I’d like to divert your attention to “Spacetime For Springers,” a short story by Fritz Lieber. It is my favorite short story of all time.
I can’t pick a favorite book, or even narrow my selections down to a favorite hundred books, but this story pushes all my buttons. It hits all the story beats. The form could not be better. Not a word or sentence is unnecessary, and each builds toward the climax.
The great reveal is both devastating yet trackable through the story.
The hero, a hyper-intelligent kitten named Gummitch, is both lovable and relatable, in spite of species’ differences. And the author’s use of language gapes my jaw; “…he flung his spirit into her like a fistful of flaming arrows;” “mirror beings were insubstantial or at least hermetically sealed into their other world, probably creatures of pure spirit, harmless imitative ghosts;” “…he teleported himself three yards to the rear, making use of that faculty for cutting corners in space-time, traveling by space-warp in fact, which was one of his powers…”
All my favorite writers have poet’s souls, but this piece, this miniature magnum opus, speaks to my heart. The theme of self-sacrifice, especially when that sacrifice is made to protect or preserve family or friends, underlies all my favorite stories. I have a soft little place in my heart for unsung heroes.
Other readers either love it or hate it. Some object to the entire theme, and long for a happy-ever-after, a magical ending where everybody gets what they want and joy is everywhere and the sun shines forever. Others don’t appreciate being manipulated by the writer into tears, but who wants to read an emotionally sterile story? Some simply hate cats, but I’m not able to grok that mindset any more than a sea cucumber can channel the thoughts of a Saguaro cactus.
Others, like me, believe it is one of the most poignant and heart-breakingly-beautiful stories ever told. The tale of Gummitch-kitten is posted here, if you’d like to read it for yourself and make your own decision.
Another story with near-perfect craft and construction is, “Who’s There?” by Arthur C. Clarke. Yes, one of the main characters, the essential supporting character, is a cat. So? What’s your point?