Typewriter Emergencies, Edited By Weasel – Book Review By Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The blurb says, “Welcome to the first release of Typewriter Emergencies, a collection of psychologically damaging and hard hitting furry literature.” The implication is that this is the first of an ongoing series of furry stories that the blurb goes on to describe as “gut-wrenching”. “Weasel Press is proud to have our first furry collection on the books and we hope you will enjoy every moment this intense anthology has to offer.”
The 13 stories, with a cover by Kala “Miryhis” Quinn, are a quality mixed-bag of tales by furry veteran authors, non-furry writers who are nonetheless experienced authors, and at least one new writer. Several are examples of experimental writing.
“The Dying Game” by Amethyst Mare shows this in its second line. “Great Britain crawled into December like a raindrop tricking down glass.” (p. 9) Heather Rees, a “young, two-legged palomino equine”, seems determined to be miserable. “The bridge was crusty with moss and lichen, the green and yellow reminding her of disease ridden flesh, something that ate away at the outside of a fur while the inside lost the will to live.” The writing emphasizes a “gut-wrenching” vocabulary. “Cars on the road to her right snarled past, lifting her straightened mane up from her neck and into her face in a rush of angry air.” (p. 10) Heather is on her way to see Mikey, a young cat lover who has been horribly maimed by a passing train. “Michael had done no wrong. He had only been spraying graffiti. Where was the harm in that?” Well … “Michael had to be all right for her. He could live without an arm or a leg. He had to.” Notice that Michael has to be all right for her. The story is a blend of poetic wordplay (“Outside, the sky dipped its paintbrush into the grey-blue that was twilight, drawing a fresh scene across its daily canvas.”) and “psychologically damaging” descriptions, such as Michael’s hospital bed’s “sickly green curtain”, his husky nurse’s “clinical smile permanently fixed on her face [that] never reached her eyes”, and Heather’s mare mother screaming at her (ignoring the hospital’s rule for quiet) for wasting her time at Michael’s bedside instead of earning money at her job.
“The Dying Game” is a funny-animal story; the characters could all just as easily be humans. “Rogue” by Phil Geusz is genuinely anthropomorphic. Pootra is an adolescent zebra in her herd on the African savannah. She is surrounded by other zebras in a tight mass for protection against lions, hyenas, and other predators who would quickly single out a lone zebra:
“‘Pootra!’ Aunt Prudin declared as the filly came trotting obediently back, just when she’d thought she might finally be getting away for a moment or two of peace and solitude. Prudin was the herd’s alpha-female, second only to Ch’lee the stallion in authority. ‘Child, what are we do do with you? Stay close!’ The she reinforced her message with a savage nip, one that ached and burned for days, it ran so deep.” (pgs. 24-25)
Pootra wants to be able to be alone when she wants to be, instead of being so surrounded by other zebras that she never has any privacy, even when she has to relieve herself.
“The young zebra-filly took one last sniff, then reluctantly turned back to her herd. If she didn’t, she knew, she’s be nipped again. Though not, she whispered to herself as she cantered back to her mother’s worried side, if I had jaws like those that had so rent and torn the antelope. Not if my scent struck fear into the hearts of these silly old mares.
Not if I were a killer, too.” (p. 28)
So Pootra becomes a killer. And learns that it’s not what she expects.
“A Friend in Need” by G. Miki Hayden is narrated by Slobber, an English bulldog, one of several dogs that play poker at Rinny’s Saloon. There’s Merc, a Boston terrier; Crackers, a great Dane; Mustard, a yellow Lab; and Sid.
“Sid, the boxer, coughed over his two in the hole and a three-dollar cigar. Though one of the regulars at out weekly game, Sid is my nemesis. Everything that dog does just gets on my nerves. I don’t like boxers. I don’t like cigar smoke. And I don’t like Sid.” (p. 39)
“A Friend in Need” is about why Slobber doesn’t like Sid, what he does about it, and what happens.
“Among the Drunken Lab Mice” by Con Chapman, only three pages, is about three cynical professional lab mice looking for their next job, and trying to avoid cancer research.
