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What Measure Is A Non Human: Literature
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Trillian is the only one who consistently treats Marvin as more than just a robot (or at least tries to). Marvin is hard-pressed to deal with that.
  • In the Xanth book A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony, a manticore asks a wizard whether it, only being 10% human, has a soul like they do. The answer is that the mere act of wondering whether one has a soul is proof of having one.
  • Animorphs called attention to this one. The main characters are humans who resist an invasion of aliens called Yeerks while maintaining a Masquerade to the effect that this resistance consists not of humans, but of Andalites, a species of alien opposed to the Yeerks. One Yeerk figures out the truth by noticing that these supposed "Andalites" have killed many nonhuman aliens, but have seldom or never a human. Not to say that the killing of sentient aliens doesn't have an effect on the group (the leader laters suffers serious psychological problems because, near the end of the series, he orders several thousand sentient creatures killed with one punch of a button. And it wasn't particularly necessary.)
    • This trope was also used to demonstrate how dangerous Sixth Ranger Traitor David was. He claimed that he would never kill another human, but shortly after he transforms for the first time (as a golden eagle) he dive-bombs and kills a real bird for no reason. This foreshadows his later willingness to murder the other Animorphs while they were transformed, since he would "just be killing an animal". He also didn't have a problem with trying to kill Ax, who was an alien. He was, however, unable to bring himself to kill a helpless Marco, and later retreated from a fight against Cassie he probably could have won.
    • Also used by the emissary of Crayak, who was not allowed to directly kill sentient organic species. Paraphrased:
      "But you are killing us"
      "No, I am merely putting you in a very hard to escape situation, if you can't figure it out, it's not my fault"
      "But you are killing the Chee" (A race of sentient androids)
      "They are just robots"
      "What about the whale?"
      "It is barely sentient, I will save it."
    • The Chee are generally treated as people by the Animorphs, who are used to dealing with non-humans (One of them is a bird, one is an alien), and can't afford to be picky about their allies. However, in the finale, Jake relentlessly exploits their non-violent programming. He's an asshole to everyone by that point, but this particular morally questionable act is apparently the only one he doesn't feel sorry for afterwards.
    • The two primary Always Chaotic Evil races, Yeerks and Taxxons, who are slaughtered without second thoughts for most of the series, receive some sympathy by the Animorphs (in particular Cassie and Tobias, respectively), when it's discovered that their behaviour is caused by biological factors. This doesn't save them from being slaughtered en masse.
      • It's also revealed that some or most Taxxons would prefer to be slaughtered than live with the hunger (though a peaceful solution is immediately put into effect when it's discovered that Taxxons aren't willingly Always Chaotic Evil, the What Measure Is a Non-Human? just gets transferred to the entire flight-incapable population of the Amazon jungle).
  • Surprisingly, this theme comes up a lot in the Goosebumps series.
    • "A Shocker on Shock Street" has two android children, unaware of their real identities, being employed to test out increasingly dangerous horror park attractions by their "father." These machines show real human emotions, and their creator doesn't care as long as he has someone to test the park. In the TV adaptation, though, they turn on him in a very satisfying manner.
    • "My Hairiest Adventure" is about a group of couples who have their dogs illegally experimented on to evolve them into human kids, because they aren't ready to have children. Eventually, the process begins to wear off, and the dogs/kids are terrified. They do grow accustomed to their true identities, but that doesn't excuse how these people screwed with their beloved pets.
    • "Stay Out of the Basement" tells the story of Mad Scientist Michael Brewer, who creates a series of grotesque human plant clones from his own DNA. One of these creatures kidnaps Brewer,tries to take over his life, and is eventually slaughtered by its creator with an axe. He later does the same to the rest of the plants, although this is somewhat justified because they were faulty and suffering.
    • In "The Curse of Camp Cold Lake" the protagonist Sarah meets the ghost of Della Raver, a lonely young camper who died in a tragic accident, and now wants a buddy to go to the afterlife. Sarah not only refuses, but rather callously disregards Dellas earlier kindness, probably because she's undead. You can't really blame Della for reacting the way she did.
