Plaxy and Sirius were already forming their companionship which was to have so great an effect on both their minds throughout their lives. They played together, fed together, were washed together, and were generally good or naughty together. When one was sick, the other was bored and abject. When one was hurt, the other howled with sympathy. Whatever one of them did, the other had to attempt. When Plaxy learned to tie a knot, Sirius was very distressed at his inability to do likewise. When Sirius acquired by observation of the family’s super-sheep-dog, Gelert, the habit of lifting a leg at gate-posts to leave his visiting card, Plaxy found it hard to agree that this custom, though suitable for dogs, was not all appropriate to little girls. She was deterred only by the difficulty of the operation. Similarly, though she was soon convinced that to go smelling at gate-posts was futile because her nose was not as clever as Sirius’, she did not see why the practice should outrage the family’s notion of propriety.
Sirius — Chapter III — Olaf Stapleton
If you do read the above paragraph I would understand your confusion. But, If I explained that Sirius is a super-intelligent dog raised by a scientist and that the scientist happens to be Plaxy’s father (a very normal but precocious girl who is raised from birth with Sirius) it might be at least fathomable.
In 1965 as I wrote here and here I discovered in Buenos Aires a Spanish translation (El Hacedor) of Olaf Stapleton’s Starmaker (with an introduction by no less than Jorge Luís Borges). I was keen on finding more so I went to the nearby foreign language (everything but Spanish) bookstore Pygmalion on Calle Corrientes and found Sirius (1944). It is a lovely book that amply proves the non-existence of a Superior Being. If that Superior Being existed Art Bergman would be a millionaire and Spielberg would have optioned Sirius years ago.
It is a lovely and lovable book that I am now reading again 51 years later. A lot of it is forgotten including how sensitive and how elegant Stapleton’s writing is. A startling quality of this book is that Stapledon attempts to look at humanity objectively by noting how an almost human dog would observe our accomplishments and follies.
I knew in 1965 why the super-dog was called Sirius. I had received a very good education at St. Edward’s High School in Austin and I had read enough science fiction to know that the brightest star in our night sky Sirius was in Constellation Canis Major:
Follow the belt of Orion to find Sirius. Sirius, also known as the Dog Star or Sirius A, is the brightest star in Earth’s night sky. The name means “glowing” in Greek. With a visual magnitude of -1.46, the star is outshone only by several planets as well as the International Space Station.
Only recently have I learned that Sirius A has a small white dwarf companion Sirius B.
But I have not been able to locate anything on the little girl’s name of Plaxy that is relevant here.
In the years after 1965 sometime in the 80s I lost my original Penguin copy. What you see here is a pristine brand new (Gollancz 2011) which I recently purchased from AbeBooks.com.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.