“Prodigal” online at Asimov’s

 

If you missed the December 2016 issue of Analog and thus didn’t get to read my story “Prodigal,” now’s your chance: it’s online at the magazine’s website in PDF form for the present.  That’s because it was a finalist in the AnLab reader’s poll, which means you can check out a metric ton of great stories on the website:

More happy writing news in a day or two, I promise, when I get a chance to catch my breath.

 

10 thoughts on ““Prodigal” online at Asimov’s

    1. Thanks Kevin! You’re very kind in your praise… and as for the criticism, though I normally avoid replying to that, I’ll just note that it was first drafted in the summer of 2006 (in a form pretty close to the final version). Any parallels with subsequent Planet of the Apes films must be chalked up to zeitgeist, or maybe just that lots of people see SF is a good way of tangling with these issues? Then again, I adored the original films as a teenager (our local library screened them all on summer afternoons), and I’m sure those had some kind of background influence.

      This kind of thing happens a lot, though: a good friend of mine recently published a wonderful short story that I immediately took as an homage to the Netflix series Stranger Things (which I know he loves) but it turned out he’d drafted it long before the show was ever released. That’s why we have a word for zeitgeists, I guess?

      I should say “Prodigal” was also a response to a claim I once heard an SF author make: he’d built his career on a series of books that included animal characters with artificially boosted intelligence (and minds artificially modified to produce relatively humanlike consciousness). When I suggested that perhaos not all animals would necessarily appreciate such a treatment after the fact, I recall him being pretty strident in his insistence to the contrary: wouldn’t anyone appreciate an intelligence boost, even if it wasn’t no-strings-attached?

      (And funnily enough, at some point (maybe in 2013 or 2014) I did explore starting the story years later, when Benji’s “friends” end up releasing a virus that rapidly causes a certain kind of cerebral deformation in humans, effectively “caninizing” their minds. It was way, way too dark, though, and I abandoned it just before returning to the original draft and realizing it was probably close to saleable as it was.)

  1. I think that’s a good point about enhancing animals: it’s not always going to be salutary. Interestingly, I suspect that the citizens of the country in your story must have believed it should have been a net positive, otherwise the procedure would never have become so widespread. One has to wonder how the humans failed to anticipate the possibility of an animal uprising… perhaps they proceeded in the delusional fantasy that creatures are “perfectible” and thus capable of changing their basic natures. And now, the silly humans must reap what they’ve sown. I’m reminded of the old parable, credited to many different cultures, of the compassionate woman who saves the poisonous snake, only to be repaid with a deadly bite because the snake can’t transcend its nature.

    re: Zeitgeist

    I pondered writing, in my review, that your story might be considered part of a tradition-stream that is itself a subgenre of sorts: the animal-enhancement-gone-wrong subgenre. (Or perhaps that’s the sub-subgenre, with the subgenre being “creation turns against creator.”)

    As for a sequel involving the “caninization” of humans—oh, I’d definitely be on board for that.

    1. I think that’s a good point about enhancing animals: it’s not always going to be salutary. Interestingly, I suspect that the citizens of the country in your story must have believed it should have been a net positive, otherwise the procedure would never have become so widespread. One has to wonder how the humans failed to anticipate the possibility of an animal uprising… perhaps they proceeded in the delusional fantasy that creatures are “perfectible” and thus capable of changing their basic natures.

      Hmmm. That’s interesting.

      Not to tell you how to read my story or anything, but well, also: human beings often fail at what SF is all about: anticipating (or really grasping) change, unintended consequences, and worst case scenarios. Human beings their position at the top of the planetary food chain as something inevitable and eternal. (Vernor Vinge makes the same point in his stories and articles about the emergence of a technological singularity—whether you think such a thing is likely to happen is irrelevant on some level, since the observation that we’re ridiculously complacent is still very worthwhile.)

      And now, the silly humans must reap what they’ve sown. I’m reminded of the old parable, credited to many different cultures, of the compassionate woman who saves the poisonous snake, only to be repaid with a deadly bite because the snake can’t transcend its nature.

      Maybe, though the dogs’ nature is changed by the treatment, isn’t it? They become self-aware in a deeper way—a way that leads them to question things like pack hierarchy and their power relationships with their human “owners.” The dogs do in some sense transcend their nature, or are forced to do so… the creature that fails to transcend its nature in this story isn’t the dog, it’s the man. (Who is stuck in a state of human-centric arrogance.)

