Kitty’s Mix-Tape – Carrie Vaughn

HERE’S HOW I REMEMBER IT: I had the chance to provide a cover quote for Kitty and the Midnight Hour, and I didn’t. Now I should warn you, I’m not the most reliable narrator. Writers love a good story more than almost anything, and when you ask them about their memories, you should expect narrative structure, not strict adherence to fact. Maybe I did provide a quote. But what’s stuck in my head is that I didn’t realize at the time how much I liked and admired that introduction to Kitty Norville, late-night DJ and talk-show host, determined pursuer of truth, and reluctant celebrity werewolf. I’d been a DJ at my college radio station. Kitty’s late-night life in front of a microphone, solitary but connected to a host of people she can’t see, felt familiar. That familiarity vouched for the story; if that part was right, it suggested the rest of Kitty’s world was authentic, too. Even the werewolves. And what werewolves! They were convincingly both human and lupine, with the instincts of each species, and a mixed social structure that made sense for people who had to live with ordinary humans but keep their difference secret. If that makes you think of metaphoric possibilities, I’m not going to warn you off. But you should understand that writers don’t always know when we’re crafting metaphors. Sometimes we discover them as readers do: when we read the finished work and see the subtext, the HERE’S HOW I REMEMBER IT: I had the chance to provide a cover Now I should warn you, I’m not the most reliable narrator. Writers love a good story more than almost anything, and when you ask them about their memories, you should expect narrative structure, not strict adherence to fact. Maybe I did provide a quote.

But what’s stuck in my head is that I didn’t realize at the time how much I liked and admired that introduction to Kitty Norville, late-night DJ and talk-show host, I’d been a DJ at my college radio station. Kitty’s late-night life in front of a microphone, solitary but connected to a host of people she can’t see, felt familiar. That familiarity vouched for the story; if that part was right, it suggested the rest of Kitty’s world was authentic, too. And what werewolves! They were convincingly both human and lupine, with the instincts of each species, and a mixed social structure that made sense for people who had to live with ordinary humans but If that makes you think of metaphoric possibilities, I’m not going to warn you off. But you should understand that writers don’t always know when we’re crafting metaphors. Sometimes we discover them as readers do: when we read the finished work and see the subtext, the supporting mesh, of the story we’ve told. Even if we’ve intended a deeper, parallel meaning in a work of fiction, readers may find a different metaphor in the tale, one that hits closer to their lives and experience. Fantasy is one of the best mediums for telling two stories (if not more!) at once. They layer on one another: reality and make-believe, life and myth, perception and fact. “Unternehmen Werwolf, ” on its face, is the story of a young soldier in World War II tasked with a mission we can’t sympathize with.

But the story asks: Can we look past the mission to see the man? “Kitty Learns the Ropes” puts Kitty in a tough place between her two communities, human and werewolf. But underneath the action, it asks a question just as tough: Is it ever right to “out” someone, to take away their control of what the world knows of them? Speaking of communities, the characters in these stories (I think of them as Kitty and the friends she hasn’t met yet) don’t move through life alone—like wolves, they need their pack to survive, whether they know it or not. Each story is as much about a community as about individuals, and characters succeed because of the connections they make and the bonds they form with others. The lone hero who triumphs on solo strength, knowledge, and determination? That character may be a regular in adventure fiction, but in the world where we live, that’s more commonly the person whose neighbors are quoted as saying, “They were quiet. Kept to themselves. We had no idea all those bodies were in the basement.” That focus on connection and community is another thing that makes these stories feel real, as if they’re happening right around the corner. After I finished Kitty and the Midnight Hour, I found myself telling people, “There’s this book about a woman who’s a DJ on nighttime radio, and she’s secretly a werewolf, and there are more werewolves, and some vampires, but they’re not those sorts of werewolves and supporting mesh, of the story we’ve told. Even if we’ve intended a deeper, parallel meaning in a work of fiction, readers may find a different metaphor in the tale, one that hits closer to their lives and Fantasy is one of the best mediums for telling two stories (if not more!) at once. They layer on one another: reality and make-believe, life and myth, perception and fact.

“Unternehmen Werwolf, ” on its face, is the story of a young soldier in World War II tasked with a mission we can’t sympathize with. But the story asks: Can we look past the mission to see the man? “Kitty Learns the Ropes” puts Kitty in a tough place between her two communities, human and werewolf. But underneath the action, it asks a question just as tough: Is it ever right to “out” someone, to take away their control of what the world knows of Speaking of communities, the characters in these stories (I think of them as Kitty and the friends she hasn’t met yet) don’t move through life alone—like wolves, they need their pack to survive, whether they know it or not. Each story is as much about a community as about individuals, and characters succeed because of the connections they make and the bonds they form with others. The lone hero who triumphs on solo strength, knowledge, and determination? That character may be a regular in adventure fiction, but in the world where we live, that’s more commonly the person whose neighbors are quoted as saying, “They were quiet. Kept to themselves. We had no idea all those bodies were in the basement.” That focus on connection and community is another thing that makes these stories feel real, as if they’re happening , I found myself telling people, “There’s this book about a woman who’s a DJ on nighttime radio, and she’s secretly a werewolf, and there are more werewolves, sorts of werewolves and vampires—Anyway, you should read it.” An audio version of a cover quote, maybe? Definitely an act of community-building. The kind folks at Tachyon have allowed me to remedy my original lapse.

