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ROAR Vol. 9, Resistance, Edited by Mary E. Lowd – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

ROAR Volume 9, Resistance, Edited by Mary E. Lowd.
Dallas, TX, Bad Dog Books, July 2018, trade paperback, $19.95 (297 pages), eBook $7.95.

ROAR volume 9, Bad Dog Books’ annual anthology of non-erotic furry adventure short fiction, is the fourth edited by Mary E. Lowd. It follows last year’s vol. 8 devoted to Paradise, and 2016’s vol. 7 devoted to Legends. This year’s theme is Resistance; “[…] the vision of resistance […] expressed through the voices of fifteen amazing authors.”

I suspect that Lowd accepted stories based on their quality rather than their relevance to the theme. The stories are all very good, and an excellent mix of types, although I don’t see what connection some of them have to “resistance”.

“Saguaros” by Watts Martin features Hanai, a coyote aristocrat, and Tamiisi, her shy rabbit maid, in a desert world of magic:

“Tamiisi stepped toward the wall. The neighborhood lanterns were first to meet her eyes, fixed lamps glittering from lawns and porches and thorn-trees, floating lamps trailing behind or in front of unseen travelers. As her eyes adjusted, she could trace the lines of sidewalks and carriageways, see the pennants atop the highest tents of the Great Market. Sky-fish flitted through the air, over and under the stone bridges, leaping to touch the rare flying sled. If she remained perfectly still, listened ever so closely, she could hear the clockwork birds twittering in faint harmonies as they returned to the park to roost for the night.” (p. 19)

But is the magic the coyotes’ or the rabbits’ – or someone else’s? The rabbits are unhappy with their lot, but what happens doesn’t seem to be due to anyone’s “resistance”.

In “Ghosts” by Searska GreyRaven, the resistance is that Cal, an Angora neko-form, is lesbian and rejects the straight heterosexual life her domineering father demands that she lead. Cal’s partner after he dies is Deanne, a black cat neko-form scientist trying to prove the existence of ghosts. When Cal’s father’s ghost continues to try to force her to “return to God”, the story becomes like a dramatic Ghostbusters:

“I squinted my eyes shut, and suddenly felt a burst of heat along the side of my face. My father snarled and let go, dropping me to the floor. I lay, gasping for air and opened one eye.

Deanne stood in the doorway, a heavy contraption slung over one shoulder. She held what looked like a gun from a game of laser tag in her paws.

‘What … the hell?’ I coughed. ‘Is that?’ I couldn’t think of the word.

‘Nope. It’s a spectral inverter. And it’ll scorch your retinas if you look at it!’

The ghost of my father roared and flew at Deanne, who roared right back and hit him again with a beam of red-black energy. My father dodged and laughed.” (p. 47)

Calling Cal and Denise “neko-forms” instead of just cats is necessary because there’s also a non-anthro pet cat in the story.   Also a rat-form, corvine-forms, and a lupine-form for anthro animals, plus humans. The ROAR vol. 9 cover by Kadath illustrates “Ghosts”.

In “Froggy Stews” by Humphrey Lanham, Uri, a frog, and Clyde, a sea lion, are roommates despite the disparity in their sizes:

“The [drunken] frog nodded. Clyde offered up a flipper for Uri to climb onto. On a normal day, Uri would never allow himself to be carried about by a larger animal like that. Today, however, he didn’t think he could successfully move from the sink to the couch without looking more ridiculous than he would in the arms of a sea lion.” (p. 57)

After six months, one of the two decides that the Odd Couple relationship isn’t working out. I’m not sure where the “resistance” is here. In fact, I’m not sure why a normal-sized frog and sea lion would ever decide to become roommates in a normal human house in the first place. All anthro fiction requires some acceptance of fantasy, but “Peeling off his grey turtleneck and $100 jeans” (p. 53) – this is a normal-sized, normal-physique frog? And a normal-physique sea lion doesn’t have legs. “Froggy Stews” reads smoothly, but the constant description of the frog’s physical normality (a small, hopping, cold-blooded reptile) made it impossible for me to envision him dressing in clothes, getting drunk, and living in a house-sharing relationship (a two-story house, at that) with a much-larger mammal who doesn’t have legs.

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ROAR Vol. 8, Paradise, Edited by Mary E. Lowd – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

ROAR volume 8, Paradise, edited by Mary E. Lowd.
Dallas, TX, Bad Dog Books, June 2017, trade paperback $19.95 (284 pages), Kindle $9.95.

