Issue 047 Author Interview: Anna Martino and “Dashing, Through the Spaceship”

Today’s Issue 047 author interview is for all the dog-lovers out there! Come join us as we chat with Anna Martino about what happens when you put a dog in space, like in “Dashing, Through the Spaceship“.

LSQ: This story brings to mind those kinds of writing exercises that instruct you to write about a common object as if you’ve never seen it before, or to describe it to aliens with no knowledge of it. What kind of tactics did you have to employ to capture Martedi’s first experience with a dog?

Anna: The shock that Martedi feels upon meeting a dog comes from my experience seeing a cow up close for the first time, at age six. Having seen them only on TV and in books, I thought cows were way smaller than they actually were, and was absolutely freaked out when faced with the real, smelly, and rather immense article! (much to my father’s amusement — he grew up in the countryside, after all) I also drew from family lore: I have an aunt who has a phobia of birds. To her fear, a hummingbird poses the same threat as a vulture… I reckon Martedi’s mind works in the same fashion, hence his less-than-stellar reactions when he first meets Dashing.

It is an interesting exercise to describe things as if you never saw it, though I must confess it took me a long time to come up with an explanation that would make sense to Martedi’s mind, taking into consideration his limited repertoire and the place he came from. For a person who was born and raised in an artificial environment, talking about “fur” or “tails” is the same thing about talking about aircraft engines to me. I can understand the general dynamics, but you’ll lose me at the specifics.

LSQ: What starts out as a sort of quiet story about an old Commander dying peacefully turns into a suspenseful burst of action. What made you want to blend the two together? How did this story take shape?

Anna: I had the idea for this story after a friend joked there should be a SFF anthology featuring dogs in space. This friend is a Hard SF writer, so I reckon they thought about Laika and the Space Race — but the first idea that came to me was “a Daschund living its best life in a spaceship” (because my first pet was a Daschund and because, let’s face it: a Doxie in a space suit is quite the endearing thought.)

I entertained the idea for a while, and then came the realization that “pets in space” will probably be a loaded subject for our descendants. If/when our species conquers outer space, one can suppose that resources like food and oxygen will be limited, so it wouldn’t make sense to breed dogs or cats for the pleasure and the company. I mean, we can imagine artificial food substituting meat and poultry… And yet, can we really picture ourselves without pets? Electronic devices that imitate cats and dogs or birds are interesting, but no match for the real article. From here, lots of possible plots can stem: who decides what would make up a “pet” in such a scenario (e.g. cats and dogs ok, but what about lizards or spiders?) How much would it cost? How would you feed it? From this viewpoint, I imagined how it would be like to live in this particular future without domestic animals — and thus poor ensign Martedi, who doesn’t know a cow from a Daschund, came about.

I soon realized this story wasn’t only about Commander Silva’s last wish, but also about power — we see this in Commander Silva’s peaceful death and Costa’s familiarity with dogs, both privileges resulting from monetary and class advantage points. We see it in the lack of power to decide one’s destiny (remember, Martedi only signed up for the Fleet because it was that or road building on Mars. His lack of knowledge about Earthly matters isn’t a deficiency on his part, it is systemic). And where there is this limited power to possess and limited power to choose, you have tension. What happens when you add something like a pet — cute and loaded with sentimental value, but also a sign of this invisible power — into this equation?

The catalysts for this tension happened to be Lt. Costa and Lt. Camargue, bickering siblings to the end — and like it happened to the quintessential bickering siblings, Cain and Abel, blood had to be spilled. Therefore, this burst of action came to me as a natural response to the power dynamics inside the ship, and in their society. When you want something — when you feel entitled to something, because or in spite of your position, your background or your gender — and then you are denied…this could only end in tears.

LSQ: Where do you see Martedi going from here? Would you ever revisit him and his newfound friendship with Pereira and Dashing?

Anna: Martedi has a lot to learn in the Living History community, so I imagine his next years will be quite eventful. I mean, if he freaked out with a Daschund, imagine his reaction when he meets a Saint Bernard! (And since we have Dachshunds in space, why not Saint Bernards or Golden Retrievers?) I would love to revisit him and see how he is dealing with the bereavement animals, and of course how his life with Pereira and Dashing came about. Perhaps he can become a space vet or an advocate for therapy animals for the Martian outposts. Who knows? The possibilities are endless, and his heart is in the right place, even when he runs his mouth when nervous…though I have a feeling Pereira will cure him of that quickly!

LSQ: A difficult question, no doubt, but what are your favorite breeds of dog?

Anna: I’m fond of corgis and greyhounds, and also have a soft spot for the meme-famous Brazilian “vira-lata caramelo” (caramel mutt), which is as close to a national breed as my home nation will ever have. But really, all dogs are beautiful! 🙂