Thinking on the Highway Virus – 2

June 9, 2009

Another big part of the Highway Virus series, and another aspect that seems prima facie unlikely, is the presence of the trogg dogs. They are roving packs of canine-like scavengers, which will attack and consume humans, alive or dead. They hunt alone and in packs, they are hideous with no qualities we would value (so no threat from trophy hunting), they can survive under a variety of conditions (so no threat from habitat loss), and they’ll eat anything.  In short, they have evolved to survive and thrive in this world, to the detriment of all other species.

For the purposes of the stories, they are a good device to get rid of all the bodies stricken by the Highway Virus. They are wild animals, running around, eating our dead.

Their existence seems unlikely as the emergence of a new species takes much longer than the timeframe presented in this series. I took inspiration from the Mad Max movies by framing the stories at some undetermined time in the future – but it is still the “near future” and not some distant era of the 3000s, when the Earth will be a junked wasteland (see WALL-E) or uninhabitable cinder.

That is probably not is enough time for a new species to evolve through means of mutation and natural selection, especially a large predator the size of a bear that exhibits similarities with wild dogs. The idea was that this new species would emerge (perhaps accelerated through interactions with the virus) with special adaptations to survive in this new environment, one of waste and disease. And as long as it has none of the qualities we envy or admire, we won’t hunt it to near extinction (think the tiger or the rhino versus the feral pig or the hyena).

So, the emergence of the trogg dogs is more Lamarckian than Darwinian – and granted, while the notion of the inheritance of acquired characteristics is largely considered discredited, it refuses to die.

But in the end, this is fiction, so I don’t want to get bogged down in the science. The first source of inspiration for the trogg dogs was the book Monster of God, but from there, I tried to make them more of supernatural creatures (God loves a pseudo-scientist) – hellhounds arisen on earth to exact divine vengeance for our transgressions. We seem intent on destroy the earth (or at least remaking it in our image), so it is bound to fight back.

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