I got a long and thoughtful reply to 668. Century Ships from a person (human name not given) whose website is dedicated to cats. I went there, as I always go at least once to the sites of people who like my posts.
Lots of SF people tend to be cat people. Heinlein famously loved cats and wrote about them. Two internet friends who found me through this blog, one a writer of fantasy and one a reviewer of old SF and other schlock, are both cat people. Me, too.
That is the tenuous connection between science fiction and this trip down memory lane.
In the late seventies, I was writing full time and my wife was working at an art and frame gallery. Leaving work one evening, she saw a cardboard box sitting in front of a pet store two doors down. The store was already closed, and she couldn’t walk away without looking. Inside were two abandoned kittens, only hours old. She knew they wouldn’t last the night.
Half an hour later she came in the front door of our house carrying the box and said, “Guess what I found.”
We raised them, cleaned their eyes, cleaned their other ends, burped them, and fed them multiple times a day. They slept in a box next to our bed so we could hear when they were hungry — frequently, as it turned out.
Big Buddy — the internet name of the SF fan who wrote about century ships — posted a study that “explained” why cats bond with us and see us as parents. As if that needed confirmation. (He didn’t think so either. He was making light of the study.) Cats, dogs, and people are herd animals. They naturally live in family groups, so of course they bond.
Bonding goes both ways, as if you didn’t already know that.
My wife suggested we raise the kittens just until they were old enough to give away. Right! They were with us seventeen years.
One was a gray tabby. I was looking into his kitten-blue eyes early on when Don McLean came on the radio singing about how the swirling clouds reflected in Vincent (van Gogh)’s eyes of china blue. China Blue became his name. His orange sister had a one inch tail, so she became Spike, and later Spikey.
It is a testimony to what cats do to us that we talk to them. China Blue was in my lap once, getting petted while I took a break from writing. Music was always playing in the background any time I was at the typewriter. A girl folk singer’s voice caught China’s ear and he looked around for her. I told him, “Don’t worry, buddy. That’s just the way people purr.”
“Sanity” and “cat” are rarely used in the same sentence.
I put a pillow on my desk and they took turns sleeping there, although China often preferred to drape himself around my shoulders while I wrote.
The picture at the top is one of my many subsequent friends, resting in his favorite wheelbarrow. I have plenty of pictures of Spike and China, but they aren’t digital.
Thanks for the shout-out! My cat’s name is Buddy, and we’re pretty much inseparable, so the running joke that he’s Little Buddy and I’m Big Buddy. My blog is a mixture of commentary on cat-related news and studies, as well as humor posts centered around a cartoonish version of my cat, imagining him as a catnip-dealing kingpin who frequently schemes for world domination.
I don’t see how you could have given up those two abandoned kittens: You were their surrogate parents the minute your wife took them home. 🙂 Besides, bottle-feeding and raising kittens that young creates a special bond.
Anyway, a few years ago I took a science fiction creative writing class, and the teacher was also a cat lover who included several cat-related SF short stories for reading assignments. I had no idea at the time how deep the SF-feline connection goes.
– Cordwainer Smith’s “The Game of Rat and Dragon” was published in 1955 and tells the story of cats who help keep human starship passengers safe on interstellar voyages. The cats ride outside the main starships in their own personal, football-shaped craft, and via a neural link with human weapons officers they protect the ships from aliens that attack human spacecraft in the dark spaces between star systems.
– Fritz Leiber’s “Space-Time for Springers” was published in 1958 and follows Gummitch, a “super kitten” with insatiable curiosity and his own outlandish, amusing ideas about the world and how it works.
– Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough‘s “Catalyst,” published in 2010, is another story about cats living aboard starships with humans in a mutually beneficial arrangement.
– George RR Martin’s “Tuff Voyaging” 1986 is about a space-traveling loner who prefers his cats over other humans as company on his adventures.
Then you’ve got Spot, Data’s cat in Star Trek: TNG, Jonesy, the ginger tabby who manages to avoid the xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s original Alien film in 1979, and of course you’ve mentioned Heinlein, who worked cats into a number of his stories.
There’s a ton of stuff I haven’t read yet and I’m sure there’s a lot more I’m unaware of. But it’s undeniable, there’s certainly a connection with SF and cats. Cheers.
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I could not agree more.
My first Arthur C. Clarke short story was in Boy’s Life when I was a kitten myself. There were rumors around the space station that one of the space suits — well described as bubble ended, non-humanoid-shaped mini space ships with extensional arms — was haunted. Our hero doesn’t take the rumors seriously until he is out doing a job and becomes aware that something is in the suit with him. Fighting down panic, he heads back to dock with the station as the noises continue. Just as he is about to reach safety, something touches him on the back of the neck. All goes black.
He wakes up from having smashed his head against the inside of the bubble, in the station and lying on the deck. No one is paying any attention to him. Then he sees why. The station cat had been raising a litter of kittens in his space suit and one of them batted his neck. But he gets no sympathy for his troubles because everyone is too busy playing with the kittens.
Call it 1958, maybe, and SF and cats were already linked in my mind. Sorry I can’t remember the title.
Writers tend to be cat people, because we like be left alone to do our own thing and can’t bother with social pretenses. 😀
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Makes sense to me.
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