Hugo/Nebula Finalist: For He Can Creep • 2019 • Fairy tale by Siobhan Carroll


Synopsis: Jeoffrey is a tomcat owning a demon infested level of a 18th century madhouse. He fiercely keeps the vermin demons at bay so that his poet could find the muse to write. But when the Devil comes in to collect debts, Jeoffrey needs to find allies and humility to outsmart him.

Review: Cat videos rule the world, and so do tales about cats, e.g. in Warrior Cats or certainly in this utterly cute description of cats’ behaviour. Outsmarting the devil is a very common topic in folklore, e.g. in the Smith and the Devil, and the combination with a cat POV is a marketing trap which lures every cat lover into this light-hearted story. A couple of funny scenes, cute behaviour, and wondrous action win the reader’s heart.

Its title stands in a long spoiler tradition leading to a very predictable and uninteresting ending.

The author has probably studied a poem from 18th century poet Christopher Smart who was in such a madhouse and wrote the poem about his cat Jeoffrey and wondered about the eponymous last line leading to this wonderful story. Carroll embedded Biblical references – Jesus’s temptation – and one to Narnia – about the treat – into the story, and one has to wonder about the allegorical interpretation. Those felt just over-the-top.

I highly recommend this novelette to fairy tale and cat lovers.

 Meta: isfdb. It is available online at Tor and I’ve read it as part of the Hugo and Nebula Award finalists.


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