Pets in Space 4, which released this week, is a work of love and pride for all thirteen of the authors involved. Many of us also take advantage of the forum to add in animal family members that we’ve known and loved – I’m no exception to that, and my story Heart of the Spider’s Web is a tribute to some of the wonderful reptiles I’ve had the privilege to know.
Bringing Goanna to Life
Goanna are a relatively new introduction to the TriSystems books – they were referenced in a couple of places before now as an aside, but Heart of the Spider’s Web marks the first time I’ve spent any significant time with them. To understand Darcy and goanna in general I must dive into a bit of history.
The first thing to remember is that they have only a passing resemblance to the Terran goanna (a catch-all for several species of monitor lizard in Australia) – the original colonists from Earth found an indigenous reptile-analogue on Farhope when they landed and saddled it with the first name that came to mind (and overlooked that these goanna had two pairs of eyes). Because they’re omnivorous, easy to keep, and come in a variety of bright colors, goanna flourished as domestic pets (especially given that cats and most dog breeds had limited genetic stock and are expensive both to purchase and own.)
The behavior of my hero Rayan Barr’s goanna, Darcy, is patterned after a green iguana I kept for many years. This iguana (and most of them, I’ve since learned) was often described as acting like a big, scaly cat, and I tried to carry that through to how Darcy responds to attention, especially massages. He’s also a big, insistent goof, and a bit of a food-hound, much to the delight of the ship’s crew. Bringing Darcy into this story was an important gesture for me, first to explore some decidedly non-terrestrial biology, but more importantly to pay homage to the other Herps I’ve been lucky enough to share my life with. While a certain green iguana may be gone, in many ways he lives on in this story.
This excerpt marks Darcy’s first appearance in Heart of the Spider’s Web, as the feisty goanna renews his acquaintance with our heroine, Sheri Tyler. Enjoy!
JC Hay writes about heroic hearts, both human, canine, and reptilian, in a fantastic future
Heart of the Spider’s Web – Excerpt
“Showtime, Dockrat. You ready?” Rayan Barr’s voice was as heavy as his physique, and his build surprised her every time she saw him. The gym facilities on the ship had to be amazing to keep his musculature so well defined despite the oft-fluctuating gravity of space travel. Where most people lost mass on extended trips, Barr never seemed to have that problem.
Sheri scoffed. “Couldn’t you find a shirt in your size?” If she was honest, the black pseudo-cotton stretched across his ample shoulders looked pretty fine. She wouldn’t say it out loud, though. The man had an ego to match his size.
“Just doing my part to make the ship visually appealing.” He grinned and shrugged in a way that hinted he knew exactly how tight his shirt was and how the gesture would translate.
She swallowed, rolling her eyes elaborately to show how unimpressive the entire display was despite her suddenly dry mouth. “Are you leading me somewhere? Or are you my new replacement door?”
“I don’t know. The latter might be fun.”
“I agree,” she said. “I like throwing knives at my door.”
A red-black shape moved across the floor, deceptively quick for its size. The goanna clambered up onto the reclamation unit and lapped at the few droplets clinging to the edge of the bowl. He puffed his chest up, proud of the accomplishment, and let out a shrill, trilling call.
Sheri responded in kind, mimicking the sound as well as she was able. The lizard shifted to focus on her as he had every time she’d seen him in Nobu Station’s dockyards. He blinked his four eyes in alternating pairs, head tilted to watch her as he trilled again.
She answered once more, and Barr strode into the room to retrieve the goanna. “That’s enough out of you, Darcy.” The meter and a half lizard climbed to his shoulder and pushed the top of his flat head into Barr’s cheek. He reached up and stroked the lizard’s throat gently.
“That’s a shame,” Sheri said. “You just ended the most intelligent conversation I’ve had since I arrived.”
Pets in Space 4, containing Heart of the Spider’s Web, is available now from your favorite E-Tailer: