A Different Flesh

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A Different Flesh
A Different Flesh.jpg
Author Harry Turtledove
Country United States
Language English
Genre alternate history, science fiction
Published 1988 (Congdon & Weed)
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 292
ISBN 0-86553-198-6
OCLC 17263417
813/.54 19
LC Class PS3570.U76 D5 1988

A Different Flesh is a collection of alternate history short stories by Harry Turtledove set in a world in which Homo erectus and various megafauna survived in the Americas instead of Native Americans.

Turtledove was inspired to write the story by a Stephen Jay Gould article that speculated as to how humanity’s distant cousin, Australopithecus, would be treated if that species had survived.[1]

Plot introduction[edit]

The stories give a brief glimpse in this altered American history ranging from 1610 to 1988. The Western Hemisphere is inhabited by Homo erectus rather than Homo sapiens, as well as megafauna long extinct in the known world. Consequently, the colonization of the New World by Europe has been a far more difficult process. As time goes by, various characters debate the nature of the sims (as erectus is known) and their role in human history.

Included with the short stories are quotations from The Story of the Federated Commonwealths. These snippets from an imaginary textbook providing the reader information about what happens during the time between the different stories.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Vilest Beast[edit]

1610: At Jamestown colony, Edward Wingfield must rescue his infant daughter from the tribe of wild sims who kidnapped her.

And So To Bed[edit]

1661: The story is made up of a series of entries in Samuel Pepys's diary. Pepys owns several sims and contemplates the origin of the species. By watching these sims, as well as observing various other animals found in North America, Pepys develops the theory of evolution.

Only one of the diary's entries in the story has a corresponding entry in the real diary Pepys kept.[2]

Around the Salt Lick[edit]

1691: Thomas Kenton, a scout from Virginia and descendant of Edward Wingfield, and his sim companion, Charles, explore the interior of North America. Kenton is after the teeth of the spearfang cats that populate the area. He is captured by a group of wild sims, and must hope that Charles will rescue him.

The Iron Elephant[edit]

1782: Steam-driven trains first appear, and a race is held with one of the hairy elephant-pulled trains they threaten to replace.

Though the Heavens Fall[edit]

1804: A house-slave named Jeremiah goes on trial for running away, and his attorney presents the argument that, with the existence of sims, there is no need for human beings to enslave other human beings. They are successful, and the court's decision leads to the emancipation of all human slaves.

Trapping Run[edit]

1812: Henry Quick, a trapper in the Rockies, is wounded by a bear and is nursed back to health by sims. While there, he ends up impregnating one of the sims, resulting in a Sim-Human hybrid.

Freedom[edit]

1988: A group of sim's rights activists, including a female descendant of Henry Quick, protesting experimentation on sims "rescue" Matt, a sim infected with HIV, from a medical lab but fail to take enough HIV inhibitor, which is medicine that suppresses the effects of HIV/AIDS. Eventually, this forces the activists to return Matt to the researchers.

Major themes[edit]

The stories explore what makes someone "human". As time passes humans' view of sims generally shifts from seeing them as beasts into seeing them being close to humans and deserving of some rights.[2] Without anthropomorphizing the sims, Turtledove makes clear that although they cannot become humans and enjoy all the freedoms that humans have, they still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.[3]

When asked whether the point of divergence of A Different Flesh being set before human history makes the novel a proper alternate history or some sort of "alternative natural history", Turtledove responded: "They seem like alternate history to me, but I haven't really spent a whole lot of time worrying about how to classify them, I'm afraid."[4]

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Steven H Silver gave a positive review of the novel and commented that Turtledove left a lot of room open for further stories in the series, but still feels that Turtledove's writing style has changed to the point where future stories would appear out of place.[2] Science fiction author Orson Scott Card also gave a good review for the novel complimenting Turtledove especially on Freedom for the use of a sims point of view without "sentimentalizing and anthropomorphizing until the true differences between species are erased."[3]

One negative criticism of the novel was made by a reviewer who thought that there was an assumption that the course of history would have gone pretty much as it did with Native Americans here, and felt that this underestimates the impact of Native Americans on our history.[5]

Publication history[edit]

Vilest Beast, And So to Bed, Around the Salt Lick, The Iron Elephant, and Though the Heavens Fall were all originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Freedom was originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction while Trapping Run was written exclusively for the hardcover edition.[6]

Originally published by Congdon & Weed in 1988, it was first published in paperback by Worldwide the following year. In 1994, Baen reprinted the book.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A Different Flesh (Magill’s Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)". eNotes.com. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  2. ^ a b c d Steven H Silver. "A DIFFERENT FLESH by Harry Turtledove". Book Review. SF Site. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  3. ^ a b Orson Scott Card (July 1988). "Books to Look For". Book Review. Fantasy & Science Fiction. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  4. ^ Octavio Aragão (2008-05-29). "Different changes: interview with Harry Turtledove". Interview. Intempol. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  5. ^ Dale Cozort. "A Different Flesh -- by: Harry Turtledove". Book Review. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  6. ^ Robert B. Schmunk. "Turtledove, Harry. A Different Flesh.". Uchronia.net. Retrieved 2008-09-10. 
  7. ^ "ISFDB Title listing for 'A Different Flesh'". ISFDB.org. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 

External links[edit]