Our question for the Novelociraptors this week? What fantasy creature would you like most as a pet?
Our first guest, Leslie Williams, when thwarted in her original career goal of hustling at Jeopardy tournaments, decided to cash it all in for the high stakes, rollercoaster world of library science. She spends most of her time at the Evanston Public Library soothing terrified 7th graders whose laptops died the night before their final research papers were due, and vainly trying to convince them that encyclopedias existed prior to Wikipedia. Mild mannered, power shusher by day, Lesley dabbles in the dark art of musical theatre as a member of her synagogue’s Purim Players, where she has essayed major roles in such unforgettable productions as West Side Tsuris, Bally Chai, and Camelplotz. She lives in Evanston, Illinois, where she was voted Most Likely to Blow a Gasket Over Inadequate Source Citation for three consecutive years
So here are my criteria for a supernatural pet: it should be friendly, enjoy humans (but not as snacks), offer some kind of bonus feature, (magical protection or splendiferous wealth are always good choices), and fit comfortably into a 2 bedroom suburban condo.
My gut reaction was, “Dragon!” No more carrying pepper spray or lumbering around in cumbersome body armor: ain’t nobody gonna mess with a dragon owner. Then there’s that gold hoarding feature, which would definitely come in handy if the beast could be persuaded to share. Or invest.
However, upon further reflection, (and remembering how I dread simple kitchen burns), it occurred to me that a dragon, even a teensy one with limited firepower, might be an overly incendiary choice. And ours is a non-smoking building.
I considered a buffalito, (from my good friend Lawrence Schoen’s “Buffalito Destiny” series.) Buffalitos are cute, cuddly little pups, very affectionate, and non-carnivorous. The only slight problem is that they will eat you out of house and home…literally. Having previously shared space with destructive alien life forms that consume 10 times their weight, (i.e. our teenage babysitter) the last thing I need is a pet that can happily chow down on the bathroom fixtures.
The babelfish has possibilities: think of the renumerative scam possibilities of understanding every known human language! Yet the companionate animal function is sadly lacking; one can hardly snuggle with a slimy creature residing in one’s ear canal. Delete.
No, the clear choice is a phoenix. They live for 500 years, strike fear into the hearts of the impure, (take THAT creepy delivery guy in my alley), are recyclable, and even though this does involve perennial self immolation, their healing tears would counteract any resultant 3rd degree injuries. And no litter box!
Our second guest is Canadian author Matthew Johnson. Matthew lives in Ottawa, Ontario with his wife and their two sons. His work has been published in places such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Strange Horizons, and has been included in several Year’s Best anthologies and translated into Danish, Russian and Czech. A collection of his short stories, Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, was published in June by ChiZine Publications. When he’s not writing or practicing full-contact parenting he works at MediaSmarts, Canada’s centre for digital and media literacy, where he writes lesson plans, articles and educational computer games, does public appearances and media interviews, and occasionally does pirate voices in both English and French. He blogs at www.irregularverbs.ca and is on Twitter as @irregularverbal.
I’m tempted to say “tribbles,” but I’m pretty sure the bylaws where I live don’t allow more than five of them per household within city limits. Like any child of the ’80s, of course, I went through a period of wishing I could adopt Lockheed the dragon from X-Men, but since Lockheed was basically a flying cat who could breathe fire I’m not sure how he would get along with the two cats I already have.
In the end I think I have to pick Klootz the mutant moose from Sterling E. Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey and its sequel The Unforsaken Hiero. As well as being bigger and smarter than a present-day moose Klotz is telepathic, which makes him an ideal mount and companion for the titular hero as he has a variety of bizarre adventures in post-apocalyptic Canada. I owe this book a lot, having encountered it at a formative age; it was the first vaguely interesting book I had ever encountered that was set in my own country, for instance, and its gleeful, unapologetic cheesiness (one Goodreads commenter described it as “like a milkshake made out of Burt Reynolds’ chest hair and the skeleton of a Brontosaurus”) helped to give me the courage to embrace genre cliches in the hopes of making them my own.
Mostly, though, I’d like Klootz for a pet because I ride my bike to work. Ottawa’s a pretty bikeable city, but there are definitely parts of it where drivers need to be reminded to share the road: two tons of psychic warmoose might just do the trick.
Lawrence M. Schoen
This was a tough question for me, particularly as I’ve committed nearly half a million words writing about buffalo dogs (aka buffalitos), alien creatures that resemble miniaturized versions of the American bison, but with the ability to consume virtually any matter and transform it all into flatulence of pure oxygen. But that’s be taking the easy way out.
My Klingon background pushes me in the direction of tribbles, the cooing, furry ovoids from Iota Geminorum IV that are born pregnant and make kudzu seem harmless, but again, no, that would be too simple.
