and have, the right to do so in order to save a human life, as I did for Eva.... Their [Stephan’s and Sasha’s] lives have not been wasted. We have learned less than we hoped from them, but we might have learned a great deal and that is my justification. In this case, the knowledge might have led almost immediately to the saving or prolonging of human life. (144)

Eva, however, challenges these justifications, arguing that the experiments were “not to save my life. Just to know” (144) and asserting that Pradesh’s desire for knowledge, without concern for suffering and individuals’ rights, supersedes all else, even the desire to save human-animal life.            

Haraway frames a similar assertion with her question, “Who lives and dies—human, nonhuman, and cyborg—and how, because OncoMouse™ exists?” (Modest_Witness 113). OncoMouse™ is the world’s first patented animal, the first laboratory-created genetically-modified mouse; this mouse carried an activated oncogene or human-animal cancer gene that increased the mouse’s susceptibility to cancer, thus rendering the mouse “suitable” for cancer research. Thus far, OncoMouse™ (through no fault of the mice) has not provided any known developments in the search for a cure for cancer. As Eva realized, “Not to save life. Just to know.” In a context in which animals are not subjects or individuals but are merely objects or commodities, the belief that an animal’s death might provide the slightest advancement of knowledge, whether or not the potential insight offers improvement for human-animals’ lives, mandates the sacrifice of said animal, of said property, “just to know.”               

The Eva/Kelly experiment is financed by SMI, “the shaper people,” a futuristic version of broadcasting companies (Dickinson 41). SMI raised money through their advertisers, and both SMI and their advertisers maintain they have certain rights to Eva. When Eva asks Ms. Callaway, an SMI representative from their legal and contract department, to whom she belongs, Eva’s mother answers, “You don’t belong to anyone, darling.” SMI holds another view, however, and Ms. Callaway responds, “I believe that when animals from the Chimpanzee Pool are sold for research they are sold outright, and the organization doing the research then buys them. But in Eva’s case, because the experiment was carried out by the Pool itself, in cooperation with the Pradesh Institute, no such arrangement was made—in fact, no arrangement was made at all” (69). Eva’s status as both chimp/object and human/subject throws the categories of commodity and person into disarray. Her mother interrupts, “This is ridiculous. Anyway, we could pay for her now—we’d have to find the money somehow,” but Ms. Calloway continues, “The difficulty, Mrs. Adamson, is that Eva is now an extremely valuable piece of property” (70).               

As property, Eva has no rights. She is respected for what she can offer and what she represents, not for herself. She is an object—a valuable object. Only Eva’s embracing of Kelly, and thus the animal, enables Eva to regain her subjecthood and take control of her life. Franklin never questions his ownership of Semi, Miranda, and Arnie. Skinner explains to Semi and Miranda, “You are ideal. You are missing, believed dead. You don’t exist” (Halam 74). The teenagers have become non-entities; they, too, are property. Even before they are transformed into animals, Franklin removes their subject status: becoming animal simply clarifies this erasure of personhood. Semi recognizes their loss of subject status, noting that Franklin “was pretending that he thought we were human, because that was the way to get the best behavior out of us. But in his mind, we were animals. So it didn’t matter what he did to us” (108). Arnie has a similar revelation: “You know, Franklin always talked to me as if I was human when I was changed. But I could see in his eyes that he didn’t believe it. I was just a thing” (234). As objects, Arnie, Semi, and Miranda lack the subjecthood that would mandate ethical treatment.                

Although, superficially, both Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island appear to objectify and exploit the animal body, they actually challenge and subsequently debunk the image of animal as either object or commodity. Adams suggests that “the tumbling away of a unitary subject opens up space for discussing other-than-human subjects” (Neither 12). Semi and Miranda’s sentience becomes too apparent to be dismissed, and Eva refuses to be ignored, belittled, or silenced. As the animals assert themselves as subjects, the human-animals who created them are destroyed, both figuratively and literally. The human-animal must be displaced or decentered as a subject in order to permit the subjecthood of the animal or the animal/human-animal hybrid. Readers must accept Semi as fish and Eva as chimpanzee instead of as human-animals in order to consider animals as subjects. In both Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island, the animal figures achieve subject status; however, in anthropocentric societies that strive to maintain modernity’s problematic separations, the animal as subject is impossible. Thus, as the animals become more visible, human-animals begin to fade, suggesting a privileging of both the animal and the animal/human-animal hybrid.                