“Home Is Where The Rat Is” by W. B. Cushman is about the tough life of a wild rat:
“You’re hungry, you find something and you eat. There’s pressure inside, liquid or solid, you shoot it out. […] When it gets cold, and it does, especially at night, you find family or some buddies, even strangers will do since you’ve got the same need, and you squeeze in all together. Share the wealth. That’s pretty much it.
Of course, none of that matters if you’re not paying attention to rule number one. Which is this – never let your guard down.” (p. 48)
Hector the black rat escapes from a human lab and goes to live among the wild rats. He doesn’t like it there. Another rat, William, offers to help him escape if he’ll take William along, and William’s friend with them. Who is a cat.
“Best of Breed” by Renee Carter Hall is narrated by Silver Willow, a.k.a. Mina, an Angoran Mau show cat in a world where all show cats are sentient. At first she is proud of winning awards, for herself and for Shawn, her human handler. She gradually changes her mind. This story is a reprint, from Allasso volume 1; and was the winner of the Cóyotl Award for Best Mature Short Story of 2012. It’s excellent. If you haven’t read it before, read it now.
“Finding a Cat” by Timothy Wiseman is narrated by Aeneas, a human vampire hunter. He discovers that the vampires he is hunting have a nekessian, a cat-woman slave. Felysia, the humanoid cat-woman, wants to become a vampire hunter, too.
“It’s a Long Road to Redemption” by Jerod Underwood Park is horribly, clunkily written but uniquely imaginative; full of it’s (“It’s firm grasp”, “extending it’s liquid like arms”); watery hands, watery beings, watery forms, and watery blobs; of sentient, clothes-wearing Foxen transformed into unintelligent four-legged foxes; of TriCylians and TriZüülians. If you can get through partial sentences like “Had a wooded planet that could be seen through it.”, you might like this.
“Faces of Emotion” by Junior Gordon also has wonky punctuation and confusing vocabulary. “A voice came from the chair to my left, there sat a grey wolf drenched in a black trenchcoat that covered his topless body and ripped jeans.” (p. 124) Ein, a wolf with multiple personalities, is being psychoanalyzed by Dr. Hendriks, a sheep. Anger. Fear. Happiness. And what else?
“Daddy’s Little Dolly” by Mark Plummer is a Demonic Sweet Child story. But is little Molly or her baby brother the Demonic Sweet Child? Molly’s scientist father experiments on mice, but there’s nothing really furry about this.
“The Vulture’s Ghost” by Gareth Barsby takes place in a world of anthropomorphized birds. Parrots. Peacocks. Doves. Ducks. Mostly pretty, colorful birds. And one ugly one, the narrator; a vulture, bald from birth. But his girlfriend is also a vulture. Happy ending? Don’t You Believe It!
“And the Last Shall Be …” by Neil S. Reddy is a four-pager narrated by a mouse who lives through a nuclear explosion – for awhile.
“Splinters” by Dwale is narrated by Cammy:
“And who am I? My name is Cammy (not really) and I am a cabbolf. That’s a cat/rabbit/wolf/human genetic hybrid, which we call a chimera even though the terminology is wrong. Why don’t I call myself a ‘cabbolfuman’ or something? I don’t know, why don’t you call yourselves ‘humanzees’? You’ve got 99% genetic similarity to a chimp. It’s your DNA you need to be worried about, not mine.” (p. 160)
Cammy is also neither male nor female, but that doesn’t matter much because a new disease is making everyone sterile and the human race is about to become extinct. If mutant kudzu doesn’t smother everything first. And then it gets depressing.
Well. 13 stories, mostly narrated by characters with severe emotional problems. The blurb’s promise that this is “a collection of psychologically damaging and hard hitting furry literature” should warn you that there are few happy endings here. I liked “Rogue” by Phil Geusz and “Splinters” by Dwale the best of the new stories, and it’s always a pleasure to read “Best of Breed” by Renee Carter Hall again. I respect “The Dying Game” by Amethyst Mare because, as depressing as it is, it seems to have been written exactly to what Weasel called for. Will you enjoy Typewriter Emergencies? “Enjoy” may not be the right word, and you may not like every story, but on the whole you won’t be sorry that you got this.