  • Jim Butcher's The Dresden Fileshas it built into the in-universe Laws of Magic: Killing a human with magic? Punishable by Death. Killing a vampire/ogre/werewolf/fae with magic? Perfectly fine. Using Necromancy to raise humans as zombies? Punishable by Death. Using Necromancy to raise animals as zombies? Frowned upon, but technically allowed. Using Necromancy to raise a Tyrannosaurus rex? Awesome.
    • It also has this to the point where some of the heroes are trying to save the souls of Demons fallen angels. and it works in the case of Lash. Or rather, an imprinted copy of the Fallen Angel Lasciel in Harry's mind. Actual fallen angels are said to be irredeemable, and the Knights of the Cross who follow Honor Before Reason are amazed that it is even possible for a fallen's shadow to do a Heel-Face Turn. The books follow the trope to an extent: ghouls, Red & Black Court vampires, being Always Chaotic Evil and ugly, are mowed down by the dozen. Zombies, being reanimated corpses, are crushed with not even a single thought. Even Renfields, humans who have been irreversibly brainwashed into serving Black Court vampires, are treated as mooks by everyone except Lt. Murphy, who being a police officer, has trouble killing anything human.
    • As for Renfields, though, part of the problem with killing them is that they are physically normal humans, which means that unlike most supernatural entities they leave normal corpses. Killing a Renfield would look like murder, would arguably be murder, and would leave a normal body lying around quite clearly suffering from a bullet hole or whatever.
    • On the other hand, there are exceptions. Vampires have a phase in which they are partially converted (Red Court and White Court, at least; if Black Court do, we don't see it) during which time they can and should be helped and treated like people, albeit dangerous people. Harry tries to spare the life of werewolves, even dangerous ones ( even though he doesn't succeed). Harry treats faeries like people, and the only people we see who don't are, indeed, evil.
    • It's also pointed out that the reason Harry has no mercy for fully-turned Red vampires even though they still possess a degree of their human personality is because to get to that state, you have to have drained a human to death- meaning that all Red vampires are murderers by definition, usually many times over.
      • And in a similar vein, the reason killing a Renfield is acceptable is because, as mentioned above, the transformation is irreversible. Renfields are created by a vampire smashing a human's brain into slavery with raw mental force. Anything human in a Renfield is already dead, there is only an untameable Ax-Crazy ball of gibbering hatred. Even if nobody kills them, they eventually lose all sanity and start smashing anything in their path. Thralls, which are much more delicately controlled and can recover from control, are not so casually dispatched.
    • The Laws of Magic explicitly only apply to humans - both use of and use upon. Nonhumans using black magic is not in and of itself a violation of any Laws because they're not humans that are using black magic (though the Council destroys hostile nonhuman magic users on principle anyway). And in a similar vein, use of black magic on a nonhuman doesn't have any repercussions either; a wizard can blow away a thousand fairies or vampires and the Council couldn't care less. This is primarily because the Laws were written only to protect mortals from destructive use of magic, and the Council itself doesn't care about nonhumans. Jim Butcher himself pointed out that the Laws were written by humans, for humans, and that they're not intended to be fair to nonhumans.
      • Butcher didn't seem adverse to playing around with whether the Laws are natural or man made. Harry describes breaking the laws as leaving a stain on you, that spurs you toward further depravity, much like the Dark Side of the Force. A part of his self esteem issues comes from believing that his education in black magic has left him impure, and he's only one step away from turning into Charles Manson. He was especially worried that this would happen to his apprentice.
    • Aside from the Laws, in some of the earlier books, Harry all but states that he doesn't consider nonhumans to be people, even if they're intelligent, sane, incredibly humanlike, or even related to him (He gets better.). However, this doesn't affect the way he actually treats them. Part of this may have something to do with humans being the only beings to have souls.
      • Except that Bob explicitly says that humans aren't the only thing that has souls. Angels, for instance, are composed of only soul and nothing else.