On Franklin’s island, as human-animal Semi begins to disappear, relinquishing her human-animal consciousness to that of the giant manta ray hybrid, she fights to recall Skinner’s words—“dumb animal” (Halam 74)—and repeats them to herself like a mantra.5 Semi continually focuses on humanity’s view of “dumb animals” and the ideology that, as a human-animal, she is at the top of both the hierarchical and evolutionary ladders. Her actions and words appear to negate the animal and the opportunity it provides for freedom from the limitations of the human-animal body as well as the constraints of hegemonic ideology. Semi’s repetition of “dumb animal” is her attempt to remain in the patriarchal, anthropocentric, speciesist society to which she, as human-animal, is socialized to believe she belongs. Her recitation of the phrase increases in frequency in direct proportion to her failing efforts. Indeed, the more Semi and Miranda enjoy the freedom of swimming and flight, respectively, the more frequently their actions and attitudes take speciesist twists as they desperately cling to and practice their accustomed hegemonic ideologies.                

Calum MacKellar from the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics succinctly summarizes human-animals’ fears about experiments similar to those depicted in both Halam’s and Dickinson’s novels—the same fears that force Semi to persist in her utterance of the phrase “dumb animal.” MacKellar states, “In the history of humankind, animals and human species have been separated. In this kind of procedure, you are mixing at a very intimate level animal eggs and human chromosomes, and you may begin to undermine the whole distinction between humans and animals.6 If that happens, it might also undermine human dignity and human rights” (qtd. in Walsh). MacKellar thus articulates two basic human-animal anxieties that maintain practices of dominion and commodification: the concern that the distinction between human-animals and animals is not as broad as human-animals would like (and need) to believe, and the fear that humanity shares more similarities and kinship with animals than differences. These are the phobias that perpetuate speciesism and anthropocentric behaviors.                

The superiority of Semi’s new animal being, however, asserts and reasserts itself. She muses:

The honest truth is, the fish-Semi part of me would be completely happy swimming, and measuring things, and thinking long, deep, dreamy sunlit thoughts ... if it wasn’t that I was stuck in this rotten little tiny pool. I know Miranda feels the same. She loves being a bird, she hates being a bird in a cage. It’s strange. Before the change, we’d have thought that losing our human feelings, becoming mutant-monsters in our minds would have been the worst horror imaginable. In fact it turns out to be the only thing that makes life possible. (137)

The physical imprisonment of Semi’s pool and Miranda’s cage is secondary to the figurative but potentially more debilitating captivity of the dominant ideology. Being animal, especially when unrestricted by wire and concrete boundaries, offers unadulterated freedom—a freedom unmatched in their human-animal existence. Semi describes the feeling of swimming as “completely, totally bliss,” a sense that “everything was alive”; she realizes that when she tries “to think of how it felt in human terms,” she has to struggle to find an analogy that works, settling on “swimming through music” but it is music of which she is a part. Animal being gives a sense of peace that eludes human-animal being, and she concludes of her life as Semi-the-fish, “I was so happy” (205).                

Although Semi, Miranda, and Arnie eventually return, mostly, to their human-animal states, the ending suggests that Semi misses the freedom with which the “dumb animal” provided her:

I think about breathing water and swimming through the music of the ocean. I think about having a skeleton of supple cartilage instead of brittle bone. I think about feeling my whole body as one soaring, gliding, sweeping wing ... I dream of another planet, with an ocean of heavy air, where I can swim and [Miranda] can fly, where we can be the marvelous creatures that we became; and be free, together.... (“coda” n.p.)

For Semi, the freedom of animal supersedes the supposed hierarchy of human-animal; indeed, as the story ends, she is truly imprisoned, not in a pool or an actual cage but in her human-animal body and her knowledge of its inferiority.            

