Science Fiction Studies

#105 = Volume 35, Part 2 = July 2008


Sherryl Vint

“The Animals in That Country”: Science Fiction and Animal Studies

Bruce McAllister’s “The Girl Who Loved Animals” (1988) tells the story of Lissy Tomer, a 20-year-old woman from a broken home who accepts a contract to become surrogate mother of a mountain gorilla fetus as part of a radical plan to increase the population of the endangered species. The story is narrated from the point of view of Jo, a social worker assigned to the case after Lissy’s abusive boyfriend discovers the pregnancy and beats her; Jo struggles to understand what best represents Lissy’s interests in this situation. With an IQ of 84 and a “vulnerability rating” of “a whopping nine point six” (78), Lissy explains that she has accepted the contract because “I like animals a lot” (79) and because she has been promised that she will be allowed “to see it when it’s born and visit it” (8). Should Jo allow the contract to continue as Lissy wants, or should she dismiss this love of animals and desire to bond with another living creature merely as symptoms of Lissy’s pathological background? Should she force Lissy to have the abortion demanded by her superiors, to quiet the anxieties of a “society [that] wasn’t ready for it” (89)? As Jo struggles with these choices, she finds herself comparing Lissy to her own daughter, who is addicted to the virtual reality of walljacking. Jo’s daughter spends her time plugged into a machine that stimulates “the right places in your skull” (95), eventually rigging the system so that it cannot be disconnected without causing her death. In choosing to let Lissy have the baby, Jo intervenes in the damaged world of “the toxics, the new diseases, the land-use policies” (90) that have made life increasingly precarious for humans and other animals. She refuses to retreat into the virtual, as her daughter has done.

“The Girl Who Loved Animals” raises questions about the human/animal boundary in society and the place of the animals in sf. Speculation about  animals has been part of the genre at least since H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896). An astonishing variety of species have found their way into sf—not only primates but also dogs (Sirius by Olaf Stapledon, 1944), cats (Decision at Doona by Anne McCaffrey, 1969), dolphins (Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke, 1963), squid (Engines of Light series by Ken MacLeod, 2000-2002), and even skunks (“Operation Stinky” by Clifford Simak, 1957). In the past twenty-five years there has been an explosion of interest in human/animal relations in a number of disciplines.1 McAllister’s story draws attention to issues germane to this scholarship. By contrasting Lissy with Jo’s daughter, the story connects our consideration of the place of animals in modern life to critiques of technoculture that dismiss our fascination with the virtual as a flight from responsibility. That Lissy is an abused woman also points to a connection with the justification of violent abuse, which has at various times and places discursively linked the mistreatment of women, non-whites, and the working classes to the mistreatment of animals. The very fact that Lissy can become pregnant with the fetus of another species dramatizes the increasing permeability of the boundary between human and animal as well as the challenge such permeability presents to social and political structures. Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1985; 1991) argues that “a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines” (154). In the late twentieth century, sf enthusiastically took up the question of cyborg identity in relation to machines; now in the twenty-first, we are ready to explore sf’s contributions to our kinship with animals.

Our new technological and philosophical relationships with animals drive home the urgent need for scholarship on what Derrida has called “the question of the animal” (“Eating Well” 105). This is the question of the boundary between humans and “all the living things that man does not recognize as his fellows, his neighbors, or his brothers” (“The Animal” 402; emphasis in original). For Derrida, this boundary is the foundation of philosophy. Yet new research on animal cognition and his own deconstructive analysis of our philosophical discourse reveal the problematic of “tracing such a line, between the human in general and the animal in general,” thereby “casting doubt on all responsibility, every ethics, every decision, and so on” (“And Say” 128; emphases in original). Technoculture is deeply implicated in the reshaping of human/animal interactions; and sf, as a literature concerned with the social impact of science and technology, can contribute to a necessary rethinking of responsibility and ethics. We are witnesses to the simultaneous disappearance of “natural” species and the creation of new, transgenic ones. Our manipulation of animal bodies through selective breeding and genetic manipulation—shaping them into knockout-gene mice or adapting them to survive the horrific conditions of factory farms—represents an unparalleled degree of intervention. The use of animals in research on pharming (genetically engineering animals to produce useful pharmaceuticals) and xenotransplantation (the transplantation of living tissue from one species to another) requires that we hold the contradictory beliefs that animals are sufficiently like humans to provide useful biological matter, yet sufficiently unlike us that their slaughter in these pursuits is not an ethical issue. Pollution and conflicts over land use, in the so-called developing and developed nations alike, restrict refuges for animal life, yet at the same time movements are afoot to grant “person” status to some species and to shift legal discourse from pet-ownership to companion-guardianship.