  • A major running theme of the later books of Orson Scott Card's first Ender series (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind), where aliens (human and non-) are rated based on how alike to oneself they are. It is acceptable - or at least a necessary evil - to kill aliens that are hostile and are impossible to communicate with, or that are possible to communicate with but so different in mindset that communication is essentially futile (lumped together under the term "varelse"). Non-human aliens that can be communicated with and peacefully coexisted with are termed "ramen." Perhaps most important to this scale is that these values are relative to the evaluator's own understanding of the alien: that is, once someone understands how to communicate with an alien, they instantly switch from varelse to ramen. Any alien species in the "varelse" category is a deficiency of understanding of the human classifying them as such. As such, some aliens encountered move from varelse to ramen over the course of one or more books, usually not without a significant degree of bloodshed before understanding by both sides is attained.
    • Ultimately, the definition of "varelse" is changed: ones you cannot communicate with you simply stay away from. Varelse are species that knowingly exterminate other intelligent species; Humanity missed this with the Buggers by a single fertile female, and the Piggies by a Deus ex Machina involving teleportation. So the jury's still out on whether or not Humans Are the Real Monsters.
      • The Formics dissected a human crew alive and invaded Earth, then followed it up with a second invasion before they realized humans were also sentient (but on an individual, rather than hive level), so it's not a question of whether Humans Are the Real Monsters or Humans Don't Want to Die Horribly and an inability for the two species to communicate and rectify some horrible misunderstandings. The treatment of the Piggies, on the other hand, is inexcusable, but the Moral Event Horizon is only really crossed by one officer, exceeding his legal authority, who decides he must make a moral sacrifice for the sake of humanity, by playing a villain and wiping out the Piggies...
    • Wait. The ones humans can live in peace with are called "ramen"?
  • In a similar vein, much of the plot of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (later adapted into Blade Runner) revolves around androids who are so incredibly advanced that it is impossible to tell them apart from actual humans without elaborate tests that need professional training to perform. The main character is a bounty hunter of androids, and he frequently questions the morality of what he is doing.
    • About half of everything PKD wrote deals with this trope.
      • In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the differences between a human and an android (an underlying lack of empathy for other living beings) are introduced early, vanishingly small, and surprisingly significant. In We Can Build You, the robots are more human than one of the lead characters.
  • A central theme in House of the Scorpion where clones are declared nonhuman simply so they can be harvested for organs.
  • Something very like this is involved in C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair. The Big Bad forsakes a human form for that of a ginormous snake just before being vanquished, which makes hacking her head off more acceptable despite the fact that it's still the same person. May be more a case of Wouldn't Hit a Girl.
    • Definitely a case of Wouldn't Hit a Girl, the hero even states as much.
    • In the same book, there's the different reactions the main characters have once they overhear the origins of the meat they've just been fed while staying with some giants...
    • Also the Big Bad's mooks. At first the children regard them as demonic and evil but after the Bad is defeated it is revealed that they were enslaved by a spell and are, depite their appearance not demons at all.
  • In Lee Lightner's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Sons of Fenris, Cadmus, while surrounded by servitors, nevertheless thinks of himself as alone because they are more machine than man. They really are- and not sentient machines either. Aside from physical enhancements, the process of creating a Servitor essentially consists of tearing out any part of the original human brain not immediately useful for the Servitor's assigned task. In a real sense they're dead- the practice of creating them shows just how much measure even a human is in the Crapsack World of Warhammer 40,000. Although a Tech Priest would see otherwise.
  • Used in reverse in Eric Nylund's A Pawn's Dream, Near the start of the story, a Dreamer shoots a coworker of the main character in the head while making sure he is caught on camera, then hires two corrupt cops to beat up and kidnap the protagonist. He then "rescues" the protagonist by killing the cops. He justifies his actions with "they were just non-Dreamers". The only difference between humans and Dreamers is a genetic ability to switch between the two worlds when asleep, giving them magic powers. This is apparently enough difference that humans can be killed just in case your secondary plan, mail him a letter, fails.
