Encountering the Animal-Alien: Interspecies Communication in Octavia Butler’s Dawn and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven College
Scholar Carl Malmgren describes the common science fiction trope of alien encounters as “inevitably broach[ing] the question of the Self and the Other…The reader recuperates this type of fiction by comparing human and alien entities, trying to understand what it means to be human” (15). The alien can represent humanity’s fears of scientific and political cruelty (oftentimes entanglements of both), a symbol of various marginalized groups, and/or a metaphor for oppressive power (either as a human victim or a nonhuman agent of violence). As Heather Atwell and Elain O’Quinn write, "aliens have become the scientific and technological avatars of a modern world," acting as humanoid mirrors through which inter-human relationships are scrutinized (45). In light of irreversible man-made environmental disaster and growing numbers of mass species extinction, perhaps it is necessary to revisit the SF alien not just as a stand-in for humanity, but also as a representative of human-animal relationships. Despite cohabitating Earth and sometimes bearing biological similarities, the human view of animals has always been one of presumed superiority from the natural world. Stacy Alaimo notes that “one English word, one Western concept—’animal’—...
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