Many of these issues will seem familiar to sf readers, even if the notion that they have become our material reality remains disorienting. The genre’s history of grappling with alterity and granting subjectivity to the non-human makes it an exemplary cultural resource through which to explore this changing intellectual and material landscape. As Donna Haraway notes in When Species Meet (2007), “‘The species’ often means the human race, unless one is attuned to science fiction, where species abound” (18). Animals can appear in science fiction in a number of ways. Alien characters may be represented in terms that we typically associate with animals, raising questions about how we interact with living animals, as well as about environmentalism, human/animal symbiosis, and animals as companions or fellow sentient beings. Octavia Butler’s provocative “Blood Child” (1985), for example, suggests a useful framework for thinking through some of the complexities of symbiotic, necessary, but not entirely benign interrelations among species. Other texts, such as Thomas Disch’s The Puppies of Terra (1966), represent human characters as “animals” through the eyes of the alien protagonists, drawing our attention to the damage caused by some of our ways of conceiving of and interacting with other species. Sf also explores the social and philosophical implications of the ever-eroding boundary between animal-being and human-being, through the narration of genetic fusion, xenotransplanations, and other technoscientific developments. H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau pioneers such approaches, while David Brin’s Uplift series (1980-1998) blurs the boundaries between sf and more conventional meanings of the term “species,” positing a future in which we interact with uplifted animal species in ways similar to human/alien cooperation. Some sf texts include animals that remain in the category of animal, yet whose newly acknowledged capacities for cognition and communication position them for more equitable exchanges with human beings: among these are Andre Norton’s Beastmaster series (1959-62) and Lyn McConchie’s extension of that world (2002-2006).

The question of the animal is twofold: a question of representation and a problem of materiality. In Electric Animal (2000), Akira Lippit argues that modernity can be defined by the disappearance of wildlife from humanity’s habitat and its reappearance “in humanity’s reflections on itself: in philosophy, psychoanalysis, and technological media such as the telephone, film, and radio” (3). The shift in our experience of animals, once rooted primarily in face-to-face interactions but now rooted primarily through the mediations of narrative and technology, has consequences for our understanding of animal others, as scholars such as Cynthia Chris and Gregg Mittman have argued. At the same time, others such as J.M. Coetzee have suggested that literature, by enabling us to imagine the world from another’s perspective, enables us also to grasp something of the other’s experience and to extend our moral engagement. This “sympathetic imagination” is perhaps a necessary balance to the philosophical and scientific traditions of investigating animal-being. Derrida writes that “They have taken no account of the fact that what they call animal could look at them and address them from down there, from a wholly other origin” (“The Animal”  382; emphases in original). In sf, the animal can be given a voice to address and to look back at the human. It is important to remember that this voice of the animal in sf is, of course, a voice speaking for the animal, yet this need not make us reject the insights of writers attuned to animal behavior and human/animal interactions. In the tradition of hard sf, such representations may be informed by current research on animal behaviorism.

Representations informed by openness to animal capacity are no more (or less) influenced by cultural preconceptions than those derived from experimental science. In Beyond Boundaries (1997) Barbara Noske reminds us that the rise of a modern culture of mechanistic science, and the destruction of organic science that attends it, unduly limits what we see as nature: “the part of nature under scrutiny, that nature which can be examined in laboratory conditions under control of the scientist, comes to represent all nature for him” (55; emphasis in original). Sf’s critical engagement with the cultures of science is also a critical engagement with the constitutive relationship between science and what we know of animal-being.