In contrast, Eva recognizes the significance of her opportunity to alter the perception, treatment, and future of chimpanzees. Twenty-four years after the Eva/Kelly hybrid is created, human-animals are withdrawing, not only from the experiment but from their dominion over the earth. They have taken everything the earth had to give; little is left. In a final visit to Eva before the Chimp Pool is terminated, its director, Denny, speculates about humanity’s demise: “Sometimes I think it’s just a phase, old Mother Nature, who we keep forgetting we’re children of, just cutting the population back to a sane kind of size, and then we’ll start again” (215). But humanity appears to have lost hope. One community passes a resolution to stop eating and starves itself to death. Gudrun, a friend of Eva’s mother, tells Eva “a lot of kids have been taking their own lives. No reason anyone can give” (212). Groups of teenagers walk “into the sea.... They put rocks in their pockets, joined hands, and walked in, singing. Just a couple of dozen kids. Now they’re doing it hundreds at a time” (214). Haraway posits that “[t]he Animal is forever positioned on the other side of an unbridgeable gap, a gap that reassures the Human of his excellence by the very ontological impoverishment of a lifeworld that cannot be its own end or know its own condition” (When Species 77). In a future in which animals bridge the gap, challenging human-animals’ “excellence” and forcing an interrogation of previously unquestioned ideologies, humanity cannot withstand either the challenge or the query. Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island ask us to consider the possibility that the impoverished lifeworld might be on the human-animal side of the constructed divide.           

While human-animals are ending their lives en masse, Eva’s progeny continue to evolve on St. Hilaire, a virtually forgotten island upon which Eva negotiated the chimpanzees’ freedom and future. Twenty-one years earlier, “World Fruit,” one of SMI’s advertisers, transported  Eva and chimps from the Pool to the island to film advertisements. A well-executed plan, however, enabled Eva to escape into the mountains with twenty-one other chimpanzees. Their continued attempts to evade capture were broadcast worldwide. The intense public outcry pressured SMI, World Fruit, and the Chimp Pool to permit the chimpanzees to  remain in the wild, unencumbered by human-animal interference. Twenty-one years later, the cameras have ceased to function. The chimpanzees no longer possess use-value; they have been left to fend for themselves. In fact, the entire earth is being left to fend for itself. Trips from members of the Pool to visit Eva and record the chimpanzees’ developmental progress have slowly dwindled. During what is to be human-animals’ final visit to the island, not only for the dying Eva, but also for the soon to be defunct Pool, Eva returns the machine that enabled her to “speak” with human-animal speech as well as a tape thanking Earth’s remaining human-animals and asking them to leave the chimps in peace. She asks Denny to take her last message  back to the human-animals. Denny accepts both, acknowledging that at least the machine will enable him to play the tape. “Eva could hear the defeat in his voice, the defeat of humankind and all that cleverness, all those machines they’d used to control the universe, lost in the silence of a tape that had nothing to play it? (216). Like the machines, human-animals have reached the end of their usefulness; their time on earth has expired. The end of the book is a message of hope—not for human-animal, but for animal.                

Dickinson and Halam create animal/human-animal hybrids who refuse to acknowledge or allow society’s speciesism to consume them. Through the characters’ social and ideological rebellion, they alter their lives and, in Eva’s case, the future of chimpanzees. These texts have the potential to inspire readers to question and alter their previously complacent acceptance of and conformity to speciesist philosophies. Located in realistic, albeit futuristic settings, these authors create others firmly within Western social norms, maintaining the comfort (or perhaps creating a discomfort) factor of the realm of the familiar, of life on earth. By placing the animal/human-animal hybrids in realistic settings, Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island formulate pertinent questions as to the relationship between human-animals and animals and their proximity and future in the real world rather than a constructed secondary world.                

Furthermore, by firmly embedding these currently impossible experiments in seeming reality, Dickinson and Halam construct situations in which their characters, and thus their readers, are challenged to examine and, inevitably, doubt their fundamental understanding of the world, its rules, and limitations (13). This uncertainty leads to skepticism and, ultimately, to a distrust of the power relations that culminate in speciesism and anthropocentrism as forms of dominion. The characters in and the readers of these novels are encouraged not only to re-examine their own lives and ideologies, but also to reassess the social systems that instill the very principles they now question, viewing them as potentially invalid.            

