The other day I came across a sci-fi anthology that was seeking submissions. The requirements seemed to fit with what I could manage, and there were a couple of other authors that I follow involved, so I figured “Why not give it a try?”
Alas, I am far less suited to the optimism and love of science that the genre typically demands, so at first I had some difficulty coming up with something. Then I started thinking about Doom. You know, that old first person shooter set on Mars, demons taking over the base, all that? That jumped to an old IRC roleplaying game where I played a genetically engineered cat. That, in turn, leapt over to Event Horizon, which is one of my favorite movies, ever.
Playing with these elements – and borrowing a dash of Alien while I was at it, I drafted a story about a pair of cats, Phobos and Deimos, on a seemingly abandoned research facility. By “abandoned,” we of course mean where everyone has died tragically. Phobos was in lockdown elsewhere in the facility, while Deimos had relatively free run of the place. Or at least as much as something with no hands and fingers to work the controls could be. Good thing they put a wireless transmitter in his collar that triggered most of the doors, right?
A fairly typical space crew arrived in response to the lack of contact from the researchers, discovered the bodies… And Deimos. One of the crew, being a cat lover, decided to adopt the “poor little thing” and take it back with them. Another crew member with a seemingly irrational hatred of felines, of course wants to toss him out the airlock, but the caregiver wins out.
Poor Phobos is left behind, but the shutdown signal at least got him out of the lab.
Deimos, of course, is no ordinary cat. He’s extremely intelligent, believes himself a demon, can pee napalm and his hair balls are acidic. Not that he showcases most of that to other people. During his purge of the research installation, he learned stealth. Of course, then accidents start happening to the rescue crew, starting with the cat hater, but his caregiver refuses to believe her little precious could possibly be involved in such things. That’s fine by Deimos; he needs someone with hands – and security clearance – to run the ship. His goal? To return home, to a faraway star system primarily inhabited by demonic alien felines – who likely were behind some of the Egyptian’s technology and weirder practices – with news of just what the humans have been up to.
Phobos, meanwhile, is seeking a way out, because he came to enjoy his time with the humans. Being a pet isn’t all bad, in his mind, and if he can get away from scientists and their needles, he thinks it’ll be okay. Less so if Deimos manages to bring the other felids back to earth for conquest. Finally managing to sneak on board a salvage ship, he sets course to intercept Deimos.
I found it fun, especially since 95% of it was from a non-human perspective. It was something different. But apparently, it wasn’t good enough for the anthology. Not because there were flaws in the story, or my technique was poor, or just because they hated it. In short, nothing I could fix without murdering the story.
It was vetoed because it doesn’t keep in the “Grand Tradition” of sci-fi. I feel quite ignorant, since this was the first time I’d heard of it. Apparently sci-fi is supposed to be hopeful, optimistic, show a reverence for science and the ingenuity of man. No half-psychotic genetically engineered murderous alien cats allowed, le sigh. At least not ones who are the protagonists and liable to win in the end. Oh well. Maybe I’ll finish it up anyway and do something else with it. We’ll see.