Who doesn’t like kittens? Kittens are what cats used to be before the irony of a two-legged universe got to them, making them the moody judgmental purring balls of fur they are today. Kittens are fun. Kittens are daring. Kittens are little evil feline ninjas with razor teeth and spikey claws. Kittens wake up every morning and treat the world like it’s their own personal frat house and the air is spiked with catnip. I love kittens. I also love me righteous protagonists in books and comics. So, I was wondering the other day—I’d trust these folks to save the world, but would I trust them to babysit a kitten?
Dune — Frank Herbert
Paul Atreides of Dune was my first choice. He’s from a royal house. He’s brave and does mostly good for people. He wants to bring water to the downtrodden. But then I also remembered that he’s at the center of a terrorist cult and rides giant death worms through a desert on a planet that’s mined for its drugs. Would I really trust the life of my kitten to a terrorist-death-worm-riding-drug-peddler?
First Law Trilogy — Joe Abercrombie
So, I went the other direction. Instead of a nice guy, I thought of a bad guy, because Danny Trejo proved that bad guys can really be soft and cuddly at times. I tried to picture Logan Ninefingers from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy and Red Country, sitting in the corner of a smoky tavern, drinking a flagon of ale, and petting a kitten that’s sitting on his chest. I picture it as a nice peaceful scene, right up to the point where a group of lads with shiny new swords spot him and are eager to try their fresh off-the-shelf-weapons on the King of Killers. Somewhere between Logan’s berserker rage and him chewing the face off of one of the eager lads, the kitten gets under the feet of too many hobnailed boots and well… I’ll just stop right there.
The Stormlight Archive — Brandon Sanderson
Who can I trust, then? Having just read Brandon Sanderson’s book The Way of Kings about shards and monsters and bright eyes, his hero Kaladin came to mind. He was a decent warrior and a pretty solid bloke. Except of course for his deep emotional scars and his desire to protect and serve a Tinkerbell-like creature—an Honorspren named Syl. That’s sort of like a kitten, I suppose, except it flies through the air and does some magical stuff, which means it’s really nothing like a kitten. In fact, I could see that damned Spren becoming Butt-Hurt-Spren because of Kaladin’s attention on a new kitten. After all, it’s Syl’s connection to Kaladin that grounds her and makes her able to think clearly, unlike her Windspren cousins, which would definitely make the kitten a threat. One moment Kaladin is petting the kitten, listening to it purr as it rests on a cushion beside him, the next the kitten is being carried to ten thousand feet by the spren who then returns it by dropping it from an impossible height.
The Sacred Throne — Myke Cole
What about Myke Cole’s Heloise Factor? She’s a simple gal that gets strapped into a war machine and rips through some high-falluting religious types. She definitely would have the kittens best wishes in mind. She’d most certainly want the kitten to be safe and happy. I imagined the kitten in her metal hands all secure and cool. But then I remembered all of her interactions in The Armored Saint, Myke’s first book of her fantasy series. Didn’t bad things happen to pretty much everyone around her? Wasn’t she sort of like the Joe Btfsplk of fantasy books, a continuous dark cloud following her and promising that bad things were on the way? And this was the person who was going to be trusted to keep a kitten alive?
Desolation Jones — Warren Ellis
Why do the kittens keep ending up in bad ways? Are literary heroes so focused on being heroes that they can’t be nurturers? Can’t they be trusted to take care of a simple kitten? So, I thought I might flip the script. Instead of trying to find a hero to babysit a kitten, why not see if a kitten can be the one babysitting? It didn’t take long for me to think of the most messed up character in the history of heroes and anti-heroes—and it was none other than Warren Ellis I thought of, and his eponymous character Desolation Jones. The sole survivor of a the “Desolation Test” where he was forced to stay awake for one year and subjected to endless scenes of death, his body physically changed so that he’s now weak, frail, has to avoid direct sunlight, is forced to abuse drugs, has hallucinations of bloody naked angels, and has to wear an oxygen mask most of the time. All in all, Jones is a victim, and shouldn’t all victims have a nice little kitten to pet and make purr? Remember that kittens are really little evil ninjas in training. Maybe if the bad guys came to do something to Desolation Jones, Desolation Kitty would stand up and take a few swipes at them. Desolation Kitty—doesn’t that have a ring to it?
And if not, if something bad ended up happening to the kitten, it still has eight lives left. Maybe that’s the reason cats have nine lives: you just can’t find good heroes nowadays—heroes who you’d trust with the simple task of taking care of a kitten. I know none of my heroes would be able to handle it. From the guys on SEAL Team 666, to the grunts who tried to save the world in the Grunt Life series, to my new heroes in Burning Sky who aren’t even sure they’re in the right reality, I just can’t seem to write a hero who I’d trust to babysit a kitten.
And maybe that’s it. Maybe kittens aren’t meant for heroes. Maybe kittens are meant for the rest of us—maybe so that we can pet them and hear them purr while we read about heroes who really have little time for such luxuries because they are too focused on saving whatever fictional world they find themselves in.
Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series, SEAL Team 666, has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci-fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly.