Ellison began the cycle with the 1969 short story of the same title, published in New Worlds, and expanded and revised the tale to novella length for his story collection The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World the same year. The cycle begins chronologically with "Eggsucker", which chronicles the early years of the association between the young loner Vic and his brilliant, telepathic dog, Blood. Ellison's expanded novella of A Boy and His Dog was the basis of a film adaptation in 1974, the science fiction film of the same name, directed by L. Q. Jones, which was controversial for alleged sexism; the movie script included lines which were not in Ellison's original stories and which authors such as Joanna Russ found to be objectionable. Ellison disavows the film's misogynistic conclusion.
Ellison bookended the original story with two others in the same world, in Vic and Blood: The Chronicles of a Boy and His Dog (St. Martin's Press, 1988), a three-story graphic novel collection illustrated by Richard Corben, who also illustrated for this collection two other short stories featuring Vic and Blood: "Eggsucker" (a prequel to A Boy and His Dog, first published in Thomas Durward, ed, The Ariel Book of Fantasy Volume Two, 1977) and an entirely new story "Run, Spot, Run". The latter story appears in its text version for the first time in Vic and Blood, along with its graphic novel adaptation. Ellison's introduction to the collection explains that 1969′s A Boy and His Dog is part of a larger novel that he has been writing for over 30 years and that story is finished, but the last, longest part is written as a screenplay with no current plans for production.
Ellison considered as late as 2003 that he would combine the three stories (possibly with additional material) to create a novel with the proposed title of Blood's a Rover (not to be confused with the Chad Oliver story or theJames Ellroy novel Blood's a Rover). While Blood's a Rover has not appeared as of 2012, the graphic novel's Ellison/Corben edition has been reprinted as Vic and Blood: The Continuing Adventures of a Boy and His Dog.
The novella and the film adaptation have the same alternate timeline setting, diverging with the failed assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Instead of concentrating on the Space Race, technological advancements in robotics, animal intelligence, and telepathy take place. A more heated Cold War takes place, culminating in a conventional World War III. A truce is signed, lasting another 25 years, though mounting tensions lead to a second outbreak of hostilities in 2007, this time involving massive nuclear warfare. Civilization is almost entirely obliterated, leaving the surface of the Earth reduced to a desolate, irradiated wasteland.
Years later, in 2024, foragers who remain aboveground must fight for the remaining resources. Most survivors in the former United States are male, as females were usually in the bombed cities, while many men were out, fighting in the war. In the novella, nuclear fallout had created horrific mutations, such as the feared burnpit screamers, known for their noise and deadliness (in the film, they appear in only one scene, though they are only heard).
The main character, Vic (Don Johnson), is an 18-year-old boy (15-year-old in the novella), born in and scavenging throughout the wasteland of the former southwestern United States. Vic is most concerned with food and sex; having lost both of his parents, he has no formal education and does not understand ethics or morality. He is accompanied by a well-read, misanthropic, telepathic dog named Blood, who helps him locate women, in return for food. Blood can not forage for himself, due to the same genetic engineering that granted him telepathy. The two steal for a living, evading bands of marauders, berserk androids, and mutants. Blood and Vic have an occasionally antagonistic relationship, though they realize they need each other. Blood wishes to find a legendary promised land, though Vic believes that they must make the best of what they have.
Searching a bunker for a woman for Vic to rape, they find one. However, she has already been severely mutilated and is on the verge of death. Vic displays no pity, and is merely angered by the "wastefulness" of such an act as well as disgusted by the thought of satisfying his urges with a woman in such a condition. They move on, only to find slavers excavating another bunker. Vic steals several cans of food from them, using them to barter for goods in a nearby settlement. Blood claims to smell a woman, and the pair track her to a large underground warehouse. There, they meet Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), the scheming and seductive teenage girl from "Downunder," a society located in a large underground vault. Unknown to the pair, Quilla's father, Lou Craddock (Jason Robards), had sent her above ground to "recruit" surface dwellers. Blood takes an instant disliking to her, but Vic ignores him. After Vic saves Quilla from raiders and mutants, they have repeated sex. Eventually, though, Quilla takes off secretly to return to her underground society. Vic, enticed by the thought of women and sex, follows her, despite Blood's warnings. Blood remains at the portal on the surface.
