Gerard Houarner, Writer
Stories you don't always take home to Mother...


Dead Cats

Dead Cats Traveling Circus and Miracle Medicine Show

What is Dead Cat?

He's a cat.

Born thousands of years ago in an Egyptian temple cattery, he was sacrificed to Bast and went to Hell.

He didn't like it there. Felt cheated of life.

So he came back.

The original story, illustrated by the artist Gak, was published in the summer of 2000 as a chapbook from Space and Time. Since then, the little guy has quite literally taken on a life of his own.

What follows is a catalog of his appearances, review quotes, an explanation of sorts of his origin, and what Dead Cat means to me.

But, really, some things can never be explained....

The Dead Cat Catalog

Dead Cat Bounce, A Fable to Horrify the Inner Child – Space and Time, 2000

Dead Cats Bouncing, the Anthology, edited by Gerard Houarner and Gak – Bedlam Press, 2002

Featuring work by: Jack Ketchum
Yvonne Navarro
Mick Farren
Edward Lee
Brian Keene
Charlee Jacob
Gene O'Neill
David Niall Wilson
Linda Addison
Terry McGarry
Paul DiFilippo
Tom Piccirilli
John Skipp
Gerard Houarner
Gak – illustrations

Dead Cat, He's Back – T-shirt

Dead Cat...Bigger Than Jesus – Bedlam Press, 2003
featuring stories by Gerard Houarner and Gak, illustrated by Gak:
Dead Cat and the Secret of Eternal Life (Story commissioned by HWA/Pro-Literacy Charity Auction winner conducted during the 2002 Stoker Award weekend)
Bad Denny and Dead Cat
Black Cat Walking on Halloween

Dead Cat...Bigger Than Jesus – Café Press items: T-shirt, stein

Dead Cat's Lick – Bedlam Press, 2004, promotional chapbook for Horrorfind (earned an Honorable Mention in the 18th Annual Year's Best Fantasy and Horror from St. Martins Press)

The Dead Cat Poet Cabal – Bedlam Press, 2005, promotional chapbook for World Horror Con

Dead Cat's Traveling Circus of Wonders and Miracle Medicine Show, edited by Gerard Houarner and Gak – Bedlam Press, 2006

Featuring work by: Linda Addison
Trey R. Barker
Brian Hodge
Jeffrey Thomas
Jack Haringa
Michael T. Huyck, Jr.
Tim Lebbon
Garrett Peck
P.D. Cacek
Michelle Scalise
Robert Rhine
Gary Braunbeck
Mark McLaughlin
Wrath James White
Aaron Worley
Gak, Alan M. Clark, Erik Wilson, Chad Savage - illustrations
(Stories by Jeffrey Thomas, Trey Barker and Gerard Houarner earned Honorable Mentions in the 20th Annual Year's Best Fantasy and Horror from St. Matins Press)

Dead Cat's Traveling Circus 2008 Calendar – 2007 promotional calendar for Necon 2007

Dead Cat Quotes

Gerard Houarner. Write story. Use minimal language. Make R.C. Matheson seem wordy. You. Read chapbook. Laugh and squirm. Fun. No bounce back to publisher.
Hellnotes, Dead Cat Bounce

...DEAD CAT BOUNCE, a delightful fable that will horrify your twisted inner child. A strange hybrid of short story and comic book, DEAD CAT BOUNCE defies accurate description. Suffice to say, it is unlike anything done before and wonderfully so. Houarner has created a unique blend of poetry and prose; a literary assault that rolls off the page and picks through your brain like razors.
Master of Terror website, Dead Cat Bounce

On an entirely different plane is Dead Cat Bounce. Subtitled “A Fable To Horrify The Inner Child,” it delivers on that promise with a blend of the most bizarre illustrations, the blackest humour, and that uniquely pragmatic and fantastic Houarner is justly famous for. This is
a fable with a guffaw and a shudder, never allowing us to move too far from these extremes.