Rosemary Jackson defines fantasy as a means of deconstructing and subverting conventional ideologies while proposing possibilities for cultural innovation. According to Jackson,

fantasies of deconstructed, demolished, or divided identities and of disintegrated bodies oppose traditional categories of unitary selves. They attempt to give graphic depictions of subjects in process, suggesting possibilities of innumerable other selves, of different histories, different bodies.... They denounce the theses and categories of the thetic, attempting to dissolve the symbolic order at its very base, where it is established in and through the subject, where the dominant signifying system is re-produced. This does not imply that subjects can exist outside of ideology and of the social formation, but that fantasies image the possibility of radical cultural transformation through attempting to dissolve or shatter the boundary lines between the imaginary and the symbolic. They refuse the latter’s categories of the “real” and its unities. (Jackson 178)7

Such interrogation is a key element in fantasy and sf literature. Jackson further identifies “a desire for something excluded from cultural order ... for all that is in opposition to the capitalist and patriarchal order which has been dominant in Western society over the last two centuries” (176). The animal/human-animal hybrids in both Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island function as a means of deprogramming the intended teenaged audience from the dominant ideology and instead, engendering a space in which teenagers can conceive of possibilities distinctly separate from those dictated by the governing power.            

In both texts the animal body presents previously powerless teen characters with opportunities for escape, rebellion, and assertions of self they have been previously denied. As adolescent characters forge links with the animal they become, a link is forged simultaneously between teen readers and the animal world, as readers observe the similar forms of dominion to which both the teen human-animals and the animals are subjected. By viewing parallel forms of oppression, readers are afforded opportunities to recognize kinship with the characters—both as human-animal and as animal—and, as a result, with animals themselves. The animal is no longer merely an other, but rather a subject with inherent rights. Thus empowered, teen readers are positioned to view animals as individuals and to interrogate and potentially dismantle speciesist binaries previously taken for granted. Through the gradual alteration and removal of the human-animal subject and the subsequent empowering of the animal or the animal/human-animal hybrid, both books promote and privilege the animal as subject while simultaneously questioning the future of the human-animal.            

The real world of animal science and experimentation provides ample evidence that we need to question these futures. Biotechnology has enabled the genetic creation of animals specifically for research, just as Franklin and Pradesh have done. In 2003, in the United Kingdom, genetically modified animals were used in 764,000 experiments, just over a quarter of the 2.79 million known experiments performed that year (Amos). According to the Humane Society of the United States, Great Britain’s annual reports are more informative than comparable US reports (“Great Britain”). Statistics for United States experimentation creating or involving transgenic animals is significantly more difficult to procure than similar information from Great Britain, Canada, or the Netherlands, all of whom are innovators in more compassionate methods of and alternatives to animal experimentation. At the global level, over 35 million animals are used in research annually; the United States is responsible for over one third of those animals—more than any other single country (Bishop and Nolen 92). Accurate numbers for the animals experimented upon are impossible to calculate because rats, mice, and birds (nearly 90 percent of all animals used in research) are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act and are not counted (92). Taking into consideration that the annual Animal Welfare Report is issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, all statistics are suspect by the very nature of the ideological system that supplies them. The number of animal lives sacrificed to the potential improvement of human-animal life is staggering. Jennifer Wolch and Jody Emel suggest that “As the frontier between civility and barbarity, culture and nature increasingly drifts, animals [sic] bodies flank the moving line. It is upon animal bodies that the struggles for naming what is human, what lies within the grasp of human agency, what is possible, are taking place” (19). I would further propose that it is upon animal bodies that the future definition of humanity, or the very negation of that word’s meaning, also rests. Dickinson’s and Halam’s texts scrutinize a foreseeable future that includes the cultural marginalization and global commodification of animals; both texts find that future lacking.            

