Friday, December 18, 2009

Memory Dog by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Must we become a dog in order to offer unconditional love? Can we only receive unconditional love if we get it from a dog? Those are just some of the issues that “Memory Dog” raises. It’s an overstuffed story, with memory drugs, an unraveled marriage, political and social unrest, and “smacks,” a high impact variety of blog post that floats about looking for receptive people.

Unable to cope with guilt from the death of a child and the end of his marriage, a scientist at the forefront of new memory research transfers a mixture of his own edited memories and those of the family dog into a dog that is then released near his former wife’s home. The memory-enhanced dog forms an attachment with his ex-wife.

An unabashedly sentimental cocktail of regret, loss, love, and fractured memories, the story works despite being overcomplicated.

Is there a subgenre of science fiction stories about dogs? Some leap to mind:
“People of Sand and Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi. (Dead dog.)
“Sergeant Chip” by Bradley Denton. (Military dog.)
“A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison. (Answering the old dating joke: Girlfriend asks boyfriend, which do you prefer, me or your dog? Woof!)
I’m sure I’ve overlooked many science fiction dog stories. Please add those that you remember in the comments.

"Memory Dog" by Kathleen Ann Goonan, originally published in Asimov’s, April/May 2008
Link: Year’s Best SF 14 summation and table of contents

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