The History of Furry Publishing, Part Two: Current Publishers – by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Sofawolf Press, founded by Tim Susman and Jeff Eddy and currently run by Jeff Eddy, originally from his homes in East Falmouth, Massachusetts and later St. Paul, Minnesota, and now from a warehouse in the latter, was the first really successful furry publishing company in the U.S. Sofawolf became official in October 1999 as a sole proprietorship, with its first publication, the furry general fiction magazine Anthrolations #1, in January 2000. Anthrolations was originally scheduled for semiannual publication in January and July, but it soon ran into the drying up of submissions – except for furry erotica, which Susman & Eddy did not accept for Anthrolations. #7 was published in July 2003, and #8, the final issue, was not until November 2006.
By then, Sofawolf Press was concentrating on trade paperback book publication and two annual magazines in booklet format, New Fables for general furry fiction and Heat for furry erotica. Sofawolf’s first book (not counting Technicolor Dreams, the quickly o.p. two-volume collection in fanzine format of Will A. Sanborn’s furry short stories, in January and June 2000) was the anthology Breaking the Ice, edited by Tim Susman (January 2002, ix + 206 pages), the first of his Stories from New Tibet series. Sofawolf’s second book was Best in Show: Fifteen Years of Outstanding Furry Fiction, edited by Fred Patten (July 2003, 455 pages). That was an anthology of 26 stories advertised as the best from the whole range of furry fanzines from 1987 to 2001. Sofawolf’s next books, like Shadows in Snow, edited by Tim Susman (January 2004), kept the publisher visible in the furry community, but it was with the publication of Kyell Gold’s first novel, Volle (January 2005, viii + 317 pages), that the publisher really became prominent in the community. Volle, an X-rated novel featuring a homosexual anthropomorphic fox in the fantasy world of Argaea, won the Ursa Major Award for the Best Anthropomorphic Novel of 2005. Gold was the first furry author whose work was simultaneously graphically erotic and just as undeniably of high literary merit. Gold kept up his standing with his next books, Pendant of Fortune and The Prisoner’s Release and Other Stories; just as erotic, just as high-quality, and published by Sofawolf Books.
At the same time, Sofawolf was establishing itself as a publisher of high-quality furry short fiction. The mostly-annual Heat series, an erotic magazine in perfect-bound booklet format, began in January 2004 but quickly moved to every June-July. There are eleven yearly issues to date. New Fables, Sofawolf’s new title for non-erotic furry literature, is published less often, but there have been five volumes since Summer 2007.
In the last five to ten years, Sofawolf Press has added several new authors and artists to its list, including Kevin Frane, Ryan Campbell, Ursula Vernon, M. C. A. Hogarth, Michael Payne,and Leo Magna. Sofawolf is the publisher of Ursula Vernon’s Hugo Award-winning six-volume Digger, and raised $140,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to publish a one-volume Omnibus edition. It can be counted upon to show up at several furry conventions a year, in the Dealer’s Den with at least one table of furry books, calendars, T-shirts, the Artistic Visions artists’ sketchbooks, and more; including at least a half-dozen new books per year. In Europe, it is represented by Black-Paw Productions of Germany and other furry specialty bookshops. By now there are over 75 Sofawolf Press publications. Sofawolf incorporated in March 2010 when its team had grown to four regulars, with Jeff Eddy as President and Treasurer, Alopex as Vice President and Secretary, and Tim Susman and Mark Brown as members of the Board of Directors. Sofawolf Press is not only the oldest of the major furry specialty presses; it is arguably the most prestigious of them. (https://www.sofawolf.com/)
FurPlanet Productions “snuck up” on furry fandom. The modern FurPlanet Productions dates from March 1, 2008, when current owner FuzzWolf in Dallas, Texas, bought it from FurNation’s furry website founder, Nexxus (James Robertson). Nexxus started FurNation in November 1996, and slowly expanded it into a major furry online community by the mid-2000s. FurPlanet was added in 2004 as FurNation’s online store, and the publisher of the existing (since July 2000) FurNation Magazine plus some erotic furry comic books and novels. During 2006 FuzzWolf got involved with FurPlanet’s publishing activities. His responsibilities grew, and he became the editor of FurNation Magazine with #8 in January 2007. FurPlanet also published the convention books for several furry conventions during 2006 and 2007. FuzzWolf and the rest of the FurNation group continued to grow apart, and during February 2008 he bought the FurPlanet name and its publishing activities, removing them from FurNation. (The magazine was returned to FurNation.)
