It had been a long week here in your critic’s den and the thought of attending a festival dedicated to Feline fiction made me want to hiss, growl and, perhaps, even spit. But I had my assignment and my press badge and who was I, anyway, to argue with the powers that miaow? So, off I trotted (see how I mix those Animal elements so that you cannot guess my species? Read more about that in the “hard news” section…) to the Wishing Well for four days (14-17 June) of non-stop purring over and pawing of the latest imaginative tails and wanderings of that standoffish set.
The first day got off to a rather slow start, with much being made of this being the ONLY Feline fiction fest around and our being SO forward-thinking and interspecially harmonious. Save all that, I say, for the press release. Humans will just lap it up. As far as I’m concerned, we’re here to appreciate (and, later, of course, to judge) the best writing offered this year by those whiskered ones.
Still, with all the stretching and preening that I saw (and much of it in front of the judges), one could have sworn that this was a beauty contest and not a writing festival at all. Someone should tell these Cats that you can’t fool all of us most of the time and that charm (or even stripes, for that matter) is no substitute for a good day’s work.
By the second day, however, the spotlight was squarely on those who both produce and value good writing. The mystery category this year overflowed with quality fiction that was driven, for the most part, by strong characters and great plot lines. So much Feline fiction in the past has been “atmospheric” (smoky salons, catnip-induced dreams), that one can forget how well the species can actually spin a tale or weave complicated pathways around multi-dimensional characters. They don’t call it Cat’s cradle for nothing, I suppose.
Nevertheless and notwithstanding, I, personally (not to mention, professionally), was disappointed in the quality of some of the entries this year, particularly in the Humour category. While I do believe that the winner (Cat’s Up!) could have beaten out any competition in any year, one does have to wonder under what bush that competition has been hiding. I know there are good Feline humorists out there. So…Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!
The other item of note was the introduction of non-fiction titles to the 2007 Fiction Fest — a move that was sure to spark controversy. I was not, in the least, offended by this, though, as I think it added a much-needed perspective to an otherwise one-dimensional event that is always on the verge of turning into a full-out egofest. Who says that Cats rule the world? Well, for 4 days in June, Cats do. So, it was particularly nice to see titles that offered a look at the seamier and seedier side of Feline life, even though it is disconcerting for some of us to read stories in which the victims and vanquished are the Cats, as realistic as that is. The tie-in this year, too, with the charity auction (four tickets to the Feral Four concert in 2008) was a spark of genius on the part of festival organizers.
After four days of fêting Felines, I found myself craving solitude (was I becoming Cat-like?), so I crept back to my den, where I lay down for some much-needed R&R, but not before declaring the 2007 Fiction Fest a tour de Feline force. Kudos to all who were involved. Looking forward to 2008.
That’s all, folks.