Saturday, August 21, 2010

Animal Planet(s)

I'm not a cat person. The neighborhood strays who like lounging on my porch or stretching out for a snooze on the cab of my truck haven't seemed to figure that out. Or perhaps they have, and are just tweaking me by perversely continuing to treat my property as their own.

I admit, it's kinda funny to watch two indolent adolescent cats suddenly give each other a wide-eyed look then leap up and launch themselves across the yard in a crazy cat version of tag. If the old, long-deceased, and otherwise mild-mannered family dog were still here, he'd join the chase, and the world would very likely be short two stray cats.

Rocky: best dog ever.

I'm considering the fact that there are almost no animals in my science fiction universe. There are colonies of humans who have attempted to bring vegetation to arid planets, but only in one small wilderness town have there been animals, specifically dogs. There's one planet I've mentioned that is half-covered in jungle. What if there are others where the introduction of grass and other agricultural products has been successful? Then there could be a "real" Western episode (or many such episodes) set in cattle country.

In the fantasy cycle, horses are special to some of the characters, who talk to them and care for them much as they might pet dogs. Kraekor is one such horse, whose affection for apples has made him rather a connoisseur: he'll turn up his nose -- literally -- at the lesser varieties but follow around anyone who might have a particularly tasty variety in pocket or in hand. Beware the hand.

Kraekor also will come up beside his master and rest his "chin" on the man's shoulder, or approach from the front, bend down, and bump his entire head against the man's chest. Or Captain Gaerbith will drape an arm around Kraekor's neck, and the two of them will just stand side-by-side while the man talks about whatever's on his mind.

Ever do that with an animal? Talk as if they understood exactly what you said? I used to do that with Rocky, and later with Paco, a German Shepherd whose affection could break bones. Even his tail, when wagged, could leave bruises. When he stood on his hind legs as he leaped up to greet me, Paco was taller than I and with better reach and a wicked left hook. Good thing he loved me. Despite that, I was fortunate to avoid the clinic.

So, there should be animals in the colonies. Maybe someone brings a stray dog aboard the Martina Vega. That might make for some interesting antics. I imagine one or two of the gruffer characters might make a big show of hating all animals, that scruffy dog in particular, but then be caught secretly feeding the animal, or scratching its head and speaking to it in a bunch of baby-talk nonsense. Or speaking in a loving tone while calling it all sorts of vile names. This is an idea worth pursuing.

Stay tuned!

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