The SFFaudio Podcast #141 – READALONG: The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells

January 2, 2012
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The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #141 – Last week’s podcast was an unabridged reading of The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells. This week Scott, Jesse, Tamahome and Professor Eric S. Rabkin form an ad hoc community discuss it!

Talked about on today’s show:
Are we men or animals?, Charles Laughton, The Island Of Lost Souls, Burt Lancaster, Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, let the movie atrophy and evaporate, changing the name Prendick to Prentice to Parker, Margaret Atwood, Moor, death, water, Moreau, Gustav Moreau, etchings of Dante’s Inferno, ebony, anthracite, Moreau is a funeral shroud, prig + dick (thick), prender, Prendick appropriates Moreau’s island, the manuscript, Prendick is a user, “a false church”, Edward (the happy guardian), Charles (the common man), “a private gentleman”, the single biggest theme in the book (modern European culture deforms the natural state of things), beastilizing humans or humanizing beasts, the white man’s burden (and his name is black), pro-science vs. anti-progress, Darwin brings the questioning of the moral narrative of humans, Montgomery and Moreau lack moral direction, Prendick too is directionless (all at sea), vivisection, “life is the house of pain”, Wells (and Mary Shelley) are deeply concerned with the relationship of scientists with the larger community, Eric thinks science unaware of moral obligation is the target, Prendick is a disingenuous narrator, Moreau is a colonial overload, “The Lady Vain”, Lady Day (Billie Holiday) vs. Lady Day (the Catholicism meaning), “Lady Day” is an ironic reversal of “Saint Mary”, Ipecacuanha = ipecac, Gulliver’s Travels, what are the chances of a collision with a derelict ship in the middle of Pacific?, M’Ling, mankind’s way of finding destruction, “ship of fools”, the ships are microcosms, a foreshadowing of destruction (of an unsustainable ), “Wells is just so God-damned smart”, Addaneye Island vs. Adonai (God), M’Ling is Manling, is M’ling a dog or an ape?, Thomas HobbesLeviathan, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”, “the great chain of being”, “In the afternoon, Moreau, Montgomery, myself, and M’ling went across the island to the huts in the ravine.” Montgomery = defender of the mountain, Prendick’s narration belies the events of the story, poetic justice, “he attacks Helmar with his hands”, men don’t sink like stones, cannibalism, “when every animal is a person then you better have a law against cannibalism”,

A sudden convulsion of rage shook me. I was almost moved to batter his foolish head in, as he lay there helpless at my feet. Then suddenly his hand moved, so feebly, so pitifully, that my wrath vanished. He groaned, and opened his eyes for a minute. I knelt down beside him and raised his head. He opened his eyes again, staring silently at the dawn, and then they met mine. The lids fell.

“Sorry,” he said presently, with an effort. He seemed trying to think. “The last,” he murmured, “the last of this silly universe. What a mess — ”

I listened. His head fell helplessly to one side. I thought some drink might revive him; but there was neither drink nor vessel in which to bring drink at hand. He seemed suddenly heavier. My heart went cold. I bent down to his face, put my hand through the rent in his blouse. He was dead…

Eric thinks Prendick is trying to exonerates himself, abolutionism a theme of abstinence and alcohol, “you’re Mr. Shut Up”, Lem Johnson, Governor George Gawler‘s 1838 speech to the local Aborigines in the Adelaide area:

“Black men – We wish to make you happy. But you cannot be happy unless you imitate good white men. Build huts, wear clothes, work and be useful. Above all things you cannot be happy unless you love GOD who made heaven and earth and men and all things. Love white men. Love other tribes of black men. Do not quarrel together. Tell other tribes to love white men, and to build good huts and wear clothes. Learn to speak English. If any man injure you tell the protector and he will do you justice.”

language as an instrument of repression, “this is an impossible story”, vivisection cannot create men, “this is a fable”, Thomas Henry Huxley, Wells was an apprentice to Huxley, natural selection and animal nature, if you can evolve can you devolve?, Montgomery is Moreau’s vicar (or Pope), an experiment with a snake, the Garden of Eden, Prendick is a liar, there is no great chain of being, Brits don’t have the right to change Indians, neither the force of arms, nor the claim of church, nor the claim of law can justifiably impose on one’s fellow man, The Time Machine, cannibalism is a transformation of murder, The Island Of Doctor Moreau as a fable, Sigmund Freud’s essay on “the uncanny” (make the metaphorical literal), The Eyes Have It by Philip K. Dick, it looks like a beast fable, “animal swiftness”, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, rabbits and Easter and eggs, Prendick destroys the symbol of christian resurrection, “a boat of community”, The War Of The Worlds as a kind of coda to The Island Of Doctor Moreau, Frankenstein, human beings are social animals, Boer Wars, South Africa, The Invisible Man, The Kingdom Of The Blind by H.G. Wells, one man is no match to a community, all of Wells’ protagonists seem to be horrible human beings, “a private gentleman”, if you have means you have an obligation to participate in the world, the doubting Thomas Marvel, the ocelot man, the pig men, the monkey man, “he’s a five man”, “big thinks” vs. “little thinks”, “it takes a real man to tell a lie”, sex and marriage and community in Frankenstein, Doctor Moreau Explains, man-making vs. woman-making, the puma-woman, Brian Aldiss, The Other Island Of Doctor Moreau, Frankenstein Unbound, “when suffering finds a voice”, vivisection, social class, PETA, the British Museum, the National Anti-Vivisection Society, The Invention Of Morrel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jorge Luis Borges, “an atrocious miracle”, “youthful blasphemy”, are there any contemporary reviews for The Island Of Doctor Moreau?, Henry James vs. H.G. Wells, little picture vs. big picture, psychology vs. sociology, characters vs. ideas, our Rainbow’s End discussion, Wells is undervalued because he is so easy to read, the consumption of food and drink, Wells learned it all, The Outline Of History by H.G. Wells, Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, ramify, The Lord Of The Flies by William Golding, The Inheritors is an elegiac recognition of the importance of community, neanderthals.

The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells - Illustration by Frank R. Paul for Amazing Stories

The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells - Illustration by Frank R. Paul for Amazing Stories

Famous Fantastic Mysteries - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU

Famous Fantastic Mysteries - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU

Famous Fantastic Mysteries - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU

Famous Fantastic Mysteries - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU

Famous Fantastic Mysteries - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU

Famous Fantastic Mysteries - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU

The Island Of Dr. Moreau - Cover illustration by Paul Lehr

Posted by Jesse Willis

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