Animals have long been part of the research culture that creates our technoscientific world. Even that staple of golden age sf, space exploration, was enabled by animal participants. We remember Laika, the Russian space dog, and perhaps Abel and Baker, the US monkeys, but many other animals have contributed to the space program, including the hogs used for crash-test simulations that were later barbequed and enjoyed by researchers (Burgess and Dubbs 105). At the same time that many animal lives were sacrificed for space exploration, whale-song was included in our communication to the galaxy sent out on the Voyager probe. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) imagines a world of genetically-engineered species such as the pigoons—created as a source of spare human parts—and ChickieNobs, a sort of KFC product made from genetically-engineered chickens that no longer have heads or nervous systems. These sf creations reflect the reality of current animal research: xenotransplantation research on pigs and baboons continues, under supervision of the USFDA; and New Harvest, an organization dedicated to the development of meat substitutes, has recently reported on Dutch research to cultivate living protein, without a nervous system, out of the stem cells of pigs.2 Genetic manipulation of plants and animals to produce everything from plastic to drugs is commonplace, and research continues into fusing biology and technology at the level of the computer chip, thoroughly breaching the old distinctions among human, animal, and machine. A recent article in Science (June 30, 2006) extols the vast number of knockout-gene mice now available for research purchase, “something akin to the international superstore IKEA, where in a single trip, customers can buy a houseful of easy-to-assemble furniture at reasonable prices” (Grimm 1863). Donna Haraway, who considers the repercussions of regarding living beings as mass-produced lab tools in When Species Meet, notes that the same issue of Science includes, ironically enough, an article on “Signs of Empathy in Mice” (338 n34).

The juxtaposition of such divergent articles point to the rapidly changing status of animals and to our pressing need to think ethically and imaginatively about the dilemmas that these changes pose. Knockout-gene mice are manufactured lab tools and living, feeling beings; yet our social and intellectual frameworks are not sufficiently robust to deal with these contradictory truths. The recent Science article on these mice portrays as “horror stories” the struggles of researchers to find an adequate experimental supply; the author finds nothing problematic in an industry founded on lives manufactured solely to serve as lab tools, despite the fact that “The human and mouse genome projects each identified some 25,000 genes, most quite similar between the two species” (1862). Grimm’s article concludes with a triumphant statement from a Yale University molecular neurobiologist: “Before, scientists were limited by their experience and their resources.… Now they’ll only be limited by their imagination” (1866). From the perspective of animal welfare and what Haraway calls “liveable futures,” the unlimited imagination of scientists experimenting with living beings is a cause for concern as well as excitement. In “Ethics, Science and Science Fiction” Nancy Kress suggests that “abstract debate about” science and technology fails to grasp fully how it affects people; by telling its materially-situated stories, sf can serve as a necessary supplement to the public culture of technoscience; as Kress puts it, “In the world’s laboratories, science rehearses advances in theory and application. In fiction, SF writers rehearse the human implications of those advances.” In her view, “science fiction is the dress rehearsal for social change” (207).

The need for such a dress rehearsal is nowhere more apparent than in the various intersections of animal lives and human technoculture in research, agribusiness, and pet culture. The Missyplicity Project to clone pets, begun in 1998, was finally ended in 2006 when its corporate parent, Genetic Savings and Clone, Inc., went out of business, having successfully produced two cloned cats but having failed to produce a cloned dog. The frozen cells and gametes that were the holdings of this corporation were sold to an agricultural animal biotech firm, ViaGen, which has no plans for the commercial cloning of pets (see Haraway, Species 138). What will be the fate of these genetic materials and the living beings they may produce, now that they have moved from the affective discourses of pet relationships into the instrumental ones of agribusiness?

Such questions about the contexts in which humans and animals interface are vital for technoculture and also for sf as the literature of technoculture and social change. A researcher from the Queensland University of Technology,  surveying more than 100 people with type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s, or Huntington’s diseases, found that most were comfortable with the idea of receiving organs harvested from animals, “as long as it was specifically created for that purpose.... People didn’t want to use animals that were bred and kept as pets, bred for food, or free range, including wild animals.”3 This year the USFDA has announced that meat and milk from cloned animals are safe to eat,4 a decision that follows closely on the 2006 WTO’s ruling that the European Union’s six-year ban on GE foods was an unfair trade barrier.5 A Canadian biotech company, Nexia, farms genetically-engineered Spidergoats on a former US Air Force base in order to produce Biosteel®, a secretion of spidersilk in the milk of these goats that is used in a number of industrial applications, including military ones (see Barad 366). At the same time, in Toronto, Canada, a man paid $15,000 for the safe return of his kidnapped chocolate Labrador retriever, Huckleberry.6 Material and metaphysical entanglements of humans, non-humans, corporations, and governments are shaping the future we will inhabit. The various constructions of who counts as a subject and who is merely an object, of which non-humans are part of extended family networks—and which are expendable lab tools—are crucial sites for science fiction’s thought-experiments.

