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July 2014

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In Defense of Pets

Milkbone dog biscuits was launched in 1908.

What, you may well ask Gentle Reader, has this to do with writing?

Well, it made me think that our obsession with pets goes back a very long time. I've developed a periodic annoyance with the fact that SF/F (and, indeed, other genres) ignore pets except when important plot points. With the exception "pet fantasy" (see Mercedes Lackey) and the "epic horse or dragon companion" pets are strangely absent. Yet they should be there, coloring the background imagery. It's such a very human thing to keep a pet. I'm not asking for them to become integral elements. I'm asking the authors out there to stick a cat in the tavern, a dog sniffing a dead body, a canary on a space station, or rats anywhere – it just adds a nice little touch of realism.

Gail's Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:
Cool old LP cover art

Your Tisane of Smart:
I'm a facebook user and I'm certainly going to be more careful in future.
Your Writerly Tinctures:
A day in the life of an agent via query letters. Painful and yet oh so apt.

CAKE in Space: First draft with beta 1.
Soulless: Waiting on galleys, got cover art.
Changeless: Editor Notes Round 2
Steampunk short:

Quote of the Day:
"I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult."
~ Rita Rudner

Comments

Hey Gail, Kristin gave me the heads up on your blog. Pets. Ooookay:

Furzels (cats) Tank and Reilly in my GAMES OF COMMAND
Nixa the telepathic cat in my WINTERTIDE
Cat (Captain Folly) in my upcoming (2/24) HOPE'S FOLLY

Fams (cats) in Robin D Owens' HEART series (HeartMate, Heart Thief, Heart Duel, etc.)

Sadie the chihuahua in Susan Grant's HOW TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN 10 DAYS (yarp! yarp!)

Nimitz the Treecat in David Weber's Honor Harrington series

Unnamed kitten mentioned late in my THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES (adopted by a secondary character)

Jack Russell terrier in later books in Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series

Pub cat in Lisa Shearin's MAGIC LOST TROUBLE FOUND (I'm thinking Boris but I could be wrong)

;-) ~Linnea
www.linneasinclair.com
Yay! So glad to hear they are there, I've only read one of your books, FINDERS KEEPERS. I'm reading Vatta and no dog yet, nice to know I've one to look forward to. It may just be a conflagration of events right now that everything Horn gives me to review either centers around a pet or has none, and all the hard SF/F I've be deluged with right now from my male writer friends is missing animals. Then I took a look around and realized that the majority of those very same friends kept pets but simply didn't put them into their writing. This stuck me as sad. I wonder if it breaks down along gender lines (with the ever-exception of Weber). S.L. Viehl has a rather improbable cat in her Stardoc series.

Animal Companions

I am known for my animal companions ;) In the "Heart" series I've used cats, dogs (kittens & puppy) foxes and have had the odd mole wander through to provide help.

I find the animal companions are great for comic relief, mentors and tricksters. I try very hard for cats to be cats, etc.

In my Summoning series I've actually used birds and greyhounds and...a hamster.

So we are out here.
Thanks,
Robin

Re: Animal Companions

Thank goodness, I knew you all were there, I seem to just be reading the wrong writers.
Zap the Cat is the Vorkosigan House cat in Bujold's later Miles Vorkogsigan books. and she has a LOT of kittens.
Excellent. I've yet to tackle Miles. I admit it, there are just so many books in the series, I find it daunting.
Oh, but they're so, so good! Dip your toes in, try Shards of Honor.

And I just remembered there's also a sweet old horse named Fat Ninny that belongs to Miles too.

I followed the link over from Kristin's link because I often wonder where are the dogs & cats. What about working dogs too? I guess any good castle-based fantasy has its rough coated hunting hounds lying around the fireplace, but what the herding dogs, the search & rescue dogs, the ratters, the dogs that go bark-bark-bark when you approach their door?

Mind you, I decided to add in dogs and cats in my last writing project, and now I know why it's not be a good idea. The dogs weren't too bad, they just shoved their noses into places where they weren't needed and barked a bit, but the cats, well, let's just say they don't have spay/neuter programs in this world. So there one or two cats in every appropriate scene, sitting on laps, demanding attention, shedding on clothes and then, at the end when I thought it was safe, they made themselves an integral part of the climax scene :(

They take over your book!
You're right. Working dogs were very prevalent throughout most ancient societies. They should appear more frequently. There are other working animals too, after all I have a pet theory the Medieval world survived on goats. Now there's a useful animal. I see your cat difficulty, insidious little beasties for a creature that mostly sleeps and eats.
Heh, definitely a point. In DWJ's Guide to Fantasyland, the entry for Animals reads: "See ENEMY SPIES, FOOD, and TRANSPORT. Apart from creatures expressly designed for one of these three purposes, there appear to be almost no animals in Fantasyland."

I haven't actually kept notes, but I have a feeling that urban fantasy is more likely to have pets. Dresden Files' Harry Dresden has a cat and a dog, and while the dog occasionally takes part in plots, the cat generally is there to throw himself against Harry's legs when he gets home. ^_^ Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series has an amusing bout with hunting dogs... Now I'm going to have to think over all my favorite books and see if they work against this norm.
Let me know what you come up with. I really have this feeling there is a demographic shift int here somewhere, either along gender of author or sub genre lines. Would be an interesting study.
Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. The main character has a cat and, later, a dog. Then there's the shaman with the pet racoon.
Thanks, the topic was entirely spontaneous. I had no idea people would get so chatty about it or I would have done more in depth research.
Well, the dog actually turns out to be more like the dragon companion, but the cat appears to be normal.