Under FuzzWolf in Dallas, FurPlanet has continued printing furry convention books and erotic comic books. FurPlanet’s first trade paperback book under FuzzWolf was the furry novel When Summer Woke, by David Hopkins (June 2008, 150 pages). FurPlanet mostly specialized at first in furry erotica, such as Within Hallowed Walls, by Andres Cyanni Halden (September 2008, 262 pages). It began to build up its non-erotic line with novels such as Save the Day, by D. J. Fahl (February 2010, 354 pages) and anthologies such as The Ursa Major Awards Anthology, edited by Fred Patten (June 2012, 341 pages).
Today FurPlanet Productions has a varied line of furry erotic and non-erotic novels and anthologies, erotic comic books, and “Cupcake” novellas. It has dealer’s tables at at least a half-dozen furry conventions per year. In addition to its own publications, FurPlanet is also the distributor for Sofawolf Press at conventions that Sofawolf does not attend. (http://furplanet.com/shop/)
FurPlanet Productions actually has three imprints. The most prolific is FurPlanet Productions for those publications expected to sell mostly to the furry market. Argyll Productions is for those publications (mostly non-erotic) expected to have a wider, more general appeal. And then there is Bad Dog Books.
Bad Dog Books began in September 2005 as Osfer’s Joint Publications, an independent specialty publisher run by Alex Vance, a Dutch fan in Amsterdam; changing its name to Bad Dog Books in July 2006. Vance used Lulu.com as his first printer. Its first book was the short-story anthology FANG, The Little Black Book of Furry Fiction, edited by Vance. FANG specializes in furry gay erotica, often with a theme. Volume 1 featured stories in a contemporary setting; Volume 2, published for Halloween 2005, featured Halloween stories; Volume 3, featuring a fantasy theme, was released at Anthrocon 2007. When BDB began to get submissions of non-erotic stories, the publisher added ROAR, The Little WhiteBook of Furry Fiction, edited by Ben Goodridge, in July 2007. That year, BDB formed a partnership with FurNation and its printing arm, FurPlanet, for its printing and distribution.
Bad Dog Books followed FurPlanet under FuzzWolf in leaving FurNation. By 2011, BDB had three volumes of FANG, three of ROAR, and several independent furry novels. But the difficulty in running an American specialty press from Amsterdam, plus Vance’s longstanding health problems, resulted in the December 14, 2011 sale of BDB in its entirety to FurPlanet Productions. One of the terms of the sale was that FurPlanet would continue to publish the FANG and ROAR series under the BDB imprint. Today, there are five volumes each of FANG and ROAR. In June 2013, FurPlanet made Bad Dog Books its official digital downloads store; its website currently directs there. Bad Dog Books’ past and present titles are regularly available on BDB’s website, on FurPlanet’s online catalogue, and on FurPlanet’s sales tables at the furry conventions it attends. (http://baddogbooks.com/)
Rabbit Valley – Rabbit Valley Comics; Rabbit Valley Books; Rabbit Valley Inc.; Rabco Publishing Inc.; Another Rabco Disaster; Rabbit Valley Artists Cooperative Association – was started by Sean Rabbitt (two T’s) in North Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1997; moving to Waltham, Massachusetts in 2001. He was joined by his partner (later husband) Andrew Rabbitt in 1999. There is a common misbelief that Rabbit Valley began in April 1987 as Mailbox Books, the first furry specialty mail-order store, by Ed Zolna of Roslyn, Pennsylvania. Mailbox was a high-profile furry mail-order service throughout most of the 1990s. Zolna retired in Summer 1997, selling most of his business including the Mailbox Books name to Limelight Publishing Company, primarily an anime-fan specialty press in Honolulu, which resold it in April 1999 to Sean Rabbitt, who continued to operate both businesses during 1999-2001 until he was threatened with a lawsuit by a non-furry party over the Mailbox Books name. To avoid an expensive lawsuit, Rabbitt gave up the Mailbox name and consolidated both businesses under the Rabbit Valley name in October 2001. So it is not true that Rabbit Valley became just Mailbox Books renamed. (Zolna “unretired” in July 2003 and started Second Ed Mailorder, a similar furry mail-order service. It has a few titles only available elsewhere from Rabbit Valley, but doesn’t publish anything of its own.)
