Science Fiction Studies

#105 = Volume 35, Part 2 = July 2008

Aline Ferreira

Primate Tales: Interspecies Pregnancy and Chimerical Beings

This essay reflects on the topic of human/animal hybrids in Maureen Duffy’s Gor Saga (1981), Pat Murphy’s “Rachel in Love” (1987), and Charis Thompson Cussins’s “Confessions of a Bioterrorist: Subject Position and Reproductive Technologies” (1998). These texts fictionalize the topic of interspecies pregnancy, a taboo fantasy that nevertheless has often found fictional and filmic expression.1 They also explore the vexed exchange of humanizing the animal and bestializing the human. Human/animal chimeras must be considered in relation to ethics surrounding cross-species genetic exchanges and challenges to humanism that call the species boundary into question. These biomedical scenarios also replay fears of degeneration, so central to H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau (1896), a text that can be said to hover over these narratives.                

How far can interventions into the human genome be carried out without changing a human into a different species? Will these changes affect the moral status of the human? This essay will concentrate on the trope of the human/animal hybrid, an unsettling fantasy (at least to some) that has already become—in xenotransplantations of animal organs into humans and the creation of human/animal chimeras—science fact. These texts shed light on pervasive human fantasies; crossing species boundaries has simultaneously been a recurring concern and a suggestive fantasy. According to molecular biologist and writer Joan Slonczewski, although “Until recently, genetic crossing of unrelated animals was considered untenable from the standpoint of biology,” new discoveries of genetic commonality among vastly different species and new reproductive technologies have “led to chimeric combinations such as sheep and goat; and an early human embryo has been generated from the egg of a cow.”2 The very concept of species is deeply fraught, the most recent scientific consensus being that there is “no one authoritative definition of species” (Robert and Baylis 3).3 Yet while there might be no such thing as scientifically fixed species identities, morally we rely on the notion of fixed species identities in the way we live our lives and treat other creatures (Robert and Bayliss 6). The sf texts considered in this paper challenge our certainty in such actions.

Hybrids and Chimeras. Tara Seyfer explains that a hybrid is the “product of breeding two different species (via normal copulation or in vitro fertilization)” in which “each cell in the hybrid’s body has a mixture of genes from both of the parents.” A chimera, in turn, “consists of a combination between two different species within an organism” in which “the genes of the two species do not combine as with a hybrid” (Seyfer). Hybrids and chimeras have existed for a long time. The first human-made chimera was a mouse born on March 6, 1961, and the first experiments mixing cells from different species aimed to determine “what makes a fetus tolerated by the mother during pregnancy,” revealing that “a sheep will not tolerate a goat embryo and vice versa, [but] both will tolerate a geep embryo” (Wilmot and Highfield 87).4 Myra J. Hird discusses the extent to which chimerism and mosaicism “present challenges to western heteronormative notions of kinship” (217). Chimerism includes xenotransplantation, but also “the presence of two genetically distinct cell lines in an organism,” an event that may occur through “inheritance, transplantation or transfusion” (219). Both phenomena “exten[d] the notion of kinship to include non-human animals as well” (219) and “remind us that our cultural conceptions of what kinship means, and what biology ‘says,’ are neither transparent nor immutable” (220). Both the human xenotransplantation patient and the animal recipient of human cells or organs can be described as chimeras, disrupting apparently fixed kinship boundaries.               

H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau presents an early discussion of chimerism and mosaicism, upsetting stable kinship and questioning the ever more elastic boundaries between humans and animals. With xenotransplantations, the boundaries between species and between nature and culture become blurred and even collapse.5 The category of the “human” has come under increasing scrutiny due to advances in biotechnologies, whose findings increasingly suggest that humans and higher primates belong to the same species. Xenotransplantation raises ethical questions about the eroded boundary between human and animal and reminds us that culture, as much as science, produces and shapes this divide. Our own genome “bears traces of a failed divergence from chimpanzees before the split finally happened” (Holmes 13) and a recent study suggests that “99.4 percent of the most critical DNA sites are identical in the corresponding human and chimp genes” (Hecht 18). Yet as anthropologist Jonathan Marks cautions, the “extent to which our DNA resembles an ape’s predicts nothing about our general similarity to apes, much less about any moral or political consequences arising from it” (5).                

