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Tag: fantasy

Kismet, by Watts Martin – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

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

Kismet_lgKismet, by Watts Martin
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, January 2017, trade paperback $17.95 (323 pages), e-book $5.99.

Kismet, by Watts Martin
Dallas, TX, Argyll Productions, January 2017, trade paperback $17.95 (323 pages), e-book $5.99*.

This is a first for furry publishing, as far as I know. The only differences between these two editions are the publisher’s name and illustrated logo on the title page, the ISBN number, and the cover by Teagan Gavet. Both are dark blue and feature the protagonist in a spacesuit in deep space, but the Argyll cover displays her at a distance without showing what she looks like, and the FurPlanet cover is a closeup showing that she is a rat-woman. The FurPlanet edition is marketed as furry science fiction; the Argyll edition is marketed as just science fiction, for those outside furry fandom who may buy s-f but not a furry book.

Whichever it’s read as, hard s-f or furry fiction, Kismet is a winner. Several hundred years in the future, mankind has settled the Asteroid Belt. Mankind has also developed advanced bioengineering that enables people to have themselves bioengineered into anthropomorphic animals. There has been the mix of social acceptance and rejection that this results in for over a century. At this present, most of Earth is human and most of the anthropomorphs have migrated to the Asteroid Belt. In the Belt, the humans are called cisforms and the anthropomorphs are totemics.

Gail Simmons is a rat-woman totemic in the Ceres Ring, with her AI spaceship Kismet. She’s a salvage operator, a salvor, doing odd jobs of space hauling and space junk reclamation. She’s basically a hermit, living inside Kismet; the ship smart-AI brain is her only friend. Gail is contacted by an old childhood acquaintance who she hasn’t seen in two decades; he’s a yacht charter pilot now, and he’s just seen what looks like a derelict spaceship while making a chartered flight. His customer won’t give him the time to check it out, so he’s notifying Gail. Gail and Kismet find what appears to be an abandoned or sabotaged spaceship and two dead bodies. When Gail reports this, it leads to her being accused of theft and murder, and the missing cargo to be a handheld databox – a Macguffin – that holds information that at least one party will kill to get, that can mean “the end of the human race”.

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Furry literature: Advertising it outside of furry fandom – with Fred Patten and Phil Geusz.

by Patch O'Furr

WPbanner1(Patch:) The Furry Writers’ Guild Coyotl Awards have just opened for voting by members.  This is a good occasion to talk about furry publishing.  Committed operations are putting out a regular stream of content by fans, for fans – but is it healthy enough to support professionals? Can any of them smoothly transition between this niche and the mainstream, to be as well-rounded as they can be? Here’s a look that builds on past stories like:

Let some of the most experienced voices in furry tell you more.  Here’s Fred Patten, with comments by Phil Geusz.

(Fred:) Watts Martin’s January 2017 novel, Kismet, is being published under two imprints: at FurPlanet Productions, as furry fiction for the furry market, and Argyll Productions, as science fiction for the larger s-f market or mainstream sales; with two different covers, both by Teagan Gavet, tailored for those markets.

This sounds ambitious and imaginative. But how well will it work in practice? The record isn’t encouraging.

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Memoirs of a Polar Bear, by Yoko Tawada – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

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

51yC2DEIBlL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Memoirs of a Polar Bear, by Yoko Tawada. Translated by Susan Bernofsky.
NYC, New Directions Books, November 2016, trade paperback $16.95 (252 pages), Kindle $9.58.

This was originally published as Etüden im Schnee, konkursbuch Verlag, March 2014. It isn’t published as furry fiction but as mainstream literature, so it is probably classed as fabulism or literary fantasy.

“I’d taken part in a congress that day [in Kiev], and afterward all the participants were invited to a sumptuous feast. When I returned to my hotel room at night, I had a bear’s thirst and greedily drank water straight from the tap. But the taste of oily anchovies refused to leave me. In the mirror I saw my red-smeared lips, a masterpiece of the beets. I’d never eaten root vegetables voluntarily, but when a beet came swimming in my bowl of borsht, I immediately wanted to kiss it. Bobbing amid the lovely dots of fat floating on top – which at once awoke my appetite for meat – the beet was irresistible.

