“The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs” by Kelly Jennings – Selection 50 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♠K♠  King of Spades. Playing card picture at left found on pinterest. Samoyed pic from wikipedia.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠ is my Suit for (mostly) dark/horror/sci-fi stories.  I’ve been a digital subscriber to the “Fantasy and Science Fiction” magazine for some time now, and many of its short stories have found their way onto my DMI (and other readathon) reading lists.

The Author: Kelly Jennings, who I’ve never read before. She lives in Northwest Arkansas. You can find her on Twitter at @delagar and she has an active blog at delagarbibliopgraphy.blogspot.com

The Selection: “The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs” I own a copy as part of the May/June 2017 edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. I picked it for Deal Me In because I found the title irresistible.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs

“Resistance. That’s nearly as funny as Refugee Camp. But lots of us who survived the Camps did have the notion we could fight the invaders, especially those of us who were young and stupid.”

Okay. All those who had a dog or dogs growing up, please raise your hands. Mine’s up too, and while reading this story I remembered how family history is sometimes linked to “which dog you had at the time” a certain event happened. It’s also coincidental that I can remember five dogs: Flip, Rex, Tip, King, and Ring.  Rex was the only one we kept at, or I should say that lived his life at, my childhood home in Indianapolis. The others we bought with the foreknowledge that they would eventually handed over to my Granddad, who lived in the mountains of West Virginia, where the dogs could “roam free” and we could still visit them a couple times a year.

I think I could likely write my childhood history told in five dogs, but it would be an incomplete history. I also remember being fascinated as a kid about the concept of “dog years” vs. “human years.” I had to look up a conversion chart (shared later in this post) after reading this story to refresh my memory, as I, sadly, have not owned any dogs in my adult life. I loved how the author describes (pictured below from my kindle app) that the story came to her at a dog park in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It’s easy to see how the other dogs in the park could become “characters” in this story, just as Tolstoy’s “faces in the town square” ended up populating his endless novels. I was also reminded by the title of the sci-fi novel, “Earth Abides,” where in the new, post-apocalyptic world of that book, they give names to the years instead of numbers, and wasn’t one year known as “The Year Princess Died”? Princess being the survivors’ dog.

We don’t learn too much about the invaders in this story either (just that they are extraterrestrial and are applying their version of “terraforming” to the earth [the actual terra!], which leaves “us” with 10 months out of 12 being winter-like). Humans are outmatched and outgunned, and as our narrator says, “It’s hard to fight a civilization that’s capable of leaping across galaxies and rebuilding planets.”

It’s the nature of telling the story in five dogs that appealed to me about this one. There are five chapters and each begin “FIRST DOG,” “SECOND DOG,” etc. We learn about the breeds and names of the dogs, except  the THIRD DOG, whose brief story is a simple tragedy. They include a Weimeraner mix and a Samoyed as the final dog, where the narrator has fled to the high Rocky Mountains and has joined a survivor camp of 35 people. This compound of people also begins to wonder if they’re the last “survivors” left:

“Sometimes, when I’m standing up on Red Rock looking out across the frozen world, I think like Merle, that we should try to find these other people while we still can. I think if someone else is out there, maybe we aren’t, after all, doomed. Or at least not yet.”

Not a very upbeat story, but again, its attraction for me was the unique framing of it which I found fascinating. How about YOU? What are some of your favorite stories or books that involve dogs? (I can think of one novel my book club read where dogs were the star “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle”). What about stories or novels about alien invasions? Recommend some to me, please. 🙂 Or just tell me about YOUR favorite dog.

♫♫ Personal notes: In the post invasion world of this story, some humans opt to become “adjuncts” – a kind of pet/servant for the alien invaders, this called to mind my copy of the “Classics Illustrated” version of H.G. Wells’ novel, The War of the Worlds, which I read over and over in my formative years. Particularly the panels pictured below.