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Interview: Cat Rambo on “Red in Tooth and Cog”

– Tell us a bit about “Red in Tooth and Cog.”

The title, “Red in Tooth and Cog,” is a play on a passage from Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H.

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed

The story deals, in its way, with issues of memory and what’s left behind, in several ways, from the opals on the phone case to the discarded appliances and then finally to the story’s conclusion. In the end, it is perhaps through acts of kindness that we can best survive — but we should choose them carefully.


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

The idea of appliances with AI going feral after being discarded came to me, and it seemed like it would be fun to do.


– Was “Red in Tooth and Cog” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

I wanted to hit at that horrified moment one can have where you realize good intentions have gone awry and we’ve hurt someone. I’m reasonably sure most of us know the feeling. Communication is so fraught with potential misunderstandings and even more so when you’re dealing with nonhuman intelligences.

In another way this story is deeply meaningful. I’ve been sending submissions to the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for over a decade and after (literally) dozens of submissions, it is deeply satisfying to finally appear in its pages.


– What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

I didn’t research, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about what the park and its inhabitants looked like.


– You’re almost a year into your term as SFWA President. Has this experience given you any new perspective on your own writing, or the field in general?

I certainly have learned plenty in my time so far, abundantly so. I don’t know that a lot of it has been about writing so much as how to fiercely defend one’s writing time despite an onslaught of demands and people going “SFWA should” with expectant looks on their faces.

One of the nice things about letting indie writers in last year has been that many of the new members have been very generous with sharing their knowledge of and experience with independent publishing, so I’ve learned a great deal about that side of things.

I’ve come to an even deeper appreciation of the team — particularly Kate Baker, Maggie Hogarth, Bud Sparhawk, and Steven H Silver — and how lucky I am to be working with them. Maggie recently agreed to run for a second term as Vice President, and I’m looking forward to another year of amazing stuff, particularly since I know some of the nifty things coming down the pike. :)


“Red in Tooth and Cog” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.  You can buy that issue here:

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Visit Cat Rambo’s website at:


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