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What better topic for the dog days of summer than a light-hearted and totally unscientific look at which animals are best suited to tales of speculative fiction?

A mini-debate popped up online a while back about whether dogs or cats were the quintessential speculative fiction animal. The general consensus seemed to be that dogs were indeed more popular, despite the internet’s love of LOLcats, and the one-cat minimum required in order to be considered a professional writer. (It’s a rule. Look it up.)

I gave it some thought, and asked the internet for suggestions. Let’s look at the results of my ‘research’ (by which I mean examples off the top of the collective hivemind’s head) shall we?

Cats: Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams, Bella Arabella by Liza Fosburgh, “Game of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith, Twists of the Tail edited by Ellen Datlow, “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe, and The Price and Dream of a Thousand Cats by Neil Gaiman. There’s also a now-defunct magazine dedicated entirely to speculative cat fiction, Cat Tales, published by Wildside Press.

Vs.

Laika Dogs: Cujo by Stephen King, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, “The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change” by Kij Johnson, various stories featuring King Arthur’s faithful hound Cabal, and *cough* Krypto and BatHound. And that’s not even counting other members of the canidae family. There’s Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London, Companion to Wolves by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, and a plethora of werewolf and kitsune stories. Even Disney made Robin Hood into a fox. Stepping outside fiction and into the real world, a dog was one of the first animals in space. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Based on that haphazard comparison, dogs do seem to come out slightly ahead. But what about the other animals? Rats and mice seem rather science fictional. There’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O’Brien, The Fate of Mice by Susan Palwick, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, “The Star Mouse” by Fredric Brown, and Redwall by Brian Jacques. In the rodent category, a special mention is due to Boo, the Miniature Giant Space Hamster from the Baldur’s Gate series of games. He is the true star of the franchise, after all.

Whales have made a splash of their own in the science fictional waters. (See what I did there?) Back in 2007, Clarkesworld published “The Moby Clitoris of His Beloved” by Ian Watson and Robert Quaglia. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home proved whales are the key to humanity’s continued existence in the future. Shimmer #16 featured “The Sky Way” by Rebecca Emanuelsen, and I’ve heard rumors of at least one undead whale story forthcoming in an anthology later this year.

Raccoons have made decent inroads in the speculative fiction field. There’s “The Coon Rolled Down and Ruptured His Larinks, A Squeezed Novel by Mr. Skunk” by Dafydd ab Hugh, which garnered both a Hugo and Nebula nomination. Oy from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series isn’t technically a raccoon, though billy-bumblers have been described as a cross between a raccoon, a woodchuck, and a dachshund. Kudzu: A Novel, an online novel in progress by Bernie Mojzes features intelligent raccoons in space, and the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie may bring even more popularity to space faring raccoons with the inclusion of Rocket Raccoon.

Apes are a pretty clear contender with Planet of the Apes, the Tarzan novels, Gorilla Grodd, and, of course, like dogs, monkeys were one of the first animals in space in the real world.

Multi-animal casts have always been popular, too. Consider the Oz Books, the Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web, the Harry Potter and His Dark Materials series, and Animal Farm.

Perhaps there is no clear winner, but as my totally unscientific analysis reveals, there are certainly trends when it comes to animals in speculative fiction. Many thanks to S.L. Card, Liz Argall, Brook Bolander, Bogi Tackacs, Vinnie Tesla, Mari Ness, Mel Scott, Amy Bush, Kevin Veale, Lew Andrada, Barbara Krasnoff, and Matt Martin for their suggestions, which helped me compile this list. Extra special thanks are due to Liz Argall, who ultimately gets the credit/blame for the topic of this post.
What about you? Which animal gets your vote for ruler of the speculative fiction world? I’d love to hear your recommendations for fantastic animal reading as the dog days of summer wind down.

A.C. WiseA.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories, which have appeared in publications such as Apex Magazine, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4, among others. In addition to her writing, she co-edits Unlikely Story. She can be found online at www.acwise.net and on twitter as @ac_wise.

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1 Comment

  1. Tailchaser’s Song is one of my go-to books. I found it either freshman or sophomore year in college and have gone through three or four copies (the paperback) over those 25/26 years.

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