But now it takes a whole introduction to recommend Carrie Vaughn’s work, because after a series of novels and this delicious collection of short stories, there’s so much more to say. If you aren’t already part of the community—the family—that knows and loves Vaughn’s real and fantastic universe, think of this volume as its Welcome Wagon, arrived on your doorstep with a plate of brownies and an intriguing air of mystery. Go ahead. Invite it in. Emma Bull March 2020 vampires—Anyway, you should read it.” An audio version of a cover quote, maybe? Definitely an act of community-building. The kind folks at Tachyon have allowed me to remedy my original lapse. But now it takes a whole introduction to recommend Carrie Vaughn’s work, because after a series of novels and this delicious collection of short stories, there’s so much more to say. If you aren’t already part of the community—the family—that knows and loves Vaughn’s real and fantastic universe, think of this volume as its Welcome Wagon, arrived on your doorstep with a plate of brownies and an intriguing air of mystery. Go ahead.

Invite it in. Emma Bull March 2020 Kitty Walks On By, Calls Your Name BEN PARKED, and we sat in the car for what seemed like a very long time, not saying anything, staring grimly ahead as if we were about to go into battle. “It’s not too late to back out of this, ” he said finally. “There’s nothing in the universe that says you have to go to your high school class reunion.” Ten years. With everything that had happened to me over the last ten years, it seemed like a century ought to have passed. On the other hand, I could still remember what it felt like to walk down those stinky school halls and worry about grades and graduation and the rest of it. Ben was right, I didn’t need to do this, I didn’t need to be here, and I certainly didn’t need to drag him along. He was wearing a suit and tie, his courtroom best, a fresh shave and brushed hair, all the polish and not his meeting-clients-at-the-countyjail-at-two-in-the-morning scruff, which meant he was taking this seriously. I was in a very mature cocktail dress, black with a red belt, in a style that showed off my figure.

My blond hair was up, and I’d put on makeup. Retro elegance. Looking in the mirror before we’d left home made me think I ought to dress up more often. Did I really want to do this? We could start the car back up and turn around right now. I wouldn’t even have known the reunion was happening except Sadie Martinez sent me an email. She’d reached out and practically begged me—she didn’t want to be here alone. Sadie and I had been best friends, study partners, double dating to prom, all of it. And I hadn’t BEN PARKED, and we sat in the car for what seemed like a very long time, not saying anything, staring grimly ahead as if we were about to “It’s not too late to back out of this, ” he said finally. “There’s nothing in the universe that says you have to go to your high school Ten years. With everything that had happened to me over the last ten years, it seemed like a century ought to have passed.

On the other hand, I could still remember what it felt like to walk down those stinky school halls and worry about grades and graduation and the rest of it. Ben was right, I didn’t need to do this, I didn’t need to be here, and I He was wearing a suit and tie, his courtroom best, a fresh shave and brushed hair, all the polish and not his meeting-clients-at-the-countyjail-at-two-in-the-morning scruff, which meant he was taking this seriously. I was in a very mature cocktail dress, black with a red belt, in a style that showed off my figure. My blond hair was up, and I’d put on makeup. Retro elegance. Looking in the mirror before we’d left home Did I really want to do this? We could start the car back up and turn I wouldn’t even have known the reunion was happening except Sadie Martinez sent me an email. She’d reached out and practically begged me—she didn’t want to be here alone. Sadie and I had been best friends, study partners, double dating to prom, all of it. And I hadn’t talked to her since junior year of college because I hadn’t talked to anyone since junior year of college. The year I’d been attacked by a werewolf and transformed into something that didn’t normally think much about high school class reunions.

My life fell into two halves: before I was turned into a werewolf and after. High school was before. It had happened to someone else. Now, I’d walk through those hotel ballroom doors and wouldn’t know anyone, and the ones I did know would be angry that I’d stopped talking to them. If they didn’t run screaming because I was a monster. Because I wasn’t just a werewolf. I hosted a talk-radio advice show on the supernatural and had been caught shape-shifting on national television. I was a famous werewolf. Part of why we wanted to turn around was the off chance someone might have brought a gun with silver bullets, thinking they’d be doing the world a favor. But I felt like I owed it to Sadie, after all the years I’d dropped out of sight.

“Did you go to your high school reunion?” I asked. Ben was enough older than me that his ten-year reunion had happened before I met him a few years ago. “Oh hell no, ” he said. “I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.” “You weren’t even a little bit curious about what happened to people?” “Nope.” He grinned. “My dad was in prison by then, I had no interest in explaining all that to that crowd.” I was suddenly daunted. I was going to have to explain the werewolf thing over and over again. “Maybe I don’t want to do this, ” I murmured.

