Kitty's Mix-Tape by Carrie Vaughn

INTRODUCTION BY EMMA BULL


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 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 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-county-jail-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 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.