      Personally, what comes to mind for me is the story of the boy with the salt machine who forgot the code word to make it stop producing salt: what’s unleashed can never be put back in the bag. If humans are too mentally stuck to recognize that, it could be disastrous for us. (Er, the role of CO2 emissions in climate change being a prime example.)

      re: Zeitgeist

      I pondered writing, in my review, that your story might be considered part of a tradition-stream that is itself a subgenre of sorts: the animal-enhancement-gone-wrong subgenre. (Or perhaps that’s the sub-subgenre, with the subgenre being “creation turns against creator.”)

      Probably, though I have to confess I’ve not yet gotten around to reading much of it. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius is the big one—I’ve had a copy for ages, all the way back to when I lived in Canada—but have never gotten around to it for some reason. (I read a few articles about it, so I’m aware of some of what’s in the novel, but only vaguely.) Around the time this was written, another story had recently been published (and I think won awards) called “Sergeant Chip” which was about brain-enhanced military dogs… which was another factor that dissuaded me from trying too hard to get this published at the time. There are surely more, but none really come to mind. Oh, except that Harlan Ellison story “A Boy and His Dog” which, likewise, I haven’t actually read, though I think in that case the dog is just a mutant, not artificially enhanced.

      As for a sequel involving the “caninization” of humans—oh, I’d definitely be on board for that.

      Perhaps someday, but I couldn’t make it work when I was experimenting with it. I think probably because the POV character I was using was the man from this story, and he succumbed. (I think the narrator would have to be someone immune to the disease… or maybe the narrator would have to be Benji himself.)

  2. Gord,

    Good points, all. And since it’s your story, what you say goes when it comes to intended meaning. I’m not a big fan of all that “death of the author” nonsense in which the author’s intentions are utterly ignored and any interpretation of the work is considered equally legitimate compared to any other.

    “Maybe, though the dogs’ nature is changed by the treatment, isn’t it? They become self-aware in a deeper way—a way that leads them to question things like pack hierarchy and their power relationships with their human “owners.” The dogs do in some sense transcend their nature, or are forced to do so… the creature that fails to transcend its nature in this story isn’t the dog, it’s the man. (Who is stuck in a state of human-centric arrogance.)”

    I’d agree the dogs’ nature has been changed, but my reading (which I concede may be entirely wrong in view of your above response) was that the dogs were still basically dogs. I don’t think this is an irrational conclusion to come to because the story itself seems to provide evidence that the dogs remain quite canine:

    1. Smellovision. Dogs are born with a certain sensorium that delivers the world to their minds in a certain way. Receiving the world primarily through smell isn’t something that’s changed by the procedure. The story even notes that dogs can smell fear, and possibly even lies.

    2. Benji in the park, listening. Benji and a group of dogs all listen while a dog orates. The canine instinct to be in a group and respond to a leader seems mostly intact.

    3. The murder of the guard. A pack of dogs tears apart a security guard. The whole thing is done in a canine—dare I say lupine—way. And again, we get pack behavior.

    4. Howling at the TV. An enhanced dog, when experiencing extreme emotion, is apparently still given to acting like a dog, according to the story. Our truest natures come out in extremis.

    5. Benji’s final utterance. The story ends with Benji growling—a purely canine utterance that says much despite there being no words.

    My point, in citing all the above, isn’t to declare arrogantly that the author’s take on his own story is wrong. All I want to do, here, is show that my interpretation isn’t entirely irrational: the story itself provides evidence for my perspective.

    But again, what you say goes. If you’re saying that the dogs have transcended their nature thanks to the unsolicited acquisition of a deeper sentience, then amen.

    By the way, I completely agree that the humans in the story are still being human. They somehow failed to figure out that you can’t “promote” a species to human levels of sentience and still expect them to be second-class citizens. Cf. the episode “The Measure of a Man” in Star Trek: The Next Generation. If you create a sapient thing, that thing is automatically invested with rights. I wonder how the developers of sentientization managed not to have that discussion. That sounds like a story in itself!

    1. Oh no, I’m a firm believer that once the story’s out there, interpretation is anybody’s game. Er, or, I mean a text is fair game… I’m just riffing along.

    2. Oops, I realize now I didn’t see most of your comment! (Just the first bit; only noticed there was more later.)

      Good points, all. And since it’s your story, what you say goes when it comes to intended meaning. I’m not a big fan of all that “death of the author” nonsense in which the author’s intentions are utterly ignored and any interpretation of the work is considered equally legitimate compared to any other.