  • Subverted in Terry Pratchett's The Fifth Elephant, in which the conscientious Sam Vimes insists on going through proper police procedure, including asking the creature whether it is resisting arrest, before firing on an insane werewolf. The ethics of killing "monsters" that are also sentient creatures in the Discworld is dealt with in several of its books. For instance, Granny Weatherwax insists on having an anthropomorphic wolf given a proper burial after it is killed at its own request.
    • The Big Bad was bringing Fairy Tales to life. In the fairy tale, the Big Bad Wolf behaves like a human, but it's okay to kill him like a wolf. By burying him as if he were human, Granny was fighting the story. So Pratchett was playing with how the story of Little Red Riding Hood is an example of this trope.
    • Carrot's freeing of Dorfl started the golems' own peaceful self-liberation, and he once arrested a dragon.
      • This is Carrot, after all. It would have been more surprising if he hadn't attempted to do those things
    • Reaper Man even includes a zombie civil-rights activist, who moonlights as a police officer "Undead? Yes. Un-Person? NO!" And in the same book, after Windle Poons becomes a zombie, he's actually somewhat more alive than most humans.
    • In the Science of Discworld books, the Real Life chapters discuss how, as a holdover from tribal thinking, people often treat "human" status as if it's something conferred through cultural programming and education (the "Make-A-Human kit"), rather than something you're born with. Grow up in a foreign culture, learning different signals and customs, and you're not really a True Human Being to such tribe-oriented thinkers.
  • Handling the Undead (Hanteringen av odöda in Swedish) by John Ajvide Lindqvist is an incredible example of this conflict. The dead come back to life, and depending on how long they've been buried they may even retain basic speech and go through the same routines they did in life. This leads to a social debate about the morality of killing them and if they deserve any basic human rights.
  • The wizarding world of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter has thought this out extensively, befitting a society full of Half Human Hybrids and talking animals. According to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in 1811 (after extensive debate) the Minister for Magic decreed that a "being" (as opposed to a "beast"), was:
    "[A]ny creature that has sufficient intelligence to understand the laws of the magical community and to bear part of the responsibility in shaping those laws."
Centaurs and merpeople qualify as beings under this standard, but opted out.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, during the scene where Umbridge clashes with the resident centaur herd. She refers to them as having "near-human intelligence" and thus a responsibility to obey the law, but the centaurs themselves state that "[their] intelligence far outstrips [her] own" and carry her off.
  • What Measure is a House Elf. The bad guys cheerfully abuse House Elves. Hermione always cared for them, and Harry and Ron come around over the course of the series.
  • The matter of Muggles is more complicated. The bad guys treat them (and Muggle-born wizards) as subhuman and torture or kill them for fun. The good guys treat them with more sympathy:
    Royal (Kingsley Shacklebolt): "We continue to hear truly inspirational stories of wizards and witches risking their own safety to protect Muggle friends and neighbours, often without the Muggles' knowledge. I'd like to appeal to all our listeners to emulate their example, perhaps by casting a Protective Charm over any Muggle dwellings in your street. Many lives could be saved if such simple measures are taken."
    River (Lee Jordan): "And what would you say, Royal, to those listeners who reply that in these dangerous times, it should be "wizards first?""
    Royal (Kingsley Shacklebolt): "I'd say that it's one short step from "wizards first" to "pure-bloods first", and then to "Death Eaters". We're all human, aren't we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving."
However, that sympathy does not extend to letting them in on The Masquerade and giving them the choice to flee the country when the Big Bad takes power, or giving them legal protection from being Mind Wiped whenever it's convenient.
  • Charles Stross plays with this a fair amount.
    • In The Jennifer Morgue, it's a reasonably major plot point that the CIA doesn't consider anyone with demonic ancestry to be legally human.
    • Early in Accelerando, the main character delivers an impassioned (and eventually mostly successful) plea for the rights of digitally uploaded personalities.
    • In Saturn's Children, Mankind is extinct, but the robots he created are still around, and still debating what rules apply to them.