The springs creak beneath my bearish weight as I sit on the hotel sofa thinking how uninteresting the conference had been yet again, but that it had unexpectedly led me back to my childhood. The topic of today’s discussion was The Significance of Bicycles in the National Economy.” (pgs. 4-5)

a Polar Bear” is actually three polar bears over three generations; a grandmother, mother, and son. The first, never named, is captured and brought as a cub to Moscow, where she is trained to perform in a circus, apparently around the 1960s. Her part is “The Grandmother: An Evolutionary Theory”.

“For a long time, I didn’t know anything: I sat in my cage, always onstage, never an audience member. If I’d gone out now and then, I would’ve seen the stove that had been installed under the cage. I’d have seen Ivan putting firewood in the stove and lighting it. I might have even seen the gramophone with its giant black tulip on a stand behind the cage. When the floor of the cage got hot, Ivan would drop the needle on the record. As a fanfare split the air like a fist shattering a pane of glass, the palms of my paw-hands felt a searing pain. I stood up, and the pain disappeared.” (p. 11)

“After hours and days spent vigorously shaking my hips, my knees were in such bad shape that I was incapable of performing acrobatics of any sort. I was unfit for circus work. Ordinarily they would have just shot me, but I got lucky and was assigned a desk job in the circus’s administrative offices.

I never dreamed I had a gift for office work. But the personnel office left no talents of their workers unexplored if they could be employed and exploited to the circus’s advantage. I would even go so far as to say I was a born office manager. My nose could sniff out the difference between important and unimportant bills.” (p. 14)

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Housepets! Don’t Ask Questions, by Rick Griffin – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

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

housepets_book7_cover-preview-237x300Housepets! Don’t Ask Questions (Book 7), by Rick Griffin
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, November 2016, trade paperback $13.95 (52 pages).

Here, right on schedule, is the new annual collection of the Housepets! online comic strip by Rick Griffin. Housepets! has appeared each Monday-Wednesday-Friday since June 2, 2008. It has won the Ursa Major Award for the Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip for every year since! – for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Book 7 contains the strips from June 16, 2014 to June 1, 2015; story arcs #78, “Heaven’s Not Enough, part 2”, to #90, “All’s Fair, part 1”, plus the one-off gag strips before and between these.

Housepets! presents the adventures of the dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and other pets of Babylon Gardens, a typical residential suburban neighborhood – in an alternate universe. The animals are larger than in our universe (but not human-sized), can talk, are usually bipedal, and address their human owners as “Mom” and “Dad”. Their status is somewhere between pets and children. Points established over the years are that humans can bequeath their belongings to their pets, who do not need a human guardian; human storekeepers are not allowed to sell catnip to cats; human police forces have an auxiliary of Police Dogs who are not all police dogs; the pets comment sardonically on how they can go naked in public but their human “parents” can’t; and – lots of other stuff.

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Sythyry’s Journal: A World Tree Chronicle of Transaffection, Adventure, and Doom, by Bard Bloom – review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

9781451562934_p0_v1_s192x300Sythyry’s Journal: A World Tree Chronicle of Transaffection, Adventure, and Doom, by Bard Bloom
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, April 2010, trade paperback $25.00 (626 pages).

The opening paragraph of this dense, 626 pages of small type is:

“My exceedingly old and exceedingly famous grandparent just gave me this notebook as a going-to-school present. Zie says that zie wishes zie had had one when zie was growing up, but of course nobody knew how to do enchantments then, and there probably wasn’t time to do a lot of writing, what with all the fighting cyarr and nendrai and everything.” (p. 5)

Sythyry is a small, pale blue dragonet (actually a Zi Ri) “of impeccable lineage, considerable wit, and overwhelming inexperience, off alone at college for the first time. Zie must face terrible dangers: roommates, friends, courses in enchantment and flirtatious dance, deadly monsters, minor nobility, war, and, most dreadful of all, romance.” (blurb). The Zi Ri are hermaphrodites with pronouns to match, avoiding the “him” or “her” of the single-sex genders. The cover by Tod Wills shows zir at an Academy Buttery party surrounded by zir roommates Dustweed the Herethroy (the green grasshopper-like being at lower right) and Havune the Cani (the overdressed dog-like being at upper left), and friends Oostmarine the Orren (the otter-like being at upper right) and Anoof, another Cani (at lower left).