Sf as a genre allows us concretely to work through problems of human/animal relation. Gor Saga, “Rachel in Love,” and “Confessions of a Bioterrorist” all explore the challenges that human/animal hybrids present to what Silver calls “the common instinctual human predilection to perceive typical human physical attributes as evidence for a special kind of human life” (93). They also serve as cautionary tales, warning readers about serious issues such as the treatment of animals in the laboratory and in captivity, as well as the dangers attendant upon unethical experiments on animals. In the 1980s, when Duffy’s Gor Saga and Murphy’s “Rachel in Love” were written, numerous experiments had created chimerical and hybrid animals. By the end of the twentieth century, when Cussins published her story, Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, had already been born in 1996. Work on stem cells is pursued for its therapeutic potential, placing chimerical creatures within our material as well as imaginative grasp. On September 5, 2007, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the UK decided that “there is no fundamental reason to prevent cytoplasmic hybrid research” and agreed in principle to authorize the creation of human-animal embryos (“Human-Animal”). Two research groups in the UK were granted permission to create human-animal hybrid embryos in January 2008 by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).6                

According to Rosi Braidotti, the “new techno-cultural context writes hybridity into our social and symbolic sphere and as such it challenges all notions of purity” (99). She further argues that hybridity challenges both “the categorical and self-congratulatory distinction between human and non-human” and “the issue of reproduction, human filiations and hence the kinship system” (99). The texts I consider in this essay dramatize these vexed issues, simultaneously illuminating deeply repressed human dreams and giving voice to keenly felt human nightmares, both aspects of a world technoscience may one day make material.

Hybrid Births in Gor Saga.

                                We are all chimeras.—Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto” (150)

Maureen Duffy’s Gor Saga deals with a scientist’s unethical experiments on a female gorilla, whose name, Mary, suggests a new creation scene.7 Mary is impregnated with the scientist’s own sperm via in vitro fertilization, and gives birth to the human/gorilla hybrid.8 Gor Saga can be described as a male fantasy of self-procreation, circumventing woman, but it is also a transgressive vision of xenogenesis, imposing pregnancy on an animal without any consideration for the mother or the hybrid offspring. It is thus a tale that offers a sharp critique of male power over animals and nature, as well as of unethical experiments in science.9                

Gor Saga is set in a future society divided into “nons” (standing for “nonentities”), who mostly live in impoverished cities, and privileged ones, who live in the countryside. For scientist Norman Forester, Gordon Bardfield (Gor), the hybrid creature he has brought into being, “doesn’t exist. He’s just a thing, an experiment of mine.... He isn’t human, just humanoid: the test tube product of a gorilla ovum and human sperm. He’s Mary’s baby” (146). Forester denies that Gor is also his son, relinquishing any form of responsibility. Like Frankenstein, who yearned to penetrate the secrets of nature, Forester acts within the rhetoric of domination. After Gor’s birth, he felt as if he had

an almost divine right to do anything. Nature wept violated over him. Forester recalled from somewhere, though he couldn’t track down where, a picture of the rape of Lucrece, as  English had made the Roman matron: the parting thighs and lips, the eyes between sparkle and horror at the complicity of her own lust, Tarquin’s raised dagger. Forester had taken a scalpel to her and she had given herself up to him. (16)

Gor never knows his mother since he is “taken away from her as soon as it became clear that to Mary the child was just another toy” (9). Forester does, however, provide a family for the hybrid baby, giving him to the animal caretaker and his wife at the Institute. Forester thinks of Gor as his achievement, his “little Caliban” (15).                

As a baby, Gor is “so human-like” (37) that his foster family can scarcely believe he is a gorilla baby. After Gor has had extensive surgery to rebuild his near-simian vocal chords, he is taken to Forester’s house during school leave and becomes attached to Anna and Lucretia, Forester’s wife and daughter, who in turn become very fond of him. In the role of guardian, Forester continues to check on Gor’s development, finding in his appearance “a young man with all the attributes of a person of status” (141) and little trace of his mother. After Gor and Lucretia are spotted kissing, however, Forester cannot stifle his anger and Gor is forced to flee. Like Frankenstein’s creature, who finds the diary describing his creation, Gor discovers the file where Forester has kept all the records of his origins, birth, development, and foster families. His horror at finding out that his mother is Mary leads him to run away from human beings into the forest. He feels alienated from both worlds, “less than the beasts for they were the products of their own nature while he was manmade … synthetic.” He is conscious that he is only an object to his father, not a subject, for “what Forester lusted after was immortal fame and his creation was merely the vehicle for it. Gor was a thing, a construct and yet he breathed and suffered” (194).                

