WARNING: May contain naughty language.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Alien Perspectives and Canis Domesticus

I'm a dog owner and proud of it...most of the time. Juno is a 3 year old black lab / German shepherd mix. Maybe I'm getting too parental about her, but she is a gorgeous animal; sleek with jet black fur and grey "racing stripes" on her sides. My family and I love her dearly. But she is very un-doglike. When we come home she'll occasionally lift her head to see who just entered the house. She rebuffs all attempts to play, unless she feels like it. 90% of the time she sits like a Sphinx, staring at us with a faint air of disdain. We sometimes call her the "Cat Dog" for obvious reasons.

 I've always been curious about how dogs view us, themselves and the world around them. I just finished reading "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horowitz and my thoughts are on Goodreads.

But the book got me thinking. Like any other writer of science-fiction & fantasy one of my biggest challenges is introducing non-human characters and making them "real". Orson Scott Card has written a couple of books on science fiction writing which touch on the topic, but I never quite understood it until I read Horowitz's work.

She describes in detail how dogs, with their hyper-acute sense of smell and excellent hearing, must experience daily events we take for granted. I found it mesmerizing. The world is an exciting amalgam of fascinating smells which speak volumes to dogs. The nose always knows. What about an alien species from a plant without a sun? No eyes required, thank you. Communication, society and everything else sans eyes, perhaps focusing on hearing instead. Or lithovores without any external sensory organs who experience the universe via touch?

The possibilities are endless. I imagine to do it correctly would require significant thought and imagination but that's why we write anyway.

So the next time an alien lands on Earth or a subterranean race appears at the castle, take a moment to see the world through their eyes. Or nose. Or ears.

Or what?

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