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Tag: science fiction

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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Last Dance of the Phoenix, by James R. Lane – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

product_thumbnailLast Dance of the Phoenix, by James R. Lane
Raleigh, NC, Lulu Press, August 2016, trade paperback $14.99 (254 pages), Kindle $2.51.

This s-f novel is set in the near future. Thomas Barnes has an Artificial Intelligence in his home, but he also wears a dark blue NRA ball cap, eats at a McDonald’s, drives on Florida’s Highway I-95, drinks Gatorade, and is familiar with the TV program Final Jeopardy.

Two years previously, Earth was discovered by aliens (in flying saucers) and welcomed into the galactic community. The four spacegoing species of aliens that humans meet just happen to look like anthropomorphic foxes, cheetahs, otters, and rabbits.

Convenient? Maybe too convenient? Barnes thinks so.

“No bug-eyed monsters, no giant slugs, spiders, dragons, demons, birds – nothing else. Aliens that didn’t seem so alien after all, apparently guaranteed not to terribly upset ape-based humanity’s rabid xenophobia. To me and a lot of others it just seemed too damned pat. Somebody – or something – had to have engineered all this. Cute.” (p. 10)

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Skeleton Crew, by Gre7g Luterman – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

gre7gSkeleton Crew, by Gre7g Luterman. Illustrated.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, August 2014/October 2016, trade paperback $8.95 (259 pages), Kindle $3.99.

This is the first hard science-fiction novel I’ve ever read with absolutely no humans in it. The cover by H. Kyoht Luterman (the author’s wife) shows two of the main characters; Commissioner Sarsuk, a kraken, holding Kanti, a geroo. All of the other characters in the novel are geroo. There are over a dozen full-page illustrations, most by Rick Griffin of Housepets! fame, showing such geroo characters as Kanti, Saina, Tish, Captain Ateri, Chendra, and more.

The geroo are unclothed, with thick tails and fur. There are frequent mentions in the text of twitching ears, tail rings, and the like. Kanti is called Shaggy for his unruly fur.

Skeleton Crew is set entirely on, or within, the huge generation exploratory starship White Flower II in interstellar space. There is a two-page cutaway diagram of the White Flower II by Brandon Kruse. Four centuries earlier, the krakun came to the primitive planet Gerootec and offered to hire thousands of the overpopulated geroo as their starship crews. The geroo who went into space and their descendants would never see Gerootec again, but they would live in luxury compared to the backward geroo on their homeworld. Technically, the White Flower II belongs to the krakuns’ Planetary Acquisitions, Incorporated, with a mission of finding new planets that can be colonized.

New planets for the krakun. Never for the geroo.

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Goddess, by Arilin Thorferra – book review by Greyflank.

by Patch O'Furr

Goddess by Arilin Thorferra – guest review submitted by Bill Kieffer, AKA Grayflank (author of The Goat: Building a Perfect Victim.)  See also Fred Patten’s review of Goddess.  Guests are invited to submit articles to: patch.ofurr(at)gmail.com.

GoddessA childhood full of monster of the week movies made me into the horse I am today. As a horror fan, giants hold a very special place in my heart. Giants played no small (ahem) part in helping me see monsters as more often dangerously misunderstood creatures than outright evil figures.

And, yet, I don’t particularly find myself attracted to the giant mythos. Not that I’m against Macrofurry stuff. I do like transformation stories and I do like submissive characters; so there’s quite a bit of overlap there with size shifting.

In this tale, set in a furry universe in a vague period prior to Hawaii’s statehood, Russel the cougar is looking to become a literature professor at a very posh American University in San Francisco. It’s probably in the 1950’s, even if the villain of the piece, Cornelius Bennett, is known as a “rail baron.” The first few pages felt nearly as staid and boring as any academic event that one might expect, but when the curvaceous otter Kailani enters the scene, things to pick up. I enjoyed every scene Kailani was in; even the scene where they are discussing The Great Gatsby. She is simply one of those people who are larger than life. *ahem*

And it’s to the authors credit that Kailani’s robust presence doesn’t overshadow the other characters in the scene with her. Russell becomes a bigger personality when he’s with her and, later, trying to be with her. Often in stories with this type of transformation from quiet protagonist with a plan to hero of the tale, the author relies on the cast to tell the hero/heroine that she changed. Here, I felt it.

No one had to tell me.

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FUTURE FURSUITING: furry’s most original creations and the rise of tech-enabled smart suits.

by Patch O'Furr

The most original creations of furry fandom.

Here’s a fun feature about the future.  But first, let me make a bold claim about fursuiting.

Male-Peacock-displayingMascots and costuming have been around forever. But furries are doing something new. They don’t just play with generic icons from myths and media. They add original fursonas and custom craft for everyone. It makes a subculture with personal expression beyond anything else.

Of course, many furs don’t have (or want) fursuits.  But the ones who do make a photogenic face of fandom. Other groups do art and writing like this one, but I don’t think anyone else does costuming in such a specialized and devoted way.  So there’s nothing wrong with the way the fursuiters stand out.  Everything else is imagination – they bring it to life and help to define the tactile name of “furry”.  And the quality is developing beyond anything you can buy commercially.  Some dedicated makers now have careers by fans, for fans, leading a Furry Economy with an exciting future.  Look forward to amazing things.

