Friday, October 18, 2013

October 18: A Night in the Lonesome October-fest

We get quite a compelling and eventful chapter today.

First time out yesterday I got him farther through the muck, but he was still in it when I left him. I was tired. Jack was sequestered with his objects. The police were about, searching the area. The vicar was out, too, offering exhortations to the searchers. Night came on, and later I made my way back to the muck, chasing off a few vermin and beginning the long haul once again.

I'd worked on and off for over an hour, allowing myself several panting breaks, when I realized I was no longer alone. He was bigger than me even, and he moved with a silence I envied, some piece of the night cut loose and drifting against lesser blacknesses. He seemed to know the moment I became aware of him, and he moved toward me with a long, effortless stride, one of the largest dogs I'd ever seen outside of Ireland.
As Flora said once upon a time:"This is an ultrasonic dog whistle. Donner and Blitzen here have four brothers, and they're all trained to take care of nasty people and they all respond to my whistle. So don't start to walk toward any place where you won't be desired. A toot or two and even you will go down before them. Their kind is the reason there are no wolves left in Ireland, you know."

I just googled Irish wolfhound, and I don't know a lot about dog breeds, but it seems to be that the dog depicted on the cover of the dust jacket could very well be an Irish wolfhound.

This passage is of particular interest: "The Irish wolfhound was bred for long solitary hunts based solely off of the dogs ability to visualize its landscape", which is something we see Snuff doing all the time.

And this one: "historically these dogs were required to work at great distances from their masters and think independently when hunting rather than waiting for detailed commands and this can still be seen in the breed."

They're gigantic, though (120 to 150 pounds), so maybe not. Anyone have any pet theories (no pun intended) as to what breed Snuff might represent?
Correction. As he came on I realized he wasn't really a dog. It was a great gray wolf that was bearing down on me. I quickly reviewed my knowledge of the submissive postures these guys are into as I backed away from the corpse. 
"You can have it," I said. "It's all right with me. It's not in the best of shape, though."

That's another something I really liked, because it seemed like the way a dog would respond. My wife is a naturalist, and I've absorbed some information through osmosis, and animals, even big ones like bears, tend to try to avoid the fights if they can. Even if Snuff was one of the reasons that there were no wolves left in Ireland, why get killed to prove it? I could really believe Snuff responding in this way, and it reinforces the impression that he's a dog.

Then we get the big reveal:

He loomed nearer. Monstrous jaws, great feral eyes. . . . Then he sat down. 
"So this is where it is," he said. 
"The missing body. Snuff, you are tampering with evidence." 
"And you might say I'm tampering with something already tampered with. Who are you?" 
"Larry. Talbot."

Larry drags the corpse to the river.

"I can't tell you how happy this makes me," I said. 
"You just did," he said. "Let's head back."

Zelazny wrote a lot of, well, Zelaznian characters, and many of them had similar personality traits. We don't see a lot of the small kindnesses that come with a true friendship, with is why I treasure those moments when they do arrive.

Larry leads Snuff past the house to a local church, where the vicar is leading a Black Mass.

Larry pointed out that the cross was upside-down, but I'd already noticed this myself. 
"Do you know what that means?" he asked softly. 
"Religious distress signal?" I said.

Heh heh. I enjoyed the silly good humor of the previous chapter, but I think Snuff's deadpan observations are funnier.

They realize that the Black Mass is something even more sinister, a service to the Elder Gods, and they vacate the premises before it turns into an orgy.

They talk about calculating and Larry's place in the game:

"That's not it, Snuff," he said. "I can't tell you because I don't know. I'm an anticipator. I know certain things about the future, and I anticipate being at the center when the moon is full. And yes, I'm on your side. But I'll also be out of my mind that night. I still haven't worked out the formula for bringing it through a moon-change intact. I'm not sure I should even be categorized as a player. But then, I'm not sure I shouldn't. I'm just too much of a wild card." 
I threw back my head and howled. Sometimes it's the best thing to do.

If I needed one line to sum up Lonesome October, there it is. That's perfect.


  1. Going back to a note on one of your earlier posts, you said that it's not clear whether Snuff is a dog who was elevated by Jack or some other entity who was put into dog form by Jack. This was one of those things that hadn't even *occurred* to me as a possibility--I'd never thought that maybe Snuff was a regular old dog first. But since you brought it up a few days ago, I've decided to keep an eye out for clues, one way or another, and I think one of the passages you quoted here today reinforces my thoughts that Snuff was some sort of demon/spirit/whatever who just got turned into a dog.

    The particular line I'm thinking of is this: "I quickly reviewed my knowledge of the submissive postures these guys are into as I backed away from the corpse."

    Now, you *could* argue that when Snuff says "these guys" he's referring to wolves specifically, and not dogs, but . . . well, I'm fairly certain wolves and dogs have the same submissive postures. So to me, he's saying, ". . . the submissive postures wolves and dogs are into . . ." Which, of course, would seem to imply that he's not naturally a dog himself.

    Granted, it's still possible that Zelazny *did* intend for this to be ambiguous (and if so, I love him for it), but as of now, I'm still firmly in the "Snuff was something else, originally" camp.

    Next topic of debate: Conrad Nomikos--mutant, or Pan?

    1. Heh. I was thinking of the same "is he or isn't he?" question when I looked at that passage and came to the different conclusion. (Yes, shocking, someone finds evidence supporting a viewpoint he already holds. News at 11!)

      I was reading it that dogs and wolves are biologically the same thing, but the animals we call dogs are socialized and while Snuff might have submissive responses in his repertoire, he hasn't had cause to use them with regular dogs, which he intimidates by virtue of his size and demeanor.

      I think of the only two animals companions whose origins are explicitly discussed, Graymalk and Cheeter, both were regular animals before they joined the Game, and that's some circumstantial evidence pointing towards the uplifted animal theory, though I admit the sample size is small.

      I was thinking about Growler too, and I don't think a primal dog spirit would have much traffic with some alien thing that wears the shape of a dog. I'll address that in more detail as he becomes more prominent. (And I was remembering him as part of the story already. I didn't realize how late he popped up. All we've gotten is that one throwaway line.)

      Conrad, mutant or Pan? I've always come down on the mutant side, thought Chris Kovacs offers some arguments to the contrary in the comment section of this post:

  2. Hm. You're probably right about Snuff being a dog first.

    But I'm going to keep on believing what I was believing, because I'm stubborn. So nyeh!

  3. Snuff certainly seems to be an Irish wolfhound. I first encountered the breed when I was 14 years old. They had a male and female on display at a county fair. I was 5' 10" at the time and the male looked me right in the eye! Huge, tall dog!

    (It seems as plausible as magic might be that Snuff was a minor demon infused into a dog. And for a-possibly-fallen angel, his heart seems at least reasonably pure. Dog seems to suit him for more than demon!)