Thread: Barque Cats
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Old Jan 13 2010, 12:46 AM   #10
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Port Townsend, WA
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Default Re: Barque Cats

A hint? Oh--okay
Here's the copy I wrote for the Del Rey online newsletter.
The Catalyst for Writing CATALYST

It is a not so well kept secret that Anne McCaffrey and I adore cats. We both came up with ideas for books about cats in space at the same time. Anne had previously introduced her Barque Cats in her Tower and Hive books but they played as minor a role as a cat can play. That is, for cat lovers, they stole the show but there was not all that much told about them or their origins. So Anne’s idea for the book was that it would be the backstory for the Barque Cats. I wanted to do a cats in space adventure book too but we couldn’t do a Tower and Hive story about them since they don’t come into that milieu until they are a well established and much-admired (what else? They’re cats!) species.

My idea was inspired by the memory of a Cordwainer Smith short story called “The Game of Rat and Dragon,” a classic in the annals of science fiction and cat literature. I liked the idea that cats transcended being pets while still being closely tied by bonds of an affectionate psychic connection to certain humans. Catalyst tells of the beginning of the bond, starting with Chester, a descendant of the first Barque Cat Tuxedo Thomas, and Jubal, a farm boy who loves cats and has a talented grifter for a dad.

Where else would we go for inspiration but the cats we’ve been fortunate enough to know and love? Chessie, the ship’s cat aboard the Molly-Daise, and Chester’s mother, is named for a beloved cat of Anne’s, a mighty hunter and a good mother of beautiful kittens. Anne has had several tuxedo cats (not Maine Coon, as Barque Cats are) including my old buddy Bronski and Maggie (pictured). I had a wonderful tuxedo tom named Saddle Shoes when I lived in Alaska. The first year I visited Annie in Ireland she had Bronski and Bear. By the second year, Bear had moved next door and Bronski was starting to decline, so Anne had bought some purebred Maine Coon cats, who proceeded to have kittens. Lots of kittens. Her gardener got one of the kittens he called “Legless” (Irish slang for drunk) because he said, “That cat never walks anywhere. Someone is always carrying it.”

I wanted one too but importing one of Anne’s was out of the question. Kittibits, a half-wild ginger tabby with all of the Maine Coon traits, grabbed my finger at the shelter, gave it a lick and came home with me. We lived happily ever after for 15 years. Now Pancho represents the race of Coony cats at my house. So it’s not too strange that Barque Cats start out, in appearance at least, as Maine Coons.

Chester’s personality is much more like sleek, smart, loving and loyal Cisco’s. and Git’s personality is very much like Kittibits’, who was always looking after the welfare of the other cats.

The wily Pshaw-Ra character is similar to that of Treat, the funny/annoying shelter cat I adopted as an adult. Treat dominated me if not the universe. Unlike the more sophisticated cat in the book, Treat’s plot probably would have involved a lot of peeing on things.
CATALYST is both the kind of classic animal story about the love of a boy and his cat and an adventure about how these cats decide to “take matters into their own paws” as Paul Gallico’s Thomasina was fond of saying, and arrange the universe to suit themselves.
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