King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats

King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats

Illustration By Jon Foster

Dust jacket illustration by Jon Foster.


Rehearsals Are Now Underway


The Antic Tour of Interspecies Marvels

A Scofflaw Circus!

Dogs & Cats & Humans

As You’ve Never Seen Them!

The circus is in town, and on the planet Boon, that’s big, potentially riotous news. The delicate, decaying political balance maintained by the cloned human grands at the expense of the uplifted dog and cat populations is in danger of toppling under the influence of mysterious forces both outer and inner. When Gio Barbaro—clone descendant of one of Boon’s ancient leaders, junior Senator, known friend to dogs and secret iconoclast—is recruited by the ringmaster cat, Scratch, he’s knowingly going against everything his family and class believes in. The question, though, is what Giobelieves in.

Step right up to Nebula, Hugo, and Locus-Award winner James Patrick Kelly’s thrilling new novella King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats. Here is an amazing spectacle of action, politics, love, and adventure to thrill the senses. The tumblers, acrobats, daredevils, and clowns in the Scofflaw Circus do more than delight and entertain—they inform, question, and provoke. How will the crowds respond? How will Gio? Direct your attention to the center ring…

Limited: 1000 signed numbered hardcover copies

From Library Journal:

“The long and complicated histories of civilizations sf fans find in works like Herbert’s ‘Dune’ or Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series are only hinted at in this novella, but Kelly (The Promise of Space) provides just enough hints to allow the reader to fill in the gaps and enjoy this brief but affecting tale of personal and planetary change.”

From Locus:

“Kelly packs a good deal of insightful political and social commentary into this brief but entertaining fable, persuasively portraying the uplifted cats and dogs as intelligences at once alien and familiar while suggesting sly allusions to everything from Alice in Wonderland to Puss in Boots. It’s a shrewdly comic tale with more of a bite than we might at first suspect.”

From Locus Online:

“Kelly has a ball telling this story. It’s as full of whimsy, drollery and brio as anything by Jack Vance. Meanwhile, it has the solid underpinnings of an Alistair Reynolds scenario. The nature and functionality and characters of the cat-people and dog-people are polished and convincing. Gio is an affable, empathizable protagonist, and his plight is classically resonant. The action moves forward at whiplike speed, and once the reader is immersed, everything is crystal clear, but with surprises galore still continuously unpacking.”

From Kirkus Reviews Online:

“Kelly’s execution strikes a perfect balance; not only does the story portray cats and dogs as full-fledged, lifelike characters, it also successfully handles politics and equality in a way that’s entertaining and not preachy.”


King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats



Gio decided to spend the rest of his morning looking for the mystery circus. Then the paintbomb went off.

It wasn’t so much an explosion as a sharp crack, like a heavy bough snapping in a windstorm. Gio jumped in alarm, staggered and had to catch himself on one of the plaza’s benches. The explosive had been left in a trash can beneath the statue of Leeol Gamane. Another smart bomb imported from who-knew-where in space, fortunately programmed for upshot rather than scattershot. Gio realized he was clenching his jaw so hard that his teeth ached. He whistled to remind himself he was all right. Nobody was trying to kill anybody. Yet.

Gio had never witnessed an attack firsthand before. The front half of the statue was splattered with red paint and a plume of ruddy smoke boiled into the sky, announcing the latest casualty in what his clone Fra was calling the War Against Architecture. He glanced around to see who else had witnessed the explosion. He was the only human in this corner of the plaza. A couple of cats in suits, government clerks probably, peeked from behind the base of another statue. He called to them to see if they were all right but they skittered away as if he were the bomber. And here already were the maintenance dogs, a cur on hind legs pushing a wobbly utility cart, and a mastiff trotting alongside on all fours. They parked in front of the mess and the cur lifted solvent and a bucket from the cart while the mastiff tore off its heavy walking mitts and pulled on flexible rubber gloves. Gio’s earstone buzzed with an alert from the official Supremacy feed warning of imminent attack and he decided to check in at home.

Messaging 1/34/498 Time 0927

Gio: Don’t worry, I’m fine. Feeds have it wrong as usual. Just a paintbomb. Saw it go off but it was programmed for propaganda, like all the others. Nobody hurt, no ravening hordes of dogs and cats marching to overthrow the government. Just a couple of bureaucrats spooked by an exploding trash bin. Splattered the statue of old Leeol, but she’s been dead—what—a hundred years? Book history. Nobody cares anymore, not even her clones.

Fra: Relieved to hear you’re all right but why were you wandering around the plaza? You were supposed to be at the consensus this morning vetting the new import fees.

Gio: Showed up at the Senate, but no quorum, so consensus adjourned until tomorrow. Did my due diligence, so your turn now.

Hali: Excuse me, but the point of paintbombing another statue?

Gio: Shows how the Supremacy is losing control of the city despite the crackdown?

Hali: What crackdown?

Fra: Skip the politics and just get back here. You can take my place on the 1230 tour. I need to denounce this latest atrocity on the Senate floor.

End Session 1/34/498 Time 0936

Gio cut the feed without bothering to reply. Atrocity? More like vandalism. A prank. Fra thought he could order him around just because he was Gio’s grandclone. It wasn’t fair; the 1230 was Fra’s tour. Gio wasn’t just an extra Barbaro; he was an individual with his own plans. Nothing like his ambitious grand, despite the curse of their identical chromosomes. Fra believed he was destined to restore the failing Villa Barbaro and rule the Supremacy as their long line of grandclones once had. Gio knew better. And so did their wife, Hali. 

He was just blocks from home, but he was now determined to spite bossy old Fra, so he slipped off his senatorial sash and pocketed it. The two Barbaros shared their house’s seat in the mostly useless Senate. No sense in advertising his status if he was going to search for the circus. He checked to see if anyone had noticed him but the maintenance dogs were on their hind legs, getting busy with mops. Then he clipped his lawnball scarf around his neck and left the plaza, losing himself in the nervous crowd of tourists and bureaucrats and caretakers. They’d gone to ground on first report of an explosion but now were streaming back to Longview Parade, with its consensus galleries and law palaces and history arcades and gleaming monuments to the dead grands of the Enlightened City. Gio jogged up the stairs of the Academy of the Thousand Worlds, slipped through the lobby and out the other side. He waited a moment to see if anyone was following him. Satisfied that he was on his own, he strolled west on the Spaceway.

The grand boulevard was eight lanes wide here in Capital Ward and was flanked by stern blocks of government offices where clerks counted taxes and engineers planned sewers and police sorted out troublemakers. Street traffic was light after the morning rush; commuter busses had largely given way to delivery trucks. There was some sparse human foot traffic but dogs and cats filled their separate lanes on the sidewalk as they went about the day’s chores. An unruly group of school pups, probably on a class trip to tour one of the Grand Houses, maybe even Villa Barbaro, was spilling out of its lane. A harried teacher whistled for order even as one pup nosed along the pavement toward a trio of adult cats in clerks’ vests. A bored hiss sent the straggler scurrying back to its class. 

Hard up against the city wall in Oldgate Ward was the sprawl of the Central Pound. In the late morning, most maintenance crews were out and about, but in an open bay Gio spotted a pack of firedogs washing a yellow ladder truck. They recognized him and yipped a greeting. Gio pressed a finger to his lips and nodded over his shoulder in the direction of the Grand Houses of Capital Ward. They barked in acknowledgement; they would keep his secret. While many senators had cat leanings, Gio was well known as a friend to dogs.



Jon Foster
James Patrick Kelly
128 pages
United States
Subterranean Press
Out of Print