I had a sort of synchronicity recently. When I described a dream I had in which “I want to take a little house with grumpy little men to my area. It seems like they’re sort of alive,” to my friend, she asked “Have you ever looked up homunculus?” I had in fact looked them up right around the time of the dream, when I was trying to come up with a word for the copies women who can transform make in my novel. I had tried using homunculus and golem because I thought of them as a kind of magical copy of a human or humanoid.
I had decided I’d better look up the word homunculus as it’d been a while since I first encountered the idea. I had been thinking of something like in the film “Hugo”: a metalic man the boy’s father created is part robotic, part magical and seems to hold the father’s spirit. The boy hopes it will write messages from his father.
But a homunculus (from Latin, hɔˈmʊŋkʊlʊs) is a little man, a manikin, coming from an old belief that there is one in every fetus.
In sixteenth-century alchemy and nineteenth-century fiction, the idea expanded to the creation of a miniature, fully formed human. In a 2003 anime, Homunculi are said to be created each time an alchemist attempts a Human Transmutation. “While the transmutation itself will result in a failure in that the person intended to be revived does not return as expected, a new existence is brought about.” You may have encountered such stories in modern literature and film. I don’t know why my grumpy little men in my dream made my friend think of homunculus. Reading a brief definition, “little man, manikin,” I dreamed of grumpy little men that I really loved! I think they were more like the little talking gorilla in Wonderfalls (I really love that guy).
For the novel, I settled on “living replica” and “facsimile.”