Too often, we construct animals as mirrors for ourselves. We fail to encounter other creatures in their concrete materiality, to allow an exchange with a recognized fellow-subject to take place. Yet one of the most common fantasies in sf is the desire to communicate with an alien species, to extend our understanding beyond the limits of human experience. Recent findings on animal cognition and behavior suggest that we may be able to achieve a version of this goal in our relations with the non-humans on this planet. Until recently, the sf imagination has been dominated by robots and androids as the fellow creatures with whom we might imagine sharing the future, or sometimes as fearsome beings who might compete with us and inherit the future in our place. Rodney Brooks’s work on robots that are modeled on animal precursors suggests that our interactions with non-humans of organic and non-organic varieties overlap in provocative ways. In Flesh and Machines (2002), Brooks tells an anecdote about a colleague’s interaction with a prototype robot doll. Designed to simulate the real needs of an infant requiring care, the doll began demanding a bottle; its cries became more frequent and more intense the longer it was “hungry.” The colleague searched the lab until he found the doll’s bottle, an intriguing response. Brooks notes, “He could have ignored the doll when it started crying, or just switched it off. Instead he had found himself responding to its emotions, and he had changed his behavior as though the doll had had real emotions” (158; emphasis in original).

For Brooks, this anecdote serves as evidence of the potential for machines to achieve the status of “life.” For me, the story is more interesting for what it tells us about the centrality of visibility to human empathy—the need to find ways to cultivate face-to-face encounters with non-human animals. Why is it that we are willing to tolerate animal suffering (although we are no longer so tolerant about the tortures of vivisection), while at the same time we are unwilling to ignore the “distress” of machines? Is it because animals have largely disappeared from our day-to-day experience, while machines have become more and more part of our quotidian lives? Or is it rather that animal suffering has been moved to sites out of public view, the laboratory (which nevertheless does continue to generate some public outcry) and factory farms, about which we hear comparatively little? Brooks’s description of his robots as creatures seems to be an uncanny inversion of a seventeenth-century discourse, largely associated with Descartes, that saw animals as machines. Noske argues that in its approach to nature, Enlightenment science “endeavours to transform what is alive into something lifeless: an object with properties” (61). As has been argued at length elsewhere, the notion that animals are mere machines, their cries mechanical responses rather than articulate expressions of suffering, has been used to justify painful research agendas (see Birke, among others).

In Errol Morris’s documentary Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (1997), Brooks enthuses about a world suffused with artificial being, claiming that his robots have “being in the world as animals are in the world.” The field of animal studies asks us to think about what kind of being is really offered here. Brooks explains that, like animals, robots can fulfill the initiatives of their own programming while at the same time being able to perform services of benefit to humans without complex programming. In his analogy, “you don’t tell a chicken to lay an egg,” you just let the chicken fulfill the nature of its own egg-laying being (Fast, Cheap and Out of Control). But of course we do much more than this in our interactions with chickens, confining them to insufficiently-sized battery cages, debeaking them to prevent self-injury in response to their stressful living conditions, injecting them with massive doses of Vitamin D to compensate for the bone destruction caused by constantly living in the dark, and finally grinding them up for pet food when their egg-laying days are at an end. If robots are to be in the world as animals are, perhaps it is not surprising that Terminator fantasies of “judgment day” continue to haunt us.

