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Craphound

Science-Fiction Age
Year's Best Science Fiction XVI, Griffin, 1999
Northern Suns, Tor, 1999

Podcast, Escape Pod, January 2006

Podcast, Literal Systems, July 2008

Podcast, Roy Trumbull, September 2008

Finalist, Aurora Award for Best Short Form Work in English, 1999.
Finalist, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Short Story of 1999.

This story appears in my short story collection A Place So Foreign and Eight More and is licensed for downloading under a Creative Commons license. Download it here

German translation (Christian SplieƟ)

Everything in this story (except the part about the alien) really happened. I love thrifting, I love yard-saling, I love junk. I moved into a huge warehouse space in Toronto nearly three years ago, and I've been steadily filling it ever since. There's the wall of Sputnik clocks, the tiki bar, the 15' high library, the deck, the chinoise figurines, the Disneyland board games, and so on ad nauseum.

This was my first professionally published story (though it was my second sale -- Gardner Dozois bought "Fall From Grace" a month earlier, but took eight months longer to publish it, and the response has been overwhelming. David Hartwell and Glenn Grant have bought a revised version for reprint in Northern Suns, the sequel to Northern Stars, a hardcover antho of the best of Canadian sf.

A short-story crossed the transom recently that did a gret job of capturing the ever-shifting dynamics of of thrifting -- the hunt (fruitless and otherwise), competition, karma issues, value relative to the marketplace or sentiment, the past lives/memories of used goods. The tale in in a science fiction mag, but it read like my actual life! Track it down an dig it. "Craphound" by Cory Doctorow, published in the March 1998 issue of Science Fiction Age.

Al Hoff, Thrift Score Magazine #12

One of the short stories published in this issue proves my point. Hidden recently amongst the many hundreds of short stories that pour in each month was "Craphound," Cory Doctorow's tale of a decidedly different alien contact. "Craphound" is Doctorow's first professionally published short story. In answer to the folks who think that editing is simple -- "just read the submissions from the big names," they sometimes say -- it's finding the stories from folks at the beginning of their careers that is the most important and most rewarding. With those evil book publishers stealing short story writers and forcing them into highpaying careers as novelists, the science fiction magazines will always depend on those just starting out.

Scott Edelman, Editorial, Science Fiction Age, March 1998

The two best stories in the March SF Age, in my opinion, were Cory Doctorow's "Craphound" and Robert Silverberg's "The Colonel in Autumn." Like most aliens-mingling-with-human-society stories, Doctorow's story serves mostly to hold a mirror up to human nature, but the odd corner of human nature it examines is fascinating, and the story is smoothly and expertly written, with some good detail and local color and some shrewd insights into human nature and human culture, and an almost Bradburian vein of rich nostalgia running through it (although the nostalgia is quirky enough that perhaps it might more usefully be compared to R.A. Lafferty or Terry Bisson than to Bradbury); one of the more accomplished performances so far this year.'

Gardner Dozois, on GEnie

Aliens have once again decided to visit Earth in this lighthearted romp. Rather than having conquest on their minds, they merely wish to visit, and explore. Jerry is a junk dealer, a collector, a pack rat of crap and antiques and memorabilia, depending on your point of view. He knows what to look for and how to resell it for a profit. He befriends one of the visiting aliens, who he has named "Craphound," and they become great pals as they visit flea markets, auctions, and garage sales, always in search of the oddment or bauble only the keen eye of the true collector can spot. Through good times and bad, we learn the inner workings of the collecting business, including the unwritten moral code of the collector toward his brethren. The real lesson is learned, however, from the amiable and wiser-than-he-seems Craphound just as the aliens decide to take their leave of Earth, that the true worth of something is not judged by its dollar value. "Craphound" is a pleasant, likable, satisfying story. It is a nice professional debut for Cory Doctorow and kudos to editor Scott Edelman for rescuing it from his slush pile.

Dave Truesdale, SF Site


The following Thursday, I went to the little crap-auction house on King Street. I'd put my finds from the weekend in the sale: lower minimum bid, and they took a smaller commission than Sotheby's. Fine for moving the small stuff.

Craphound was there, of course. I knew he'd be. It was where we met, when he bid on a case of Lincoln Logs I'd found at a fire-sale.

I'd known him for a kindred spirit when he bought them, and we'd talked afterwards, at his place, a sprawling, two-storey warehouse amid a cluster of auto-wrecking yards where the junkyard dogs barked, barked, barked.

Inside was paradise. His taste ran to shrines -- a collection of fifties bar kitsch that was a shrine to liquor; a circular waterbed on a raised podium that was nearly buried under seventies bachelor pad-inalia; a kitchen that was nearly unusable, so packed it was with old barn-board furniture and rural memorabilia; a leather-appointed library straight out of a Victorian gentlemen's club; a solarium dressed in wicker and bamboo and tiki-idols. It was a hell of a place.

Craphound had known all about the Goodwills and the Sally Anns, and the auction houses, and the kitsch boutiques on Queen Street, but he still hadn't figured out where it all came from.

"Yard sales, rummage sales, garage sales," I said, reclining in a vibrating naughahyde easy-chair, drinking a glass of his pricey single-malt that he'd bought for the beautiful bottle it came in.

"But where are these? Who is allowed to make them?" Craphound hunched opposite me, his exoskeleton locked into a coiled, semi-seated position.

"Who? Well, anyone. You just one day decide that you need to clean out the basement, you put an ad in the Star, tape up a few signs, and voila, yard sale. Sometimes, a school or a church will get donations of old junk and sell it all at one time, as a fundraiser."

"And how do you locate these?" he asked, bobbing up and down slightly with excitement.

"Well, there're amateurs who just read the ads in the weekend papers, or just pick a neighbourhood and wander around, but that's no way to go about it. What I do is, I get in a truck, and I sniff the air, catch the scent of crap and vroom!, I'm off like a bloodhound on a trail. You learn things over time: like stay away from Yuppie yard sales, they never have anything worth buying, just the same crap you can buy in any mall."

"Do you think I might accompany you some day?"

"Hell, sure. Next Saturday? We'll head over to Cabbagetown -- those old coach houses, you'd be amazed what people get rid of. It's practically criminal."

"I would like to go with you on next Saturday very much Mr Jerry Abington." He used to talk like that, without commas or question marks. Later, he got better, but then, it was all one big sentence.

"Call me Jerry. It's a date, then. Tell you what, though: there's a Code you got to learn before we go out. The Craphound's Code."

"What is a craphound?"


2 Responses to “Craphound”

  1. Boing Boing says:

    Podcast of Cory's story, "Craphound"

    Escape Pod, the science fiction audiobook podcast, has just posted a 46-minute reading of my story Craphound, the first story of mine ever to be professionally published, back in 1998. The excellent reading is performed by The Sound of Young America's ...

  2. Alice says:

    Cory,
    Fix the otherwise terrific illustration of Craphound! You can't play a concertina or an accordion with the strap holding the bellows closed!!
    Yoiks!

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