Cloning, which re-entered the popular imagination this week with the photograph of a sheep's furry face splashed across the world's front pages, has had a mostly bad press until now.
Literature on the topic overwhelmingly portrays cloning as sinister at best, a way of reproducing an identical copy of its single parent from the genetic information imprinted in a single cell.
Started in a laboratory, the clone is implanted in a womb and taken to term for nefarious purposes.
It has even popped up in otherworldly scenarios. A few of the residents exploring an alien landing in Roswell, N.M., in 1947 say that when they looked at the short, humanoid beings who piloted a crashed spaceship they noticed that the spacemen had no sex organs. They theorized this meant the spacemen were clones.
The premier cloning classic is "Brave New World," Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel about human beings who are no longer born but decanted from bottles.
Sixty-five years later, Mr. Huxley's account is one of the more complete descriptions of a society built on cloning, with a managerial class controlling a slave class conditioned to love its servitude.
Mr. Huxley's protagonists view cloning as necessary for social stability. The bottles furnished a ruling class: The Alphas oversee a caste system every bit as segregated as that of India's Brahmins and Untouchables.
At the bottom of the mix are Epsilons and Deltas, near-morons who perform menial tasks and who are taught through infant conditioning and drugs to love work and hate leisurely pursuits such as flowers or books. Each class dresses in a distinctive color - green, black, maroon or khaki; the lower the class, the shorter its height.
Cloned beings reappear in "The Boys From Brazil," a 1976 thriller by "Rosemary's Baby" author Ira Levin. The story, later made into a movie, involves Nazi criminal Josef Mengele, who - while hiding out in South America after World War II - clones 94 replicas of Adolf Hitler.
"What planned society could resist the idea?" says a biologist in the story. "Multiply your superior citizens and prohibit the inferior ones from reproducing. Think of the savings in medical care and education! And the improved quality of the population in two or three generations."
Not only did the clones have Hitler's genes; the Nazis had placed them in families who would give them an upbringing identical to Hitler's. …