Of course there have been pets in science fiction shows, comics and novels for decades – Krypto in Superman, Muffit the Daggit in Battlestar Galactica, K-9 in Dr. Who, Graf in Alas, Babylon, Jonesy the cat in the first two Alien movies, Porthos the beagle in Star Trek Enterprise, Ein in Cowboy Bebop, just to name a few. Hmmm, heavy on the canines! I’d better add Gizmo from Gremlins and Roach from Wall-E…and then there were the pets in Andre Norton’s Solar Queen series and the telepathic animals that accompanied her Beast Master, and who could ever forget the fire lizards in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series?
Late last year my friend author Pauline Baird Jones and I started discussing the idea of doing an anthology with science fiction romance stories featuring the pets as important supporting characters. We enlisted a few other SFR authors to ‘play’ with this cool writing prompt and Pets In Space was born. We wanted to support an animal-related charity as part of releasing this collection and since one of our members is a veteran (Susan Grant, a former Air Force pilot), and many of us have relatives who served in the military, we chose Hero Dogs, Inc.
10% of the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence
A number of the stories in the anthology feature a canine of some sort but as it happens, my “Star Cruise: Stowaway” involves a cat and her alien sidekick. These two characters first appeared in an earlier novel in the series, but now move front and center for the stowaway story. Here’s the blurb: “Cargo Master Owen Embersson is shocked when the Nebula Zephyr’s ship’s cat and her alien sidekick, Midorri, alert him to the presence of a stowaway. He has no idea of the dangerous complications to come – nor does he anticipate falling hard for the woman whose life he now holds in his hands. Life aboard the Nebula Zephyr has just become more interesting – and deadly.”
We also commissioned an artist to do sketches of the pets in the volume and I love the one she did for me, with Moby and Midorri. I rarely get to see the fruits of my imagination rendered into reality! Here’s the explanation my character Owen gave in a recent “interview” about his cat’s name: “She’s pure white, so I named her Moby, after Moby Dick the whale in that old book from Earth. Not that I’ve read it, too long and antiquated. I figured she’d enjoy eating a whale and she was going into the ocean of space. I don’t know, seemed good at the time.”
As for Midorri, one of the first things that comes to mind for me when thinking about petlike alien animals in space would be the tribble, from the famous Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” They’re soft, they kind of purr and oh did I mention they multiply like nobody’s business? The rabbit of the spacelanes! I always loved that episode…
So when it was time for me to come up with my “alien pet” for the novel Star Cruise: Outbreak, I did think about tribbles. I made Midorri, my pet, soft, but there any resemblance to tribbles ended because my pet is green, has two golden eyes, a long tail like a red panda (which is my favorite wild animal on Earth so if I’m designing an animal, I get to include that tail!) and six legs. Not a tribble, not even close. But intelligent, affectionate and patient, although Midorri may be allergic to humans – we’re still figuring that part out. And she loves cat treats.
Here are the quick looks at the other eight entries in the volume – always interesting to see what a completely different set of stories a group of authors will create, when using the same writing prompt as their starting point!
A MATE FOR MATRIX: CYBORG PROTECTION UNIT by S.E. Smith (New York Times/USA TODAY Bestselling Author)
Matrix Roma is a member of the elite Zion military Cyborg Protection Unit. Matrix gets more than he bargains for when his cyborg partner, a hybrid Wolfhound named K-Nine, goes missing and ends up finding a mate for Matrix in the middle of a deadly mission on an unknown planet called Earth.
STRAY by Susan Grant (New York Times/USA TODAY Bestselling Author, and RITA Award Winning Author)
Interplanetary Marine Lt. Lukas Frank has a lot in common with a street dog named Bang-Bang: they both started off as scrappy orphans fighting to survive – and beat the odds. Things change when Bang-Bang leads Lukas to starpilot Capt. Carlynn Riga. The tough war hero learns what it means to surrender – his heart. Lukas’s struggles with PTSD threaten to tear the three of them apart, but nothing threatens them more than when Carlynn goes missing on a mission. Can a scarred marine and his unlikely canine partner find Carlynn and bring her home, or will he lose everything he’s finally found worth fighting for?
SPARK OF ATTRACTION by Cara Bristol (USA TODAY Bestselling Author)
Memory: intact. Cognitive function: enhanced. Emotion: erased. After becoming a cyborg, Captain Dante Stone didn’t think he’d ever feel again, until a traumatized young woman and a ball of synthetic fur named Sparky helped him to love.
THE REAL DRAGON by Pauline Baird Jones
Emma Standish didn’t think her day could get any worse. Her dad is marrying his boss, her dragon suddenly came back talking and typing, and it’s her fault the Earth, or at least ten square miles of Texas, is going to be destroyed. That’s what happens when you forget something very, very important. Luckily for her, she’s got the love of her life that she can’t remember and her dragon by her side. Who needs to worry when you’re having a day like this?
STARDOG by Laurie A. Green
Navigator Taro Shall has a mission no one wants – find a way to eradicate snakes on a starship. He never expects to find the answer to his problem in a charming street vendor named Adini. His already unusual mission becomes more complicated when he suddenly acquires an adorable StarDog that soon sweeps him and Adini into the maw of a brewing insurrection.
SPIKE by Alexis Glynn Latner
Young Roboticist Ten Jaxdown has to deploy, and possibly sacrifice, the swarm of investigative robots that he has invented and cares about more than anything else in the star system. It may be the only hope for those depending on him and his robots to save them. Yet, even as frantic preparations for the unprecedented deep-space rescue mission are set in motion, it could all be threatened by sabotage.
Anastasia Steed is an intrepid young mission designer. She steps forward with an idea that can improve the odds of the mission. Neither she nor Ten expect the assistance they receive from a very unusual pet. A pet that will bring together two alienated human beings who didn’t realize they needed each other. Can Ten and Anastasia discover who is behind the sabotage, save the mission, and discover what is evolving between them? With a little bit of unusual help, anything is possible.
SPACE RANGER by Lea Kirk
Graig Roble is the Senior Commander of security for the Guardian Fleet. His expertise as a weapons specialist and combat master is his world, what he was born to do – or so he thought until he finds his resolve and focus inexplicably wavering. Even returning to his position aboard the Atlantis can’t save him; if anything, it has left him questioning his own motives. He never thought that could happen until he met Simone Campbell.
Simone’s focus is on her home world – Earth. She thought her life was full with her research as a botanist. After all, she always believed that helping the people of her world become self-sufficient should take all of her concentration – except it doesn’t. Graig’s gift of a puppy to keep her company does more than that, it keeps him in her dreams.
ESCAPE RUN by Carysa Locke
Teegan’s job as a hunter is to track down the Talented, those driven insane by their gifts. She and Ember, her psychically gifted fox, have tracked dozens of people for Cole, the man who works to rehabilitate and recover these troubled souls. When one of Cole’s most dangerous patients escapes, Teegan and Ember are on a hunt that could prove fatal if she doesn’t keep her focus on her mission. Unfortunately, Cole is proving one distraction that might make this her last hunt if she can’t do that.
Can Teegan keep her heart and mind in the game long enough to save an entire planet’s population, or will her distraction lead to heartache – and possibly death for everyone?
So what’s your favorite pet or animal companion in a science fiction setting?
I had the hardest time picking a pet to write about. My first instinct was to go with a cat, but then I decided on a dog.
It was super fun coming up with a pet for a story, though I surprised myself by picking a bearded dragon. They are good and affectionate pets, and the fact that they eat live bugs is both awesome–and a little creepy (since you don’t want enough in your house to feed one, so you have to order them!). Loved your pets!