Dead Cat Bounce is that book you lend to friends, just to see if you can appall them, the gift that earns you searching glances from everyone else at the party. And it is a well-camouflaged look at that mythical “fairness” of life. Most of all, it is a risk Houarner took that flails wildly but lands solidly on its feet.
MEviews, SF Site, Dead Cat Bounce

Very enjoyable. I read it aloud to my wife and she nearly laughed up a lung.
Robin Sprigg, writer, Dead Cat Bounce

This is a narrative poem, or perhaps it’s a graphic chapbook. Interspersed throughout the whole story are bits and pieces of satire or commentary on humans, religion, process, and other things. The artwork is complementary and perfect in execution. The whole package is quite nicely done and I’d recommend it.
The Skeptic Tank, Scavenger’s Newsletter, Dead Cat Bounce

This poignant story manages to mix Don Marquis’ Mehitable with Karloff’s Mummy in a charming creepy-funny fashion, a tone captured perfectly in numerous B&W drawings by a mysterious artist known only as GAK.
Asimov’s Science Fiction, May, 2001, Dead Cat Bounce

"Dead Cat Bounce. Chapbook from Space and Time. Gerard Houarner write. GAK draw pictures. Big success. Get Stoker nomination. Win friends and admirers. Star, they say. Famous, they insist. Other writers want tell Dead Cat stories. Whatever, Gerard and GAK say. Edit new anthology for Bedlam Press. Debut at World Horror Convention. Fun!

"You. Buy book. Read stories. Study pictures. Laugh. Gasp. Snarl. Whatever. No eat sand. Purr. But take mouse. Please."
Hellnotes, Dead Cats Bouncing

"It's one of the most bizarre premises for an anthology I've ever heard of. "Weird stories these. I confess I scratched my head more than once while reading this book. Why the hell were all these authors writing stories about an undead cat? What tha F%ck? But once you stop trying to get it and just read the damned thing it's a pretty enjoyable little ride this uncanny collection takes you on. Some of these stories are indeed great parables. You can definitely pick up one or two things bouncing through hell with a dead cat. But I would not read these fables to children. A mature audience is suggested.

"I mean this cat dragged himself out of hell where he had every excuse to give up but he didn't. He bounced. Don't you just wish you could fall so far and still land on your feet? Don't you just wish you could bounce too?", Dead Cats Bouncing

This is a book for the kid in every adult, for the person who’s seen what else is on the shelves and just wants something unexpected. Call if a book of bedtime stories for the already-damaged child. Call it whatever you want, just grab it quick before Gerard and GAK do it again with another Dead Cat book, or better yet, Dead Cat the Animated Series. And then it’ll be Dead Cat stuffed toys for everyone.
C.Dennis Moore, Epinions, Dead Cats Bouncing

This very strange collections of stories, poems, and artwork is one of those books that defies categorization. The illustrations are without exception brilliantly twisted. (The stories)....tickled my – well whatever bone it is that is tickled by such demented writing.
SF Chronicle, Dead Cats Bouncing

If you’re up for something so off-the-wall as to be alien, this is the book for you.
Fangoria, Dead Cats Bouncing

This mini-collection stays true to the fun-loving black humor of the series, but also moves Dead Cat into new and exciting territory. It will please Dead Cat fans and leave them hungering for more—which will be forthcoming, as another multi-author Dead Cat anthology is in the works—and possibly win him new admirers., Dead Cat...Bigger Than Jesus

You can look at Dead Cat -- who started out as a mummified sacrifice back in ancient Egypt and somehow remains dead, but reanimated -- as social commentary or philosophical (and theological) satire or the ultimate in anti-cuddly anthropomorphism - but that would make you a geek. Its best to just enjoy the crazy dark humor of it all and be happy that these two wackos channel their energies through D.C.
Dark Echo, Dead Cat...Bigger Than Jesus

The fun never ends. Gerard Houarner, GAK, and their beloved Dead Cat are back again for the 3rd Dead Cat book, Dead Cat . . . Bigger Than Jesus. True to form, it just keeps getting better.

Dead Cat . . . Bigger Than Jesus is nothing less than a great time, an hour or so of escapism to a world where nothing you know is the same, no matter how familiar it seems, where ancient gods search for answers, "four-armed, red lizard thingies" live in tool sheds, and a Dead Cat walks the streets.
C. Dennis Moore, Epionions

“Dead Cat's Traveling Circus of Wonders and Miracle Medicine Show" is another hilarious collection of Dead Cat philosophical writings. If you have never caved and bought or read a Dead Cat collection, now is the time to weaken. If you like macabre humor and need a fresh start, Dead Cat can help.
Midwest Book Review, DCTCWMMS

