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Category: Opinion

Queen of Arts, by Frances Pauli – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Queen of Arts, by Frances Pauli.
Moses Lake, WA, Gastropod Press, February 2018, trade paperback, $8.99 (184 pages), Kindle $0.99.

This is purely a funny-animal soap-opera. It’s also a connected collection masquerading as a novel. “Queen of Arts” is on pages 1 to 132. “In the Margins” is pages 134 to 167. “Off the Record” is pages 168 to 182.

Waterville has two rival newspapers, the Arts Examiner and the Gazette. They compete for scoops and more, angling for contacts with the municipal government and Waterville’s social leaders. When the latter decide to hold a Waterville Festival of the Arts, including a city-wide art contest, and the Gazette pledges to sponsor its prizes, the Arts Examiner has to scramble to make up any lost ground.

Stella Rose, the Arts Examiner’s senior editor, is the protagonist. Stella is a cinnamon bear. Marge, a squirrel, is the assistant editor. Vanessa Lorne, a rabbit, is one of the Examiner’s reporters, along with Gerald, an ibex, and Buck, a zebra photographer. Others are Mr. Mort Growning (tapir), the paper’s manager and Stella’s boss; his secretary Francine Tsarong (snow leopard); Mayor Stimple (bison); Lydia Willard (black panther), an art gallery owner; Terrence Ortega (polar bear), another art gallery owner; and many more.

“‘There you are.’ Growning huffed and leaned to the side, out of the line of the mayor’s horns. His rubbery snout uncurled, dangling like a stub of hose below his piggy eyes. ‘Stella, at last.’

‘I’m five minutes early.’ She checked the clock on the far wall to be certain.

‘Fine. Yes.’ Growning waved a gesture of dismissal. ‘Feel free to continue, Mr. Mayor.’

‘We’ll rely on you for full coverage.’ The bison’s voice shook the door on its hinges. ‘I want a dedicated team for this.’

‘Exclusive coverage?’ The tapir’s trunk extended to its full length. Not exactly impressive, but enough to tell Stella his interest was piqued, focused on whatever the bison had proposed before she arrived.

‘Now, now.’ The mayor tugged at the front of his suit, and his two companions exchanged a look that told Stella they wouldn’t be getting an exclusive. ‘The Gazette has sponsored the awards. We have to allow them…’

‘You went to the Gazette first?’ Growning clutched at his heart with one hoofed paw. ‘To the Gazette? We’re the Arts Examiner. Arts. That rag only publishes a column on culture once a fortnight, not to mention some of the garbage they’ve printed about y–’

‘They came to us.’ The bison rumbled over the top of Growning’s tirade. ‘Almost the second we had the idea, in fact. We have to allow them coverage, but the Examiner has more space for arts columns. We came to you first.’” (pgs. 7-8)

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The Demon and the Fox, by Tim Susman – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

The Demon and the Fox, by Tim Susman. Illustrated by Laura Garabedian.
Dallas, TX, Argyll Productions, July 2018, trade paperback, $17.95 (277 pages), ebook $9.95.

The Demon and the Fox is subtitled “Book Two of The Calatians”. Book One, The Tower and the Fox, was published last year, and The War and the Fox, the concluding book of the trilogy, will be published next year.

Kip Penfold is a teenage fox-Calatian in a world analogous to New England in the early 1800s where the American Revolution failed in 1775. The Calatians are magically uplifted anthro animals, legally considered full humans but prejudiced against as inferior by most humans; at the bottom of society. (Along with women. And the Irish. Don’t ask about the Negroes or the Native Americans.)

There have never been any but White Caucasian (which doesn’t include the Irish) male sorcerers before, but an unexpected, almost fatal attack from an unknown enemy has forced Prince George’s College of Sorcery in New Cambridge, Massachusetts to open itself to a wider call for applicants to replace its murdered students – “any Colonist of magical inclination and ability may apply” – and Kip, along with an otter-Calatian, a woman, and an Irishman take advantage of it.

In my review of The Tower and the Fox, I said that “In a sense, this is a typical British schoolboy novel in a fantasy setting.  […] Despite the official call for applicants, there are those among both the college faculty and the other students who consider it disgraceful that non-Whites (including Irish), animals/Calatians, and women are allowed to become students. They are determined to make them fail. […] The Tower and the Fox covers the first semester of the College of Sorcery’s new class.”

