Hello, readers! While I work on revisions and polishing of my now-completed manuscript Infinity (close to 60,000 words), I unearthed a manuscript called Anagama that I finished in 2015. It was difficult to write, and there were many problems with it, not the least of which that I had started it in 1998 and had been working on it and putting it away periodically in all the time since. I forced myself to finish it, but the results were disappointing. So I put it aside to think about what to do with it.
I finally know- it hurts to do this, as I’ll be discarding many passages that I rather like, but I completely revised the plot, changed most of the characters, and am changing the main focus of the story. In past incarnations, Anagama had as a big focus the nature of a vampire-like main character and his special abilities. I think this was a mistake. I had invented, in 2014, a female scientist character who is a secret hero, and her story is much more interesting. I started to want to tell it in 2014 when I invented her, but bent most of the book into the frame I had devised for it when I was much younger and not as good of a writer- so the story really, really didn’t work. By tearing up much of the manuscript (everything but the first three chapters, actually) and starting again, I now can make the story into what it should have been.
Another big focus of the new manuscript idea is that it focuses not just peripherally, but centrally on the idea of trying to quantify what is human. People do this all the time. We come up with all sorts of criteria for categorizing animals and human beings. During the time between when I finished Anagama in 2015 and yesterday, when I picked up the manuscript again, I realized that there is interesting literature discussing concepts of what it means to be human, and whether there is a biological foundation for the concept of race (spoiler: there isn’t, it’s a social construct, though I am sure some may disagree). In Anagama, I hope to discuss this along with the larger question of what it means to be human, and whether there is a biological foundation for the concept of human being that can safely exclude sentient beings that don’t meet the criteria. The story focuses on mutant humans, infected with retroviruses that literally alter their genomes to the point where they are no longer classified as human: chimpanzees and humans, for example, share 98.8% of their genomes, but no one classifies a chimpanzee as a human being. So in discussing the question of whether it is ethical to deny mutant humans the basic rights given to human beings, this question of chimpanzees vs. humans also comes up.
The question of animal rights is a tricky one, not least because humans enjoy eating animals, wearing their skins, and using their labor. I was a vegetarian for 14 years because I struggled with the idea that it was all right to eat animal flesh; I stopped mostly for financial reasons (I was living in a place where vegetables were more expensive than meat), but now would struggle to be able to eat a lot of vegetarian/vegan food since so much of it contains gluten, which I cannot digest, or is very expensive. So there is a grey area for me: I couldn’t bring myself to eat a primate or wear its skin, and I am deeply disturbed by research that involves primates. But I am less bothered if the animal is a cow- is that hypocrisy, or do I simply judge how an animal is treated based on its apparent sentience or intelligence? Is this ethically sound? We don’t eat or skin humans born without much intelligence, or born without brain stems.
So there is much to be pondered in the question of what it means to be an animal that is human, specifically, and how you can distinguish human animals from nonhuman animals, as well as the question of whether this distinction justifies differential treatment.
I promise, despite these forays into philosophy, that Anagama will still be an entertaining yarn, with daring escapes, car chases, psychic phenomena, and lots of intrigue.
Have a nice day!