We are all familiar with sf that explores machine consciousness and experience, from The Terminator franchise (1984-2008) to more benevolent versions such as Asimov’s Foundation series (1950-93), or more philosophical ones such as Marge Piercy’s He, She, and It (1991). Some of the most promising scholarship in animal studies offers approaches to animal worlds that have much in common with the world-building techniques of sf, such as Traci Warkentin’s research on human-whale interactions, which uses the concept of affordances to help us begin to imagine what is perceptually significant from a whale’s-eye view.7 Warkentin’s research tries to imagine the animals as co-participants in the project, rather than merely as its subjects, an approach that has much in common with sf’s own history of attributing subjectivity and agency to non-human others as it tries to imagine how a truly shared world might look and feel. A common sf trope is the fantasy of a spaceship “ark” that carries all the genetic information away from a doomed planet, able to recreate the planet as we start again elsewhere. As recent research on climate change and mass extinctions has taught us, we do not understand nearly enough about the various species on this planet and their ecological interactions to realize this fantasy. Yet perhaps if we begin paying attention to embodied and face-to-face encounters with a variety of non-human others, we might learn enough to envision a new fantasy and future of mutual flourishing on this planet. This issue of Science Fiction Studies opens an exploration of what sf can tell us about animal consciousness and experience: the essays collected here explore some of the contributions of sf to this conversation about this future.

Joan Gordon’s “Gazing Across the Abyss: The Amborg Gaze in Sheri S. Tepper’s Six Moon Dance” uses Tepper’s novel to question our ideas about the human/animal interface, how they have changed in recent years, and what such changes reveal about “a story we tell ourselves about our position in the world” (189). She finds a renewed sense of kinship with animals and offers in the model of the amborg—rather than the cyborg—an alternative posthumanism that helps us to think through some of the challenges of life in late modernity. The amborg acknowledges that we are animal beings, but at the same time recognizes that we occupy our own Umwelt and cannot simply return to an Edenic notion of animal being. Instead, we must learn to live with other species in the mutual exchange of the amborg gaze, “unstable, unpredictable, dynamic, teeming with implications political, social, and ethical about our place(s) in the world” (195).

Cat Yampbell’s “When Science Blurs the Boundaries: The Commodification of the Animal in Young Adult Science Fiction” similarly challenges the notion of a fixed and stable boundary between human and other animal life. She finds in Peter Dickinson’s Eva (1988) and Ann Halam’s Dr. Franklin’s Island (2002) a rejection of anthropocentrism. Through their shared animal/human subjectivity, the protagonists of these novels challenge taxonomic purity and in some ways position animal-being as superior. Yampbell’s essay argues that these texts challenge the technocultural discourse that sees animal-being as a commodity for research or consumption, suggesting that these novels can serve as models of anti-speciesist thinking for their young-adult readers.

The most overt engagement with cultures of technoscience is found in Aline Ferreira’s “Primate Tales: Interspecies Pregnancy and Chimerical Beings.” Ferreira puts Maureen Duffy’s Gor Saga (1981) and Pat Murphy’s “Rachel in Love” (1987) into dialogue with the fictional tale “Confessions of a Bioterrorist: Subject Position and Reproductive Technologies” (1998) by science-studies scholar Charis Thompson Cussins, situating this analysis within work on human genetic relationships with non-human animals. This essay considers our continued fascination with hybrid progeny in the context of recent technoculture; it also considers what such increasingly feasible tales of human/primate fusion imply for both species. Each text reveals that it is by no means obvious what philosophical, moral, and affective consequences attend our increasing ability to erase the species boundary.

The centrality of primates to human thinking about the species boundary is further interrogated by Rebecca Bishop’s “‘Several Exceptional Forms of Primates: Simian Cinema.” Bishop compares the apes in Hollywood films from the 1930s to the 1990s, detecting patterns of continuity and moments of rupture. Building on Haraway’s recognition of the way the primate has been used to express technocultural anxieties, Bishop argues that we define ourselves against the figure of the ape in ways that further demonstrate the shifting category of the human, from fears of the animal within through narratives of evolutionary hierarchy and the possibility of acknowledging both human and simian selfhood. Deepening our understanding of how “the human emerges out of, and back into, the field of animal being” (248), Bishop finds in primate others an sf being significantly different from android or cyborg others. Primates, precariously positioned between humanness and animality, are a reminder of the corporeal.

