Vintage Treasures: The Empire of Kaz by Leslie Gadallah

Vintage Treasures: The Empire of Kaz by Leslie Gadallah

Cat’s Pawn and Cat’s Gambit (Del Rey, 1987 and 1990). Covers by Barclay Shaw

Canadian writer Leslie Gadallah isn’t well known today. She produced a handful of novels in the late 80s for Del Rey, including two books in a highly regarded space opera, Cat’s Pawn and its sequel Cat’s Gambit, the first volumes in what’s now called the Empire of Kaz trilogy. Here’s an excerpt from Delia Sherman’s enthusiastic coverage in the May 1987 issue of Fantasy Review.

Cat’s Pawn is a first novel in the aliens-befriends-human mode. The plotting is masterful. The novel is made up of three complexly interrelated stories, and Gadallah moves easily among them, revealing what we need to know just when we need to know it. Bill Anderson, a linguist. suffers a heart-attack after the starship he is on is captured by pirates. Taran, a cat-like Orian diplomat, keeps him alive, rescues him, heals him, and generally takes a disconcerting interest in his health and welfare. When Bill moves to the port city of Space Central, he is taken up by its villainous boss Steven Black, who blackmails him into agreeing to assassinate Taran. Woven into all this is a plot to take over the galaxy by a race of murderous bugs…

Cat’s Pawn is always exciting. It is smoothly written and deals forthrightly with the question of how basic xenophobia is to human nature. And toward the end there are a coupe of scenes in the deserts of Orion which are truly strange and wonderful

Gadallah, now in her 80s, is — according to recent interviews at least — still writing.

[Click the images for big cat-sized versions.]

Back covers for Cat’s Pawn and Cat’s Gambit

In his entry for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, John Clute summarized Gadallah’s career as follows.

Canadian author best known for her Empire of Kaz sequence – starting with Cat’s Pawn (1987) – in which a human protagonist becomes involved with the eponymous catlike Alien Orioni, themselves involved in a desperate war against the invading Kazi, who dominate much of the Galaxy by the end of the second volume, which ends on an unusual downbeat, suggesting that further volumes may have been projected.

He’s right about that last bit — there was at least one more book in the series planned, and it appeared just two years ago from Lorina Stephens’ publishing firm Five Rivers Chapmanry.

Cat’s Game (Five Rivers Chapmanry, 2018). Artist unknown

Gadallah published half a dozen short stories in the 80s and 90s, in the Canadian SF magazine On Spec and Canadian anthologies. Last year, after her 80th birthday, she was profiled in her local paper, the Grove Examiner. Here’s a snippet.

Leslie Gadallah is now 80. The author and the former subject of a Grove Examiner profile no longer feels she has to prove anything to anyone… Her initial works – Cat’s Pawn, Gambit and The Legend of Sarah – have all been within the science fiction genre. She has said in interviews with her current Ontario-based publishing company that this kind of world and story was an influence on her from the time she saw the original Star Trek as a young girl, but added in our recent interview that she dips her toe into other kinds of stories when she can as well.
“I am not doing anything in particular to the [COVID-19] quarantine, but I have a couple of things I am working on,” Gadallah said. “One is a sort of murder mystery and the other is a rambling discourse on modern times. Stories have a way of coming out to find their own purpose.”

Gossen previously noted that she wrote to “please herself, first of all” and always hoped “everything came out all right”. Gadallah said this has changed as she has aged and now, what comes out of her mind and onto the page is more relaxed and casually composed narrative.

“I think I have become a little less intense, and, I hope, a little more playful,” she said. “I have come to value fun more than I used to.”

Gadallah does not intend to give up writing anytime soon and advised those her age to not give up on their desires, either.

“There are not many advantages to aging, but one is that you can begin to ignore social censorship to a degree,” Gadallah wrote in an email. “You get to the point where you are not trying to impress anyone, but if people don’t like your hairstyle, say you do not care. It is liberating.”

Here’s the publishing details for the Empire of Kaz trilogy:

1 Cat’s Pawn (Del Rey, 263 pages, $2.95, March 1987) — cover by Barclay Shaw
2 Cat’s Gambit (Del Rey, 249 pages, $3.95, March 1990) — cover by Barclay Shaw
3 Cat’s Game (Five Rivers Chapmanry, 326 pages, $28.99 trade paper/$4.99 digital, September 2018) — cover artist unknown

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Rich Horton

I do not remember these books at all! They look interesting.

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