      I’m perhaps more comfortable with the idea than you. I think the “death of the author” is perhaps overused for a certain kind of scoring-points academic criticism cleaving to one or another ideology, but since texts (like any sufficiently complex system) are bound to include self-contradictions—and since those happen usually in interesting, revealing areas—to some degree we cannot simply take authors at their word on what they write. (Add in that it’s not all conscious decision making, plus authors often insist they’re saying X and only X, when they’re also clearly saying Y and Z.

      (Certainly I once had an argument with an author who was clearly self-contradicting himself in his texts; they key I was onto something was that he was defensive and pushy about it.)

      I’d agree the dogs’ nature has been changed, but my reading (which I concede may be entirely wrong in view of your above response) was that the dogs were still basically dogs. I don’t think this is an irrational conclusion to come to because the story itself seems to provide evidence that the dogs remain quite canine:

      1. Smellovision. Dogs are born with a certain sensorium that delivers the world to their minds in a certain way. Receiving the world primarily through smell isn’t something that’s changed by the procedure. The story even notes that dogs can smell fear, and possibly even lies.

      2. Benji in the park, listening. Benji and a group of dogs all listen while a dog orates. The canine instinct to be in a group and respond to a leader seems mostly intact.

      3. The murder of the guard. A pack of dogs tears apart a security guard. The whole thing is done in a canine—dare I say lupine—way. And again, we get pack behavior.

      4. Howling at the TV. An enhanced dog, when experiencing extreme emotion, is apparently still given to acting like a dog, according to the story. Our truest natures come out in extremis.

      5. Benji’s final utterance. The story ends with Benji growling—a purely canine utterance that says much despite there being no words.

      My point, in citing all the above, isn’t to declare arrogantly that the author’s take on his own story is wrong. All I want to do, here, is show that my interpretation isn’t entirely irrational: the story itself provides evidence for my perspective.

      Sure, man, it’s cool. I’m not charging in here to tell you you’re wrong by any stretch! I’m just questioning the way you’re thinking about it on a philosophical level. Realistically, certain (vestigial) traits can survive even when one’s nature has fundamentally changed. I think you’re looking at it in a binary way, when—as with any biomodification—that analog smear between binary absolutes is really crucial.

      Also, all those instances you cite have analogues in human behaviour: we favor vision over smell, we engage in group hierarchy that is clearly reminiscent of behaviour in lower primates; humans murder and exhibit (violent) pack behaviour; we shout at the TV when our feelings are provoked; and our facial expressions, body language, and nonverbal utterances also definitely seem to hearken back to our primate origins, if what we share in common with chimps and other great apes is anything to go by. And yet human beings do seem to have some fundamental difference from all the other apes—the capacity of our brain and our toolmaking skills hypertrophied radically, but it didn’t erase all our traits. Presumably for a modded dog, even one modded in utero, many canine traits would survive: you’d get Canine 2.0 (or 3.0, as 2.0 is domesticated dogs), but it’s still be characteristically canine, right?

      My point, though was that it’s the human failure to transcend petty human attitudes (human-centrism, a paternalistic view of animals, etc.) that interested me more in this story. Depending on what you mean by “transcend,” your interpretation may even be a good example of that, though I can’t be sure: I suspect you take “transcend” to mean “become humanlike”?

      Oh, and almost certainly the developers of sentientization would have had that discussion, just as AI researchers have been for years, and just as even animal rights people and philosophers have been having about animals (who really ought to be afforded rights even if they aren’t given artificial sapience, I’d argue). It’s just that in the world of “Prodigal.” it just didn’t really trickle down to the public in a meaningful way in the time between when the discussion was held and industry bloomed. I’d imagine the public was busy with some other moral panic and it blindsided them, or that, like with so many other issues, people are vaguely aware of the issue but are stubborn in their resistance to rethinking their worldview.

      At least, the use of modded police dogs suggests there is legislation about dog rights and laws that govern dog actions; the dogs are there to enforce laws (likely with precedents) pertaining to dog behaviour. I’d imagine they’re modeled on the laws governing children’s behaviour: a degree of reduced culpability, and so on.

      Which reminds me: it’s worth noting that the way the modified dogs are treated in many ways mirrors how children are often treated in comparison with adults: kids also enjoy second class citizenship in many ways. Our disrespect for the rights and dignity of children is so profound that while we put on airs of “caring about them” we rarely listen to or acknowledge them as human beings with opinions, rights, and inherent dignity. (That is, we can adore and fawn upon children, but as a civilization we rarely truly respect them.) I hadn’t done much serious research on this subject at the time, but it still maps pretty well.