Gavin Miller’s “Animals, Empathy, and Care in Naomi Mitchison’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman” reflects on the complex intersection of embodiment, gender, and species in Mitchison’s treatment of communication with alien, animal-like others. Mitchison’s protagonist, Mary, articulates “an alternative feminine ethical rationality that flows from mammalian embodiment and attachment, and which prioritizes relations of attentive care” (251) in her encounter with the otherness of the alien species. In the contrast between Mary and other crew member’s responses to the alien species, Mitchison stages a confrontation between a disembodied rationalist logic that reinforces the human/animal boundary and an embodied, empathetic phenomenology that cares for other beings. Yet as Miller’s reading reveals, this attentive and sympathetic bond with non-human species is problematically mapped on to rigid gender categories in the novel, resulting in a problematic essentialism that makes “the capacity for nurture and empathy … female, and not merely feminine” (262).

Graham Murphy’s “Considering Her Ways: In(ter)secting Matriarchal Utopias” situates questions of the human/animal boundary within contemporary posthuman discourses. Murphy focuses on the more anxious side of posthumanism’s axiom that boundaries between the human and animal have been breached, suggesting that while we may be ready to face our kinship with the idea of animality in general, we are less certain about our kinship with insects. Although insects are frequently seen as threatening because of their radically different sociality, Murphy finds in sf a tradition of eutopian insect metaphors, running from Herland (1915) through Coalescent (2004). These texts “queer heteronormative gender codes and the discourse of species to posit alternative social communities as ways of thinking about the post/human through subjectivity, gender, even species” (267).

Finally, Carol McGuirk’s “Science Fiction’s Renegade Becomings” uses Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of becoming-animal to situate animal being within a range of sf becomings, most critically becoming-woman. This overview of textual examples ranging from 1934 to 2002 provides an understanding of the specificities of sf’s engagement with animal becomings, as well as demonstrating shifts in sf’s representations of non-human animals. McGuirk argues that becomings-animal in sf are uniquely difficult for writers to portray, as animals do not use language, whereas sf’s aliens and robots almost always speak in ways analogous to human language: “Science-fictional machines and aliens, however greatly they may differ in motivation from human characters, are seldom portrayed as significantly other in their modes of communication” (281). Her essay reveals that sf “of both the hard and the soft schools has experimented with plots in which animals serve as arbiters or judges of human beings, exposing the limitations of human word-built systems” (307). Exchanges between animal studies and sf can be restricted neither to the imaginative projections of the sympathetic imagination in soft sf nor to interrogations of technoculture and animals in hard sf.

In her Companion Species Manifesto (2003), Haraway contends that

Today, through our ideologically loaded narratives of their lives, animals ‘hail’ us to account for the regimes in which they and we must live. We ‘hail’ them into our constructs of nature and culture, with major consequences of life and death, health and illness, longevity and extinction. We also live with each other in the flesh in ways not exhausted by our ideologies. Stories are much bigger than ideologies. In that is our hope. (17)

This, then, is a hopeful issue of SFS that attempts to engage the varying ideologies of human/animal interaction. The focus is on stories that at times offer new possibilities for living together in the flesh. In When Species Meet Haraway asks us to move our engagement with the human/animal interface beyond Jeremy Bentham’s question, “can they suffer?”—long evoked as a measure for why animals deserve moral consideration. She wonders instead: “What if work and play, and not just pity, open up when the possibility of mutual response, without names, is taken seriously as an everyday practice available to philosophy and to science? What if a usable word for this is joy? And what if the question of how animals engage one another’s gaze responsively takes center stage for people?” (22; emphases in original). The sf imagination brings work, play, and more to its representations of human/animal engagements. Perhaps it even displays a sense of wonder at our human chances for genuine encounter with real alien beings.

I would like to thank the SFS board for giving me the opportunity to put this issue together and for their guidance in doing so, my anonymous readers whose comments were invaluable in strengthening this issue, and my contributors for their excellent work and patience with the long journey to print.

My title comes from the opening lines of a poem by Margaret Atwood, “In that country the animals / have the faces of people.”

