Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith


Other Minds

by Peter Godfrey-Smith
December 6, 2016 · Farrar, Straus and Giroux

I go through animal obsessions in stages and currently I’m (PLATONICALLY) interested in cephalopods. I’ve read a few books that involve cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, octopuses, nautilus) and I’ve seen some weird shit, you guys. They are especially popular in the steampunk genre and in Lovecraftian horror.

For example, fictional items which feature cephalopods that we’ve reviewed here include:

The Farthest Shore by Marian Perera

Fantasy in which a young woman has a mind meld with a kraken. Not erotica.

Kilts and Kraken by Cindy Spencer Pope

Steampunk that includes a scene in which a kraken attacks a ship. Not erotica.

Someone to Cuttle, by Luna Loupe

M/m/m/ erotica. Very short.

First Watch by Peter Hansen

M/tentacle-monster erotica on a submarine.

I’ve also read several nonfiction books about these very weird creatures and so far Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness is the best one I’ve come across.

This book explores the evolutionary background of cephalopods and their biology, before getting into how they might think and what they might feel. How do you perceive the world around you if most of your neurons are in your arms? What’s it like to see with your eyes but also your skin? What’s it like to taste through your skin? If your esophagus runs right through the center of your brain, can you stab yourself to death with your own food? The answer to that last question is “Yes.”

Other Minds is written simply enough that anyone can understand it, but still gets in depth, no pun intended, with the facts and analysis. It has a good balance between science facts and anecdotal experience. I’ve read three non-fiction books about cephalopods in a row and the authors always end up talking about their inner journey, which is fun but can easily take over the book. This book had enough stories from the author, and stories the author collected, to feel immediate and personal without turning into a book all about the author’s emotional experience.

I don’t know that I’d recommend this book to someone who is all, “Meh. I prefer owls.” However, I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in octopuses, squid, cuttlefish, and nautiluses. You will spend a lot of time going “WHA????” You will be informed and entertained. Also there are pretty pictures.

Erotic writers, here are some helpful facts:

  • Cephalopods can manipulate every sucker individually.
  • Squid have hooks inside each sucker so that they can rip off your face with maximum efficiency.
  • Arms have suckers all along their entire length. Tentacles only have suckers at the end. Therefore, octopuses don’t have tentacles. Nautiluses don’t have arms. Squid and cuttlefish have both. Know your appendages.
  • The octopus mom has one batch of eggs, guards them, and when they hatch she promptly dies. So unless there’s some octopus birth control involved, the octopus HEA is about four to five months long.
  • When a male cuttlefish and female cuttlefish love each other very much, the male grabs the female’s face and puts his sperm in a hole by her mouth. Make of this what you will.

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