Article: List of Historical Events and Invented Scientific Articles in William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976)

(Ken Laidlaw’s cover for the 1977 edition)

I have fallen victim to hidden encyclopedic desires and delusions…

William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) was so compelling that I went through and marked each and every historical event and invented scientific article. Kotzwinkle might have believed one of the historical events was real (allegations of chemical warfare involving spiders and anthrax by the US in the Korean War) although most likely it’s a fabrication.

I examined at length in my review Kotzwinkle’s use of these two categories to create a “substrate” underpinning the world. This well-realized background causes the reader to, in my words, “increasingly wonder what is possible, what is happening, and what has already happened.” I suggest “Doctor Rat derives its power from not only the brutality of what unfolds but also the careful integration of both the historical and the imaginary.” Simultaneously, as the scientific citations are mentioned as part of Doctor Rat’s own “contributions” to the scientific world, they tend to operate as satirical indicators of cruelty done in the name of scientific progress.

These citations also add to the “compulsive syndrome” (175) of the novel’s conclusion as scientific tidbits, pseudo-scientific citations, historical events (both real and imaginary) collide….


Invented Scientific Articles

“It’s a 12-inch metal disc (for more, see my learned paper, “Rats on the Wheel,” Psy. Journal., 1963).” (10)

“Thank you, friends and fellow supporters, thanks for your confidence. As you know, the rat is man’s best friend. You’ve seen the advertisement in Modern Psychology magazine: “The Rat is Our Friend.'” (17)

“Listen to your true friend, the good Doctor rat, and learn about gut reality (see my paper, “Removal of the Rat’s Stomach,” Anat. Dig., 1967).” (30)

“Their skin was slit from head to tail and their flesh joined together, along with their clavicle bones and abdominal muscles (see my paper ‘Parabiotic Rats,” Exper. Biol., 1972).'” (35)

“As you can hear for yourself, these results conform exactly to those gotten for the past forty-eight years (see my paper, “On Roasting a Rat,” Journal Med., 1970).” (40)

“Please, my dear fellow rats, your demands are simply outrageous. Restrain your tails in a turkish towel, folding along line C-D (Fig. 19) and fasten them with safety pins (“Restraining the Rat,” Mag. Psych. Gen., 1965).” (41)

“I haven’t felt anything so powerful since I had my last sublethal dose of insulin (see my paper, “Average Lethal Dose for Rats,” Phar. Mag., 1971).” (52)

“A little sterile paraffin oil in your skulls has given you big ideas!” (See “Injecting Mineral Oil into the Frontal Bone,” Scien. Journ., 1969).” (69)

“I’ve got to crawl over wire…. crawling over… down along this narrow channel. They’ll pay for this. The’ll be sorry they tossed Doctor Rat in the pen, cf. Temporary Dominance among Males, Perkins and Morgan.” (69)

“But what is this! The rebels! In the Goal Room! Sitting here in the sacred Psychological center, at the very heart of the Fishbinder Box–see his paper, “Specific Needs of Rats.” (70)

“Perhaps you saw my paper, “Off with Their Heads,” Scien. Dig., 1974.” (74)

“I’ve got something–see “Braining a Rat”: roof of cranium removed and cerebral hemispheres scooped out with a spoon.” 75

“Slippery sides on this fucking thing. But Doctor Rat is f-f-familiar with the drive phenomena. (cf. Vickers’ stimulation of the cerebral cortex fibers).” (85)

“Just a moment, I’m familiar with this ship! I read about it only a few weeks ago in Science Journal. Yes, of course, this ship is Triton II, from the World Institute of Oceanography.” (86)

“I much prefer the incomparable comparing of statistics–for example, those of every rat born with his ass on backwards, see my paper, “The Effect of Arsenic Toxide on Rectal Development,” 1967.” (110)

“In my day, I’ve hung here for hours while graduate assistants took notes. The results are included in their learned dissertation, “Rats on High Wire,” Psy. Bull. 1969. If hung on a wire, a rat will hang there—.” (116)

“I’m getting rather dizzy… my nose is itchy… a somewhat quickened flow of ideas… good heavens! Addiction in Rats, pages 234-48, “Initial Effects of Opium,” 1969.” (119)

“Flutterings over the pulmonary valve and mitral area. Profound sensation of deformity, my elbow connected to my rectum (cf. “Opium-Eating Rats,” British Journal of Inebriety, 1935). (119)

Note: There was a Journal of Inebriety but not in the 1930s—rather 1876-1914.