The Demon and the Fox begins with the start of the second semester. All four have survived, and Kip is now the apprentice of Master Odden, one of the College’s full sorcerers and teachers. Their work, both for Kip’s learning and for the College’s defense, is to discover who was behind the magical attack on the College about six months ago that almost destroyed it.

The first sorcery Kip learns horrifies him, and almost breaks up the quartet:

“Kip’s indecision over whether to tell his friends about the calyx ritual lasted all of four minutes once they were again all together in the basement. ‘They drink the blood of Calatians!’ he said, pacing back and forth through the old papers and dusty stone floor.

Coppy, the otter-Calatian who’d also become an apprentice, didn’t react with the horror Kip had hoped. ‘I thought it might be something like that,’ he said.

‘You never said. We talked about it for months!’

‘I know.’ Coppy rested a paw on Kip’s arm. ‘Didn’t want to upset you. People do horrible things to Calatians in London and I heard summat about blood when I was a cub there.’

Kip’s tail lashed back and forth. ‘I wish you’d told me.’

‘I couldn’t.’ Coppy squeezed his forearm. ‘It was your dad. If he wouldn’t tell you, ‘twasn’t my place.’

‘You don’t have to protect me all the time,’ Kip said.

The otter lifted his paw and rubbed at his whiskers. ‘But I really didn’t know for sure. Why start trouble with rumours?’” (p. 13)

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Dwale’s critical review of “Red Engines”: When furry fiction becomes islamophobic propaganda

by Patch O'Furr

Dwale is a member of the Furry Writers Guild whose story “Behesht” won a 2017 Coyotl award. Follow them on Twitter. Thanks to Dwale for this guest post! Here’s a few previous articles about the anthology. – Patch.

Dwale continues – and see an update from Furplanet at end.

Disclosure: I have a story in this anthology. This analysis will contain spoilers.

I’ve been making my way through “Dogs of War II: Aftermath”, edited by Fred Patten and have now almost finished. I had thus far thought it more or less innocuous. Then I read the second to last story.

I’m not going to beat around the bush: I found “Red Engines” to be an offensive, even dangerous work of fiction. It is a nakedly Islamophobic diatribe, the publishing of which, while not surprising given today’s political climate, is saddening.

The story is told from the point of view of an AI-controlled robotic bird who calls himself Hughin. Hughin comes to an unnamed village in an unnamed part of the Muslim world; desert country (these kinds of stories never take place where the land is green).  He sees the dust trails of an approaching army identified as the “Allies.” He perches on “the town minaret” (I guess this is a one-mosque town?), then flies down to a school.

At the school, he meets Aisha, a young girl, and asks her if there are other children present. She takes him inside where he meets and questions the others, recording their answers. Hughin, you see, comes from an island of artificial intelligences and has been told to collect as much data as he can from these kids before they are killed. The reason he does this is to preserve them in some fashion. He is not part of the conflict, we are told, he is supposed to be a neutral observer.

From this information, Hughin constructs within himself what he calls a “djinn,” a virtual representation of what he has learned from the children. Throughout the remainder of the story, this “djinn” spouts off phrases such as “Eat the Jews!” And while Hughin admits that this pseudo-mind is a “nasty parody,” the reader is never really offered much of a counterpoint.

They hear an explosion nearby, and when the children ask who is attacking, Hughin says, “The allies.” He thinks to himself, but does not say, “and you’re all going to die.” This makes clear that the coming battle is not a surgical strike. It is to be a wholesale massacre.

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A look at furry business with a $17,017 record fursuit auction price, July 2018

by Patch O'Furr

(There are many reasons to give this thoughtful discussion and avoid knee-jerk reaction about cost – it will happen, but please read on! – Patch)

MixedCandy gets fandom’s current highest auction price at The Dealer’s Den.

Congrats to MixedCandy for their successful auction. One of the fandom’s highest-powered creative stars has also raised attention for The Dealer’s Den, an online marketplace for this special niche.

This new record price was set 6 months after the previous one: $13,500 for a commission slot by Made Fur You, sold on The Dealer’s Den with 82 bids on 1/29/18. It was preceded by a record that stood for 3 years: $11,575 for Sniper Angeldragon by PhoenixWolf, sold on Furbuy with 187 bids on 2/14/15.

A few years ago, The Dealer’s Den looked like more or less a ghost town when I looked at its activity. Change of ownership to Vitai Slade brought healthy growth. It now roughly compares to the much longer established Furbuy, offering more options to the fandom. Both are free to use. At time of posting, both have around 350-500 active auctions and 1800 Twitter followers. The Dealer’s Den also has a Telegram group of 3,000 users advertising their goods, while Furbuy is doing in-person promotion with con panels and flyering. I’ve personally had good experiences with both.

