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Bewildering Stories

A Hail and Farewell to Katts and Dawgs

by Don Webb

It’s become something of a tradition, when long serials come to a close, to congratulate the authors and bid the stories a fond farewell. Roberto Sanhueza’s novel Katts and Dawgs, which ended in issue 161, amply justifies that tradition.

Katts and Dawgs — colorfully illustrated at times by Roberto himself — began two years ago, in issue 53. Roberto let it go after a couple of episodes and turned to other fiction until I told him on the Asimov’s forum how much I liked the story and wanted it to continue.

Everyone must be very glad he did continue it; Katts and Dawgs now takes its place as one of our flagship publications: if anyone wants to know what Bewildering Stories aspires to do, that is one of the first titles — among many — that you can cite. And, as Jerry has rightfully opined, Katts and Dawgs deserves a professional illustrator, print publication and, I would add, a film version.

We’ve been receiving stories from a number of young aspiring authors recently. We like to encourage them, and we often refer them to stories we’ve published that can serve as models. Any writer who may think that success lies in imitating trendy styles can learn a lot from Katts and Dawgs.

  1. You don’t have to reinvent literature to succeed. Katts and Dawgs represents two genres that are as old as the hills: the fable and the epic.

  2. You don’t have to write in the past tense. The narrative present is almost unknown in English, but Roberto uses it as skillfully as anyone might, and the reader instantly becomes at ease with it. Perhaps the narrative present is used in Spanish; Roberto can tell us about that.

  3. You don’t even have to write in your own language. Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett achieved world fame writing in French as a second language. And advanced proficiency in English is harder to acquire than in French. A second language can concentrate the mind quite productively.

  4. You do have to create dramatic stories. And that’s where Katts and Dawgs shines. Aspiring authors can learn a lot from its dramatic structure, which is all the more effective for its simplicity.

  5. Above all you must create appealing characters. Roberto is right: Katts and Dawgs has reached a satisfying conclusion, but we will miss many characters who have come to be old friends: Phydo, Thomm, Kitty, Adam and, at the end, Jeri (where did you get that name, Roberto? Just curious. If you’d named him ‘Don’, I’d have put my foot down).

Maybe further adventures await Adam, Kitty, Thomm, Phydo, and the others. What ever happened to Man after he left Earth to the Sentient Creatures? If the story we have is any indication, that continuation will end in peace and hope. Perhaps Man will return and learn a thing or two... from the Katts, Dawgs and Mysse.

Meanwhile, Roberto has graced our pages with other works, such as his “vampire” poems and the series featuring Sam Sabre, private eye. Coincidentally, perhaps, in “Sabre Takes a Case,” Sam befriends a cat who seems to have extraordinary intelligence...

Roberto’s bibliography can be found here.

Copyright © 2005 by Don Webb

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