Sunday, March 14, 2010

Anthropomorphism (and writing in my sleep)

copyright aaron paul lazar, 2010. All rights reserved.

In the past, I’ve almost always written from the point of view of a human. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book from a dog’s POV a few years ago, and even wrote a few fun chapters. It’s on the “some day” list, like my Gus LeGarde cookbook, and a Finger Lakes coffee table book.
About a month ago, a good friend (Pat Fowler, from NH) invited me to enter the Lorian Hemingway short story writing contest. We’d both write short stories, and then critique each other’s work before subbing them. In my story, I ended up doing one scene from Claude Monet’s dog’s point of view.  
Last week, I read a very original sci fi story by Pat Whitaker from New Zealand, entitled Returning. In the beginning, a being from outer space inhabits the body of a wolf. It’s not exactly anthropomorphism, because the creature is using the wolf as a host, so it’s not attributing human characteristics to the canine. But it must have gotten my creative juices going, because the other night I wrote the following story while sleeping.
Honest! It’s weird, but during the night I find myself writing in my head. I set up the scene, and the words come out as if I’m typing them. It’s never exactly what becomes the final typed version, but it’s pretty close.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about anthropomorphism:

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts. Examples include animals and plants and forces of nature such as winds, rain or the sun depicted as creatures with human motivation able to reason and converse. The term derives from the combination of the Greek ἄνθρωπος (ánthrōpos), "human" and μορφή (morphē), "shape" or "form".

And here’s the story I wrote the other night. ;o)

The Bull
He rose with ease from his desk chair and reached for a crystal tumbler on the counter. Filling it with ice, he poured amber liquid halfway up and took a swig. His sleek black fur shone beneath the vested suit, and a vein throbbed in his neck above his lavender shirt collar. 
Lowering his horns for effect, he swung his heavy head back toward the man tied to the chair on the other side of his desk.
The matador’s face flamed brick red. Tears simmered in his eyes. He struggled against his bonds, and almost tipped over his chair. “I don’t get it!”
With a rumbling sigh, the bull lowered himself back into the chair. “I know. This part is often difficult.” He wiggled the thumb-like appendage that protruded from his hoof and winked. “In your experience, bulls don’t have thumbs. But let me tell you, it’s much easier to mix a drink this way.”
Tears sprang from the matador’s eyes. “That’s not what I meant! Why are you doing this?”
An expression of sympathy curled the bull’s lips downward. “Oh, dear. I’m sorry. As I said before, you are an experimental subject. The power of your species to torture and maim, the joy you take in killing, the need to show yourself more powerful than other creatures… it’s long fascinated us.”
“Where’s my family? My boys?” Almost whimpering now, the matador’s eyes churned side to side. “And where the hell am I?”
“I’ve told you. There are no boys. There is no wife. Your life was orchestrated to seem real, in your own head. But sir–you exist simply for the purpose of academic study.”
“But the world is run by humans!”
“No. It’s run by bulls.”
“But on television—”
“All manufactured for the experiment. Shall I turn on the real television?”
With a click, the teak walls parted, revealing a flat screen. The bull flipped through channels, each filled with horned heads, wide flat noses—sans rings—and various colors and sizes of huge, hoofed, mammoth bulls. Bulls dressed in clothing, bulls golfing, bulls driving trucks. Bulls everywhere.
A hilarious giggle rose from the matador. “I get it! This is a practical joke! You’re wearing a costume. You staged the whole thing.” He craned his neck around the room. “Okay, José.   Come on out! I fell for it!”
The bull grimaced. “In spite of your capacity for inflicting pain on others, you are most decidedly a fascinating species.”
The matador slumped, then sat up with interest. “Wait! Are there more like me?”
Lighting a fat cigar, the bull tipped back in his chair. “A few.”
Another click on the remote parted wide curtains, revealing a large stadium. “Down there. In the cages.”
“That’s cruel!”
“Perhaps. But it’s safer for bullkind. You don’t think we can let savages like you just wander around, do you?”
Defeated, the matador let the tears stream from his formerly stoic face. The sequins on his costume glistened wet. His hat tipped sideways. “You mean my career? The accolades I’ve earned? My entire life?” Sobbing now, his head dropped to his chest. He raised it once again. “It’s all fake?”
“Indeed. The glory you found in your…er…career was fabricated. You thought you defeated and killed bulls. You reveled in it. But it was all staged. No real bulls were hurt.” The bull spun his chair to stare down into the arena, tenting his forehooves. “But don’t worry. We’ll treat you with kindness. You’ll have food and water, exercise, and sunshine. And we’ll get you vaccinated. After all, we aren’t barbarians. We’re not human.”


Aaron Paul Lazar

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