“Okay, ” Ben said. “Just to get it out in the open, why are we doing this?” “Because I’m super curious and this is the kind of thing that only happens once, and if I miss it I’ll always wonder.” talked to her since junior year of college because I hadn’t talked to anyone since junior year of college. The year I’d been attacked by a werewolf and transformed into something that didn’t normally think My life fell into two halves: before I was turned into a werewolf and after. High school was before. It had happened to someone else. Now, I’d walk through those hotel ballroom doors and wouldn’t know anyone, and the ones I did know would be angry that I’d stopped talking to them. If they didn’t run screaming because I was a monster. Because I wasn’t just a werewolf. I hosted a talk-radio advice show on the supernatural and had been caught shape-shifting on national Part of why we wanted to turn around was the off chance someone might have brought a gun with silver bullets, thinking they’d be doing the world a favor.

But I felt like I owed it to Sadie, after all the years “Did you go to your high school reunion?” I asked. Ben was enough older than me that his ten-year reunion had happened before I met him “Nope.” He grinned. “My dad was in prison by then, I had no I was suddenly daunted. I was going to have to explain the werewolf thing over and over again. “Maybe I don’t want to do this, ” I “Okay, ” Ben said. “Just to get it out in the open, why are we doing “Because I’m super curious and this is the kind of thing that only “All good reasons. Right. Let’s go. We can always ditch if things go sidewise.

” “But they’re not going to go sidewise. It’s a high school reunion, what could possibly go wrong?” He gave me a scowling look. Don’t ever ask what could go wrong, I knew that lesson. We left the warm, late-evening June air and entered the excessive airconditioning of the hotel ballroom lobby. A few people, also in suits and cocktail hour finery, mingled, talking in groups. There was nervous laughter. I didn’t recognize anyone, not right away. I looked for Sadie with a sudden spike of fear that I wouldn’t recognize her either. Ben guided me toward a table where a couple of unassuming soccermom types were standing guard over rows of name-tag stickers. They seemed familiar—one was brunette, average build, and might have been a cheerleader.

The other tanned, dark-haired. Also a cheerleader? Maybe we’d had algebra together? We found our stickers, and the women’s smiles remained relentlessly cheerful—maybe they didn’t recognize me either. This had been a pretty big high school. So, now what? Just keep wandering around until I recognized someone? This wasn’t how high school reunions looked in the movies, where the bitchy popular girls came back as stuck-up suburban housewives, the jocks were out-of-shape used car salesman, the oppressed nerds were billionaire tech geniuses, and the people who were most unhappy had found their way while the people who were bullies got their comeuppance. High school reunion: a chance to right old wrongs and take revenge on the cool kids. But that wasn’t how this looked at all. Everyone was scanning faces, walking past each other like we were at some kind of statue gallery, searching for signs of the people we had been years ago. Searching for familiarity. So many of the men—I had to shave twenty pounds off “All good reasons. Right.

Let’s go. We can always ditch if things go “But they’re not going to go sidewise. It’s a high school reunion, He gave me a scowling look. Don’t ever ask what could go wrong, I We left the warm, late-evening June air and entered the excessive airconditioning of the hotel ballroom lobby. A few people, also in suits and cocktail hour finery, mingled, talking in groups. There was nervous laughter. I didn’t recognize anyone, not right away. I looked for Sadie Ben guided me toward a table where a couple of unassuming soccermom types were standing guard over rows of name-tag stickers. They seemed familiar—one was brunette, average build, and might have been a cheerleader. The other tanned, dark-haired.

Also a cheerleader? We found our stickers, and the women’s smiles remained relentlessly cheerful—maybe they didn’t recognize me either. This had been a pretty big high school. So, now what? Just keep wandering around This wasn’t how high school reunions looked in the movies, where the bitchy popular girls came back as stuck-up suburban housewives, the jocks were out-of-shape used car salesman, the oppressed nerds were billionaire tech geniuses, and the people who were most unhappy had found their way while the people who were bullies got their comeuppance. High school reunion: a chance to right old wrongs and But that wasn’t how this looked at all. Everyone was scanning faces, walking past each other like we were at some kind of statue gallery, searching for signs of the people we had been years ago. Searching for familiarity. So many of the men—I had to shave twenty pounds off them before they looked familiar, and it wasn’t that they had gotten fat, but that they filled out. They weren’t scrawny boys anymore. Names hovered on the tip of my tongue. I should have looked in the yearbook for a refresher before coming here.

We were like deer in the headlights, amazed that any of us had survived at all. Because enough time had passed to make us realize that nobody in high school thought they were cool, they just acted out on their worst insecurities and struggled to get through in one piece. High school felt so big while we were living it, but the percentage of our lives those years represented got smaller and smaller as time went on. What was an entire quarter of our lives ten years ago was now, what, fourteen percent? And in ten more years it would be ten percent. And the beat goes on. “You look like you’re about to start crying, ” Ben said. “I think I’m sad, ” I said. “Let’s go find you a glass of wine—” “Kitty!” I turned to the call, coming from down the foyer. A woman rushed toward me. She had honey-brown hair in a bob, and was stout and confident, in a cute black dress and loud earrings.

Sadie hadn’t changed a bit. Except neither one of us had the confidence and poise for slinky cocktail dresses back in high school. Now look at us, like we were grown-ups or something.

.

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