I never especially liked dogs. The operative word being “especially”, lest you think me some kind of monster, like people normally do when someone says they don’t like (or hate) our canine friends. No, I like dogs just fine, and I’ve understood why people love them, or need them, or both. Deep down, though, the point of dogs has been lost to me. Maybe it’s what comes with not growing up around them, I don’t know.
If you’re like me, you might find “This Chance Planet” a useful corrective to any deep-seated, dog-related confoundment or apathy. Slightly dry for an endorsement, I know, but I’m still a bit taken in by the laconic, none-more-Russian affect Elizabeth Bear adopts here, both in her prose and her storytelling. It turns out to be a remarkably effective way into my dog-skeptic heart, this utterly pragmatic magical realism, delivered with a shrug — or, in Bear’s own words, a huff, “like an irritated dog”. As if to say, “of course we matter. How utterly dense of you not to get it until now”.
Many years ago, I read something Warren Ellis wrote in the back of one of his comics, about how dogs were the one species which wouldn’t have any adverse impact on the earth’s ecosystems, were they to be removed. Since then, in my most cynical, heart-frozen moments, I’ve returned to that thought as an unspoken argument about how we would be better off if such an extinction event were to happen. Reading “This Chance Planet” made me wonder if Ellis’ factoid might not actually be a twisted argument for why we should treasure the dog’s presence at our side. Us biologically worthless creatures need to stick together, after all.