Gor is condemned to be celibate, a further parallel with Frankenstein’s creature. The priest to whom Gor shows his file muses, “Even if he could propagate he mustn’t. The terrible mistake mustn’t be compounded unless of course it were to be with creatures from his mother’s side where the offspring would be far less human and therefore pose no problem” (209). It is revealing here that such concerns are voiced by a priest, as protecting the exclusive status of human being through the attribution of a soul to humans alone is one of the chief ways through which the human/animal boundary has been constructed and perpetuated. This conclusion also points to the degree to which anxieties about cross-species pregnancy are intertwined with fears about miscegenation. The priest’s concern is not that Gor cannot love and procreate with a human woman, but rather than he should not.                

The novel’s conclusion stages a confrontation between Gor and Forester similar to Frankenstein’s encounter with his creation. Gor reminds Forester of their kinship, but Forester continues to regard him as a “thing, an artefact” (217), to which Gor replies, “Even my mother was a person. You made her a thing, a vehicle for your own pride and vanity” (217). The novel thus reveals the degree to which the human/animal boundary is a product of our discursive concepts, not an ontological divide marked by biology. Gor and Mary were made to be things by Forester’s practice, but the very fact of Mary’s pregnancy with a human chimera fetus suggests affinity rather than separation. Being a person is a matter of ideology, not biology. Forester keeps the species boundaries firmly in place in the social domain, even though he has violated it in the scientific arena. The novel in this way also asks us to consider the larger social consequences of our ability to transgress the human/animal boundary in the laboratory; it implicitly calls for a more ethical practice of science as a necessary context for such research.

The Technoscience of Gor Saga.

“Becomings-animal are neither dreams nor phantasies. They are perfectly real.”—Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (238)

On December 18, 1997, Dr. Stuart A. Newman applied for a patent on a humanzee, a creature not yet created. The US Patent and Trademark Office, after a long delay, rejected the application, arguing that according to the Thirteenth Amendment of the US Constitution slavery, as well as ownership of human beings is forbidden. In an interview in Science & Technology, Newman explained that he was attempting to “make the point that we have not thought long enough—or well enough—about the biotech future that quickly is becoming our present reality.”10 David B. Resnik considers that “the most reasonable response to the problem of patents on chimeras ... would not be to prohibit these patents but to regulate them carefully, with an eye toward minimizing threats to human dignity” (35). In Gor Saga, what Norman Forester consistently denies Gor is dignity, prompting us to consider whether or not human dignity should be our sole concern in such matters.               

Gor Saga aptly demonstrates the problems of such research being conducted in a context in which scientific curiosity can be gratified without due consideration to the fate of the resulting creature. Yet more positive scenarios that enable a productive and responsible confusing of boundaries are also possible. Savulescu considers that “whether creating transgenic human beings or chimeras is an expression of our humanity or a threat to it” (24) depends upon what motivates such research; he further argues that “bringing animals closer to human beings to share their genes might paradoxically improve our humanity” (24). Although Savulescu hopes such research will produce miracles rather than monsters, his focus remains on what humanity may gain in such encounters, erasing the subjectivity of the animal participants. Sf’s explorations of such scenarios add nuance.                

Xenotransplantation has a long history. Indeed, the “pioneers of xenotrans-plantation realized xenotransfusions as early as the 16th century, then cell and tissue xenotransplantations in the 19th century” (Deschamps et al. 91). In November 1998, a human cell was successfully fused with a cow egg and “reverted back to its embryonic state, producing a stem cell from which all other specialized tissue in the body develops” (Heffernan 116).11 Glenn McGee, a well-reputed bioethicist, reflects on this event, asking whether the fertilized egg is “human, potentially human or something entirely new” (qtd. in Heffernan 116) and pondering the implications of implanting it into a cow or a human woman.                

