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Interview: Scott Baker on “Feral Frolics”

– Tell us a bit about “Feral Frolics.”

“Feral Frolics” is about a serial cat killer and his justly-deserved fate, told from the cat-killer’s point of view.

 

– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

The overall inspiration for the story is the horror I feel about the way people hate, torture, and abuse cats. There is a long history of cat torture and massacres (see the Great Cat Massacre, France, 1730), and specifically the slaughter of black cats, which were supposedly agents of the devil (see Pope Gregory IX). There is a tradition of drowning excess kittens by tying them in sacks and throwing them in rivers and the like. A few years ago there was a video on the net of some woman who grabbed a cat she saw of the street and stuffed it in a garbage can, clamped the lid on and left it to die–though luckily it was rescued. Recently, there has been a lot of furor over the dangers of both cat-spread toxoplasmosis and cats essentially eating too many birds. In 2013, in fact, Gareth Morgan, a New Zealand philanthropist and economist, called for the eradication of all cats in New Zealand.

 

– Was this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

There is a strong personal element in the horror I feel about the way cats are mistreated.  When I was in graduate school I had a black rescue cat whom I named Radiator for the warmth she gave off. When I dropped out of graduate school, I didn’t know where I was going to end up and lived in my van for a while. Since I didn’t think I could take care of Radiator under those conditions, I left her with my then-girlfriend, a Ph.D. student in psycho-biology who I thought liked her. I was later told that after I was gone she had had Radiator vivisected. This still horrifies me, and whenever I think about it I am overcome with fury, revulsion and grief at what she did to Radiator and guilt for having given her to her.

 

– What are your feelings on cats?

I love cats, as is probably obvious by now, and currently get most of my day-to-day human contact from Onyx, a beautiful long-haired black rescue cat. My two previous cats were also black rescue cats (Black cats are the least-often adopted–which means that the most-often euthanized–rescue cats.) The most interesting cat I ever had was Turner, a Serval (African wildcat) cub, who was given to me and my ex-wife by a random stranger we ran into on the street. His owner told us Turner was a domestic/Serval hybrid, but we found out some months later he was actually a pure-bred Serval. This made him illegal in California and if he’d been discovered, he almost certainly would have been destroyed. We were lucky enough to find a good home for him at Wild Things, in Salinas. Turner liked almost all people, which is very rare for an adult Serval, and his keeper would take him to schools to give students a chance to learn about wild animals.

 

– What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a voodoo demiurge roadhouse story that is somewhat difficult to describe. I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

 

– Anything else you’d like to add?

Well, the only thing I can think of to add is to get on my soap box and encourage donations to animal rescue organizations, especially the ones that keep older, injured and un-adoptable animals instead of euthanizing them. When I lived in Paris, every year people would abandon pets when they left for summer vacation. Here in the states people are often forced to give up their pets when they move somewhere that doesn’t allow pets. These animals are our responsibility. They didn’t ask to be born, and they deserve to be cared for.

“Feral Frolics” appears in the Nov./Dec. 2014 issue of F&SF.

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