Thursday, March 17, 2011

Author Guest blogger-Marian Perera

Dogs of a different color

I was wondering what to write for a guest blog, so I looked at the front page of the Crazy Bookworm blog for inspiration. And the post about dogs grabbed my attention at once. Pets have a way of doing that for me.

Despite liking dogs, I’ve never actually had one. I’ve lived in small apartments all my life, with no one around who could walk the dog if I was sick, or busy writing. A cat will be an option later when I own my own place. But I did have an aquarium when I lived in the States, and my favorite fish was a betta – a Siamese fighting fish.

He had sapphire scales and evil little red eyes. He terrorized all the other fish, and if I ever put my fingertips into the tank he would try to bite them. I called him Demon and adored him. He always got dibs on brine shrimp when I bought them.

Maybe it’s Demon – long since gone to the great fish tank in the sky – who made me interested in the even more exotic pets of speculative fiction.

These animals can be companions, sounding boards and guardians like their real-life counterparts, but they can also have dark sides. In Harlan Ellison’s short story “A Boy And His Dog”, Blood is an intelligent and telepathic but amoral dog, genetically engineered and struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. He’s loyal to the boy of the title, but he’s by no means a cuddly compliant Lassie.

Slightly closer to that particular archetype are the orphaned direwolf cubs in George R. R. Martin’s novel A Game of Thrones. A family finds a dead she-wolf in the snow, and beside her are five cubs, one cub for each legitimate child in the family. But the children’s bastard half-brother finds a sixth cub some distance away – a silent, red-eyed albino which might have been driven off by the others.

And the direwolves, each raised by a different child, grow up to be reflections of their owners in many ways.

Physically altered dogs may be unnerving, but it would be even more intriguing to change their behavior and social structure – things we tend to take for granted even when a dog looks a little different from the norm. In our world, some dogs are a sign of status. In another world, that could still be the case, but it would be decided by the dogs, who choose their household or master.

Or what about personal protection dogs who keep their owners in line? Rather like having a gun that will shoot anyone attacking you – but will also target you if you happen to shoplift.

My novel Before the Storm is set in a land which combines Victorian England with medieval fantasy. The hero’s cousin Susanna has an unfeminine interest in business and trade, and needs more than just a chaperone as she goes about her daily work. So she gets a dog instead – and that dog is from another land named Lunacy. As a result, it’s got two heads and is called a maddog, but is devoted to her.

She just needs to feed it twice as much.

 Marian Perera studies medical laboratory technology (final year of college!) when she isn’t writing. Her first novel, a romantic fantasy called Before the Storm, was just released in paperback, and she blogs about writing, publication and every step between the two at Flights of Fantasy.

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