Made out of Meat
by
Terry Bisson

Animation adaptation by Denis Murphy

Terry Bisson's short story is a relatively recent discovery for me. I was familiar with an extract from it which Stephen Pinker quotes in How The Mind Works, but I didn't know whether the extract was from a novel or a short story. I tried to track it down in libraries, but I finally found it while surfing the net. Here is a link to the actual story on Terry Bisson's own website, linked with his permission. And you can then download my adaptation of it (I even speculatively translated it into Spanish).


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I was intrigued by it. I thought it read as easily as if was a script. I mention this short story in Part 7 of my own Tasting With Somebody Else's Tongue, as an inspiration to me. Why? On several levels.

Made out of Meat is a brilliant piece of very short writing. There is only dialogue. No description. No introduction or explanation. No scenes are set nor characters built. It is an example of how to capture a fleeting idea and present it in a new and riveting way. At no point does Terry Bisson tell us exactly who the speakers are and who they are talking about. You put together all these jigsaw pieces yourself, just from the dialogue. If you stick with the writer, and exercise your brain a little, you are rewarded. And he gives you questions to ponder in your own time. If you are so inclined. I am so inclined.
It gatecrashes well-known, respected and fairly mass-market artistic genres -sci-fi and short stories- and presents their consumers with something belonging more to the rarefied atmospheres of linguistics and philosophy, not to mention theology. All in 784 words of dialogue.
The premise behind it is a very, very simple question: how can a slab of meat love, be sentient and communicate by producing sound waves? It inspired me to try to present my own linguistic and not-so-linguistic questions -language death and culture death, whether one follows the other and whether it matters if it does- in more mainstream formats. That is why my non-fiction book has two fiction appendices, the screenplay Wedgwood-Trashing and the short story Any External Source. Whether these attempts do make the subject of language and culture death more attractive to a wider audience is not for me to say.

The important thing is that I tried. And the reason I thought of doing fictional complements at all to the non-fiction of Tasting With Somebody Else's Tongue is, I am certain, because the brilliance of Made out of Meat was never far from my subconscious. Its construction and the spark of the idea behind it inspired me.

Very well, I've explained how my love for Made out of Meat justified my incursions into fiction, but why have I included Terry Bisson's story in this section? Aren't my screenplays meant to be here? How have I adapted it?
Ever since my first contact with the original story, I knew it would make a brilliant animation. The script I've written is in two parts, visual and audio. The visual bit could be done as an animation, a collage of stills or a montage of short video clips. The audio bit requires adding and taking away nothing from Terry Bisson's 784 words. What I have added are certain sound effects.


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Copyright 2005/6/7/8/9 by Denis Murphy. All rights reserved. Revised: 04 Oct 2012 03:55 .