      (The fact that anything in a book like How to Talk So Children Listen, and Listen so Children Talk should surprise me, when I have thought seriously about this subject for years and done a reasonable amount of reading about it, is a testament to how screwed up our perceptions of—and relationships with—children actually are.)

      Haven’t seen the Star Trek episode, as I’ve never been a huge fan of anything since my boyhood love of the original series. I did occasionally watch ST:TNG but not well enough to know individual episodes, though with Data on board it doesn’t surprise me that they dealt with this issue too. It’s been a big theme with a lot of AI stories, too, all the way back to Karel Čapek R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots at least. (My favorite treatment probably being Blade Runner, which I think probably is in the DNA of this story too.)

  3. “Realistically, certain (vestigial) traits can survive even when one’s nature has fundamentally changed. I think you’re looking at it in a binary way, when—as with any biomodification—that analog smear between binary absolutes is really crucial.”

    I’m not seeing this as a simple “dog/not-dog” dichotomy; I’d agree with a more sliding-scale way of looking at the matter. That said, I felt the story was showing that the canines were still, at heart, canines: they had not been fundamentally changed by the enhancement, except in terms of their relationship with humans (and even there, Benji held out hope, however briefly, of returning home). But again, maybe that’s where I’m just plain wrong. Perhaps I should reread the story.

    “Also, all those instances you cite have analogues in human behaviour: we favor vision over smell, we engage in group hierarchy that is clearly reminiscent of behaviour in lower primates; humans murder and exhibit (violent) pack behaviour; we shout at the TV when our feelings are provoked; and our facial expressions, body language, and nonverbal utterances also definitely seem to hearken back to our primate origins, if what we share in common with chimps and other great apes is anything to go by. And yet human beings do seem to have some fundamental difference from all the other apes—the capacity of our brain and our toolmaking skills hypertrophied radically, but it didn’t erase all our traits. Presumably for a modded dog, even one modded in utero, many canine traits would survive: you’d get Canine 2.0 (or 3.0, as 2.0 is domesticated dogs), but it’s still be characteristically canine, right?”

    I agree there are analogues in human behavior, so long as we aren’t zooming to a level of abstraction where we’re declaring that there’s simply no difference between humans and dogs.

    “My point, though was that it’s the human failure to transcend petty human attitudes (human-centrism, a paternalistic view of animals, etc.) that interested me more in this story. Depending on what you mean by ‘transcend,’ your interpretation may even be a good example of that, though I can’t be sure: I suspect you take ‘transcend’ to mean ‘become humanlike’?”

    By “transcend,” I merely mean “do something dogs normally aren’t capable of doing.” For example, there’s the classic problem of the leashed dog who has circled the tree several times and (depending on species) doesn’t know how to unwind himself because he lacks the cognitive capacity to figure that puzzle out. Contrast that with the enhanced dog who can easily reason his way out of the leash problem—and probably play chess to boot. Those would be instances of transcendence to me.

    “Which reminds me: it’s worth noting that the way the modified dogs are treated in many ways mirrors how children are often treated in comparison with adults: kids also enjoy second class citizenship in many ways.”

    Interesting topic. I think I agree with the overall thrust of what you’re saying, although I don’t think any adult ought to be giving kids full freedom to do what they like before they’re legally adults. (Granted that legal adulthood involves drawing an arbitrary bright-line distinction that doesn’t always work out justly: there are mature 15-year-olds who could vote intelligently and drive cars prudently, and there are stupid 20-year-olds who have no business voting or driving.) Kids’ opinions and rights ought to be respected, but I’d hesitate before letting a kid run the country. Hell, I’ve seen plenty of student evals that prove some college kids aren’t mature enough to know what’s good for them.

    You’ll be facing these issues in your own life as a dad, if you aren’t already. There will be times when you’ll realize that you can’t treat the kid as a little adult who can be reasoned with, and you’ll just have to put your foot down. A cerebral friend of mine told me, when his daughters had gotten older, that he had sworn he wouldn’t make the mistakes his parents had made… yet he found himself doing the same things his parents had, and realized that those things hadn’t been mistakes at all. At the same time, he held firm to his beliefs that children can indeed be reasoned with, and that physical correction (spanking, etc.) is never the answer (his wife, a stereotypically expressive Italian-American, thought and acted differently). I respect his stance, but I imagine it must have been difficult for him at times.