A look at this auction and why it matters.

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Liberation Game, by Kris Schnee – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Liberation Game, by Kris Schnee.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, May 2018, trade paperback, $8.99 (307 pages). Kindle $3.99.

This is both a sequel to Thousand Tales: How We Won the Game, 2040: Reconnection, The Digital Coyote, Thousand Tales: Learning to Fly, and all the other stories in this series, and an independent summation of all of them. It covers the years 2036 to 2040, from when the Artificial Intelligence Ludo was just starting to set up the Thousand Tales/Talespace gameworld, to when it – maybe – becomes a legally recognized independent country. It features new characters, although some previous characters appear in it. (Nocturne, identified in the first novel as a black-feathered griffin-girl, is described more fully; she’s not an eagle-lioness combination but a raven-lioness.)

Liberation Game features three main characters: Ludo, in “her” beautiful human woman form; Robin MacAdam, a young American, a member of the Latter Day Saints/Mormons helping to build a community in the Central American nation of Cibola; and Lumina, a centauroid deer robot (very shiny but metallic; not very “furry”).

As Liberation Game begins in 2036, Ludo has just begun her mission to help humans “have fun”. Lumina is one of the first independent AIs that Ludo has created. She was intended to become the android companion of a German doctor who Ludo hoped to encourage to become a supporter of Thousand Tales and one of its first uploaded residents, but he is killed almost immediately, leaving Lumina at loose ends. She drifts over to Robin’s project.

Robin, the assistant of Edward Apery, are the two Mormons/Americans helping the local natives of Cibola to construct a modern village, Golden Goose. The name is intended as both a symbol of what they hope to accomplish, and as a subtle hint to Cibola’s corrupt government that it can get more over the long run by letting the experimental village succeed than by taking all its assets as “taxes” immediately.

“The village of Golden Goose existed by a strange partnership. The Latter-Day Saints (or Mormons) had pumped money into Cibola in the hopes of winning over some of the local Catholics. The government had eagerly deeded them some land to start economic reconstruction. Robin himself had initially cared more about travel and adventure and damn good local coffee.

The village’s other partner wasn’t human: Ludo the gamemaster AI.” (p. 5)

At this point, Ludo is mostly a silent partner, helping to subsidize Golden Goose’s development for the long-range goal of building one of her centers of Thousand Tales and uploading human minds into Talespace. Edward/administrator and Robin/engineer are the tutors of the local natives, and their representatives to Governor Leopold, their Cibolan government official.

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Bearly Fiction, Volume One, by Frances Pauli – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Bearly Fiction, Volume One, by Frances Pauli.
Moses Lake, WA, Gastropod Press, May 2018, trade paperback, $5.99 ([2 +] 114 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $0.99.

The subtitle says “a collection of anthropomorphic stories by Frances Pauli”. The back-cover blurb begins, “Eleven animal stories from author Frances Pauli. From dogs to dinosaurs, from the courtroom to the coral reef, follow these critter characters through a wild variety of adventures across genres.”

In her Introduction, Pauli says that these are all reprints, so you may have read some of these before, in several anthologies of furry fiction. They’re still good, and it’s nice to have them all together. Also, this is a thin but tall book, 7.5” x 9.2” – that’s almost as large as a standard sheet of paper. Considering the low price, you certainly get your money’s worth.

Bad Dog – Hellhounds are born at the witching hour exactly. Hatach is born thirty-five seconds after the witching hour. How will this affect his being a hellhound?

Rats – “A rat walked into a bar.” But he says that he isn’t a rat. Or he wasn’t, anyway. The bartender tries to help him figure out why he turned into an anthro rat.

A Temper for Order – “Piper’s beak tipped the bottle with expert care. The liquid oozed through the narrow spout. Not a drop spilled. One of her feet clutched a smaller, hand-blown phial. She needed twenty drops more to get the mix just right. Twenty drops exactly. Balanced on one long leg, the little hen slicked her feathers closer to her body and counted while she poured,” (p. 14) Piper mixes herbal medicines in an avian beachfront community. Her friend Trudy, a weaver, is determined to play matchmaker for her. But Piper is obsessed with neatness, and the cock that Trudy seems determined to match her with is Dash, a seemingly-staggeringly-drunken stork. Is there more to Dash than is apparent?