ROAR volume 8, Bad Dog Books’ annual anthology of non-erotic furry adventure short fiction, is the third edited by Mary E. Lowd. It follows last year’s vol. 7 devoted to Legends, and continues the reductions in page count (394 pages two years ago, 377 pages last year, and 284 pages this year) to return the volumes to the earlier size edited by Buck C. Turner. This year’s theme is Paradise; “eighteen different visions of paradise”. Lowd says in her Foreword that, “This volume of ROAR received fewer submissions than the last two, but the average quality of those submissions was extremely high.”

It certainly is. Get ready for a long review.

The protagonist of “Northern Delights” by Madison Keller is Rafael Ferreira, a Chihuahua detective from the Phoenix, Arizona police department who goes to the start of the Idatarod sled race in Anchorage, Alaska to warn a Chow informant participating in the race of a plot to kill him. He involuntarily takes part in the race as the partner of Mae, a husky.

“Other than the crunching of snow under Mae’s paws and the shushing of the surrounding pine trees in the wind the night was silent. He’d grown up in the big city, and night to him meant the pounding thunder of a gunning motorcycle, the conversing of passing dogs, and the rumbling base leaking from a passing car.

Even the sky was unfamiliar. When Rafael craned his head back, he could see hundreds of stars twinkling brightly overhead. The sight awed and humbled him. When he was a puppy, his father had taken him up to the mountains to star gaze, but even there the lights of the city had hidden all but the brightest stars. He began to pick out constellations he’d learned about in grade school. There was Orion, te Hunter. Usually depicted in mythological art as an English Setter. Mae turned a corner and his view shifted, revealing Leo, the roaring lion. Rafael bared his teeth menacingly at the sky.” (p. 23)

Rafael discovers that Alaska is his paradise – especially if Mae is there.

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ROAR Volume 7: Legendary – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

51vtrw4caklROAR volume 7, Legendary, edited by Mary E. Lowd.
Dallas, TX, Bad Dog Books, June 2016, trade paperback $19.95 (377 pages), Kindle $9.95.

ROAR volume 7, Bad Dog Books’ annual anthology of non-erotic furry adventure short fiction, is the second edited by Mary E. Lowd following last year’s vol. 6 devoted to Scoundrels. It is slightly smaller – 17 stories rather than 28, and 377 pages rather than 394 – but is still larger than the volumes edited by Buck C. Turner. This year’s theme is Legends/Legendary; the legends that anthro animals listen to and live by – or not.

In “Crouching Tiger, Standing Crane” by Kyla Chapek, three Oriental students – a fox, a crane, and a snake – listen to a tigress fortuneteller as she relates the history of their tiger-crane school of martial arts. “The Manchurian government of the Qing dynasty had become corrupt beyond measure. At the same time the Shaolin style [of Kung Fu] had become popular, gaining great respect and power within the martial arts world.” (p. 14) This is the story of how the betrayed Shaolin monks went underground and continued to teach their style, told with anthro animals: The Bengal tiger, snow leopard, and clouded leopard clans, disguised as traveling performers; their meeting the fragile-appearing cranes; marriage resulting despite official disapproval (“‘The Manchu do not look kindly on cross breed relationships, let along cross clan.’” –p. 20); betrayal and death; and the children, foster brothers Hoong Man Ting (crane) and Wu Ah Phieu (tiger), despite their own families’ anthropomorphic disapproval (“‘A crane couldn’t use tiger style because they lack paws with strong digits and claws; conversely a tiger cannot use crane style because he lacks a beak and the stance would be completely unnatural.’” –pgs. 29-30), leading to the climax showing how the two styles were merged.

“The Frog Who Swallowed the Moon” by Renee Carter Hall, tells how Frog used to have the most beautiful voice in the swamp; until one night when he swallowed a bucketful of water that had the full moon shining in it, and everything went dark. He learns what he must do to replace the moon, but that is why his voice has never been the same.

Hall paints an unforgettable word-picture of the pond in the dark night, except when Frog opens his mouth to talk and blinding moonbeams shoot out. This legend is an ethereal example of poetic writing:

“It didn’t seem to be the pond he’d known as a tadpole. In the stark light of his moonbeam, the pale stones led him across an expanse of water larger than he’d ever seen before. Soon there were no more marsh-reeds or cattails at the edges of his sight. There was only darkness and the moonpath, and when Frog dared to look up, even the stars had disappeared. He didn’t look up again after that, keeping his light and his eyes focused on the stones just ahead.” (p. 53)

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