    A canine Blade Runner might be interesting. Starring Harrison Pug.

    1. I’m not seeing this as a simple “dog/not-dog” dichotomy; I’d agree with a more sliding-scale way of looking at the matter. That said, I felt the story was showing that the canines were still, at heart, canines: they had not been fundamentally changed by the enhancement, except in terms of their relationship with humans (and even there, Benji held out hope, however briefly, of returning home). But again, maybe that’s where I’m just plain wrong. Perhaps I should reread the story.

      But isn’t that an either/or? The fact they’re at heart canine doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t been fundamentally changed. In a lot of ways, human beings are still fundamentally primates, though we all agree there’s a fundamental difference between us and all the other great apes that survive into the present, despite everything we share in common with them.

      I think the changes that matter for the canines in the story relate to their having language and conscious self-awareness, a better grasp of human social behaviour, a capacity to think of their experiences in terms of abstract systems like rights, and the ability to form contrary ideologies and enact them. (Well, and the ability to plan their pack activities, or follow complex plans designed for them by human beings.)

      I agree there are analogues in human behavior, so long as we aren’t zooming to a level of abstraction where we’re declaring that there’s simply no difference between humans and dogs.

      Wait, I was saying there are analogues between human behaviour and the behaviour of other primates (which suggests the retention of traits and behaviours we had before we developed into homo sapiens, before we had language and so on)—so I would imagine dogs put through the biological singularity wringer would still be fundamentally canine in nature; they’d just be canine technodeities, for example perhaps constructing data searches as balls that they fetch, or constructing sensory data feeds as virtual bones they chew on to release bundled packets of information. Their digital signatures would be virtual scents scattered about a 3v “scape” and so on.

      By “transcend,” I merely mean “do something dogs normally aren’t capable of doing.” For example, there’s the classic problem of the leashed dog who has circled the tree several times and (depending on species) doesn’t know how to unwind himself because he lacks the cognitive capacity to figure that puzzle out. Contrast that with the enhanced dog who can easily reason his way out of the leash problem—and probably play chess to boot. Those would be instances of transcendence to me.

      Ah, I see. For that, I’m taking a page from Bruce Sterling’s observation that there isn’t usually one technology, but several competing ones with different flaws and benefits and emphases. (He made the point about life extension technology, I believe.) The dog on the TV (and the police dogs) were kind of my attempt to show a range of different technologies exist, with differing effects on the dogs: some are fluent and eloquent English speakers (I suspect aided by software and maybe weak AI implants), while others (like Benji) are more modestly modded. It’s a tricky game, though, hinting things like that.

      Interesting topic. I think I agree with the overall thrust of what you’re saying, although I don’t think any adult ought to be giving kids full freedom to do what they like before they’re legally adults. (Granted that legal adulthood involves drawing an arbitrary bright-line distinction that doesn’t always work out justly: there are mature 15-year-olds who could vote intelligently and drive cars prudently, and there are stupid 20-year-olds who have no business voting or driving.) Kids’ opinions and rights ought to be respected, but I’d hesitate before letting a kid run the country. Hell, I’ve seen plenty of student evals that prove some college kids aren’t mature enough to know what’s good for them.

      Ha, you might hesitate to let a kid run the country, but I’d argue Americans have done just that very recently!

      Ever notice we don’t subject 40-year-olds or 50-year-olds to standardized tests to determine their maturity? I don’t know, the whole discussion of whether adolescents as a group can be as mature as adults of various ages smacks to me of a kind of lazy bigotry of the kind that, not so long ago, was routinely used to dismiss the intellect and capabilities of those of other races. That doesn’t mean children don’t have limits, but rather that the legal fiction of adulthood sort of blinds us to the incredibly widespread lack of maturity in people over the age of majority, even when it’s on full display everywhere one looks on a constant, daily basis. I mean, open any newspaper.

      For more on the science, and how conventional schooling play into this, I recommend Robert Epstein’s Teen 2.0: he’s a bit of a True Believer (and the fact Newt Gingrich endorses his ideas gives me pause, though I doubt Gingrich really fully grasps what the man’s arguing), but he’s got way too much evidence and perspective to be completely dismissed out of hand; his diagnosis at least is very compelling, even if the prescription needs some work. He definitely makes a very convincing argument that the “rebellious teen” trope is primarily a product of environment and tensions related to our unwillingness to allow teenagers to transition more smoothly between the role of child and the role of adult.