  • The creature in Frankenstein created by the eponymous Dr. Frankenstein definitely falls under this trope. Even with his intelligence and (at the beginning) good heart, because he's a collection of reanimated dead matter, his fearsome appearance, and unchecked strength, he is immediately considered evil by not only his creator, but anyone who sees him. Therefore, despite the creature practically being his child, Victor has no remorse over his hatred and desire for the creature to die, simply because the creature is not really a human (and looks damn scary to boot). This isn't at all portrayed positively, and the fact that the creature genuinely becomes brutal and vindictive is treated as entirely Frankenstein's fault.
    • Fred Saberhagen calls Dr. Frankenstein out on this trope in The Frankenstein Papers, revealing that Victor's research had been funded by slave traders who'd hoped his creation would be the first of a new race of super-strong, super-hardy disposable laborers. He also subverts it, having the creature meet up with some Inuit villagers in the Arctic who admire the newcomer's physical prowess, and so treat him like a man. Oh, and he's not a golem, he's an alien with amnesia.
  • In The Thief of Always, the hero remorselessly kills off the Big Bad's thoroughly convincing and, for all intents and purposes, living minions because they're just dust given life through illusion. The Big Bad calls him on this, pointing out that even if they weren't "real", he still killed them.
  • Michael Crichton's final published book, Next, has quite a lot to say about this issue, as it has a few transgenic animal/humans in its cast of characters. (And indeed, Dave's backstory is very sad.) That said, it eventually gets to the point where even the rights of individual cells are questioned.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro explores this issue with tragic results. The main characters are clones created for medical purposes, who will eventually die young as they become "donors". Hailsham boarding school was created in order to give the children better quality of life before they were forced to donate, as the first generations of clones were subject to horrendous conditions and were barely treated as people. Despite this, they are taught not to go against the donor program and willingly accept their slow deaths.
  • Explored repeatedly in the "Second Foundation trilogy" by Bear, Brin, and Benford as they re-examine Asimov's Foundation universe. Asimovian robots are clearly sapient (if not always nice) beings, but have been programmed to protect humanity at all costs. They have no such restrictions regarding each other (they fight a galaxy-wide war over how best to control guide take care of humans, and are prepared to execute one robot whose Three Laws have been accidentally erased because he might harm a human) or aliens (having wiped out multiple sapient species while terraforming the galaxy). Even "hero" Daneel Olivaw has considered secretly replacing "real" humans with re-engineered chimps made to look like the real thing but be more controllable.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Colonization series, America secretly launches a nuclear strike against the Race's colonization fleet. Focus character Sam Yeager learns the truth and informs the Race, who respond by nuking Indianapolis in retribution (which in turn leads to the suicide of the President who ordered the attack). For the rest of the series, almost every member of the US government treats Yeager with thinly-veiled contempt or hatred for "selling out". When he likens the attack to Pearl Harbor, he's dismissed because the victims were "just Lizards".
    • This was quite possibly right, since this troper has never heard Atvar say sorry for Washington, and none of the humans ever called him out on it, even in 'Homeward Bound'. In fact, this trope is majorly subverted by the race when dealing with us, and the only reason they don't nuke us out of existence is because the colonisation fleet is on the way.
  • The book I Am Legend has this trope as a plot point; in fact, it's the biggest one at the end of the book, when the protagonist learns that there are also "vampires" that don't feed on humans and yet he's been killing indiscriminately — in effect, he has become their monster. To be fair, he didn't know about them.
  • In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, the genetically modified Blues and Reds are non-human in human eyes, and can be bought and sold. Landing in a place where they interbred with normal humans produces Culture Clash. (This place also has plenty of aliens, giving them reasons to stick together.)
  • The orcs in The Lord of the Rings have names and personalities, seem to be at least mildly intelligent, and probably have some kind of families since they can reproduce. When Sam sees "evil" humans killed in battle, he wonders whether they were truly evil or simply misled. Nobody in-universe spares such sentimental thoughts for orcs. Out-of-universe, Tolkien was troubled by the Unfortunate Implications of an Always Chaotic Evil race until the day he died.