1. It is impossible to provide anything resembling a comprehensive overview in a short introduction, but the following list is provided to give some sense of the range of work and of disciplinary approaches in the field of animal studies. In philosophy, see works such as Midgely’s Animals and Why They Matter (1984), Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal (2004), Acampora’s Corporal Compassion: Animal Ethics and Philosophy of Body  (2006), Calarco’s Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida (2008), and Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am (2008). Some important works in recent cultural studies are: Lansbury’s The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers and Vivisection in Edwardian England(1985), Benton’s Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice (1993), Franklin’s Animals and Modern Cultures (1999), and Haraway’s When Species Meet (2007). In literary and media studies, see Baker’s Picturing the Beast: Animals, Identity and Representation (1993), Mittman’s Reel Nature: America's Romance with Wildlife on Film (1999), Malamud’s Poetic Animals and Animal Souls (2003), and Wolfe’s Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species and Posthumanist Theory (2003). In ethnography and ethology, see Serpell’s In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human Animal Relationships (1986), Vialles’s Animal to Edible (1994), Arluke’s Just a Dog: Animal Cruelty, Self and Society (2006), and Herda-Rapp and Goedeke’s Mad About Wildlife: Looking at Social Conflict over Wildlife (2005). For studies of zoos and other animal entertainment culture, see Ham and Senior’s Animal Acts: Configuring the Human in Western History (1997), Rothfels’s Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo (2002), and Hanson’s Animal Attractions: Nature on Display in American Zoos (2002). Historical approaches include such works as Ritvo’s The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (1989), Fudge’s Brutal Reasoning: Animals, Rationality, and Humanity in Early Modern England (2006), and Grier’s Pets in America: A History (2006). In science and technology studies, see works such as Birke’s Feminism, Animals and Science: The Naming of the Shrew (1994), Guerrini’s Experimenting with Humans and Animals: From Galen to Animal Rights (2003), and Franklin’s Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy (2007).

2. See <>. Accessed February 23, 2008.

3. See <>. Accessed February 23, 2008.

4.See < 16/1200419951915.html>. Accessed February 23, 2008.

5. See ‘‘WTO Ruling Backs Biotech Crops,’’ The Washington Post. February 8, 2006. p. D1.

6. See <>. Accessed February 23, 2008.

7. Traci Warkentin, “Animal Matters: Ethics, Embodied Agency and Sensory Experience in Whale-Human Interactions.” Paper presented at Nature Matters conference in Toronto, Canada, October 26, 2007.

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Joan Gordon

Gazing Across the Abyss: The Amborg Gaze in Sheri S. Tepper’s Six Moon Dance

Abstract. -- This essay uses Sheri S. Tepper’s Six Moon Dance (1998) to demonstrate the changed view of the human/animal interface. It begins by defining a coinage, the amborg, that avoids bulky terms such as “human/animal interface” while keeping in mind the dynamic relationship between human and other animals that describes this new megatext or meta-narrative. Next, it considers the gaze as an exchange between subjects rather than as a one-way power trip from subject to object, and how that view dynamizes our relationship with others. Finally, it demonstrates, using Deleuze and Guattari’s notions of being and becoming, how these sets of concepts can be deployed in science fiction through their use in Six Moon Dance as Tepper explores the roles of men and women, human and other.

Cat Yampell

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

Abstract. -- Hegemonic ideologies of anthropocentrism and speciesism maintain the great divide between nature/culture and animals/human-animals. Two young adult sf novels, Peter Dickinson’s Eva and Ann Halam’s (Gwyneth Jone’s) Dr. Franklin’s Island, explore futuristic societies in which the divide is bridged, advanced animal/human-animal hybrids are created, hierarchical structures are destabilized, and humanity’s evolutionary superiority is challenged. This essay specifically focuses on the ideologically loaded issues of biotechnological possibility, animal experimentation, and the marginalization and commodification of animals. Granting agency and subject status to animals and animal/human-animal hybrids, Dickinson and Halam suggest that rather than aiding and promoting human-animal superiority and innovation, biotechnology may be causing the end of humanity’s reign.