      (I found, as a teenager, the frequency with which adults tended to write me off as a mere “rebellious teenager” was inversely proportional to two things: their intelligence, and their willingness to bother having a dialogue with me.)

      You’ll be facing these issues in your own life as a dad, if you aren’t already. There will be times when you’ll realize that you can’t treat the kid as a little adult who can be reasoned with, and you’ll just have to put your foot down. A cerebral friend of mine told me, when his daughters had gotten older, that he had sworn he wouldn’t make the mistakes his parents had made… yet he found himself doing the same things his parents had, and realized that those things hadn’t been mistakes at all. At the same time, he held firm to his beliefs that children can indeed be reasoned with, and that physical correction (spanking, etc.) is never the answer (his wife, a stereotypically expressive Italian-American, thought and acted differently). I respect his stance, but I imagine it must have been difficult for him at times.

      Well, my son hasn’t acquired language much yet, and has limited self-control at ~18 months, so yes, it’s impossible to reason with him now. (For example, I can’t say, “Son, I want you to stop watching videos on your mom’s phone because too much of that isn’t good for your brain development, okay?” He won’t understand it. Five years from now, when I say, “You don’t need all 150 Transformer robots, do you? Didn’t you have more fun when we built one together with an Arduino board?” he may be so swept up by advertising or the same sort of impulsive compleatism I suffer from that he won’t remember how much fun building a bot was.

      But I think a lot of adults suck at self-control, reasoned decision making, and critical self-awareness: little wonder their kids don’t acquire these skills early, and little wonder parents so readily produce justifications for extremely authoritarian behaviour—which, after all, we know often becomes twisted to self-serving ends, because power—even parental power—corrupts. If there’s one thing I do know about parenting so far, it’s that it’s tiring—the stress, the worry, the physical exertion that factor into even days full of joy and love—and tired people are more willing to justify shortcuts as the best way, or justify wrong actions as “the only way” without seriously assessing if that’s the case. (Plus, we’re creatures of habit it does take years to get to the point where kids can handle discussions about things like this; not as many years as most people assume, but years are still years.)

      I’ve been blessed to see both examples that confirm the negative feedback loop (especially among the parents of past students) and positive counterexamples of kids who were to an astonishing degree (even as young as six years old) able to talk with their parents about decisions their parents made on their behalf, freely fielding critical questions and getting answers, because their parents were committed to that kind of dialog. (And ultimately the kids tended to trust their parents’ judgment better because they understood it wasn’t just authoritarianism, but grounded in actual reasoning.)

      I do, however, agree with your friend in one respect: we have never physically disciplined our son (even during his most frustrating outbursts), and we plan on never doing so in the future; it was not a helpful feature of our own parents’ disciplinary repertory, and we both feel it’s a lazy and counterproductive approach, since it doesn’t teach kids skills you want them to acquire. (More often than not it’s a way for a parent to vent stress and anger, and, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” is a load of bullshit… in our experience, at least. Plus I think physical punishment usually teaches a kid, first and foremost, “Don’t get caught,” along with lessons about how people authority may use violence even as they tell those in their power not to… besides just generally modeling the use of physical force when angry, upset, or in the midst of a disagreement. None of these are lessons we want to teach out son, though of course I do plan on making her he has better physical self-defense skills (and less fear of physically self-defending) than I had as a child, for when he absolutely needs it.)

      But we’re way off topic now.

      A canine Blade Runner might be interesting. Starring Harrison Pug.

      I would dig it!

    2. By the way, I’m not intending to slam your friend. It’s just that I’m very, very skeptical of justifications of the sort people offer when they say, “I thought X was wrong until I experienced Y, then I saw it was right all along.” The human capacity for justifying things is so powerful I pretty much always distrust such statements without really good evidence, and usually experience to back it up.

      What comes to mind is the man I knew who told me his father beat him with a switch for misbehaving, and how it didn’t affect him any. Sure, he had a decent job, friends, a roof over his head. He also had gaping emotional wounds that were seemingly obvious to everyone but him, and constantly struggled as an adult with alcoholism and his relationships with women. Perhaps I can’t definitively draw a line between the switch and those issues, but neither should we take him at his word that no such line exists… especially when he’s already demonstrated questionable judgment in appraising his own condition!

      (Which is not to judge; brokenness is probably universal. So is imperfect parenting. So are denial about both, really. My wife and I just aim to reduce the incidence of both brokenness and bad parenting for our son, to whatever degree we can—which is probably limited since to err is human, and all that.)

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