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Dogs, Underdogs and Doggish Dogs

//Dogs, Underdogs and Doggish Dogs

It seems to me there’s a certain level of hubris to having your own website, though it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as what they sometimes call a “fan page” on Facebook. I understand the wisdom if not the necessity of it, but it’s taken me a while to get around to setting one up. I can picture people saying, “A David Reeder website? Just who the hell does he think he is, Ron Jeremy? Ernest Hemingway?”

The answer to that question is, no, but I did watch a naughty pay-per-view movie in a Holiday Inn last night. And I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway…more of a Jack London or Mark Twain man, I think.

Anyway, I have no idea exactly what to say or how to start this thing, but you have to start somewhere. So, I’ll just talk about a few things things I really like: dogs, Charlie Brown and reading.

This is one of my all time favorite songs. Not for the same reason I love the Star Spangled Banner (though that one never fails to get me misty eyed) but because there’s something at the same time both gleeful and nostalgically melancholy about it. It’s the same way with the theme song to Hill Street Blues — weird, I know. Plus, I identify with Charlie Brown. He’s a loser kid who is terrible at sports, screws up constantly, is incessantly made fun and rarely goes anywhere without dog who is rather more adjusted (and perhaps brighter) than he is. I’m not comparing myself to him; I’m just saying if I was bucktoothed and had to wear clothes 10 years out of date bought from a thrift store there might be a resemblance.

Speaking of dogs, here’s mine…or one of them anyway. He was supposed to be the boon companion to my son Daniel, but somehow became codependent with me. Meanwhile a stray showed up a few days after he did and quickly took over the Constant Daniel Companion billet. He’s a Boerbel, or South African Mastiff and while he’s not as much of a smartass as Snoopy he can be irritatingly clever at times. Thankfully he was the runt of his litter, I’d hate to see what sort of trouble of big bastard could cause if he was any larger. Ownership of a Boerboel (pronouned boo-r-bull) is actually prohibited in some countries (Romania, Switzerland, some other places) because they’re “dangerous fighting dogs.” That certainly may be true in other countries. This lazyass is most dangerous if he sees a squirrel while running alongside my bike. I’ve been helplessly towed for over a mile before, which of course beats being drug along the ground for several yards if I can’t keep the bike upright.

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Here he is a few months back after having a tooth pulled. To give you a sense of scale, the tooth is a bigger than a quarter.

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This brings us to reading. I love to read with what Robert E. Howard would describe as a fierce and terrible love. We didn’t have much money when I was a kid, but one of the ways in which we were wealthy was books. My father was a voracious reader. There were literally thousands of volumes in the house, from science fiction to history to tomes of the natural sciences. I grew up reading names regarded as “old school” writers today: Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, to say nothing of Tolkien, CS Lewis, Lloyd Alexander and others. Reading has always been one of the great joys of my life.

I’ll close out this inaugural exercise in narcissism with a book suggestion.

Check out City, by Clifford D. Simak. A 3-time Hugo Award winner, Nebula Award winner and SFWA Grand Master, this accomplished newspaper man turned novelist is sadly little known by the sci-fi and fantasy loving public today. That’s a shame. He was brilliant, though his work isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for huge interstellar wars, laser blasting spaceship battles or heroics of the sword-and-planet sort, he’s not your guy.

If you don’t mind thinking a little, well…

This is my copy. It was my dad’s, and is one of the original copies published in 1952 (the stories themselves were written between the early 40s and the publication date). As you can see, it’s taken quite a beating.

Clifford-D-Simak-City-ReederWrites-1 Here’s a snippet from the prologue:

These are the stories that the Dogs tell when the fires burn high and the wind is from the north. Then each family circle gathers at the hearthstone and the pups sit silently and listen and when the story’s done they ask many questions.:

“What is Man?” they’ll ask.

Or perhaps: “What is a city?”

Or: “What is a war?

There is no positive answer to any of these questions. There are suppositions and there are theories and there are many educated guesses, but there are no answers…

The first question, of course, is whether there ever was such a creature as Man. At the moment, in the absence of positive evidence, the sober consensus must be that there was not, that Man, as presented in the legend, is a figment of folklore invention. Man may have risen in the early days of Doggish culture as an imaginary being, a sort of racial god, on which the Dogs might call for help, to which they might retire for comfort.

Despite these sober conclusions, however, there are those who see in Man an actual elder god, a visitor from some mystic land or dimension, who came and stayed awhile and helped and then passed on tot he place from which he came…

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Flipping it open you can see just how battered this copy is. That’s my old man’s initials in the upper corner. He’ll be pissed if he sees the shape this book is in, even though he gave it to me a decade and a half ago.

…Of all the disturbing factors in the tales (and they are many) the most disturbing is the suggestion of reverence which is accorded Man. It is hard for the average reader to accept this reverence as mere story-telling. It goes far beyond the perfunctory worship of a tribal god; one almost instinctively feels that it must be deep-rooted in some now forgotten belief or rite involving the pre-history of our race.

This is a dystopian novel, but not a post-apocalyptic one. At least not in the classic sense. It’s not even a novel, it’s technically an anthology. Worth reading though, if you’re interested. You can get an original hard copy off Amazon here. Hell you can even get it on Kindle.

That’s it for now. Go forth and conquer.

DR

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