Our desire to turn to biology for answers can hide as much as it reveals. In Cloning After Dolly (2004), Gregory E. Pence describes the case of a chimpanzee named Oliver who exhibited a number of characteristics that made people wonder whether he might be a “humanzee”; testing revealed Oliver to be 100% chimpanzee. Does this biological “answer” thereby erase questions about whether it is ethical to experiment on a being such as Oliver, whose behavior suggests a humanness his genes apparently belie? In some ways Oliver is reminiscent of Gor, and both the fictional and material examples point to the complexities of what Donna Haraway calls companion species relations. She insists that “all ethical relating, within or between species, is knit from the silk-string thread of ongoing alertness to otherness-in-relation” (Companion Species 50). The bodily sharing of genes and tissues is part of this cluster of relations. As Kath Weston asks, “If kinship can ideologically entail shared substance, can transfers of bodily substance create—or threaten to create—kinship? Can they create—or threaten to create—other forms of social responsibility?” (153). Gor Saga demonstrates the consequences of refusing this kinship and this social responsibility, for created beings and the wider human culture alike.

Chimerical Subjects in “Rachel in Love.”

But cannot this cat also be, deep within her eyes, my primary mirror?—Derrida, “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)” (128)

Pat Murphy’s “Rachel in Love” is, like Gor Saga, a tale about misfits, creatures trapped between lives and bodies. “Rachel in Love” is another tale of primal scenes, of the search for identity and the necessity for communication. Its protagonist, Rachel, is a young chimpanzee experimented upon after the death of Dr. Jacobs’s daughter, Rachel, in a car accident. In his grief, Jacobs “imposed the pattern of his daughter’s mind ... combining the two after his own fashion, saving his daughter in his own way” (219). This scientist, however, is very different from the arrogant Forester in Gor Saga; Jacobs treats Rachel the hybrid chimpanzee as his daughter without hesitation. Although this story does not feature a literal interspecies pregnancy, it nevertheless addresses similar themes of human/animal fusion and complicated kinship, in what can be seen implicitly as a fantasy of interbreeding.                

“Rachel in Love” focuses on Rachel’s physical and mental disjunction, experienced centrally in terms of her memories, which are in dissonance, as if she had two bodies, two lives, and two different sets of recollections. In many ways the story has a fairy-tale atmosphere: Rachel and her father live alone in a ranch house in the desert, undisturbed by the outside world. Jacobs is the only person Rachel has ever known, “her father, her teacher, her friend” (218), and he knows that if people found out about Rachel they would want to take her away. When Rachel asks her father where she came from, he tells her a story of “a pretty girl, with long golden hair like a princess in a fairy tale. She lived with her father and her mother and they were all very happy” (218). The story fuses fairy tale and sf, telling of how the father uses his research to upload his daughter’s brain into a chimpanzee after the car accident. Young hybrid Rachel is raised on this origin story as a tale of overwhelming love. The end of the story conforms to fairy-tale convention, promising that they will live happily ever after. “Rachel likes fairy tales and she likes happy endings,” we are told. “She has the mind of a teenage girl but the innocent heart of a young chimp” (219).                

Reality, however, follows a different narrative; Jacobs dies and Rachel is left alone in the deserted house, until a truck from the Primate Research Center arrives, captures her, and takes her back to life in a cage. Jacobs’s loving and considerate fathering of Rachel could not be further from Forester’s patronizing and disdainful behavior towards Gor. Yet Jacobs’s discourse is out of sync with the wider world, which is closer to Forester’s vision. When Rachel arrives at the Primate Research Center and is treated like a thing, her shocked response to her changed status confronts us with the reality of how we regularly treat non-humans, failing to acknowledge their subjecthood. As Rachel’s adjustment continues, the story prompts us to realize that, although Jacobs was a loving father to Rachel as his daughter, he simultaneously treated the previously existing chimp as a thing, transforming her in order to revive his daughter’s memories and erasing or at least muting her own subjectivity.                

“Rachel in Love” is a tale full of self-reflexive moments, of mirrors and reflections.12 In the first scene Rachel is excitedly watching a Tarzan movie on television. She senses the coexistence of many different kinds of reminiscences in her brain, “memories [lie] upon memories, layers upon layers, like the sedimentary rocks of the desert buttes” (219). Rachel remembers a blond-haired mother, but she also remembers “another mother and another time. Her mother was dark and hairy and smelled sweetly of overripe fruit. She and Rachel lived in a wire cage in a room filled with chimps and she hugged Rachel to her hairy breast whenever people came into the room” (220). Later, at the Primate Research Center, she dreams that she looks at her own reflection in a window and sees

a pale oval face, long blonde hair. The hand that holds the curtain aside is smooth and white with carefully clipped fingernails. But something is wrong. Superimposed on the reflection is another face peering through the glass: a pair of dark brown eyes, a chimp face with red-brown hair and jug-handle ears. She sees her own reflection and she sees the outsider; the two images merge and blur. She is afraid, but she can’t drop the curtain and shut the ape face out. (224)

This image ably captures the physical and metaphysical nature of mirrors. Rachel sees the material reflection of the chimp face but also sees her projected and equally true self-image as a blonde-haired girl. Rachel’s crisis is that she is both images simultaneously.                

