The Literary Invention of In Vitro Meat: Ontology, Nostalgia and Debt in Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants

  • John Miller
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


While it is still some way from commercial production, in vitro meat (IVM) is drawing significant media coverage. IVM’s promise is meat without suffering, with a diminished ecological footprint and potential for addressing global food shortages. For all its novelty, IVM (or something very like it) has been present in creative literature since at least 1881, with a particular concentration of references appearing in Cold War science fiction. After an initial survey of the literary pre-history of in vitro meat, this chapter focuses on Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth’s 1952 novel The Space Merchants, a stinging critique of post-war programmes of agricultural intensification that revolves around Chicken Little, a decades-old “hundred-ton lump of grey-brown rubbery flesh”. Although the novel nostalgically valorises a lost pastoral world of purportedly authentic human–animal relations, The Space Merchants is not a straightforwardly conservative text, however, but one which raises crucial questions about the cultural meaning and ideological function of IVM.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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