When Bard Bloom and his wife Victoria Borah Bloom created the World Tree role-playing game in 2001 (its cover by Mike Raabe was a finalist for the first Ursa Major Award in 2001 for Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration), LiveJournal was just getting started. Bloom explains in his “Author’s Forward” [sic.] that his own life made uninteresting reading. “So I decided to write from the point of view of a World Tree character.” – Sythyry the young Zi Ri. This book consists of Bloom’s LiveJournal entries from 2002 to 2007, as edited into novel format by Victoria Borah Bloom. Further LiveJournal entries to 2016 have been novelized in four Kindle books; Dragon Student, Ambassador to a Monster, Wizard’s Vacation, and City of Advanced Magic.

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Interlude: A Series of Shorts, by M. R. Anglin – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

51rarobPhyLInterlude: A Series of Shorts, by M. R. Anglin.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, August 2016, trade paperback $5.99 (79 [+ 1] pages, Kindle $1.99.

This fifth book in Anglin’s Silver Foxes series is only eight connected short stories of about ten pages each. It is an interlude, taking place between the action of the third and fourth novels and, presumably, the next to come.

The first five stories are set at the Isle de Lossierres, the Kingdom of Drymairad’s most exclusive resort. Xenatha (Xena), the adolescent Silver Fox (it’s a secret) who was the protagonist of Into Expermia, and her family are the “guests” of her foster father J.R.’s unwilling sister Chloe, the wolf businessman sister who owns the island.

The Isle is a rich, luxurious vacation spot, but they are there to hide out, not to enjoy themselves. It’s J.R.’s old family home. Xena wears an illegal image generator to pass as an ordinary gray-furred fox.

Although they are hiding out, they also have their first chance since they all came together to relax a bit as a family. J.R., a notorious criminal to the world, is their wolf Daddy. Xena and her younger sister Katheraine (Kathra), a white fox 11 years old, are his foster kits. Xena has an extremely rare genetic disorder that makes her build up metals in her fur, giving her the Silver Fox appearance and an attraction/control of electricity. Karalaina, a vixen with salmon-colored fur, is the girls’ mother who has just rediscovered them after ten years and came to claim them. They persuaded her to stay and join their family. Chloe Dunsworth is a rich wolf businesswoman, J.R.’s sister who is outraged when he shows up after so long with the others, asking to stay quietly on the family’s island resort.

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The Art and Evolution of TwoKinds, Volume 1, by Thomas Fischbach – review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

STL025954The Art and Evolution of TwoKinds, Volume 1, by Thomas Fischbach
Apple Valley, CA, Keenspot Entertainment, December 2016, hardcover $29.99 (89 [+ 1] pages)

This is a large (8.5 x 10 inches) deluxe color artbook featuring Fischbach’s TwoKinds online comic strip cast. Every page is printed in full color on slick, glossy paper.   It is a visual feast for fans of TwoKinds, and of all fans of mild cheesecake featuring anthropomorphic characters.

Despite the title, there is nothing here from the comic strip itself. You will not see how TwoKinds has evolved artistically over the dozen years that it has been running (since October 22, 2003). Instead this is a collection of Fischbach’s recent paintings of his main characters. Most of them have appeared on his DeviantArt gallery with the dates painted, and they are all from late 2014 to 2016. This is disappointing in terms of not really seeing how TwoKinds has evolved artistically over twelve years. But, frankly, Fischbach’s art was pretty crude when he began. Every painting in this artbook is in his current, much higher-quality style. It’s what most purchasers will prefer.

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A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature, ed. AnthroAquatic – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51mzqy7hULL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature, AnthroAquatic, ed.
Plainfield, CT, Goal Publications, November 2016, trade paperback $10.00 (153 pages).

A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature was originally a three-issue online magazine of 45 to 50 pages each, published in January, March, and August 2016. This small (5 x 0.3 x 8 inches), slim volume collects all three issues into one handy paper edition, minus the advertisements.

The contents are published as they appeared in the magazine issues; mostly a mixture of short stories and reviews. The book’s most serious lack is a combined table of contents. There are 14 short stories and 11 reviews (also an interview with S. Andrew Swann, and an analysis of Felix Salten’s 1923 novel Bambi: A Life in the Woods as an example for the furry writer; both by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt). The reader is forced to hunt through the whole book to find anything.

