Friday, May 1, 2015
Vulcan's Kittens, by Cedar Sanderson
Cedar Sanderson has been nominated for a "Best Fan Writer" Hugo, against some pretty strong competition. It makes me smile to think she will be able to stamp her works "from Hugo nominee Cedar Sanderson" from now on.
The story is about Linn, a 12 year old girl who goes to visit her grandfather for the summer. As a special treat, she discovers the farm cat has just given birth to four kittens, and she will be able to help with their care. Looks to be a quiet, peaceful summer.
However, that first night, she wakes up to overhear a disturbing conversation. There is a war pending, and (fanfare) THE FATE OF THE WORLD IS IN THE BALANCE!
Her grandfather, who happens to be one of the ancient gods known as Vulcan, is really aggravated by the whole thing, and wishes the gods arguing for war would just get over it. The farm cat, who happens to be the goddess Sekhmet, agrees with her grandfather.
And since the kittens in the barn, which Linn has been assigned to as caretaker, are Sekhmet's children, they also are gods; and finally, Linn is told that she is half-god herself, and that she will begin to manifest special powers.
NOTE: If you should happen to read this book in paperback, you will really need to have resource material nearby. I fortunately have the Kindle-for-PC version, so look-ups are only a click away. A very few of the gods mentioned were familiar to me from my sixth grade year (1965) when we read mythology, but the Kindle-for-PC made it wondrously easy to find the history of all the other non-humans in the book, and that was a delightful experience for my ADD mind. I'd read the story, come on another character, click to learn more, and happily pursue whatever rabbit trails followed.
Linn gets to meet and hang out with some insanely wonderful people. I'm rather glad I came on this book 50 years late, because I would have been jealous of her experiences if I had read about them at her age. Even without becoming totally enmeshed in a daydream about living in this fantasy world, I still enjoyed the book. Characters like the coblyns were amusing without being silly, and there is just enough in the way of fight scenes to engage me without terrifying my 9 year old daughter Alicia.
Now, without a doubt, I loved the book. HOWEVER!!! I loved the story BEHIND the book better. It starts sometime in 2011, with Cedar's oldest daughter, Gladiana, becoming wildly excited about a book. Cedar helped her track down the subsequent books in the series, and in doing so, she and Gladiana built some really great memories, including Gladiana forcing Cedar to actually read the book herself. And Cedar got mildly hooked on the possibilities of the story, to the point that she wrote a series of letters to Gladiana who was away at summer camp telling the story of Linn and the kittens.
And then the plot thickened.
In October, Gladiana brings CEDAR a homework assignment. Seems there is something called National Novel Writing Month , held in November, a contest in which you attempt to write a novel of at least 50,000 words, all in the month of November. It seemed impossible to Cedar; but she DID it! And thereby had the completed manuscript for her first published book.
A tiny caveat: it's not her first WRITTEN book. That honor goes to "Eternity Symbiote," which evidently sat in a drawer for a decade. That's the only bit of her work I haven't read; she hooked me with her short story 'Plant Life,' but REALLY won me as a fan with her series "Pixie For Hire" (Pixie Noir, Trickster Noir, and Dragon Noir). I can HIGHLY recommend all of the works I've read; The Pixie For Hire series offers great adventure, and is definitely the sort of book that adult readers would appreciate, although there is nothing in any of her work I've seen that would make it off-limits to a reader of any age.
But this book makes me happy, because of the mother/daughter bond in making it happen. I happen to love my family, featuring my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, our 12 children and five grandchildren. (Of course, I did have to shoot several less worthy elements and bury their bodies deep in the compost heap to get the degree of quality we now experience, but that's just the cost of doing business.) So, a story that not only entertains, but makes for happy family memories, while creating a revenue stream for mom: HEY! I'm all over that one.