Over the next decade, the Rabbit Valley Comic Shop expanded to add more staff and to offer mail-order sales of practically every furry publication that there was, including all books, comic books, and art folios. As Rabbit Valley Comics, the store published several furry erotic and non-erotic comic books of its own; notably the non-erotic Circles, begun in 1999. In April 2009, Rabbit Valley relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada. There were sporadic books earlier (notably the hardbound Associated Student Bodies Yearbook, by Lance Rund & Chris McKinley in June 2004), but the store’s first regular furry book under its own name was an American edition in September 2011 of the 2006 British Tales of the Fur Side by Vixxy Fox and Dark Natasha, with a different cover.
RV’s first totally original trade paperback was The Prince of Knaves, by Alflor Aalto (March 2012, 406 pages). Rabbit Valley rapidly increased production until today it publishes several novels, collections, and anthologies a year, plus other furry specialty books. RV added a digital furry book distribution service in February 2013 that today has over a hundred titles available. RV is the publisher of the Furry Writers’ Guild’s first anthology, Tales from the Guild: Music to Your Ears, edited by AnthroAquatic (September 2014, 133 pages). RV also does DVD and CD manufacturing for the standup comedian 2, the Ranting Gryphon, and a half-dozen furry musicians. Rabbit Valley is one of the Big Three furry specialty presses (with Sofawolf Press and FurPlanet Productions) that attends numerous furry conventions a year; twenty-four during 2014, including four overseas. (https://www.rabbitvalley.com/)
Jarlidium Press was started by two Seattle furry fans, James “Tibo” Birdsall & Dan “Flinthoof” Canaan, in 1998 when they leased a commercial photocopier to publish fanzines, comic books, flyers, the convention books of Seattle’s annual Conifur Northwest convention, and similar “ephemera”, usually furry art-related. Over the years, occasional publications have matched professional trade paperback collections of newspaper comic strips, but these have been collections of Internet furry comic strips. The earliest of these was the Dela the Hooda Treasury, Volume 1, by Style Wager & Greg Older (June 2000, 118 pages). The most elaborate has been Death on the Omnibus, by Dan Canaan (December 2011, 339 pages), a complete collection of Canaan’s Roomies anthropomorphic comic strip in a “real book” format. Beginning in December 2010, Jarlidium Press has begun a series of reprint collections of all 69 issues of the fanzine Yarf!, The Complete Yarf!, at five issues per volume. So far there have been three volumes: Volume 1, issues #0-#5, November 2010, 248 pages; Volume 2, #6-#10, November 2012, 248 pages; and Volume 3, #11-#15, December 2013, 290 pages; with Volume 4, #16-#20, scheduled for Further Confusion 2015 in January. The Jarlidium Press publications are usually available only by mail-order sale from Rabbit Valley and Second Ed, and the few furry conventions at which Birdsall & Canaan have a sales table. Jarlidium Press also took over publication of the semiannual magazine North American Fur with issue #4, Spring 1999; the current issue is #30, Summer 2014. (http://www.jarlidium.com/)