The short stories are all under ten pages each. Most are whimsical fantasies. Two, “The Mouse Who Was Born a Bear” and “Sheeperfly’s Lullaby”, both by Mary E. Lowd, are on the ALAA’s 2016 Recommended List of furry short fiction of the year worth reading. Notable others include “Catching the Thief” by Amy Fontaine, “Sheets and Covers” by Ocean Tigrox, “The Charitable Pact of a Soft-hearted Fool” by Slip-Wolf, “Beast” by Frances Pauli, and “Promises to Keep” by Renee Carter Hall.

The brevity and whimsicality of the fiction, plus its interruption by so many book reviews, makes A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Fiction (cover by Aisha Robinson) an intellectual trifle, the literary equivalent of a box of chocolates. Is it worth reading? Very much so, but you will want to read it in short bursts, two or three stories and a review or two at a time, rather than all at once.

This has been a short review of a short book of short stories.

Full disclosure: I am the writer of three of the reviews in it.

-Fred Patten

A Decade of Gold: A retrospective of the works of Kyell Gold, by Thurston Howl.

by Patch O'Furr

Thanks to Howl, of Thurston Howl Publications, for his guest post. I’m told it was approved by Kyell.  Enjoy.

Few authors have captivated the mainstream furry audience as famously as Kyell Gold. From his 2004 short story publication, “The Prisoner’s Release” to his upcoming novella, The Time He Desires (Dec 2016), Gold’s works have been award-winning pieces of fiction that have even attracted the attention of non-furry readers. Throughout the past twelve years, Gold has gone through a multitude of genres and such unique characters. Below, I hope to detail many of his milestones over the past almost-decade as well as provide a primer on Gold’s work.

pros_cover_lg

Gold’s debut to fiction was his Renaissance-era novel series set in the fictional universe of Argaea. While it technically started with his “The Prisoner’s Release,” which was published in Heat #1, it later became a novel series, starting with Volle (2005). The series follows a red fox, titularly named Volle, as he undergoes a spy mission, pretending to be a lord of a small area participating in negotiations in the kingdom’s political mecca. The catch is that Volle is a hypersexual fox who struggles to keep his sex life separate from his political life, neither of which allow him to use his true identity. This series is a prime example of how Gold can meld genres. In this case, historical fiction meets homosexual furry erotic romance in a way that is both believable and evocative. The Argaea series has received stellar reviews and widespread reception. So far, the Argaea series includes the following titles: Volle, Pendant of Fortune (2006), The Prisoner’s Release and Other Stories (2007), Shadows of the Father (2010), and Weasel Presents (2011). While not all of these stories follow Volle, they are all set in the same universe. All except for Weasel Presents (which was published by Furplanet Productions) were published by Sofawolf Press, with Sara Palmer being the primary illustrator for most of these.

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Peter & Company: A Comic Collection, by Jonathan Ponikvar – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51NDvBrHhlL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_Peter & Company: A Comic Collection, by Jonathan Ponikvar.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, June 2012, trade paperback $17.99 (unpaged [74 pages]).

Although it doesn’t say so, this is volume 1 of what is now Ponikvar’s online bi-weekly comic strip. It covers Peter & Company for its first 100 strips; from its beginning on January 1, 2005 to December 17, 2007. Volume 2, Of Cats and Crushes, is “coming soon”.

Peter & Company, drawn with anthropomorphic animal characters, is about Peter (cat), a 12-year-old geek and social loner who gets Seth (duck) as a cross between an imaginary friend and a guardian angel. Seth is invisible to everyone except Peter, but like the ghosts in Thorne Smith’s Topper, he can make his presence felt by others when he wants to.

Ponikvar calls Seth and his compatriots “Guardians” rather than “guardian angels” to remove any religious aspects from the strip, and to present them more imaginatively than in the format of standard religious doctrine. Seth is more like a senpai, a big brother, than a messenger from God. He’s sarcastic, and often openly manipulative to force Peter to do something like studying that he doesn’t want to do.

Ponikvar is also more original in his use of Guardians. Not everyone has a Guardian; only those who need one. Peter can not only see Seth; he can see the Guardians of everyone else who has one – and those who have Guardians can all talk with them. (With exceptions, which are explained in the strip.) The Guardians sometimes get together and “talk shop” without their charges. Peter talks openly to his “imaginary friend”, which increases his reputation as a “freak boy” and gets him sent to Mr. Betrug (dog), the school Counselor.

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