  • Used for a brief moment of drama near the end of Stephen Baxter's Manifold: Space. Nemoto, a woman who remains on Earth, has usually communicated with protagonists traveling in space with holographic projections. One, however, is different—an advanced "limited-sentience projection", a copy of Nemoto's personality in a holographic "body". The characters, who have been away for subjective centuries due to relativity, have to ask what a "limited-sentience projection" is. Virtual Nemoto explains, bringing the concept into her awareness, then has just enough time to look horrified before her time expires and she evaporates into unbound light.
  • A bizarre inversion occurs in Twilight Watch. The main hero Anton practically has to enforce this maxima upon himself before he can resolve to face a renegade vampire and his ex-friend Kostya. As expressed in his briefing with the head of the Watch Geser:
    Anton:"I will kill Kostya."
    Geser:"Wrong words, watchman. Say it right."
    Anton:"I will subdue the vampire."
    Geser:[Nods approvingly]
  • Used, apparently without irony, in several of the Forgotten Realms novels, where it is repeatedly stated that killing a member of a non-'goodly' race is a glorious thing for the protagonists, while killing a human often requires a great degree of soul searching. This is most obvious in the books about Drizzt, a redeemed member of an 'evil' (but pretty) race. Neither he nor any of the other characters even consider the possibility that members of other 'evil' (and less photogenic) races can also be redeemed, or even have lives that are worth as much as their own.
    • At least, nobody considers it until a goblin calls Drizzt out on this one.
      • Rather a case of What Measure Is a Non-Cute? (Dark Mirror). So "Forgotten Realms novels" here means mostly early Salvatore. That is, say, in Counselors and Kings a sight of a sprite pinned to a board seemed to finally convince one archmage that his colleague will look better as a handful of ashes or something like.
    • This gets more heavily explored in the Hunter's Blades Trilogy and The Orc King and The Pirate King novels. King Obould is originally seen as a horrible, evil creature by the heroes for leading an army of orcs to conquer a good bit of the north. Granted, he has no problem slaughtering people and taking their heads as trophies, but he ultimate goal is to establish a permanent home for the orcs and for them to develop into something more than savage cavemen. When he explains this to Drizzt, Drizzt reacts with muted shock, assuming that Obould must be insane not to realize his people's place in the world. Eventually Obould succeeds in creating a stable orc state, and indeed succeeds in convincing Drizzt that his way is better than endless conflict, even though he was personally responsible for the death of one of Drizzt's good friends. As the books continue, Drizzt himself wonders in his journal if the common perception of killing a dwarf, human, or elf being horrible but killing a drow or an orc being completely acceptable, expected, and celebrated is a valid stance, or if it is as illogical as the brutal rules that traditionally dominate those societies.
      • That and, the whole mess with Obould started and grew that big only because, technicaly, he just wanted to avenge an intentional sacrilege against his god. Not that he didn't saw this as a perfect pretext for some conquest, and not that it all wasn't a part of old feuds, but still.
  • Many of Cordwainer Smith's stories deal with the "underpeople," human-like creatures created from animals in order to be slaves. However, as his future history goes on, they start to desire and eventually get at least some rights.
  • In the novelisation of Iron Man 2, Tony notes that he doesn't feel compelled to hold back against the Hammeroids the way he would against humans. Since they are piloted by remote control, they are almost definitely non-sentient.
  • In the beginning of the series, The Guardians regard vampires at best as victims and at worst as abominations. Colin calls Michael out on this and demands to be recognized as a person capable of choosing between good and evil. Since then, the Guardians have been working with vampire communities to mutual benefit.
  • Bolos, full stop. It gets a bit weird when the tanks themselves angst over their human colleagues growing too attached to them. Although in one story a Bolo tells his commander that he believes humanity assigns commanders to Bolos precisely to subvert this. Having a human onboard does not have a noticeable impact on the Bolo's fighting capability but he believes humanity does it anyway because they feel a need to share the risks run by the Bolo's in their defense.
    • There's also a surprising amount of tearjerkers since the Bolos' personalities are so well written and crafted that, hell, they're a lot better developed than the human characters and easy to get emotionally invested in.
