Tag Archives: Pat Cadigan

Cat Monday: The Halloween Edition

I’ve said before that Halloween at the Triffid Ranch is much like what New Year’s Eve was around Hunter S. Thompson’s house: it’s the day where we back off and let the amateurs get their time in. Many people look at Halloween as just the beginning of the American holiday season, and can’t wait for it to hit full swing. These people go to shopping malls without being held at gunpoint, and who don’t hum “The Gonk the whole time inside. They like all-Christmas terrestrial radio stations, and think that anyone who doesn’t sing along with the eightieth playing of “Santa Baby” is a Scrooge or Grinch. These are people who look forward to company Christmas parties so they can wear their best holiday sweaters, and not because they’re looking for an opportunity to get away with disemboweling everyone in the hotel or restaurant with a peppermint Hershey’s Kiss.

These people are sick.

For the rest of us, the ones who may actually be the sane ones, the week before Halloween is the time to stock up. Much like pikas storing huge caches of grasses in order to survive the Canadian winter, we stock up on rubber lizards, foam spiders, Jell-O molds in the shape of brains, and anything dark and spooky in anticipation of the next four to six months. Some of us, whose businesses celebrate the autumnal equinox the way others celebrate the first day of summer, stock up not for ourselves, but to spread the joy to others when the yellow hurty thing in the sky takes over more and more of the earth’s rotational cycle, and we start thinking “Nine months underground and emerging only to suck eggs and eat baby bunnies…you know, maybe Gila monsters have the right idea.”

And thus, that’s how I ended up in a Michael’s crafts store. In North Texas, Michael’s isn’t just a dark, quiet place to escape the worst of the summer. It’s our annual reminder that the Heat Will End. By the end of August, right when the heat and glare are at their most oppressive, Michael’s can always be depended upon to start stocking the latest in animatronic bats, poison bottles, and skeleton hands. For a little while, one can walk inside and look forward to pulling jackets out of storage, opening the windows to let the cool breezes inside, and grabbing a cup of something hot without shuddering. For many of us, it’s also the season for the year’s new Lemax Spooky Town collection. For years, Spooky Town resin mausoleum and tombstone figures have been an absolute in Triffid Ranch plant arrangements, and when the big draw this year, the Hemlock’s Nursery carnivorous plant nursery display, was for sale at half off, it had to come home.

If I fits, I sits

Well, one of us was more thrilled than the others at the newest display in the office. Demonstrating her namesake‘s attraction to “If I fits, I sits” cat photos, our Cadigan decided to demonstrate that the only thing better for an orange kitty than a box from which to hold court is a Halloween box. Oh, she’s going to be disappointed when we finally have to take down the decorations and acknowledge that All Hallow’s Eve is over and done…by mid-May or so.

If I fits, I sits

If I fits, I sits

If I fits, I sits

Cat Monday, the Explanation

Cadigan/Leiber/Steadman books

Every once in a while, people come across this silly little blog or actually come to the house and visit, and they ask about the cats. Well, they don’t ask about the cats per se, but they ask about the names. Everyone knows that cat people have a thing about odd names, but people who know me know that I have a thing for reasonably obscure ones, too. This is a deliberate effort to confuse visitors, so they don’t stick around long enough to discover that I don’t name the plants. Believe it or not, it works remarkably well. The only problem is that they continue to ask about the cats, wondering “Why would you choose those names?” When they realize that I used to be a professional writer before I came to my senses, they simply smile and nod, instead of screaming and running for the door. Not that I mind their screaming and running, but the Czarina has issues with this when her parents come over: they have enough of a problem with the life-sized Nanotyrannus head hanging over the toilet in the spare bathroom.

As it turns out, a run on a used bookstore week before last dredged up some beauties, giving me the opportunity to illustrate the examples. Well, that and torment the increasingly more sporadic visitors when they come by.

In the case of Cadigan, she actually had things pretty easy. Her story actually starts twenty years before she was born, when a then-girlfriend came up and told me “You HAVE to read this book.” At the time, I got a lot of that, and was already starting to blanch over the word “cyberpunk” being thrown around about it. At the time, the word was less a description of a certain subgenre of science fiction involving situations where technology outstrips ethics and becoming more of a marketing catchphrase, like “steampunk” today. Worse, by 1992, the subgenre itself had gone from being more punk to more cyber, attracting both writers and readers with an unhealthy obsession with downloading their personalities into computers and leave the meat behind because, as I wrote later, “they couldn’t get laid in Tijuana with a jockstrap full of $100 bills.” (Yeah, I was a little angry back in the early Nineties.) After trying my best to plow through many of the more recommended books at the time, and realizing that the people who read Bruce Sterling novels do so because they can’t handle the depth of characterization in Microsoft operation manuals, I shuddered and gulped, and took a chance on her recommendation. And that book damaged my fragile little mind.

For those who know Pat Cadigan, you already understand why I named my little orange cat after her. For those who don’t, let’s just say that they both have the same curiosity and general attitude about life. Science fiction enthusiasts talk about how Arthur C. Clarke developed the idea of the geosynchronous communications satellite but failed to patent it, but if Pat had the time back in the early Nineties to file patents on many of the ideas in her novel Synners alone, she’d own half of the planet right now. Bill Gates would be her personal doormat, and Steve Ballmer would dance every time she shot at his feet. Just tell yourself, tell yourself, that you could look into the eyes of a kitten with exactly the same expression that Pat gets when she’s on a roll and not think of naming that kitten after her?

Sadly, Leiber was a mistake, at least as far as naming him was concerned. He also had the glint in his eye as a kitten, encouraging me to name him after the much-missed author Fritz Leiber. (The Czarina’s nickname itself came from Leiber’s famous chess ghost story “Midnight By the Morphy Watch,” included in the pictured collection, because of her intensity in learning how to play chess.) Both the grey fur and the green eyes were regular themes in his novels, so it seemed like a good idea. Something happened, though, while I was living in Tallahassee at the end of 2002, and I came back to find him a bit broken. He’s a sweet cat, and enjoyable in his own way, but to call him “dopy” is to be nice. I once had a dog that was smarter than Leiber is, and this was a dog who regularly walked into sliding-glass doors. Combine this with his incessant one-note chirping, over and over and OVER all night long, and I’ve threatened on more than one occasion to rename him “Doctorow”. In that situation, the name might fit, because if this cat could speak English, all he could manage would be “Humperdidoo!”

And the third book? Well, we’ve run out of cats, but this one had particular significance back around 1997 when it came out. Not only did I have a ginger cat named “Jones” at the time, but I also had a savannah monitor at the time named “Steadman”. When friends would ask for that story, and they learned very rapidly not to ask again, for anything, I just told them the tale of the baby lizard I brought home for my birthday in 1997. The hatchling lizard that went into a large cage, loosened his bowels for maximum effect, and very promptly managed to make the inside resemble a Ralph Steadman painting. That was the day, after removing him from said cage and having to climb inside to clean the filth he’d managed to spatter on the ceiling, that I first coined the phrase “a stench that could burn the nose hairs out of a dead nun,” and he rarely disappointed me in new opportunities to use it. Most savannah monitors tend toward personalities that blend David Bowie and Sid Vicious, but Steadman was pure G.G. Allin. In that case, he was the perfect personification of my writing career at that time.

That about sums it up at the time, although the Czarina makes vague noises about another cat, and I’ve made my choice of next pet very plain. With the next cat, the deal is that s/he who pays the adoption fee gets to name the beast, so I suspect she’s saving her pennies in anticipation.