Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pets and small children in SF

Many new writers are taught not to include pets and small children into their Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy stories. Supposedly, the inclusion of pets and small children in adult fiction detracts from the story and especially the Romance. However, if you’re writing Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, you would have pets and small children because you’re writing about their world and their reality.

I disagree. In my opinion, including pets and children as secondary characters makes the story more realistic and believable. They flesh out the background of the world-building. After all, pets and children are a natural and normal part of our lives, aren’t they?

Robert A. Heinlein incorporated pets and children in his Young Adult Science Fiction. Classic examples are PODKAYNE OF MARS

In David Drake’s Honor Harrington series,
Honor is one of the few people adopted by a Sphinxian treecat an intelligent indigenous species. This occurred when she was a child, a rarity among treecat adoptions. She has dubbed her 'cat Nimitz. After conducting considerable research on them, she has eventually become one of the foremost experts on treecats.

Andre Norton’s
Beast Master series of books takes the relationship of humans and their pets to a higher level of an equal partnership and blending of physical and psychic abilities. In her Moon of Three Rings, the aliens have a “circus and pet show” where the animals are equal partners in their presentation of their acts.

In the Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller,
cats are honored pets within many of the Liaden households. In I DARE,
the cat plays a major role in bringing down the villain of that tale.

For the second book in my Sidhe trilogy, DOWN CAME A BLACKBIRD,
Indio’s eight-year old daughter Socorro stows away on the mining expedition spaceship with her pet kitten, Licorice. The miners on the spaceship voted to hide their presence on the ship from the scientists and captain because they didn’t want to have to cancel their mission in order to return her and Licorice to the space station.

Readers and book reviewers have written to me to express how much they enjoyed the different scenes with the kitten. Especially, the chapter where Kevin has created a cat spacesuit and has to put it on the struggling kitten. Needless to say, blood is shed in this chapter and none of it belongs to the cat. LOL.

my award winning Erotic SF novel, the alien hero Rulagh is an exo-biologist working for the Interstellar Humane Society. He’s on Earth to handle the animal control problem of the chupacabras, the feral descendants of alien pets left behind by UFO tourists eighty years ago. In addition to killing off wild chupacabras, Rulagh and Sonia wind up adopting two orphaned chupacabra pups.

Here’s a scene from THE HUNTRESS where Rulagh teaches Sonia how to handle the baby chupacabras and bond them to her.


Rulagh squatted in front of the cardboard box and removed Suma, the chubbier one of the chupacabra pups. He cradled her against his chest and stroked her belly. She gave a delighted meep and stretched her body like a courtesan begging for attention.

Sonia lifted a tentative hand and stroked the baby chupacabra’s soft belly. Miniscule scales tickled her fingers. The puppy was too small, too trusting for Sonia to feel afraid of it.
Rulagh’s quiet voice deepened into a raspy whisper. “Now’s a good time to give them their first blooding.”

Sonia pulled her hand away as if she’d been bitten. She peeked at the tips of her fingers and saw no bite marks. Her heart skipped a beat. Chupacabras was Spanish word for goatsuckers. “First b-blooding?”

Rulagh cocked his head and flicked his tongue at her for a split second. “It’s nothing to be afraid of. The feral ones were never taught how to control their bloodlust. They’re omnivores. They need meat and plants, not just blood to ssurvive. When the first blooding is done properly, it binds them to you for life.”

He thinks I’m afraid. Was she? Sonia pursed her lips. No, she wasn’t, not with Rulagh hunkered down on his heels calmly cradling one of the pups in his arms like a baby. She slanted a defiant look at him, picked Anga up and tucked the tiny body into the crook of her arm. The pup snuggled against her with legs splayed apart, coiled her tail around Sonia’s wrist and gazed up with glowing red eyes. The feathery soft crest on Anga’s back and head tickled Sonia’s arm.
Rulagh hugged Suma to his chest, extended his fore claw and crooked his finger. “I promise you, after the initial cut you will feel no pain.”

She held out her right hand. He inserted his claw into the tip of her index finger with a swift, delicate touch. It felt like a needle had pricked her. A bead of blood formed on her finger. Anga turned her head, flicked her tongue out and stared at the blood on Sonia’s finger. A shiver rippled through the pup’s body.

Sonia stuck her finger in the pup’s mouth before she could change her mind. No way was she going to act like a sissy for Rulagh’s amusement. Anga latched on to the finger eagerly. A contented croon burbled from her throat while she sucked with innocent greed and clung to Sonia’s finger with her paws. Anga’s tongue had the same sand-papery feel of a cat’s.

