They are made out of meat

Terry Bisson's awesome short story has been filmed: They are made out of meat.

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

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26 Responses:

  1. pavel_lishin says:

    I love the story, and I love the adaptation.

  2. mattstratton says:

    I remember reading this story in OMNI when I was much younger - I loved it so much I cut it out, and taped it up in my room.

    So happy to see it so well adapted.

    • gargargar says:

      My father read the story to me out of Omni when I was younger, and ever since then I've actually been rooting through Stanislaw Lem books looking for it! I honestly thought it was Lem, but this little video pointed me to the real source.

      The one thing that struck me about the dialogue when I first heard it was something edited out in this version. I remember it going something like "We've studied them for three of their lifespans. Do you know the lifespan of meat?" To which the other guy replies "S--spare me. Okay, so..."

      In this version the question meant to accent the short lifespan of meat-life was omitted, making it sound like the guy was just rolling his eyes at the whole process. It was my favorite interchange in the original, and it just seems to have been dropped here.

      • nidea says:

        I love Lem!

      • mackys says:

        They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what the life span of meat is?"

        Hahhaha. Great line. What a bummer to not include it.

        But I'm even more bummed about not including the real punchline. After the two conclude that they're going to ignore humanity and let them believe that there's nobody else in the universe, this exchange happens:

        "Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

        "Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

        "They always come around."

        "And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."

        That was the real point of the story. And unfortunately it didn't make it into the video.

        I still like the video. But they missed some good stuff.

  3. codenazi says:

    I don't know what it is. The wonderful Film Noir atmosphere, the guy reading the newspaper constantly looking at them...

    I think it could be the guy with the Sax at the end who is actually playing the (very good) soundtrack, in a quasi-fourth-wall-break...

    Maybe it's the funny "not quite right" way they hold/smoke their cigarettes.

    No matter. That's the best movie about MEAT sense this one, easily.

    I think that even won out over the last few horror movies I saw.


  4. ciphergoth says:

    Hey, suck it up, alien snobs. Your ancestors were built by thinking meat.

    • jwz says:

      I think you've managed to completely miss the point of the story.

      • ciphergoth says:

        OK, I guess you got something very different from it than I did - could you shed some light on what I'm missing?

        • kehoea says:

          I, to my eternal annoyance, am not the energetically self-destructive hand, but carbon-based thinking machines are probably not the only implementation route for self-awareness. Silicon appeared (when the story was written, and appears still) to be a real alternative.

          • ciphergoth says:

            I am sure that meat is not the only thing you can build a thinking machine from. And I think it's very likely, in fact, that our cultural grandchildren who explore the universe will not be made from meat, and that the intelligences they meet on the way won't be either. But I think that the only sort of intelligence that can arise from cosmic dust without intelligent intervention will be the sort that's made from something that's evolved - something more like meat than like computers.

            Thus my remark: these aliens may not be meat, and they may have been made by non-meat intelligences, but somewhere in their distant past meat made their ancestors.

            • pavel_lishin says:

              I think the point of the story is that they were not, in fact, built by meat at any point. They even mention multiple other life forms that weren't meat.

              In the real world, sure, it's not very likely that anything can skip the meat stage of evolution. Then again, we don't know a lot about the real world.

    • hwc says:

      "Your ancestors were built by thinking meat."

      That's a provincial attitude. As if meat were the only thing that could evolve sentience.

  5. ultranurd says:

    Pretty good, for a meat product.

    I think it was a good choice to remove the point about isolation at the end of the story from the adaptation - it wouldn't have fit with the way they were portraying the other diner patrons as curiosities.

    • gytterberg says:

      Also they seem rather uncomfortable, with the weird meat-patrons doing their thing all around them.

      The end of the story feels like chatter - not something they'd do sitting incognito in a diner.

  6. bitwise says:

    Actually, I'd really like to see all of the award-winners.

    But other than this one, none of the others are online.

    Is there some sort of indie short-film cash cow that they're going to miss out on if people can download the stuff? Are they just incensed at the idea of people "disrespecting their intellectual property"?

    • jayrtfm says:

      "Is there some sort of indie short-film cash cow that they're going to miss out on if people can download the stuff?"

      a scrawny, malnourished, prion infected one, but it does moo.

  7. ckd says:

    Also, it has the guy from "Cash Cab". I kept expecting the ceiling to light up.