In his meditation on the question of the animal, Derrida draws on the mirror, a trope he often uses to rethink the question of identity. Confronted naked by his cat, Derrida muses, “Henceforth I will reflect (on) the same question by introducing a mirror.… The same question then becomes whether I should show myself but in the process see myself naked (that is reflect my image in a mirror) when, concerning me, looking at me, is this living creature, this cat that can find itself caught in the same mirror?… But cannot this cat also be, deep within her eyes, my primary mirror? (“The Animal That Therefore I Am ... ” 128). This scene of recognition involves identification with the animal, as well as an almost ritual acknowledgement of one’s “animality.” Yet it ultimately becomes about Derrida seeing himself in the eyes of the cat, just as Rachel’s existence has become complicated by Jacobs seeing his daughter in the chimp’s being. Derrida’s reflections can be seen as analogous to the similar reflections elicited by a play of mirrors and identities that Rachel confronts before the windowpane. As Haraway states, in words that shed light on these scenes, we “polish an animal mirror to look for ourselves” (“Animal Sociology” 37). For Haraway, primatology may be a “source of insight or a source of illusion. The issue rests on our skill in the construction of mirrors” (37), that is to say, in how much we are aware of and try to circumvent our own anthropocentrism.                

At the Primate Research Center, Rachel makes friends with the janitor, keeping him company in his night watch and eventually falling in love with him, a feeling not requited by the latter, who only sees her as a chimpanzee under his care. Disappointed and in heat, Rachel turns to another chimpanzee, Johnson, to satisfy her sexual needs and eventually decides to run away with him, back to the by-now deserted ranch house. Haraway has argued that primatology is “about primal stories, the origin and nature of ‘man’”(Primate Visions 9). For Rachel, the ranch house is a primal scene where she was once happy with her father who, when she expressed the longing to be a “real girl” (239), explained to her that she was “a real girl” (240), that most desired metamorphosis in fairy tales. Rachel gradually accepts her roots in other narratives. During a dream scene, she again looks at a window and “the face that looks in at her has jug-handled ears and shaggy hair. When she sees the face, she cries out in recognition and opens the window to let herself in” (242). In the story’s conclusion, the discovery of Jacobs’s will bequeathing everything to “Rachel, the chimp I acknowledge as my daughter” (241), allows Rachel and Johnson to live undisturbed in the ranch house. Rachel achieves her fairy-tale ending of happily-ever-after, although not quite in the manner she anticipated.                

“Rachel in Love” helps us explore the complications of biology, social relations, and capacity for skills such as language and tool use as we try to sort out who “counts” and who does not within extended human kinship. Both biologists such as Richard Dawkins and philosophers such as Peter Singer argue that the “ethical treatment of individuals should be based not on the species to which they belong but on the degree to which they can experience pain and happiness, and their general level of consciousness” (Silver 92), criteria that apply to Gor and Rachel. Both stories suggest that hybrid beings such as Gor and Rachel are indeed entitled to human and legal rights and that contemporary society should be prepared for the creation and birth of such creatures.

Xenosurrogacy in “Confessions of a Bioterrorist.”

Unnatural participations or nuptials are the true Nature spanning the kingdoms of nature.—Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (241)

While Maureen Duffy’s Gor Saga portrays a male fantasy of interspecies breeding with the male scientist impregnating the gorilla, Charis Thompson’s short story “Confessions of a Bioterrorist: Subject Position and Reproductive Technologies” explores a woman’s investment in the fantasy of hybrid birth. In the story, a scientist, also significantly named Mary, serves as surrogate mother to a bonobo embryo. Although aware of the ethical and medical concerns, Mary sees her act as contributing to saving a species threatened with extinction.13 As well as being a fantasy of interspecies being, Mary’s pregnancy can also be read as one of parthenogenesis, a scenario that allows women to circumvent the male contribution to procreation.                