Aline Ferreira

Primate Tales: Interspecies Pregnancy and Chimerical Beings

Abstract. -- This essay reflects on the topic of human/animal hybrids as they appear dramatized in Maureen Duffy’s Gor Saga (1981), Pat Murphy’s "Rachel in Love" (1987), and Charis Thompson Cussins’s short story “Confessions of a Bioterrorist: Subject Position and Reproductive Technologies” (1998). These texts also fictionalize the topic of interspecies pregnancy and the vexed question of humanizing the animal and potentially bestializing the human. Human/animal chimeras and the issue of hybridization need to be considered in terms of the ethics surrounding cross-species genetic exchanges and the question of humanism, which the crossing of species boundaries calls into question. How far can interventions into the human genome be carried out without changing a human being into a different species? Will these changes affect the moral status of that human being, raising extremely complex ethical questions? As a theoretical framework I will use recent work on chimerism and mosaicism, which defy “western heteronormative notions of kinship,” in the words of Myra J. Hird, as well as current debates on the ethics of biotechnological interventions on the human and animal genomes.

Rebecca Bishop

“Several Exceptional Forms of Primates”: Simian Cinema

Abstract. -- The ape has long held an ambiguous position in the Euro-Western scientific and cultural imaginary. A creature “betwixt and between” a human-like selfhood and the terrain of animality, the ape has consistently been drawn into socioscientific anxieties and debates surrounding what constitutes “being human.” Sf cinema is built on notions of the human always under threat from the amorphous or anthropomorphic others of alternate technocultural realities. In this paper I argue that the presence of the ape in science fiction cinema, however, evokes a long-standing narrative of an ontological humanness under threat from the animality both outside and within itself.

 Gavin Miller

Animals, Empathy, and Care in Naomi Mitchison’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman

Abstract. -- Naomi Mitchison’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962) represents the adventures of Mary, a female explorer who uses her highly developed capacity for empathy to communicate with animals. Mary’s attentive sympathy plays a vital role in the ethical relations which she maintains with both Terran and extra-terrestrial animal life. Her animal encounters also foreground the embodiment of her own rationality, and particularly the potential for an ethic of care derived from mammalian biology. This ethic is to some extent repressed by Mary’s society, particularly within the space-exploring sub-culture to which she belongs. Although Mitchison’s novel is forward-looking in its representation of a caring, sympathetic ethic that extends (potentially) to all life, it is complicit with myths of gender essentialism: empathy and care are limited specifically to the female in Memoirs.

Graham J. Murphy

Considering Her Ways: In(ter)secting Matriarchal Utopias

Abstract. -- One of post/humanism’s key motifs is the transgression of taxonomic boundaries, including challenging the discourse of species that has historically sought a separation of “human” from “animal.” A post/human ontological breach of the taxonomies of “human” and “animal”—an upending of humanism’s discourse of species—may appear seductive and compelling, but anxieties (and resistance) abound, notably when that “animal” is the “insect.” The “insect” has been depicted in speculative fictions as a figure of pestilence and difference; dis-ease permeates human encounters with pestiferous insects, notably ants and bees. Interestingly, the dis-ease insects breed is also evident in (patriarchal) responses to matriarchal utopias that are repeatedly likened to anthills and beehives. This essay explores the in(ter)sects of utopia, post/humanism, and the discourse of species in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915), Frank Herbert’s Hellstrom’s Hive (1973), James Tiptree, Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” (1976), and Stephen Baxter’s Coalescent (2004). All four narratives herald a re-imagining of “insect” as becoming-insect that queers heteronormative gender codes and the discourse of species in order to posit alternative social communities as ways of thinking about the post/human through subjectivity, gender, even species.

Carol McGuirk

Science Fiction’s Renegade Becomings

Abstract. -- Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari suggested during the 1980s that science fiction’s plots of “becoming”—becoming-animal, -alien, -machine, -woman, -child, etc.—are “antimemories” that reassess traditional hierarchies, challenging any presumption of human superiority or singularity. Using Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of “becomings,” as well as Nietzsche’s and Derrida’s ideas on cognition’s relationship to language, I consider fiction by Stanley G. Weinbaum, Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Cordwainer Smith, Russell Hoban, and Molly Gloss. Science fiction of both the hard and the soft schools has experimented with plots in which animals serve as arbiters or judges of human beings, exposing the limitations of human word-built systems. Writers of sf contrast the mute “1st knowing” of watchful beasts with the epistemic darkness of “true men.” Border-crossing between the animal and the human often requires the help of a species-renegade, a hero ready to connect with fundamental difference.

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