At 338 pages, DCTCoWaMMS may seem like overkill for an anthology, but a lot of that is due to layout and artwork. Just open the book and you’ll see what I mean; GAK’s really outdone himself this time as far as the art goes. And the stories . . . yeah, there are some AWESOME stories in here.
I’m getting off track, sorry. DEAD CAT’S TRAVELING CIRCUS OF WONDERS AND MIRACLE MEDICINE SHOW was one of those books I didn’t want to put down, because with that combination of great stories and beautiful artwork, every page I turned seemed like it held new promise of something awesome. And more often than not, it did. This anthology brings together so many different things, fantasy (“Puss in Boots”, by Houarner), science fiction (“Dead Cat Matches Wits with Ratnarokh, the Ultimate Sentient Super-Computer, On the Blood-Red Planet of the Porn-Bots” by Mark McLaughlin), horror (“Dead Cat Food” by Tim Lebbon--yes there are 2 stories titled “Dead Cat Food”--and “Lunch at the Kibbey Crematorium” by Michelle Scalise), humor (“Dead Cat Meets Rinn & Stumpy” by Brian Hodge), that no matter what your taste in fiction, if you dig great stuff, DEAD CAT’S TRAVELING CIRCUS OF WONDERS... will have something for you. Seriously, something for everyone. It’s that good. C. Dennis Moore, Epinions, DCTCWMMS

Why Dead Cat?

(The following originally appeared in Jobs in Hell #51, edited by Brian Keene, and serves as an explanation – as good as any – for the published appearance of a character called Dead Cat.)

In twenty-three years of writing, Dead Cat Bounce, A Fable to Horrify the Inner Child is the first story I’ve written that has ever provoked consistent questioning from readers about its origin. People shake their heads, usually after just looking at the title and Gak’s cover, and ask, why did I do this? Sometimes, after reading it, they ask, how could I do this?

The latter question is for psychologists to answer. The former I can address.

Ever since I discovered Joe Lansdale’s My Dead Dog Bobby, I’ve wanted to do a children’s story. A fable for adults and children, balanced between primal realities and social necessities. Something that was fantasy, but with a dark emotional core that children experience directly in their daily lives and adults rarely remember.

The ground was prepared by meeting Gak at the Atlanta World Horror Convention. Of course I had seen his work, and he had even illustrated one of my stories for an Australian magazine. We hung out in the bar with other writers and artists, had a good time, and I came away with the vague notion that we should do something together. It would be fun.

In discussing possibilities, we both agreed we should do a chapbook length project, something relatively cheap to produce and sell, something to carry around at conventions that was not too expensive for a casual purchase and which might grab a reader's attention.

And most importantly, we wanted the book to serve as an introduction, a calling card, to our work.

At the time, I was working on solidifying parts of the outline for Road From Hell, the third book about a character Max and his twin lovers, Kueur and Alioune. I needed a messenger to communicate between a character in hell and others in a borderland realm between between spirit and physical worlds.

I ran across an article about an Egyptian excavation which revealed the practice of raising animals to be mummified so they could carry pilgrims’ messages to the gods. Cool. I had my messenger.

But the idea haunted me, nagged me. What was up with this cat? How did it feel, being a messenger?

The idea took off when I found the title. While listening to a stock market report, one of the reporters referred to a mild run-up on a stock during after hours trading as a dead cat bounce.

What!? Is that phrasing legal?

I was once asked by an editor to change story victims from animals to people, so I've experienced literary sensitivity to animal cruelty first hand. This bit slang was a revelation. It was shocking, but also funny in that ironic, post-modern, dressed-in-black kind of way, and best of all, served the story. At that time, it was also still new enough to be unknown by most people.

Dead cat bounce was mine.

Finally, I had to find a voice. One of the key elements of a successful, even classic, children’s tale is voice. Dr. Seuss is the most obvious example. Poking around in the children’s section of the local Barnes and Nobles didn’t reveal anything inspiring (writers will understand that as an inability to find anything worth stealing).

So I went back to the character, shifting back and forth between third to first person. I researched cat psychology. I remembered cats I’ve known and lived with. Finally, the more I looked at the world through cat eyes, the leaner my thinking became until I found a spare, direct voice, grounded in basic cat drives.

No singing, dancing, poetry, boots, fencing, Broadway productions or French fairy tales. I pared down sentences even while preparing the final copy for publication.

As for publication, well, I have to admit I cheated. I work for Gordon Linzner as Fiction Editor for Space and Time magazine (editorial note: true in 2000, when this was published, but Hildy Silverman is now the publisher of Space and Time). As in any small press venture, there’s no payment involved, just the satisfaction of being involved in a high class operation and giving other writers an opportunity for publication. However, the relationship does give me an “in” with the publisher. Thankfully, I didn’t have to send the story through the mail with a proposal letter – I handed the story over to Gordon one night when we were exchanging stories for the magazine. He read Dead Cat Bounce, listened to my pitch about a heavily illustrated children's book package, scratched his head (he may have even shaken his head, it's hard to tell sometimes underneath the hair), shrugged his shoulders and said okay, he'd publish it. Equally fortunate, Gak also liked the story and was practicing drawing dead cats, awaiting for the go ahead to go crazy.