Cussins’s academic work concentrates on reproductive technologies, feminist science studies, and environmental science; in “Ontological Choreography: Agency through Objectification in Infertility Clinics,” she challenges “the humanist argument that selves need to be protected from technological objectification to ensure their agency and authenticity” (575).14 Instead, Cussins suggests, we might begin to conceptualize the human in a new way and see the participation of machines in the reproductive process as an extension of agency. Haraway picks up on the term “ontological choreography” in The Companion Species Manifesto and uses it to describe the multiple exchanges among human and non-human bodies, a “dance of being [that] is more than a metaphor” (8), that lets us conceptualize ourselves and other species as part of a wider pattern that is the dance, not as discrete monads who pre-exist such encounters. “Confessions of a Bioterrorist” considers what happens when we bring together reproductive technologies and species differences, providing speculative visions of alternative family configurations as well as interrogating the ethical consequences of this dance of technology and species identity.                

The narrative revolves around three women scientists who become friends and end up sharing with each other what they call their virgin birth fantasies. Mary, a specialist in animal physiology and a reproductive physiologist, works in an East Coast zoo, mainly with bonobos and other primates. Gabriela Richards, the daughter of “first generation Caribbean Londoners” (196) and a lecturer in sociology, is in the US to “research contemporary American issues in race and ethnicity” (196). Eva Avery, an embryologist and senior lab technician at an infertility clinic, collaborates with Mary and the zoo laboratory. The three friends often sit on the “bonobo bench” at the zoo and have “serious discussions of reproduction” (199). During one of these sessions each volunteer her favorite reproductive fantasy. Gabriela, who has a white northern European lover, wishes she could have a black baby like herself. Eva fantasizes about manually fertilizing two eggs, rather than egg and sperm, allowing for an entirely female-parented child.15 Mary, frequently called “the Virgin” (198), “Our Lady Mary” (200), and “Mother of Us All” (206) in emails from her friends, fantasizes about xenosurrogacy, perhaps the most transgressive vision. All the fantasies challenge cultural norms about love and kinship, finding technological ways to transcend reproductive taboos around race, sexuality, and species difference. As Mary explains, “I could gestate endangered animals … I wouldn’t kid myself I was being saintly; but that’s the whole point about the Virgin, isn’t it? … which gestations will save the world” (206). She further elaborates, “It’s the erotics, really, that’s the fantasy. Having a bonobo growing inside me out of my own proteins into a different species; ... watching my stomach stretched from the inside by furry hands and feet; breastfeeding an ape child ... the politics would come later” (206).                

Mary’s fantasy is the only one fulfilled in the story. After lengthy reflection and research about hybrid pregnancies, she decides to attempt to get pregnant with the bonobo embryos kept in her frozen bank. The story finishes when she is about to give birth to the bonobo baby, with the help of Eva and Gabriela. As Richard Nash points out, “central to the story’s effect is its reinscription of the traditional nativity story of Christianity as a parodic tale of interspecies gestation” (220). The parallels are provocative: like the birth of Christ, the birth of a bonobo to a human mother will mark a new epoch in human relations, this time between human and non-human animals rather than between humans and their god. In her discussion of cross-species encounters, Jane Bennett argues that “metamorphing creatures enact the very possibility of change; their presence carries with it the trace of dangerous but also exciting and exhilarating migrations” (17). “Confessions of a Bioterrorist” is a vivid dramatization of some of these transgressive possibilities, opening up the potential for “the kind of magnanimous mood that seems to be crucial to the ethical demands of a sociality that is increasingly multicultural, multispecied, and multitechnical” (Bennett 32). Such transgressive space promises change beyond merely a changed status for animals, as the “displacement of anthropocentrism and the recognition of trans-species solidarity” (Braidotti 99) have potential to refigure human culture in more radical ways that also make space for Gabriela’s and Eva’s reproductive fantasies.                

New reproductive technologies have split apart categories that were previously coterminous—birth mother, psychological mother, familial father, sperm donor, egg donor, and so forth—transforming the relations of kinship that used to play such a fundamental role in the rhetorics and practices of identity formation (Novas and Rose 490-91). Like reproductive technologies, chimerism and mosaicism “introduce challenging variations to traditional notions of kinship” (Hird 223). According to Haraway, thinking about subjectivity and kinship in terms of ontological choreography enables us to escape the determinism of Oedipal narratives of identity and embrace “a bigger family of stories for us humans, but also for our relationality with everybody else” (Schneider 154). “Confessions of a Bioterrorist” provides one example of a new figuration with which to structure a different unconscious. Mary’s fantasy is both an altruistic dream of helping an endangered species survive and what Haraway has called “a clear-sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture” (“Cyborg Manifesto” 152). Yet, as Susan Squier points out, “even when we are considering the feminist implications of hybrids within the realm of animal reproduction, such fantasies of disrupting the oedipal economy of the same will differ in their emancipatory potential depending on the subject position of the woman engaging in it” (377; emphasis in original). Mary’s privileged position as a member of the dominant class and her access to technology as part of the scientific elite, then, are not inconsequential for her success in actualizing her fantasy. At the same time, however, her gendered identity means that her technophilic fantasy of cross-species reproduction is realized under radically different social and ethical relations than either Forester’s fantasy of dominating nature in Gor Saga or Jacobs’s fantasy of escaping grief in “Rachel in Love.”