Downunder has an artificial biosphere, complete with forests and underground cities, one of which, named Topeka, after the ruins of the city it lies beneath, is fashioned in a surreal mockery of 1950s rural innocence. Topeka meets its need for exogamous reproduction by electroejaculation and artificial insemination, yet needs more donors. Anybody who refuses to comply or otherwise defies the committee is sent off to "the farm" and never seen again. Vic is at first elated to learn of his value as a "stud," but this initial enthusiasm quickly turns to horror. Vic is told that when his sperm has been used to impregnate 35 women, he will be sent to "the farm." (In the novella, Vic is expected to impregnate the female population normally.) Vic uses the fact that Quilla's father secretly desires sex with her as a distraction, incapacitating him, so that they can escape.
Quilla, however, wants Vic to kill the committee members and their android enforcer, Michael (Hal Baylor), so she can usurp power, though Vic has no interest in politics or remaining underground. Nevertheless, the rebellion is quashed by Michael, who crushes the heads of Quilla June's co-conspirators, before Vic can disable him. Overhearing her father order her death, Quilla proclaims her love for Vic and decides to escape to the surface with him. On the surface, Vic and Quilla discover Blood is starving and near death. Knowing he will never survive without Blood's guidance, Vic faces a difficult situation, and it is implied that he kills his new love and cooks her to save Blood. The novella ends with Vic remembering her question as Blood eats: "Do you know what love is?" and he concludes, "Sure I know. A boy loves his dog." In the film, Blood compliments her judgment, while making a pun about her having poor taste, causing both to laugh.
Harlan Ellison started the screenplay but encountered writer's block, so producer Alvy Moore and director L.Q. Jones wrote the script, with Wayne Cruseturner, who was uncredited. Jones' own company, LQJaf Productions (L. Q. Jones & Friends), produced the film. They filmed the movie near Coyote Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert. The Firesign Theater was also involved with writing of the script. The film was also distributed after its initial run under several other titles, including Psycho Boy and His Killer Dog andApocalypse: 2024. The status of the film's copyright has been under dispute.
In the film, Blood is portrayed by Tiger. James Cagney's voice was considered as the voice of Blood, but was dropped because it would have been too recognizable and proved a distraction. Eventually, after going through approximately six hundred auditions, they settled on Tim McIntire, a veteran voice actor who also did most of the music for the film. McIntire was assisted with this by Ray Manzarek (misspelled in the film credits as Manzarec), formerly of The Doors. McIntire sang the main theme. Latin American composerJaime Mendoza-Nava provided the music for the underground segment.
Rumors have abounded over the years regarding a movie sequel, but it has never materialized. On the film's DVD audio commentary, L.Q. Jones states that he had started to write a script sequel to the film that would have picked up right where the first film ended and featured a female warrior named Spike, and we would have seen this world through the eyes of a female instead of a male. Jones and Ellison collaborated on this short-lived effort. Ellison, however, has denied that development went beyond a short "what if?" conversation, and that any efforts were solely that of Jones. According to Cult Movies 2, Jones had a sequel planned called A Girl and Her Dog, but the plan was scrapped when Tiger died. In a December 2003 interview, Jones claimed that he has been repeatedly approached to make a sequel, but funding is always an issue.
The novella won the Nebula Award for Best Novella upon its release in 1969 and was also nominated for the 1970 Hugo Award for Best Novella.
In 1976, the film adaptation won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The lead actor, Don Johnson, won Golden Scroll for Best Actor, which was shared with James Caan for his performance in Rollerball. In 2007, it ranked #96 on Rotten Tomatoes "Journey Through Sci-Fi" (100 best-reviewed science fiction films).
The film was not commercially successful at the time of its release. It has, however, since developed a cult following and also inspired the video game series Fallout "on many levels, from underground communities of survivors to glowing mutants."
On the film's DVD audio commentary, L.Q. Jones states that Harlan Ellison was generally pleased with the movie, with the exception of the final line of dialog. In the introduction of the Vic and Blood anthology, Ellison criticized the film's "moronic, hateful chauvinist last line, which I despise."