I don’t normally purchase a collection for just one story but the community over at File 770 was saying in a discussion of AIs that the Hugo Award-winning ’Cat Pictures Please’ was a story that the folks there who hadn’t read it should really read, so I went to iBooks and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories.
Yes they were right — you really should go read it, as it’s a unique take on what happens when an AI decides it’s concerns about us and wants to make us feel better. What it wants in exchange for making us feel better is — well, it likes cats. Her newest novel, Catfishing on CatNet, involves this AI and a group of young adults. I can’t wait to read it!
Before I get to the rest of the exemplary stories here, let me talk about the author. She has lived in London and Nepal. She now lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she blogs on local elections when she’s not writing genre fiction. She has two series out, Eliana’s Song and Dead Rivers, plus a lot of short fiction collected here and in two other collections, Comrade Grandmother and Other Stories and Gift of the Winter King and Other Stories.
Now back to Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories. It’s worth purchasing just for that story but it also has seventeen stories in total, which means I’m only going to single out a few favorite ones, such as ‘Ace of Spades’ which is about an American war journalist with Huntington’s Disease in China in a war being fought by American robots called Peacekeepers. Things are not what they seem, nor is she what seems to be either.
On the other hand, ‘The Golem’ is a creature who is assembled by two young women on December 1, 1941. The golem is a woman who remembers when she was created before. She is also able to see when and where people will die. So, like the AI who likes cat pictures in the first story, she starts changing things.
Her essay ‘So Much Cooking’ that first ran on Tor.com details her cooking for parties, then her boyfriend, then for her two nieces, until she’s finally cooking for six children, in their two bedroom flat. It’s a truly heartbreaking story of this present truly fitting our shelter-in-place culture of the moment.
What I like about all of the stories is that there is an intrinsic humanity, a sense of decency that is really nice to see. No, they’re not shallow and meaningless, there’s a depth to them as well. A lovely collection from an author well worth your time to read.
(Fairweather Press, 2017)