  • In Twilight Dragon, normal people regard faders, psychics, hanekuro, and AI as non-humans who should all either get off the planet or outright die.
  • Kij Johnson's short story, "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change", takes place after an unspecified event has granted human-like intelligence to dogs, cats, and a handful of other nonhumans. It explores this trope. Cats and dogs can now speak with humans. The thing is, they are still pets, with all that implies. Consider how humans have treated cats and dogs throughout history before you assume you'd want to find out what they'd have to say about humans. Before the events in the story, most pet dogs and all pet cats have been disowned because their former masters just could not deal. By the end, many of the packs of Changed dogs are rounded-up and poisoned; officially they are a "health hazard", but the implication is that the humans just wanted everything to go back to some kind of normal.
  • Rainbow Six has the villains think that the lives of animals are worth as much as that of humans. Then again, they are eco-terrorists who want most of humanity dead so the planet can supposedly recover. Both the heroes and the not quite in-the-loop Dragon are confused by this, to which the Big Bads reply that they would never understand.
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, the hero tortures one of the villain's mooks to try to get information from another. He slackens off without getting what he wanted, realizing that he was invoking this trope. That thought horrifies him — just because they were two paintings who came to life, and whom the villain had sent to kill him didn't mean torturing them was all right. At the end, however, having dealt with the Big Bad, he offers to leave these two mooks alone if they do the same for him, and makes an apparent Big Bad for the Satellite Love Interest, who couldn't help the personality the Big Bad inflicted on her, and might improve with this much nicer copy.
  • Artemis Fowl was perfectly willing to kidnap and extort fairies when he imagined them to essentially be The Fair Folk, but when he has extended contact with them he grows increasingly uncomfortable with his actions due to how similar to humans they are. After the job is finished, he resolves that he won't target fairies in such a manner again.
    • The fairies themselves subvert this. Fairy spiritual law forbids them from killing one another. They extend this sentiment to trolls, despite the fact that trolls are extremely dangerous animals and definitely not sapient.
  • The majority of the human colonists of the planet Athshe in The Word for World is Forest have no qualms about beating, raping, and killing the native populace. Casually and derogatorily referred to as "creechies", the Athsheans are clearly viewed as lesser beings than humans.
  • In the Temeraire series most European non-riders consider dragons to be talking animals and nothing more, even if they clearly are sentient beings. Captainless dragons on breeding grounds are thought to be savage beasts due to lack of smoothing human influence. Even Laurence seems to think this way at the beginning. There is a memorable scene in which he sees nothing wrong in killing a sea serpent because he can't use human language. Temeraire is upset, as he still considers this creature to be similar himself. In later books they discover that other countries like China, Tswana tribe and France give dragons equal status to humans, the chance to amass their own property, and a place in a political system. Then a group of dragons with their own language and culture is introduced. Dragon characters without a human companion are presented as rational if a little alien beings. All of this makes Temeraire ask very uncomfortable questions.
  • In John C. Wright's Count to a Trillion, the spaceship crew set their electronic copies to fight each other to the death. Repeatedly, to ensure that it was no fluke.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, von Horn argues the men can be killed out of hand. Then again, he's the Bad Guy...
    "No, no!" he almost shouted. "It would be murder. They are—"
    "They are THINGS," interrupted von Horn. "They are not human—they are not even beast. They are terrible, soulless creatures. You have no right to permit them to live longer than to substantiate your theory. None but us knows of their existence—no other need know of their passing. It must be done. They are a constant and growing menace to us all, but most of all to your daughter."
  • In John Carter of Mars, the titular character, to his credit, refers to all Martians as "human", regardless of culture or appearance.
  • In the short story "Camouflage" by Henry Kuttner, a criminal gang almost gets the drop on a cyborg implanted into a starship by convincing it that his wife no longer sees him as human and that everyone pities him as a thing rather than respecting him as a person. But the plan goes wrong when a member of the team said "You know I'd never have tried to kill you if you were still Bart Quentin." The brain suddenly realizes it's all a con, since you destroy a machine, but you can only kill the living.
