Friday, September 22, 2006


Noble's Island

I'm in the midst of preproduction for a story tenatively called "The Famous Ape," about talking apes, having finished my Doctor Who story on Wednesday. Yesterday I read Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan and the Lion Men, which was surely one of the strangest novels ERB ever committed to paper. It starts as a spoof of Hollywood, with a film crew marching into darkest Africa to shoot a picture entitled "The Lion Man," which is a thinly disguised rip-off of Tarzan's own life story. There are cannibals, and Bedouin guards who don't understand the nature of theater and acting, and derringdo. Then, everything goes strangely off-the-rails at the two-thirds mark when the characters encounter a city of English-speaking gorillas in a cliff city called "London," who worship a half-man/half-gorilla named "God" who lives in a medieval castle overlooking their city. God, it transpires, has engendered human-level intelligence in the apes by modifying them with genetic material stolen from the corpses buried in Westminster Abbey. To put it another way, it's just the same-old, same-old.

That was yesterday. This morning it was George Orwells' Animal Farm, and this afternoon I reread all of Jean de Brunhoff's Babar stories and the issues of John Broome's Flash which featured Gorilla Grodd, Solovar, and Gorilla City. (Yes, this is one of those kinds of stories...)

Anyway, in addition to discovering that "God" from Tarzan and the Lion Men was unquestionably H.G. Wells's Doctor Moreau (who'd clearly faked his own death at the end of The Island of Doctor Moreau, though suffering near-fatal injuries in the process, which he was only able to heal by using a sort of gene therapy, injecting himself with the genetic material of healthy young gorillas), it took looking at my globe just now to discover that Noble's Island, where Doctor Moreau is based, the coordinates of which are given in the preface of Wells's book as being near latitude 5' S. and longitude 105' E., puts it in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. I find it amusing that Moreau, used in party by Wells as a commentary on Charles Darwin and his theories, should be situated so close to the spot where Darwin collected much of the evidence used to formulate his theory of evolution.

I'm also obsessed at the moment with the character of Balza the jungle girl (a mutant who's human on the outside, gorilla on the inside, and through-and-through a match for Lord Greystoke) from Tarzan and the Lion Men, but that's another matter entirely.

This sounds like some a that wierd Walled Newtin stuff I hear tell abouts on the internets.

Chris: Have you read His Monkey Wife
by Collier (I believe) -- about a guy who marries an ape?

Jeff Ford
Well, Jeff, I'd never heard of it, but when I pulled my copy of The John Collier Reader down off the shelf just now, I see that the thing is included in its entirety. I'll have to check it out!

I'm coming across all kinds of crazy monkey stuff I didn't know before. Just yesterday I stumbled upon Kafka's "A Report to an Academy," all about an ape named Red Peter who trains himself to act like a human so he can assimilate. Which Kafka clearly meant as a commentary on the Jews and cultural assimilation or some similarly weighty topic, but in my head ends up being just about a monkey in a smoking jacket with a pipe and a tumbler of whiskey. Heh. Funny monkey...
Chuck, I have no idea what you're talking about, I'm sure...
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