Conclusion. The crucial question posed by hybrid and chimerical beings and by each of these texts is the ethical status of a being created somewhere between animal and human. Each narrative presents us with a creature caught in the unacknowledged space that exists between the clear distinctions between human and animal. Gor is a biological fusion of genes, Rachel a melding of human and animal perception and memory, and Mary with her unborn child a new configuration of kinship between species. These beings challenge the cultural force of the human/animal boundary and compel us to re-examine its centrality in human political and social life. Reflecting upon the similar challenge posed by actually existing chimerical beings, Pence suggests that the extent of our ethical duty to a hybrid other should be decided “not by how it was originated or by how far it departs from standard methods of origination or stereotyped views of species essences, but by the particular qualities of each being (161).16                

In Primate Visions (1989) Haraway asks: “can patriarchal monotheistic cultures ever allow another primal story?” (369). Although the answers provided by Gor Saga, “Rachel in Love,” and“Confessions of a Bioterrorist” are different, each points to areas of research that have been and will continue to be intensely controversial: experimentation on animals, the creation of human-nonhuman chimeras, the ethical and moral ramifications of these experiments, and the way we conceptualize human/ape relations in primatology. Mary’s stance seems to offer the most potential for a new future based on another primal story, yet her offspring will encounter a world filled with humans whose attitudes are closer to Forester’s total insensitivity to the feelings of the non-human animals. Jacobs is more caring and sensitive towards Rachel’s needs, but his own selfish motives lead him to conduct an experiment that ultimately leaves Rachel in utter confusion, caught between two different lives and worlds. Haraway argues that primatology is also about “reformation stories, the reform and reconstruction of human nature” (Primate Visions 9). Duffy, Murphy, and Cussins each introduce distinct reformations that suggest a new congeries of hybrid figurations in a different Garden of Eden, provocative scenarios that also offer us reconstructed ideals of human nature. They challenge us to confront our technocultural reality that, although “mice or pigs with a few human genes, cells, tissues or organs are still just mice or pigs” (Silver 187) on a strictly biological level, on a cultural and conceptual level the ease with which biotechnology can transgress the species boundary requires us to see this boundary as something other than ontological.                

The material practice of “creating intraspecies hybrid animals might attack speciesism” (Pence 154), but as differences among these fictions reveal, there is no guarantee that such beings would be treated with kindness or recognized as kin. Hybrid and chimerical beings are increasingly a part of our reality, and whether such creatures will be made “into interchangeable resources” (Pence 154) or will become a means of liberating all beings from the tyranny of the species boundary will be shaped by the choices we make. Sf texts such as Gor Saga, “Rachel in Love,” and “Confessions of a Bioterrorist” enable us to begin thinking about these potential futures, helping us to tease out their many political, social, moral, ethical, and scientific implications. Writing on human ancestors, Dan Jones points out that “we are, to some extent, a hybrid species—a mosaic of ‘our’ genes, Neanderthal genes and possibly even Homo erectus genes too” (30-31). We are already hybrid and intraspecies beings, and it is time for our philosophy to catch up to our biology.

1. The kind of hybrid imaginary that seems to be so prevalent in today’s world has, of course, a long pedigree: the mythological Chimera, with a lion’s head, the body of a goat, and a dragon’s tail; the metamorphic gods and goddesses of Greek and Roman mythology, part human, part animal; Ovid’s Metamorphoses, that compendium of shape-shifting and hybridization; and Frankenstein’s creature. In addition to the works I discuss in this essay, texts that deal with similar themes include Stephen Gallagher’s Chimera (1982), Bruce McAllister's “The Girl Who Loved Animals” (1988), John Gribbin’s Father to the Man (1989), Nancy Kress’s Maximum Light (1997), Robin Cook’s Chromosome 6 (1997), and Michael Crichton’s Next (2006). Film examples include David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986), Roger Donaldson’s Species (1995), and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection (1997).

