All Cats Are Gray
~ A Short Story by Andre Norton
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All Cats Are Gray
NOTE: This title has entered the “Public Domain” and is therefore open to any publisher that wants to print it. Many “Print on Demand” publishers have started to release this title. This site has chosen to ignore these published versions and only concentrate on estate sanctioned materials.
Steena is a computer programmer who spends her life in the background, a woman in plain gray clothing who speaks little but her knowledge of odd bits of spacer's lore has saved lives and made fortunes.
Write-ups from fans ~
"Steena of the Spaceways" --though it sounds like a title for an adventure story, Steena was colorless as a lunar plant. She was a calculator operator, who could find jobs anywhere she went, so she drifted as she wished. Her free time was spent in the stellar-port dives that free spacers frequented. Mostly she just listened, but once in a while she did speak up, and the spacers had learned that when she spoke it was well to listen to what she said. Her advice had been the making of several fortunes, or saved the lives of the spacers involved. But she wouldn't take any rewards--except from Bub Nelson, who brought her the cat, Bat. Her last piece of advice was for Cliff Moran, who had just had an attachment placed on his ship. Steena told him the doomed and "hexed" luxury spaceliner, the Empress of Mars was about due to reappear. They found the Empress, all right, and boarded with no problems. While exploring, as Cliff was in the control room trying to reactivate the controls, Steena and Bat found the "curse", a chameleon-like monster who had destroyed the passengers and crew. Playing oblivious to its presence, Steena and Bat managed to lure it to the control room, where Cliff was still working. As it passed between Steena and Cliff, she managed to actually see it as a darker grey against his coverall. Snatching Cliff's blaster, Steena told Bat to lure the monster towards her, and shot it as it once again passed between a grey background and Steena's position. Cliff's fortune was made, and he, Steena and Bat lived happily ever after, with Steena becoming much more colorful and less of a "background" character. ~ SL
Steena of the Spaceways is a non-descript woman with gray hair and wears nothing but gray and even appears to be gray. She is a drifter and spends her free time in the stellar-port bar of whatever port she happens to work. She rarely speaks and just listens to the talk of other spacers. When she does decide to say something, those spacers listen closely. She once told a spacer about the Jovan moon rites, and this warning later saves the man's life. A shone that she identified as an unworked piece of a precious gem became the fortunes of ten men. Each man has tried to pay her back, but she refused everything, until a grateful spacer gives her a gray tomcat named Bat, and the two have been inseparable ever since.
When a destitute spacer named Cliff Moran comes into the bar, Steena joins him at his table. This sobers him up because Sheena never chooses company when she can be alone. All she says to him is that the Empress of Mars is due to appear soon. The Empress of Mars is a pleasure ship carrying untold wealth. It was left in a derelict orbit when all its passengers and the entire crew abandoned the ship and disappeared without a trace fifty years earlier.
Cliff leaves to find the Empress, and Steena and Bat have stowed away on his ship—presumably in cash in on one of her own tips. Their presence does not bother Cliff; it just adds to the surprises Steena has already given him.
Once on board the cruise ship, Cliff goes straight to the control room, and Steena and Bat explore the rest of the ship. Steena walks into one room filled with silks, crystal, and jeweled containers. In the dressing mirror, she sees spider-silk covering the bed and a pile of gems on top of the spider-silk. Then one piece of jewelry moves. Bat flattens threateningly at the heap on the bed. He crouches and follows the invisible alien out of the cabin and down the corridor.
Sheena follows Bat to the control room where Cliff continues to work on the engine. She sees something against Cliff’s shoulder and Bat snarls. With her photographic memory, she remembers something. She takes off her gray spaceall and drapes it across the nearest chair. Steena tells Cliff to throw his blaster to her while Bat moves the invisible thing toward her. She fires at the spaceall on the chair, and the stench that fills the room signals that she hit her target.
Cliff is dumbfounded and asks several questions. Steena explains that the alien creature was a shade of gray that was beyond human sight. She and Bat were both color-blind and could only see shades of gray, but only Bat could see the alien. Steam was able to see a type of reflection of the creature when it crossed in front of their gray spacealls.