Gak’s stunning art came back, Gordon and I laid out the book, and it was produced in time for a release at NeCon, a convention heavily attended by horror writers, where it was given away as a goodie-bag freebie instead of the usual copy of Space and Time which Gordon gives out at the convention.

One of the writers in attendance took a look at the final product, shook his head and said I'd just wiped out my prime market with that marketing ploy. But making money off this project had never been the primary objective. (Writers, as any small press publisher will tell you, are too damned poor to buy that many books and magazines, anyway.)

The book created a nice buzz at the convention and has received some good reviews in the few months since its release. More importantly, it was a lot of fun to do. And lastly, we are making a little bit of money as I invariably sell a copy or two at gatherings, along with an occasional Dead Cat T-shirt (Dead Cat, He’s Back).

The bottom line is that I have something provocative and amusing to wave in front of people at panels and readings (a la Mark McLaughlin, well-known creator of the outrageous), which will hopefully serve as a lead-in for my other work (and Gak’s, as well).

People rarely spring for an expensive hardcover collectible book, or even an expensive trade paperback, from an author they do not know or are only vaguely familiar with. But Dead Cat Bounce is an alluring alternative - a picture book, dark, funny (in a sick sort of way, of course), and cheap.

And who knows, there might be a future in fables that horrify the inner child.

If only MTV would return my calls...

And now the story from GAK, hisownself

When Gerard and I first discussed the possibility of putting a chapbook together I immediately jumped at the chance, sight unseen. A cat, sacrificed to Bast, sent to hell as a messenger and dragging itself back to the land of the living thru an act of sheer willpower. How could I possibly pass this up?

I had also been trying to put together an anthology/graphic novel of stories based upon GAKART...and though I had gathered together an impressive stable of authors, few publishers were up to the task of producing the book. Dead Cat would be a perfect introduction to what I had in mind for the anthology, though not based on GAKART it certainly was in sync with my sensibilities.

Days after World Horror I received via email the story, Dead Cat Bounce...printed it out and putting my feet up on my drawing table began to read. And grew more and more perplexed. Through the magic of computer technology...or my own idiocy when dealing with said technology, the story had printed out as one long, run on sentence with no breaks for paragraphs or spacing. Looking at the pile of other work waiting to be completed before Dead Cat, I tossed the story on my "to do" pile, where it sat. And sat. For days. For weeks. Months passed.

Finally I picked the story up again and began breaking it down into manageable bits, alternating hot pink highlighter with hot orange. I began downloading every breed of cat picture I could find me, there are a shitload of them out there. But none were Dead Cat.

The greatest part of the story was the minimalist way it was written. It gave me total freedom in creating my very own version of hell and its inhabitants.

The pile of sketches grew as time grew shorter. Gerard was a saint. Occasionally asking what was up with the story and accepting my cryptic replies that I was bounce bounce bouncing along with my dead cats. But none of the cats were quite right. He had to be just right, just scary enough and yet still cute in a weird kinda way. Then my own cat, Capt. Blood, leaps upon my shelves, knocks over a glass of water and spills it upon the story. Hot pink and orange watercolor marker begins to flow and ooze, blurring the writing, totally obliterating it in some instances. Fortunately I had the story and visuals floating in my head all ready and was just waiting to nail down Dead Cat himself. I screamed. I yelled. I stomped around the house cleaning up the mess whilst Capt. Blood watched in amusement as cats are known to do. I looked at him sitting there. Blood is a Persian who, alas, I don't keep groomed as well as i should. He tends to have tufts of fur sticking out in every direction without rhyme or reason. Though he doesnt look much like the Dead Cat drawings, the attitude and general scruffiness is there. I sat down, started drawing, and Dead Cat was born.

What Dead Cat Means to Me

Dead Cat is what I want to be when I grow up and become dead, removed and released from the body's needs and drives, gone elsewhere to find out what's on the other side, and the other side of that, and a few more sides all around inside outside, and then come back because all that was very interesting and good to know but life is good and life is sweet and different from all of that.

Dead Cat is who I am after listening to lies, incessant bullshit self-aggrandizing empty words, promises broken as they're spoken, hypocrisy and ignorance and self-righteousness, bluster and stupidity and sheer evil, the manipulative exploitation of fears and desires, and all I want to do is answer with the short, sharp strength of reality.

Dead Cat is how I deal with the cost of being alive: at some point, you just gotta laugh at all this shit.


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