El Emperador – Jessie is looking to buy a fast horse. The one the horse trader calls El Emperador looks like a broken-down fleabag. But Jessie is desperate, so she buys him and renames him Harry. How can she get the Emperor/Harry to run?

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Riders of the Realm. 1, Across the Dark Water, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Riders of the Realm. 1, Across the Dark Water, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. Illustrations, maps by David McClellan
NYC, HarperCollinsPublishers/Harper, May 2018, hardcover, $16.99 ([xix +] 417 [+4] pages), Kindle $9.99.

Alvarez’s Riders of the Realm trilogy is a followup to her The Guardian Herd tetralogy. The four Young Adult Guardian Herd novels (Starfire, Stormbound, Landfall, and Windborn, published from September 2014 to September 2016) featured the intelligent, talking pegasi (flying horses, despite the FAQ that “being called a ‘horse’ is an insult to a pegasus”) to the west of the giant continent Anok. More exactly, it featured the five herds there of those pegasi (the Sun Herd, Mountain Herd, Snow Herd, Jungle Herd, and Desert Herd), and the two all-powerful black stallion pegasi, Starfire and Nightwing, fighting to the death for their fate.

Riders of the Realm is about the 140 pegasi from those five herds, led by the mare Echofrost and the stallion Hazelwind, who flee Anok altogether for the unknown southern continent across the Dark Water ocean, and what they find there. They declare themselves a new Herd; Storm Herd. Or rather, since their story takes second place, it’s about the civilization there of the two-legged Landwalkers (humans), their enemies like Gorlan giants, spit-dragons, giant ants, burners (miniature flying, fire-breathing dragons), and other creatures – notably, the pegasi that they have already domesticated – and how they are affected by the arrival of the 140 flying-horse refugees from Anok.

Across the Dark Water is two stories: that of 12-year-old human Rahkki, small for his age, the younger brother of Brauk Stormrunner, one of the officers of the Fifth Clan’s Sky Guard; and of Echofrost, a “sleek silver mare with a mix of dark- and light-purple feathers, white mane and tail, one white sock” (p. x). But it’s mostly about Rahkki and the politics of the Sandwen’s Fifth Clan – about the humans.

The first chapter introduces Rahkki, his adult (21 years old) brother Brauk, and Brauk’s Khilari flyer, Kol:

“Overhead, glittering feathers, shining hides, and polished armor blocked out the sun – it was his brother’s squad of Riders, flying back from patrol. Eighty winged horses, each ridden by a Sandwen warrior, glided in formation, their hooves striking the clouds. There were a total of three squads in the Fifth Clan’s Sky Guard, and Brauk Stormrunner was the Headwind of his. The flying steeds were called Khilari, which meant ‘Children of the Wind,’ and they were sacred in the Sandwen Realm.” (pgs. 2-3)

Across the Dark Water is complex; about the political structure and politics of the Sandwen’s Fifth Clan (of seven clans); about the Sandwen’s relationship with the other species of this southern continent; and about these other species. Riders of the Realm is admirably different from the four novels of The Guardian Herd in that it is about flying horses and humans and how they interact, rather than just about flying horses as was the previous tetralogy, but of less interest to furry fans in that there is so much about humans and not the anthro animals.

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Tomori’s Legacy, by Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Tomori’s Legacy, by Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, May 2018, trade paperback, $15.99 (165 pages), Kindle $4.99.

Tomori’s Legacy is the Brackhaus’ Packmasters #3. I reviewed #1, The Relics of Thiala, and #2, Raid on Sullin, favorably. This #3 is the shortest, but it’s no less rip-roaring, space-opera fun. The cover, again by Darbaras (Dávid László Tóth), features Cat, the series’ narrator.

The Packmasters series is set in a far-future interstellar community. Cat (the narrator), Ferret, Bear, and Wolf are four bestiae, bioengineered anthro-animen in hiding, led by Ana, a young human with semi-suppressed Packmaster powers. The bestiae are considered beneath contempt by most humans, and were enslaved by an arrogant cult called the Packmasters who used them to try to conquer the galaxy. The Packmasters were apparently all killed by the rest of humanity in a bloody civil war a generation ago, and the bestiae were all slaughtered except for a few that powerful humans kept as pets. Ana, a mistreated adopted orphan now in her early twenties, escapes with the help of Cat. They gather three other bestiae and discover that Ana has Packmaster powers; but instead of her using them to dominate the others, they form a pack of friends with a telempathetic bond under Ana’s leadership, Cat’s guidance, Bear’s piloting, and Wolf’s muscle (plus the mostly-childlike Ferret). They steal a luxury space yacht, the Lollipop, belonging to a corrupt human Senator, Viscount Tomori, and flee to Vandal, a distant space station towards the Fringe of the galaxy that is (what else?) “a wretched hive of scum and villainy”. But Tomori comes after them. The Relics of Thiala ends with Tomori and Bear dead. In Raid on Sullin, the remaining four form a tighter family, Bear is replaced as pilot by Ferret, and they are joined by Ten, a battle-hardened gazelle who is no less deadly for being a herbivore.

