Ray Vukcevich was born on September 11, 1946.
Vukcevich was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 2002 for his collection Meet Me in the Moon Room. His novelette “The Wages of Syntax” was nominated for the Nebula Award in 2004. Vukcevich has published two collections of his own short stories, the novel The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces, and a short anthology that collected one of his short stories and one of Kelly Link’s short stories that was given away at a World Horror Convention.
“Ornamental Animals” was published in the fifteenth issue of Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine sometime early in 1993. By the time this issue was published, Pulphouse had backed away from the weekly schedule it had initially set for itself (and never achieved) and claimed to be a monthly magazine, although only two issues appeared in 1993. The story has never been reprinted.
In “Ornamental Animals,” Amy Grindle is an aspiring model who has a habit of going through catalogs and magazines she appears in and clipping photos of herself from the pages, although her face has yet to be shown in any of them. On a whim, as she went through the catalog, Amy decided to purchase a set of two genetically modified cats, although she really knew very little about them or the company that makes them. Because of that, she was quite surprised when she eventually received her pair of “Fire Cats.”
Although Fire Cats look more or less like non-genetically engineered cats, they do have some differences, which Amy learns about quite quickly, partly due to the cats’ response to her and partly because once she received them she realized she should read the manual on their care and feeding. She quickly learns that although the cats are alive, they don’t offer any of the traditional benefits of pets. They are born without joints, except in their jaws, and therefore can’t move and must be fed manually. Even more intriguing is the talent that gives them their name. When certain conditions are met, the cat’s heads explode in flame, although the cats themselves are all right.