Thursday, 19 December 2013

A Dream Of A Thousand Cats

Why was the cat-goddess, Bast, who appears later in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, not involved in "A Dream Of A Thousand Cats"?

In a single short story, Gaiman envisages an entire alternative history in which cats were large and human beings were small. I do not think that this history has ever been imagined before or will be again. There is a cosmic conflict between cats and humanity although most members of both species remain unaware of it.

The cat universe exists not in our past but, I would say, in the past of a second temporal dimension, borrowing an idea from time travel fiction. But there are different ways of conceptualizing what Gaiman is trying to say and it is difficult to make any of them internally consistent.

When "...things changed..." and "Humans were huge..." (Dream Country, New York, 1995, p. 54), we see a cat between walking human legs on a pavement beside a parked car, as if a human-dominated world has just begun to exist full of fallacious memories and records of a human-dominated history. This is not quite what the characters say has happened but it is what is suggested by this panel. Is it possible?

Is it possible that you have just been created and that all your memories, created with you, are false and do not give you any knowledge of past events? Our experience of remembering is not like our experience of consulting a currently existing record of past events. Memory feels like direct acquaintance with past events but is it? Our brains could be manipulated to make us seem to remember something different.

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