Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Piers Anthony's "In the Barn" (novelette, animal rights, free): What if humans were cattle?

Touch it only if you can stand fiction that has extreme brutality & porn, & is primarily intended to shock. I'll not be surprised if reactions to it vary greatly - great to one person, hopeless to another.

In a way, this is more brutal variant of Pierre Boulle's "Planet of the Apes". Remove apes from the scene - both sentients & animals are human. And the "animals" have a far worse existence.

Story summary.

Imagine a parallel earth ("Counter-Earth #772") where there are no mammals save humans. Add slavery to the picture - some humans are the property of others. Now distort slavery to a point where slaves become truly animal:
  1. Newborn babies are immediately separated from their mothers, have the use of thumb of their hands physically curtailed, tongue surgically cut off to ensure they will never speak, deprived of all sensory experience during their development years by being confined to a tank where they cannot sense anything & to a dark cell in older years, consciously malnourished so they will develop as mental retards, ...
  2. Females are grown as "cows" in barns, & are used primarily as milk animals. With living conditions similar to those we see in cow sheds here.
  3. Most male newborns are killed because they're useless. Only a few potential "studs" are saved for breeding.
The whole setup is to contrast the situation of these "animals" with the treatment cattle receive in our cowsheds.

Story is from the point of view of Hitch, an investigator from "Earth-Prime" (presumably our earth) to a newly discovered parallel one. He's out to discover why this world is overrun with barns, when there are no cattle. He will spend a day as a barn-hand there.

Fact sheet.

First published: Harlan Ellison (ed)'s "Again, Dangerous Visions" (anthology, 1972).
Download full text from Lycaeum. (Note the linked HTML page has multiple stories; "In the Barn" is the first.)
Rating: B.
Related: Fiction where humans are zoo/lab animals.


mherzog said...

Here's a video on animal rights: