Jude Augustus Holly, left, and his great-uncle, Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Many years ago, when the Earth was young, Reaves and I wrote our first collaborative novel, Hellstar. Since it is out-of-print and hard to find, I'll give you a short recap: A huge generation-ship, pretty much a city in space, is on its way from our solar system to a nearby star. Given the sub-light speeds, it is going to take a while. I seem to recall that it was eighty-odd years one-way, but that's from memory, so it could be off.
Along the way, the ship runs into a naked singularity, i.e. a black hole that has evaporated, sort of, and everything goes to hell. Gravity fails, time runs sideways, major disasters happen all over and everybody is in Deep Shit.
The book was pitched at 150K words, and after we sold it, the first ones out of our editor's mouth were, "A hundred and thirty thousand words, max." Thus we had some pacing problems to fix, we each did a draft, and pretty much, we were happy how it turned out.
We sent the manuscript in.
Now, at the climax of the tale, reality has broken down, there is a good possibility that the ship is going to be crippled in a major way, if not destroyed completely. Holes are opening and closing in walls, water is floating hither and yon, time is wonky, people are going mad and being killed, it's all very dramatic and harum-scarum.
Our editor -- let's call her "Beth," because, well, that's her name -- Beth sent us a note and what she said up front was:
"What happened to the dog?"
Thousands of terrified people are floating around, going bugfuck, dying, the ship is in dire peril, but none of that mattered.
We had a pregnant dog -- the correct term is "bitch" -- who had her litter in the greensward park, one of whom's pups wound up with the son of one of our viewpoint characters. A brief appearance, how can you not smile at a boy with a puppy?
Our response, if I recall it correctly, was "Who gives a fuck what happened to the dog?"
To which she, as an editor of greater experience than we, retorted, "More readers than you can imagine." And she was adamant about it.
So we went back and put in a line or two showing that the dog made it through okay.
Later, I was to discover from other writers and editors that putting a dog in peril demands resolution. A lot of folks like dogs more than they like people -- a thing I have come to understand myself. ("The more I learn about people, the better I like my dog ...")
I met a well-known Northwest mystery writer once at an autographing, and we chatted about this and that, since we sat next to each other. He had a couple of series going, and in one, the main character owned a dog. After a time, he got tired of fooling with the critter, so he wanted to get rid of it.
No way in hell, his editor told him. If you kill off the dog, your readers will hunt us down and cut out our livers. The dog stays until he dies of old age.
All of which is to say that if you are going to put a dog in your story, you need to know this.
There's another writer my wife and I like, and he killed a dog in one of his novels. I wouldn't let my wife read it when I was done with the book. If I had known he was going to do it, I wouldn't have read it. And that's why I still haven't seen Will Smith's version of I Am Legend all the way to the end. Wipe out humanity, turn them all into monsters? No problem, I can deal with that.
Don't, however, kill that German Shepherd Dog. I liked him better than I did Will ...