A slightly deeper croon burbled from the other pup. Sonia risked a look and saw Suma sucking on Rulagh’s finger with the same greed. He pulled his finger out of the pup’s mouth. It gave a sad meep. “Now we sswitch.”

Why was he doing this? Why didn’t he just bond the puppies to him and leave her out of it? If he planned to take them with him when he left the planet, it didn’t make any sense to bond them to her too, and then leave her behind. Did this mean he planned to take her off planet too? The implications, the possibility of being able to actually fly in his spacecraft whirled around in Sonia’s mind.

She tugged her finger out of Anga’s mouth and inserted it in Suma’s mouth while Rulagh placed his finger in Anga’s mouth. The pups sucked for about thirty seconds more and released the fingers with satisfied sighs. Their heads lolled back, they yawned and their eyelids slid shut.

Sonia followed Rulagh’s lead and returned her drowsy pup to its adoptive mother’s side. She rose to her feet and studied her finger. The pinprick mark had already sealed shut. “How often will we have to do this?”

“Once a week. As long as we give them blood as a regular treat, they’ll develop a taste for our blood only and won’t even consider drinking from anyone else.”

“What about when they get bigger, won’t they need to drink a lot more than just a couple of drops?”

Rulagh touched Sonia’s arm and stroked it with his blunted fore finger. “They won’t ask for more because by that time, they will love us too much and accept whatever amount we choose to give them.”

is my newest Erotic SF novella. It’s also the sequel to FLARE ZONE, which debuted in the FANGS anthology at Loose Id. IMPLOSION is scheduled for release within the next two weeks at Loose Id.

In addition to trying to find and arrest the serial killer who’s terrorizing the space station, Maris and Pierce have their hands full acting as godparents for Kayle, a week old A.I. (Artificial Intelligence).

Kayle is eager to prove himself by trying to solve the mystery of the serial killer with the help of his friends, the children who are supposed to be helping him learn how to socialize properly with others. Kayle is frustrated by the limits placed on him because he’s still considered an A.I. child. He hopes to be able to upgrade to AdminNET level instead of being restricted to only KidNET Internet access at the station.

Here’s a short excerpt from IMPLOSION ZONE where Kayle and his friends wind up in the middle of danger on the deck where spacers and stationers are fleeing in a panicked stampede from a undead vampire on a berserk rampage.


Kayle hadn’t anticipated this vast warren of space where the five-level-high ceiling curved into the distance. Gantries loomed two and three levels high, holding the lopsided weight of the massive robotic cranes that loaded and unloaded cargo. Every fifty yards, holographic message boards rotated and showed constantly changing data updates about arriving and departing ships, stock market reports, prices of commodities, and job openings.

Dockworkers monitored the loaders. Ship captains, cargo-masters, and stationers exchanged loud and raucous discussions over availability of passenger and cargo space. Assorted spacers on shore leave strolled to and from the side corridors where various shops, restaurants, sleazy bars, gambling parlors, and sexual entertainment houses catered to their needs and vices.

Suli stood beside Jason. Her straight black hair flipped over her shoulder while she moved her head back and forth to watch the sights. Jason’s red hair and pale skin kept him readily visible in comparison with the normally dark-haired and dark-skinned population of the station.

Cataloging the immense variety of human coloration and body type still kept Kayle occupied each time he wandered about the station. He looked forward to increasing that visual database even further when Lilith and Caliban decided he’d matured enough to upgrade to AdminNET instead of KidNET.

Suli kept a tight, white-knuckled grip on Jin’s hand. He’d wandered off in the wrong direction right after they exited the tube-train. She’d freaked out when Jin disappeared from view, and wasn’t taking any chances on him getting away again.

Jason jammed his hands in his pockets. “This is fragging! I always wanted to see the docks, but my dad never had the time to take me here.”

Kayle turned to Abrized. “Are you sure this is the right place?”

The Avee child spun around in a circle. “Deck 10, Sector 13 is where Station Security said they found my second-father’s body.” He stopped. His nostrils flared and the blue feathers on his scalp rippled. He pointed to the left. “Och-Eoce blood scent is very faint in that direction.”

A high-pitched scream of endless fright scaled up. Echoes bounced off the walls in confusing tangents. Kayle damped down the background noise and turned his audio sensors up to full power in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the scream.

People stopped midstride. Heads swiveled in every direction.

Hooting sirens wailed overhead. Suli, Jason, and Jin stuck their fingers in their ears. Abrized sunk down to the floor and covered his head with his arms. Ramps retracted into docked ships. Machines loading and unloading shipping cans ground to a stop, their flexi-metal grips and extensions frozen in mid-motion.

