10 March 2014

Sci Fi at the feeder

This is for all the Sci-Fi fans, devotees of fantasy literature. For if there are any audible sounds that can inspire wild, fanciful impossibility, they can be summoned by uttering these five simple syllables:

"Outwitting Squirrels."

With this optimistic mantra as his book title, author Bill Adler Jr. has launched the third edition of the popular how-to, penned ostensibly to defend the honor and integrity of our nation's birdfeeders. But those of us in the know, the lucky few with the inside track, are painfully aware that this treatise is merely thin disguise for the anthem of a movement to thwart a purported Apocaplypse of American Democracy. By now, it is no secret: There are plans for a coup that will establish Government By Squirrel. (This is not, as some allege, a movement born in the underground. In fact, most of the conspiracy is taking shape in the treetops).

Adler's words serve as gentle propaganda to alert the masses of political overthrow proliferating on our lawns. Why else would his book feature an otherwise handsome visage of a squirrel, brazenly depicted on the front cover, depicting an unsuspecting Eastern Grey Squirrel as Snidely Whiplash, complete with bowler and moustache? This image is obviously PhotoShopped: no self-respecting squirrel would be caught in a bowler, and such stylized facial hair went out in the '60s.

The book's heart and soul, though, is the "101 Cunning Strategems" as its manifesto, many of which make an attempt to be cruelty-free. (The lack of a call for military intervention, by the way, is commendable - not just because most conflicts can, and should, be solved without militia and bloodshed, but because our nation's Department of Defense budget is already strained above its limits, and such open combat with the nation's rodentia has the potential to make the Crusades look like grade-school recess.) The squirrels would win, anyway.

Perhaps, though, if the word "war" is to be used at all in this context, it is best to invoke the image of the Cold War.

Indeed, in one chapter, "What to do if you think squirrels are cute," the author even offers a photo - no PhotoShopping here - of then-Soviet security chief Mikhail Dokuchayev feeding a squirrel on the lawn of the White House in 1988, at the time of Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's visit. (No question about the symbolism here, even though none of the squirrels in our nation's capital are now - or have they ever been - Red squirrels.)

And so we say this to Bill Adler: Your rights to free speech (and the freedom of your book's presses) are protected by the same Constitution that safeguards the squirrels' inalienable rights to crack their nuts in peace. And at heart I sense that the science of your fiction is more fiction than it is science. Toward that end, Strategy #101 exhorts us, perhaps a bit breathlessly, to "decide that squirrels aren't so bad after all."

Smart thinking, Mr. Adler, for they are, even now, ascending the trees enroute to the American Presidency. The Revolution will not be stopped. (Besides, a squirrel statesman could do no more harm than the past few administrations.) Therefore, open your heart and the nut-filled palm of your hand and - to borrow a phrase from some old Sci-Fi classics - Take Us to Your Feeder.