Reflecting upon Darwin’s theory of evolution, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau hypothesizes that despite attempts to turn animals into human-animals, raising them on the hierarchical evolutionary ladder according to anthropocentric ideology, animals’ true or inherent nature will defeat human-animals’ efforts and animal/human-animal hybrids will devolve, returning to their original animal natures. Although their protagonists straddle the nature/culture, animal/human-animal divide, Dickinson’s and Halam’s texts suggest that the return to animal nature is evolutionary rather than devolutionary. Both authors privilege the animal and the animal/human-animal hybrid over the human-animal, yet they also acknowledge, challenge, and ultimately reject the ideological systems that maintain and perpetuate nature/culture, animal/human-animal dichotomies and the biases thus created and observed.            

Through the horrors of scientific experimentation on unknowing or unwilling participants, both animal and human-animal, Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island envisage a gradual, if belated, shift in cultural ideologies from a clear hierarchical system to a blurring of the boundaries between human-animal and animal. These novels suggest that as long as human-animals objectify, commodify, and marginalize animals, humanity will continue on a path of self-destruction, and human-animal’s dominion over the earth will end. In the clouded but perhaps not-so-distant future, the animal finds its subjectivity. Donna Haraway wonders “Cui bono? For whom does OncoMouse™ live and die?” (Modest_Witness 113). In this case, for whom do these transgenic creations of Dr. Pradesh and Dr. Franklin exist? Eva and Dr. Franklin’s Island devise futures in which OncoMouse™ and her sisters—Eva, Miranda, Semi, and Arnie—perch at the top of the hierarchical ladder as humanity disappears into the sea.

                1. Although “nonhuman animal” and “animal other” are considered acceptable designations, commonly used by animal-studies theorists as well as those who study human-animal culture, these terms support and sustain speciesist attitudes that all too often are accepted without consideration. The use of “nonhuman” or “other” defines animals solely through a comparison with humanity, one that finds animals lacking and foreign. This alienating otherness completely negates animals, denying their intrinsic value, rights, and “potentialities” (Clark 58) for achieving self-actualization. Likewise, by creating binaries of “human” and “animal,” humanity easily disassociates itself from the animal sphere, maintaining, without examination, a speciesist attitude of anthropocentrism and thus, human-animal dominion. Human-animals are but one species of over a million species that comprise the animal kingdom. Therefore, in order to re-vision, re-order, and re-mind rather than perpetuate and problematize, I use “human-animal” to represent the species homo sapiens in the taxonomic region of Animalia; “animal” represents other species with which human-animals share that region.
                2. See Deleuze and Guattari. Ann Halam is the pseudonym under which Gwyneth Jones writes her YA novels.
                3. According to Latour, a “nonmodern” text “deploys instead of unveiling, adds instead of subtracting, fraternizes instead of denouncing, sorts out instead of debunking” (47).
                4. I have created the terms “carnivistic,” “carnivist,” and “carnivism” to define a society and behavior or ideology, a people, and a practice, respectively, that unthinkingly consume animals—both at the literal and figurative levels.
                5. Dr. Skinner first uses this term to justify his previous experiments in contrast to his upcoming experiments on human-animals. As the story progresses, however, his guilt is revealed, and the term becomes synonymous with Skinner’s failure to separate himself from the horrors of the experiments and Semi’s failure to maintain her hegemonic speciesist ideology.
                6. MacKellar is addressing science fact in contrast to science fiction; he is referring to contemporary practices of genetic manipulation and the creation of animal/human-animal “hybrids” through the insertion of human-animal genes into animal eggs. Scientists insert human-animal cells (stem, skin, etc. with DNA) into animal eggs (rabbit, cow, etc.) or mouse embryos. These experiments strive to create stem cells without the use of human-animal embryos in the hopes of advancing scientific knowledge of diseases, organ transplants, and biological systems.
                7. Based in Sartre’s philosophical principles, the thetic “signifies propositions (theses) which are taken to be real, rational, and substantial, the non-thetic suggests their opposite, an unreality. The non-thetic, by definition, can have no adequate linguistic form, for it exists before, or outside, human language” (Jackson 76).

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