Anthropomorphic Dreams Publishing seems to be dead, or at least dormant, as a print publisher. It was started by Will A. Sanborn as WAS1 Productions, with trade paperback books printed through Lulu.com. Sanborn’s first was The Journey, published in September 2007. His next five books were novels and collections by himself or anthologies that he edited, switching from WAS1 Productions to Anthropomorphic Dreams Publishing between his New Technicolor Dreams in November 2007 and Alone in the Dark in October 2008. ADP’s first book by a different author was Bait and Switch, by Austen Crowder, in November 2010. ADP published a memorial collection of short fiction by Michael Bard, A Horse of Many Colours, in November 2011. Its last book was the novel By Sword and Star, by Renee Carter Hall, in February 2012. Since then, ADP has remained active through frequent audio podcasts, although there was a recent hiatus from December 2013 to June 2014, and nothing since then. It is unknown whether ADP will return to furry book publishing. (http://www.anthrodreams.com/)
Jaffa Books is Australia’s first furry specialty press. It was founded in Brisbane, Queensland as a bookstore by Jacob F. R. Coates in March 2011, with its first books on sale in October; to import, publish and distribute both furry titles and authors with little to no publication history, especially in fantasy fiction. JB as an importer has become the official Australian retailer for FurPlanet Productions and Rabbit Valley, and all titles by Kyell Gold. Under the name of Jaffur Books, JB is consolidating all of its furry titles. Jaffa Books has been attending all furry conventions in Queensland (RivFur in Brisbane and FurDU in Gold Coast City) for the past couple years, and will expand to Western Australia (FurWAG in Perth) in 2015 and Victoria (ConFurgence in Melbourne) in 2016. JB’s first original titles (only arguably furry) are the dragon fantasies Axinstone (December 2013, 252 pages) and Impossible Magic (August 2014, 235 pages); both by J. F. R. Coates in his The Destiny of Dragons series. It will publish its first “regular” furry novel, Reborn by J. F. R. Coates, in May 2015. (http://www.jaffabooks.net/)
That’s about it. There are occasional furry books from other publishers – Mike & Carole Curtis’ Shanda Fantasy Arts, primarily a furry comic-book publisher from June 1996 to September 2012, issued two books; the cartoon-art Here Comes a Candle, by Mary Hanson-Roberts (July 2000, 215 pages), and the novel The Iron Star, by Brock Hoagland, illustrated by ten furry artists (July 2003, 160 pages). Two furry authors, both in Australia, have either started their own small presses or have self-published so many books that they seem like furry publishers. Bernard Doove in Melbourne has been writing on his website, The Chakat’s Den, since 1995. In July 2005 he began collecting his short stories into books, at first through Kyim Granger’s Fauxpaw Publications and then through Amazon.com’s CreateSpace after Fauxpaw went out of business. Doove currently has 11 trade paperback novels and short story collections, available on Amazon.com. Paul Kidd in Perth started his Kitsune Press on March 2007 for his own books in paper and Kindle editions, plus those by other publishers, with printing of those not by mainstream publishers through Lulu.com. Kidd currently has over twenty books plus his role-playing games, comic books, and computer games available through his Kitsune Press website (http://paulkidd.net/kitsune-press/). Most of the books are also available on Amazon.com. Several other furry authors publish through CreateSpace and sell through Amazon.com, but with almost no exceptions, they have less than five books and use the CreateSpace imprint.
These, plus a few exceptions, are what is meant by “furry publishing”.
PS from Fred:
“I said that most furry authors who are not published by one of the furry specialty publishers use CreateSpace… I have been reminded that while M. C. A. Hogarth’s books often come from Sofawolf Press, she also uses CreateSpace and has her own logo for those: Studio MCAH in Tampa, Florida.”