  • In Warrior Cats, the cats never harm humans, instead opting to save them from danger at times. For example, in Warrior's Refuge, Graystripe realizes that humans find cats cute, and uses this to lure a toddler away from a pond that she nearly fell into. However, prey like mice and rabbits are slaughtered en-masse.
  • This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It, the sequel to David Wong's John Dies at the End, has a rare zombie–example. The questions raised are whether or not people infected by the titular spiders (people who are potential zombies) can still be considered people, and how are they different from the non-infected folk on the other side of the quarantine fence, and also if the answer to the previous question is still the same once said fence is removed.
  • Perry Rhodan tends to treat most intelligent alien species as worth no less than comparable humans. However, there's an odd double standard when it comes to "artificial" lifeforms, whether organic or mechanicalthose the series tends to fairly consistently rank lower than naturally evolved and thus apparently more "real" life (never mind any amount of Precursor-type meddling that may have happened to the latter in the past as well), and it's not unknown for characters who discover that they fall into the "artificial" category and just never knew about it to experience existential crises as a result.
  • Forever Gate: Hoodwink and the Users think little of Gols because they're artifical humans programed to do one thing and one thing only. They can't have more than a superficial conversation or they'll default to Welcome to Corneria.
  • In the first Stephanie Harrington novel, it's mentioned that the humans who colonized the planet of Barstool, upon discovering that it was already inhabited by a primitive sentient species, declared them to be animals, and wiped them out. To be fair, the rest of the human race pulled a What the Hell, Hero?, and Barstool still hasn't recovered from the damage the embargo did. For that matter, some planets still refuse to trade with them.
  • In the novel Mind Scan by Robert J. Sawyer the son of a woman who had uploaded her mind to an android body prior to death so she could live forever challenges her legal identity so he will get the estate as her next of kin. To prove his case that this android cannot legally be his mother, a theologian he calls as a witness says that androids lack souls. However when questioned by the upload's attorney, he admits that since in his view a soul cannot be detected through any scientific means, and is indestructible, her soul could have entered this android body. However, they still rule against her on the basis that only one person can exist with the same identity (whether this separate android is a person or not itself they do not say) and her identity thus terminated at the moment she copied her mind. It makes one wonder how the case would have gone assuming the woman made the android into her heir, rather than trying to give it the same identity...
  • This trope is in full play in the Moreau Series. The titular Moreaus were created as soldiers and workers in hazardous places, and treated as expendable despite being fully sapient. This has long-term consequences, as moreaus tend to have short lifespans and are prone to all severe physical degeneration with age. Even after the wars that spawned them are ended, they're treated as second-class citizens at best and slaves at worst across the globe. The engineered humans called Frankensteins are treated no better, despite looking fully or almost fully human (Evi Isham has catlike pupils for enhanced nightvision, while Mr K's skull is slightly deformed to accomodate his altered brain).
  • In _The Marvelous Land of Oz_ by L. Frank Baum, the antagonist General Jinjur says "I bear you no ill will, I assure you; but lest you should prove troublesome to me in the future I shall order you all to be destroyed. That is, all except the boy, who belongs to old Mombi and must be restored to her keeping. The rest of you are not human, and therefore it will not be wicked to demolish you." While the heroes consider this direly bad, no one says it would be murdering prisoners. Separately, the narrator notes that the Saw Horse (a sentient creature) enters the palace of the Tin Woodsman, 'having no idea that mounts would be expected to remain outside'.
  • Sydney Halgren Fates Road barely thinks twice when she's asked to create a spell that will wipe out every single magical creature in existence. She only begins to worry when she finds out it'll also kill the sorcerers.
  • The United States Supreme Court rules in The Nexus Series that since the Constitution only applies to humans, anyone using Nexus or other transhuman technologies has no rights under the law. Once parents start trying Nexus to communicate with their autistic children...
  • In Mercedes Lackey's "Bardic Voices" series, a "Law of Degree" is proposed—that is, the more like a human an intelligent non-human is, the more rights it has.

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