I think I have to go with a winged monkey. You know, the blue-furred ones from THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. Not only would one be a great companion animal, but it could fetch things for you (hey, monkey, I just called in a pizza; it’ll be ready in 30 minutes, go get it!), is presumably house-broken, and gets to wear a cute little hat (and vest too, if you go by the 1939 film). I have a sneaking suspicion that it would probably smell really bad, but that just means I’d have to build a monkey aerie on my roof. And oh, the fun we’d have terrorizing other neighborhood pets, as my winged monkey plunges from the sky and snatches them up (all in innocent play, of course).
I have two clear favorites.
I was four when I became obsessed with the cartoon Rainbow Brite. For me, the allure wasn’t Rainbow herself or rainbows or the fumbling villainy of Murky and Lurky… it was her horse, Starlite. I already had a strong interest in horses and Starlite cemented that. My Little Pony never appealing to me as much–it was too cutesy. I wanted a real horse. A talking, magical real horse in particular. I collected Breyer horses. I read every horse book I could. If total strangers knew one fact about me, it was that I loved horses.
At about age eleven, I realized that my family was poor and I would never have a horse of my own. Even so, that love has never gone away. Earlier this year, I resumed riding lessons for the first time as an adult. My desire for magical horses still works into my writing, especially my poetry (see “Seeds” at Mythic Delirium and “What We Carry” at inkscrawl).
On a completely different note, I love Dragon Quest slimes.
Dragon Quest is a huge role-playing game franchise that started on 8-bit Nintendo. It paved the way for Final Fantasy and everything that’s come since. The games are still popular in Japan, though their marketing in the rest of the world has always been inconsistent. The most iconic character from the game is the blue slime. It’s the first monster you encounter in most every game. I adore slimes. There’s something glorious about those bright, smiling faces, even as you pummel them to death.
For a number of years, I was a major importer of DQ goods–manga, doujinshi (fan-made comics), shitajiki (pencil boards), bandanas, figurines, etc, with slimes figuring most prominently. I still own over a hundred plush slimes, ranging in size from cell phone fobs to Big Blue the bean bag chair slime, as shown. Heck, I even have a slime Zippo lighter and a slime derby board game. Amongst my friends, I became known as the Queen of Slimes.
Give me a magical talking horse and an army of slime minions, and I’ll be happy
I’m a dog person, so I’m going with a cave troll.
The one they pick on in Fellowship of the Ring is so misunderstood. He’s a perfectly nice guy—just a big dope who fell in with the wrong crowd, really. It’s clear that he doesn’t want to fight. They have to drag him in on a chain. I don’t know where he got the big hammer, but he probably just uses it to whack stuff. Kind of like throwing snowballs at trees or whatever. It’s just what you
It’s not his fault that a bunch of little pesky people shoot him with arrows. That would piss anyone off. You don’t let your kid yank a strange dog’s tail, and you don’t let your kid shoot trolls with arrows. It’s just common sense.
Trolls don’t shed. They’re not explicitly forbidden in any lease agreements or rental contracts. They’re loyal, they’re easily housebroken, and they’re smart enough that you can teach them tricks. What dog can throw the Frisbee back to you? And what dog can throw it 500 yards?
They do require a little bit of extra living space, but it’s worth the investment, considering the fact that a cave troll is the ultimate home security system.
The only real trouble is that you need an in-home darkroom, or else you need to board up your garage so tightly that no sunlight can get in. It would be awful to come home and find your pet has turned to stone.
I’m going to have to go with Cassiopeia from Michael Ende’s Momo. Cassiopeia is a tortoise who can talk by displaying words on her shell and who can see thirty minutes into the future. A theme in Momo is that the time you “save” by working harder in the relentless pursuit of efficiency is actually time you lose to the Men in Grey, and Cassiopeia, moving slowly and steadily through life, has all the time in the world. She could teach me a lot.
Stitch. “Is little and broken, but still good.”
I was pretty thoroughly sold on Anne McCaffrey’s fire lizards growing up. Sure, the full-size dragons were mighty and magnificent and telepathic and all that jazz. But the fire lizards were darling, and Menolly had like 9 or 25 of them or something like that. All different colors, too.
So it’s probably no surprise that I wanted to write something with a tiny dragon in it. My next book, SILVERBLIND, has steamy, silver, forest-dwelling wyverns–and we meet several of their kitten-sized babies. Now unlike fire lizards, baby wyverns — woglets — don’t tend to go around imprinting on humans. So Dorie’s pretty shocked to find out she’s in charge of one. They’re cranky and hissy and they spit steam (baby steam, at first.) Worse, they yodel. They’re reportedly cousins to the legendary basilisks, and they can fascinate themselves a meal . . . but they don’t do anything useful like teleporting messages all over the countryside. Still, Dorie grows rather attached to her inconvenient woglet, and so did I.
Michael R. Underwood
Do I have to stick with just one? I can’t have my own fantastic menagerie, with a Mabari hound from Dragon Age, a Gold Dragon mount from Dragonlance, and a Kaiju BFF?
If not, then I want a Night Fury as friendly and loyal as Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon. Smart, maneuverable, perfect size for a not-large human to ride, and capable of laying explosive waste to my enemies!
What’s not to like?
What fantasy creature would you like most as a pet?