April 5, 2013

Ode to Spot

        April is National Poetry Month, and I can't miss the opportunity to share another fantasy poem… except this one isn't really fantasy.  I'm counting it as sci-fi despite the fact that the content isn't really explicitly speculative in any way.  However, this poem was composed by an android, so doesn't that count for something?  The poet is Lieutenant Commander Data of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The subject is Data's pet cat, Spot.  I think the poem is a perfect depiction of the whole sci-fi trope of thinking, sentient, almost-human robots and how they might view the world.  (I don't think obviate is really the word Data meant in the second stanza, but I guess his positronic dictionary must have experienced a slight malfunction.)
        The thing is, I've been hearing this poem a lot recently.  My son P has memorized it and spouts it at the least provocation.  (I'm so proud!)  So here it is:

Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses.

I find myself intrigued by your subvocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection.
A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents;
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
If often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.
Oh Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array.
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.
        (The poem was really written by Clay Dale, a visual effects artist for the show.  It first appeared in the episode called "Schisms" in 1992.)

[Picture: Cat Attack, rubber block print by AEGN, 1999.]

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