They check the ship and find it free of any other aliens. Steena and Cliff make their-fortune when they bring in the Empress, and they fall in love. Their family of three live in colorful comfort afterward. ~ DB
Bibliography of English Editions ~
- Fantastic Universe [as Andrew North] ~ Aug/Sep. (1953), Edited by Sam Merwin Jr., Published by King-Size Publications Inc., Mag, $0.50, 196pg ~ cover by Alex Schomburg
- The Many Worlds of Science Fiction (1971) Edited by Ben Bova, Published by E. P. Dutton, HC, 0-525-34550-7, 217pg ~ cover by Lawrence Ratzkin
- Zoo 2000: Twelve Stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy Beasts (1973) Edited by Jane Yolen, Published by Seabury Press, HC, 0-816-43103-5, $6.50, 219pg ~ cover by Jack H. Breslow
- The Many Worlds of Andre Norton (1974) Edited by Roger Elwood, Published by Chilton, HC, 0-801-95927-6, LCCN 74010980, $6.95, 208pg ~ cover by Charles Geer
- The Book of Andre Norton (1975) Edited by Rodger Elwood, Published by DAW, PB, 0-451-UY119-8, $1.25, 221pg ~ cover by Jack Gaughan
- Science Fiction A to Z: A Dictionary of the Great S.F. Themes (1982) Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh, Published by Houghton Mifflin, HC, 0-395-31285-X, $21.95, 651pg
- 101 Science Fiction Stories (1986) Edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Charles G. Waugh & Jenny-Lynn Waugh, Published by Avenel, HC, 0-517-60669-0, 651pg
- Wizards' Worlds (1989) Edited by Ingrid Zierhut, Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-93191-3, $17.95, 500pg ~ cover by Lucy Synk
- The Giant Book of Science Fiction Stories (1992) Edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Charles G. Waugh & Jenny-Lynn Waugh, Published by Magpie books, TP, 1-854-87150-1, 978-1-854-87150-3, £3.99, 651pgs. ~ cover by Jim Burnes - same as 101 Science Fiction Stories
- New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow (1994) Edited by Janrae Frank, Jean Stine & Forrest J Ackerman, Published by Longmeadow Press, HC, 0-681-00525-4, $14.95, 417pg ~ cover by Laura Freas
- 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories (1996) Edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz & Martin H. Greenberg, Published by Barnes & Noble, HC, 0-760-70142-3, 544pg ~ cover by Cheryl Knippenberg
- The SFWA Grand Masters, Volume 2 (2000) Edited by Frederick Pohl, Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-86879-0, $25.95, 432pg ~ (pg 58)
- Sci-Fi Womanthology (2003) Edited by Forrest J Ackerman & Pam Keesey, Published by Sense of Wonder Press, HC, 0-918-73650-1, 372pg ~ cover by Margaret Brundage
- Anthology of Sci-Fi: The Pulp Writers: Volume 1 (2013) Published by Spastic Cat Press, Edited by unknown, TP, 1-483-70097-6, 978-1-483-70097-7, $8.99, 100pgs
- Tales From High Hallack: Volume 1 (2014) Published by Premier Digital Publishing, DM & TP, 1-624-67189-6, $22.95, 450pg ~ cover by Kib Prestridge
NOTE: Due to the size of most of the anthologies listed here, we have chosen to not show the contents of each edition - the page would be way to long.
Non-English Editions ~
- (1989) In "Wings of Night" (a collection of stories) along with "Mousetrap" ~ Published in Minsk, by University, 5-785-50279-8, HC, 464pg ~ translation by E. Drozd ~ cover by C. Balenok ~ Russian title Крылья ночи
- (1993) Combined with "Operation Time Search", "Catseye", "Long Live Lord Kor!", "Mousetrap", "The Long Night of Waiting" (all translation by L. Deutsch), "The Gifts of Asti" translation by N. Rezanova, and "Garan the Eternal" translation by N. Khokhlova ~ Published in Niahny Novgorod, by Phlox, 5-871-98046-5, HC, 480pg ~ "All Cats Are Gray" translation by L. Deutsch ~ cover by A. Tarasov ~ Russian title Долгая ночь ожидания [The Long Night of Waiting]
- (1994) In "Charon Does Not Carry Back" (a collection of stories) along with "Mousetrap" ~ Published in Moscow, by Young Guard, 5-235-01956-7, PB, 480pg ~ translation by E. Drozd ~ cover by B. Shikhova ~ Russian title Харон обратно не перевозит
- (2013) In "What Fluffy Knew" (a collection of stories) ~ Edited by Lise Andreasen and Niels Dalgaard, Published in Denmark by Science Fiction Cirklen, 978-87-90592-94-3, 286pg, ~ translated by Niels Dalgaard ~ cover by Manfred Christiansen ~ Danish title Hvad Fluffy Vidste
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