To quote the beginning of the blurb for Tomori’s Legacy, “Viscount Tomori is long dead, but his affairs just don’t want to rest in peace.
[…] Now Ana and her pack are part of the power struggle among the crime lords of the Rim, and have to return to Darkside before things get out of hand.”

The climax of The Relics of Thiala is the bestiae and Ana stealing Viscount Tomori’s space yacht and fleeing to Vandal, a criminally-owned space station; Tomori’s coming after them; and the fight in which he and Bear are killed. Raid on Sullin begins with the authorities of Vandal ruling that they acted in legitimate self-defense, and “to the victor belongs the spoils”. Ana, Cat, Ferret, and Wolf are the new owners of the Lollipop. They are immediately sidetracked into the adventure of Raid on Sullin.

Tomori’s Legacy begins with their return (with Ten, the gazelle) to Vandal, where they are stunned to learn that they weren’t given only the Lollipop. They are the new owners of all Tomori’s property. Since he had run his clan as his personal possession, they now own his criminal businesses, including a shitload of thugs and schemers who each want to take over and become the new boss of Clan Tomori.

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Dangerous Thoughts, by James L. Steele – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Dangerous Thoughts, by James L. Steele.
Grove City, OH, KTM Publishing, June 2018, trade paperback, $15.00 (369 [+1] pages).

Dangerous Thoughts is Archeons, Book 1. The setting is so unusual that it needs to be quoted at length:

“A bubble in spacetime expanded from a single point at eye level. It grew wider and wider until it seemed to rest on the circle of stones off the pathway. The bubble wavered and puckered as it held open against the pressure of the surrounding spacetime trying to collapse it.

The opening caught the attention of several inhabitants of this world, and they approached it. On the other side they saw a planet none of them recognized immediately, of fiery volcanoes and two daytime stars in the sky, one red, the other white. Standing on this alien world were the two sentient beings who had opened this hole. The natives of this world instantly recognized them as Deka and Kylac, two Archeons from the planet Rel.

[…]

The Relians visible through the wavering sphere approached it. They grew larger, filled up the opening until finally they emerged from its surface. The first to step through was a theropod covered in blue scales so dark they were nearly black. A red stripe ran up the top of his snout and down his back to the tip of his tail. Immediately after his tail exited the portal, a bipedal canine with digitigrade legs and a slightly hunched posture followed. His belly was white, his forearms were black, and the tip of his tail was white as well. The rest of his body was covered in red fur. They stood side by side and observed the people as the unstable sphere closed behind them.” (pgs. 3-4)

The two Archeons, shown on the cover by ThemeFinland, are Deka, the theropod, and Kylac, the mammal. They have just recovered from an explosion that killed their fellow Relians and destroyed the portals, “leaving hundreds of planets without links to other worlds.” (blurb):

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Furry Socialism: You’re Soaking in It! – by Tempe O’Kun and Dralen Dragonfox

by Patch O'Furr

Thanks Tempe and Dralen for this guest post, a good followup to my “heart of the furry economy“. – Patch

The furry fandom is big and complex. We each have our own groups of friends, and our little sub-fandoms centered around specific shows and interests. It’s easy to not see the fursuit for the fluff.

Once it a while, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at it as a whole.

Furry is incredibly socialist.

This seems like a weird statement on its face. How can a community of people who like cartoon animal media be socialist? Well, we make, buy, and sell things.

“But wait!” you might say. “That’s using money! Furry must be capitalism!”

Socialism doesn’t mean abolishing money, like they do on Star Trek. It just means the economy has to benefit regular people, instead of companies and a handful of the ultra-rich. In fact, since the Furry fandom literally invents itself without some overarching canon coming from any one movie, TV, animation, or comics studio, no one person can ever control who gets paid for their unique creations. This power resides in the creators themselves and the furries who support them. Furry is open source.

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