2. See <> (accessed on April 30, 2008).

3. They explain that “even though biologists are able to identify a particular string of nucleotides as human (as distinct from, say, yeast or even chimpanzee), the unique identity of the human species cannot be established through genetic or genomic means” (4).

4. According to Seyfer,

Despite the interspecies DNA differences, chimps and gorillas are still the most genetically similar organisms to humans. If the gametes of a human and a chimp were mixed, there seems more possibility of genetic fusion than if the gametes of a pig and a human were mixed. Already, “cybrid” (“cell hybrid”) cell lines have been made between human and chimpanzee cells and human and gorilla cells. I could find no publications of attempts to create a human/nonhuman primate hybrid or chimera; however, that does not rule out scientists having attempted this type of research without having published it.

See also Silver (370-71).

5. For lucid discussions of xenotransplantation, see Pence (chapter 15) and Silver (chapter 10).                

6. The first is led by stem cell scientist Dr. Lyle Armstrong from Newcastle University, based at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI) at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle, while Professor Stephen Minger, director of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, at King's College London, heads the other (“Hybrid Human-Animal”).                

7. An early story of a human-ape hybrid that ends in tragedy is Gustave Flaubert’s Quidquid volueris (1837), written when he was 17. In the story, a scientist, Monsieur Paul, allows a female slave to be raped by an orangutan, in what he considers a scientific experiment. The slave becomes pregnant and a half-human, half-orangutan hybrid is born, Djalioh. When Djalioh is sixteen, Monsieur Paul decides to take him to live with him, his young and beautiful wife, Adèle, and their two-year-old daughter. Djalioh, a grotesque figure, falls helplessly in love with Adèle and, after two years of unrequited love, he rapes and kills her and her daughter and subsequently commits suicide. In Michael Crichton’s Next, a geneticist, Henry Kendall, implants a human-ape hybrid embryo into the womb of an ape. Kendall raises the transgenic ape within his family.                

8. The first human child resulting from in vitro fertilization, Louise Brown, was born in 1978, just three years before the publication of Gor Saga. The heated debate that greeted this event was still very vivid when Duffy’s book, with its distillation of deep-seated anxieties about this new reproductive technology, came out.                

9. Gor Saga was adapted as the UK television series First Born (1988).                 1

10. See <> (accessed on  March 7, 2007).                

11. The biotech company that produced the human-cow embryo, Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, considered pursuing the development of a clone from that embryo.                

12. “Rachel in Love” is at present being turned into a movie, produced by Roberta Kenny.                

13. Bruce McAllister's story “The Girl Who Loved Animals”  is an earlier treatment of similar themes. In McAllister's story, set 50 years in the future, a twenty-year-old girl who suffers from a mental handicap is impregnated with the embryo of a gorilla, with the aim of saving the endangered species from extinction.                

14. See also her Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies.                

15. This type of scenario, which Nash describes as a “gynocentric reproductive fantasy” (221), has been imagined by many lesbian couples, who dream of being able to have a child with two genetic mothers and no father, a scenario that may be concretized with the implementation of cloning and gene-splicing techniques. Elizabeth Sourbut, following lesbian-feminist writer Ryn Edwards, calls this gynogenesis, a process which would include removing two ripe eggs from each woman’s ovaries and subsequently fusing their genetic material. As Sourbut explains, “As well as allowing lesbians to mingle their genes, gynogenesis would give us the ability to conceive children (who would be all daughters, since all eggs carry an X sex chromosome) without any biological input from men. The daughters thus conceived would have no genetic fathers” (229). A similar scenario would apply to gay couples, androgenesis, although in their case an egg with its genetic material removed, as well as a womb, whether real or artificial, would have to be used.                

16. Susan Squier raises a very important point when she considers the ethical and philosophical consequences of different types of sexual reproduction, including interspecies reproduction. For Squier, “sexual reproduction is only one, and arguably not even the predominant, kind of reproduction that is found in nature; bacterial budding, rhizomic replication, spore production, viral infection, symbiosis, bacterial recombination —such reproductive models challenge not only our humanness, but also (and perhaps more profoundly), our animalness” (374; emphasis in original). See also Parisi’s Abstract Sex.

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