The words RED ALERT! RED ALERT! followed by PLEASE PROCEED TO THE NEAREST EXIT POINT IN AN ORDERLY FASHION flared inside Kayle’s head. The same bland and frustratingly noninformative instructions scrolled across the holographic message boards in flashing red letters.

He opened his illegal backdoor link to Security Central to find out what information the police and station administration were holding back from public links in order to avoid any panic. His link shunted to an automated reply node. All lines are busy. Please hold until the next available line is open.

The booming, bone-shaking crash of emergency seals closing at both ends of Section 13 reverberated through the metal-plated deck. Garbled screams and yells exploded from around the left-hand curve of the dock. The cascading logic of chaos math failed to encompass the sudden storm of frightened humanity that exploded from every side corridor onto the dock.

A very faint whisper of smoke tainted the airflow. A mass of adult humans, all sizes and shapes, stampeded around the curving line of the corridor straight for Kayle and his friends.

Approximately forty-six percent of the panicked mob waved work tools and jagged lengths of pipe over their heads.

Sara’s Combat Law #6: Mobs are bad news. Panicked mobs are worse news. Avoid them at all costs.

Kayle blinked. Who programmed Sara’s Laws into my brain? Sara wasn’t even a sentient being. She was a minor science fiction vid heroine with a cult following that encompassed eighty-four star systems. He discarded the thought as irrelevant to the present situation.

Jason pointed at the rear wall. “Go that way. We have to get out of their way. Fast.”

Obviously Kayle wasn’t the only one with a working knowledge of Sara’s Laws.

Suli tugged Jin along with her and ran toward the wall. Jason pulled Abrized to his feet. They raced after Suli and Jin.

Jin’s toy clattered to the deck and rolled backward. He yanked his hand free from Suli’s hold, ducked under Jason’s arm, and barreled past Abrized’s grasp to retrieve his prize.

Adult legs blocked Kayle’s view. He pelted at a sharp angle that cut across the deck a few feet ahead of the river of panicked humans and caught sight of Jin.

Tears streaked the little boy’s face. Eyes wide with fear, he squatted down on the deck and hugged his toy to his chest, making his body as small as possible.

Sara’s Combat Law #2: Don’t be a hero, but if there isn’t any other choice, go for it.

Between one step and the next, Kayle morphed from his Avee shape into a shimmering flexible panel with feet. He lunged forward, grabbed Jin, and wrapped his flattened body around the little boy in a protective bubble. The mob crashed into them. Legs, hands, and feet kicked and pushed Kayle and Jin in random directions like a soccer ball bouncing across a playing field.
He rolled to a stop. The thundering roar of feet slamming against the deck damped down into a faint vibration. He unfolded his body from the bubble shape, released Jin, and morphed back to his default form of a two-foot-tall silver humanoid.

In conclusion for today’s blog, my advice is as follows:

Don’t limit your horizons when you write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Include pets and children in your stories as part of the normal lives of your characters.
Thank you.

Barbara Karmazin


  1. I completely agree with you. Unless the story is set in a restricted environment such as a military-style spaceship, a world without children and pets feels artificial and unbelievable to me. In fact, in contemporary novels focused on unmarried characters, where you might not encounter many children except as part of the background, it still feels unreal to me if nobody has a pet.

  2. Long, long ago, men didn't have much to do with the raising of their offspring. To them, children were an annoying distraction. Most of the science fiction authors back then were men. Not so now! Lots of women are writing Science Fiction and there are a lot of great dads out there writing too.

    Any story without children and/or pets is too unreal and, therefore, insanely boring to me.

    Long live the Tribbles! (and Tank the Furzal)

  3. Thanks Margaret and Kimber, LOL.

    Speaking of which, I just found another blog entry entitled "Ten top reasons why Romance Novel heroes don't have cats." at the following meankitty blog link.

    You're both right. There have been changes in SF during the past ten years and we are seeing more children in those stories.

    Thanks again for commenting.

    Barbara K.


    Here's that Meankitty blog link again, for some strange reason it didn't show up properly in the first posting.

    Barbara K.

  5. Very funny blog about romance heroes and cats. I'm reminded of the editing process for my first published novel, SHADOW OF THE BEAST, about a female werewolf. The editor reacted to the details that the hero liked to cook and had a purebred cat with the statement, "Do you realize what you've done? He's obviously gay." Which somewhat annoyed me, since my husband and all four of our sons love cats. (And my husband cooks much better than I do.) My reaction when the editor suggested that the hero be a baseball fan with a big, goofy dog was, "You want me to turn him into a stereotype." But since I wanted the novel published, and those elements weren't essential to the plot, I made him an Orioles fan with a golden retriever -- without, I hope, turning him into a stereotype.

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