Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Animals and Us
After seeing Dave's post about how he's trying to raise money to bring his animals with him to Australia, it made me realise how integral animals are to our lives. You can tell a lot about a person by their pet. For instance there are dog people and there are cat people, and then there's Dave.
No, seriously, authors seem to have a soft spot for animals, judging by the number that appear in fantasy and SF books. Here is an Amazon link to fantasy and SF books which feature animals as characters or significant others for characters. And I think it is only the tip of the iceberg.
We're always world building, creating animals for our fantasy worlds or re-engineering animals to populate our SF worlds. But even more than that, we often give the animals a voice, so that they become characters who move the plot forward.
After doing a very unscientific survey I came to the conclusion that there seem to be a lot of cats featured in fantasy and SF books. There are five anthologies alone, which feature stories about cats (Catfantastic 1- 5). Next we have horses and dogs. And then there are a whole swag of books that feature dragons.
Mythology features talking animals, hybrid animals and people-hybrid animals. The idea that people can take the form of animals appears in cultures across the world.
Children's stories abound with talking animals. When writing for children, if you want to avoid the questions of race and ethnicity, a writer can use animal characters to make a point.
Animal characters are great for parodying human vices, such as Wind in the Willows or Animal Farm.
I have fond memories of reading The Dragon and the George by Gordon R Dickson. I must have read it thirty years ago but as far as I can recall a mild mannered university professor gets trapped in the body of a dragon and has to find his way back.
Are there books which you recall because the animal characters were so memorable?