At the back end of last year when I told a couple of friends I was starting work on my first new novel for over twelve months, a cursory summary of the story’s set-up from me prompted two different replies. ‘Oh,’ said one. ‘You mean like Planet of the Apes?’; ‘Oh,’ said the other. ‘You mean like Animal Farm?’ Well…er…sort-of, but not quite. A bit like the former, the tale takes place on an earth in which humans are not the dominant species and one of our animal cousins rules in our place; and a bit like the latter, I’m using the deceptive smokescreen of a kind-of farmyard fable to tell a serious story about an important contemporary issue. Then again, neither comparison quite matches.
Long-term followers still recall my spoof ‘Exposure’ series on the old, original version of YouTube, in which I satirised the Yewtree hysteria by having the men from the Met round-up children’s TV puppets of the 1970s instead of the decade’s ageing celebrities. It was a tactic that enabled me to say far more than I perhaps would’ve been able to get away with even in the less censorious online era of 2012-14. With this in mind, I decided that in finally addressing one of the most pressing (not say depressing) stories of our times via the vehicle of the novel, one way to do so was to adopt a not dissimilar approach. Yes, this is my ‘false allegation’ book, but in order to try and explain how the situation that embroils the lead character came about, I had to create a fitting backdrop.
The whole ‘Woke’ culture of Identity Politics is something I’ve tackled both on here and on YT (just before their new policy forced me off it), but I’ve never done so in fiction before. Satirising it seemed a given, so I went for it. However, the world of ‘The Kamikaze Harvest’ is dominated by the politics of Species rather than Identity, as this is a world ruled by cats and dogs. They don’t walk on all fours; they’ve evolved from that in the absence of humans and are anthropomorphic creatures blessed with everything that we take credit for – both good and bad. Canines were the supreme species for centuries, but have recently been usurped by felines, driven in part by the rise of Species Politics and ‘Radical Felinists’. They also have their own religious zealots, worshippers of an Ancient Egyptian Goddess known as Bastet. And you don’t f**k with Bastet.
It doesn’t take a genius to see through the true targets of this ploy, but there are so many aspects of 2019 which seemed ripe for satire that I realised I could place my cast of characters in our insane society and take artistic licence by just tweaking it ever-so slightly. For example, the story begins with the lead character (a black mongrel name of Max) being released from an eighteen-month spell behind bars for expressing an inappropriate opinion on an internet forum. As a result, he’s placed on the Speech Offenders’ Register for life and returns to a world in which cats have extended their powers by exploiting the trusting nature of canines even further. With universities, social services, the police and the judiciary all preaching the Species Politics mantra, feline-only shortlists have ensured the best jobs are now awarded on species grounds rather than merit, and Max has a lifetime of menial labour to look forward to.
Max has to endure a CBS (Canine Barring Service) check before he can re-enter the workplace – to ensure vulnerable cats and kittens are safe in his dangerous presence; and the best this former head librarian can manage is to be employed by a cleaning agency, to empty the litter trays of his cat overlords. One of his clients is Fenella, a leading feline rights lawyer and a household name via her publicised prosecutions of once revered and respected dogs. She initially treats him with utter indifference until he displays unexpected honesty and catches her by surprise in a way that causes her to reassess her prejudiced attitude towards canines.
Max believes in equality between the species rather than simply replacing one in a position of power with the other; but his is a discredited view. Dogs have been demonised as the embodiment of primitive savagery, not to be trusted – despite their inborn ‘privilege’. This opinion, enforced through the pedigree media and its chattering classes, not only preaches the philosophy that dogs should be in a permanent, self-flagellating state of guilt over the inherited crimes of their ancestors; but it overlooks the fact that cats, in their nightly hunting of rodents, are far more ruthless animals. But the propaganda promotes the latter as Victims, and this encouragement of victimhood amongst felines eventually leads to a mentally-disturbed cleaning client of Max informing the police that he’d brutally attacked her five years previously.
Needless to say, the police take the Victim’s allegation as ‘credible and true’, and it is only when Max is muzzled and escorted to the local nick following a Sunday lunchtime raid on his family home that he is made aware of just how deeply Species Politics have penetrated the ruling class. He calls feline barrister Fenella for help and she shocks her devoted felinist fan-base by coming to his rescue and agreeing to defend him in court. What follows is a high-profile test-case for the gains of ‘the revolution’ as one of its pin-up girls turns traitor and comes face-to-face with her professional nemesis whilst Max’s freedom hangs in the balance. On the strength of a deluded fantasist, he stands to lose his liberty as Fenella struggles to build a case against his accuser with the police pursuing a non-disclosure-of-evidence policy in favour of ‘the Victim’.
Yes, I’m taking an unusual route to tell a serious story. Much black comedy is derived from imagining what cats and dogs would be like in humanoid form, how they would behave in human ways yet retain traits we recognise from our four-legged versions. When Max cleans various feline homes, he takes note of how the floors are littered with objects the homeowners have pushed off surfaces for no palpable reason; when he spends an evening in his room alone, he entertains himself by chomping on a bone for a couple of hours before receiving a visitor and then engaging in conversation. They’re still cats and dogs at heart, but they’re also us.
I may have chosen to tell this tale in a rather eccentric way, but the main subject is not treated remotely light-heartedly. Perhaps I figured I could lure a few unsuspecting readers in by tricking them into thinking this was just an intriguingly silly story in which cats and dogs rule the world, before hitting them with the realities of a situation that has affected – and continues to affect – thousands of innocent people in this country, some of whom I have known. We shall see. Someone had to write about it, and I’ve chosen to do it my way. Check it out…
© The Editor