“Crawling along here through the gutter, carrying a saxophone, my paws stuck in black tar (cf. “Drug Loss of Reality,” Psychiatrie und Neurologie).” (120)

“A little acetylcholine iodine in their biscuit would change their tune in a hurry. They’d be crying bloody tears (see Typical Action of Acetylcholine Iodine in Rats).” (130)

“Rebel flashlights scanning the ceiling, the floor. They’ve lost sight of me, the liverless louts (cf. Weight of the Extirpated Liver […]).” (139)

“High incidence of burrow sealing, Atkinson and Davis, Sociological Transport Studies, 1956.” (147)

Note: Another “real” area of studies but doesn’t appear to be a real article. The blending of real and imaginary.

“I try to sock it to her… but it won’t… it won’t… the penis will not become engorged with blood and support bone (os penis) does not support (cf. The Castrated Rat, Bentley and Swen, 1956).” (147)

“Stop, you buggers!” See Buggery in Rhesus Monkeys, Harris and Logan, Nord College Series.” (153)

“Good heavens, this rat just beyond the doorway is wearing the pink identity tag (Homosexuality in Rats, Rutledge and Hall; see also Socially Outcast All-Male Groups, Randall and Bailey).” (156-57)

“I’M BEING BUGGERED! (See Buggery in Male Rats–Doctor Rat, Work-in-Progress).” (159)

“The government is paying top dollar for our three-year study program—Electronic Ejaculate Control in the Supercharged Primate Penis and Related Rectum.” (167)

“Back, you mangy overgrown mouse! Cf. Territorial Defense, Sloan and Wilson, 1960.” (177)

“A Growth Hormone goon leaps in front of me. The bastard’s bigger than a Gambian Pouched Rat. But I arch my back and begin tooth-chattering (cf. “Rat Rage,” Broome and Poole, Psy. Post, 1967).” (177)

“Christ, here come the hooded rats, and those boys are really frustrated, Five Hooded Rats in the Discrimination Box, Drake and Akins.” (179)

“We’re getting 350 million bucks a year for this one, friends, us and fifty other American universities—see Viet Report, 1969.” (192)

Thanks to the cooperation of Cornell, we’ve determined the most effective way to deliver these agents (see Science Mag., Feb 23, 1967).” (192)

“Crawling over the stones, and into the shadows. The silence is rather unnerving (cf. Musgrave and Hamilton, The Extinct Species).” (215)

Historical Events

“Every pregnant rat in the laboratory miscarries immediately. Fewer rebels to swell the ranks! I’ve got you now, you chinky bitches! (cf. The Women of Lam Dong Province, Medical Diary of Dr. Nguyen, Russell War Crimes Tribunal).” (182)

Note: The diary of Dr. Nguyen describes various defoliant chemical attacks in Vietnam in November 1964. Doctor Rat takes on the racist and jingoistic views of the most fervent pro-Vietnam War voices who don’t care about killing innocents.

“Sending out the death cloud (cf. The 18,000 Inhabitants of Da Nang, Natus Disease, 1,000 Dead, Japanese Science Council Report, 1967).” (182)

Note: See The Vietnam War: A Primary Source History (2005) for a brief discussion of the Da Nang chemical attack, 34. I suspect there are better sources out there. It appears Kotzwinkle inflated the number of dead.

“Down goes the special container of spiders carrying good old hemorrhagic anthrax meningitis. Furry crawling black spiders, leaving the bottle bomb, and moving toward the enemy (cf. The K’uan-Tien Incident, March 12, 1952, International Scientific Commission Report).” (204)

Note: Most likely this is a fraudulent historical event. At the time Kotzwinkle, and many others, thought it was real. I cannot find conclusive evidence (by contemporary historians) or that much information on the incident. Historians seem torn on whether or not Americans used or tested chemical weapons in the Korean War — see the wikipedia article for a brief summary of the allegations.

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8 thoughts on “Article: List of Historical Events and Invented Scientific Articles in William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976)

  1. I’ve mentioned this work before, but I think Karel Capek’s War with the Newts (1936) could be viewed as a early form of this science-fictional-satire-posing-as-a-scientific-document. Capek makes a parallel between the Newts and the Nazis (there’s your more obvious political satire), but the biological studies on Newt anatomy and (especially) psycho-sexual characteristics are based (to some degree at least) on zoological research available at the time.

    • There are also a lot of Victorian and earlier novels that purport to be “true” events and pose as “scientific” — Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) comes to mind (although I’m not sure, I read it years ago, how “satirical” it was!). If I remember correctly he includes charts of plague victims etc which he invented….

    • Have you read Doctor Rat? I loved all of it… from the bizarre fake academic quotations, the surreal scenes of a maniacal rat, the snippets of perverse and creepy poetry.

  2. I enjoy your posts as Dr. Rat is my favorite book! I have a sneaky suspicion that these “invented” tests are based off of real ones. It seems to real for them to just be “invented”. I wonder, if Kotzwinkle took inspiration from animal testing done before or around the time of the book.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I wouldn’t doubt they’re riffing off real scientific citations in some manner that he either read or read about. But they’re still, in the formulation presented, “invented.”

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