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Dawn [and] Edward by Marcus LaGrone – book reviews by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

product_thumbnail-phpDawn, by Marcus J. LaGrone. Illustrated by Minna Sundberg.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, December 2011, trade paperback $14.95 ([1 +] 192 pages), Kindle $3.95.

Edward, by Marcus LaGrone.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, January 2013, trade paperback $9.95 (314 pages), Kindle $2.99.

The Highlands of Afon series must be science-fiction since the novels are set on the planets Afon and Ramidar in the far future, when humans have spread throughout the galaxy. But they read more like adolescent funny-animal dramatic fantasies featuring Afon’s dominant felinoid “race”, the Taik. (They aren’t just on Afon; they too have spread through the galaxy. See the complex “Introduction to the races and cultures”.) There are also the Shukurae, oversimplified as huge (9’ tall) muscular warthogs, intimidating but loyal to Taik leadership, and the Gelkin, short, squat, bearlike, and militaristic; both also spacefaring peoples.

Dawn is the story, in flashback, of Dawn Winteroak. She’s the Taik teenage schoolgirl in the middle on Minna Sundberg’s cover. Besides other adolescent problems, she’s embarrassed because her fur is “boring. Black and plain, not a spot or stripe to be seen. All her sisters had wonderful coats with spots and rosettes, a fact they used to take some pride in pointing out to her.” (blurb)

Dawn has worse problems. Her story begins: “As Dawn cracked open her eyes, she realized one thing immediately: she hurt. From the tip of her pointy ears to the end of her fuzzy tail she hurt. Even her fur hurt. How does fur hurt? she wondered. Well she wasn’t sure, but it certainly did. She sat up only to find that it was possible to hurt even more! Her ears rang and her head throbbed as she straightened up her spine. Looking down she noticed her jet black fur was horribly tousled and her dress, a gift for her fourteenth birthday all of a week ago, was now in tatters. Shredded and charred, it still stank of smoke.” (p. 3)

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Fairytales Written by Rabbits, by Mary A. Parker – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

parkerFairytales Written by Rabbits, by Mary A. Parker. Illustrated by Michelle Cannon.
Melbourne, Vic., Australia, Ferox Publishing, September 2015, trade paperback $12.99 (x + 228 pages), Kindle $2.99.

Despite the charming cover by Michelle Cannon, “Fairytales” is a single word everywhere except on this cover.

Its countryside world seems very familiar —

“But first they must catch you.” (p. 1)

With a major difference –

“The dust came in the late evening, many seasons ago.

Flashes of light flowed and danced across the twilight sky. Green, orange and purple streaks twisted among the clouds and stars. The rabbits were frightened at first, fleeing to the familiar darkness of their burrows, away from the unknown.” (pgs. ix-x)

Fairytales Written by Rabbits is both fantasy and science fiction. It begins with the same scenario as Richard Adams’ Watership Down; the peaceful realistic life of a countryside rabbit warren. This is interrupted by an unknown world-changing spectacle similar to that at the beginning of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids; the sky is full of something strange.

What happened? It’s never explained. But man never comes to the countryside again. And little by little, over generations, the wildlife grows more intelligent.

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Hoenix, by Ted R. Blasingame – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

Fred writes: three or four reviews of furry books that I wrote in 2003 or 2004 have vanished from the Internet.  I wrote them for the first version of Watts Martin’s Claw & Quill site, which he has apparently taken down. Here they are back online.

product_thumbnail.phpHoenix, by Ted R. Blasingame.
Morrisville, NC, Dennier Publishing/Lulu, August 2004, trade paperback $12.49 (343 pages).

For about a quarter-century from 1925 to 1950, millions of Americans thrilled to rip-roaring adventure fiction in pulp magazines and movie serials. Best Western, Popular Detective, Doc Savage, Jungle Stories, G-8 and His Battle Aces — there were dozens of them. The colorful locales might change, but most featured steely-jawed adventurers who slugged, slashed or shot their way through innumerable dangers. I loved these when I was a kid.

Ted Blasingame’s galactic adventures would fit in nicely with the works of Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, and L. Ron Hubbard that supposedly were among George Lucas’ inspiration for Star Wars. Blasingame has been writing his adventures of an interstellar freighter spaceship in a galaxy of anthropomorphized animals, on his http://horizon.dennier.com/ website since 1996. Recently he has started publishing them in trade paperback format through the Lulu.com print-on-demand web-publisher. Hoenix is a stand-alone novel in his Blue Horizon universe.

A wolf regains consciousness at the bottom of a deep well next to the skeleton of another canine. He has been savagely beaten and left for dead. He has almost complete amnesia. Next to him and the skeleton are a suitcase containing clothes with a sales receipt to Aramis Thorne, some rations, and a crate of rotting bags of ancient gold coins — millions of credits’ worth. The well is in a deserted primitive city, uninhabited for centuries but with signs of having been recently looted. After hiding most of the gold, the wolf discovers that he subconsciously has enough survival skills to live through an arduous desert trek, and to face down a band of thieving fennec nomads who abruptly back off when he uses the Thorne name. “Nobody crosses Captain Thorne…” “Heard you were dead… It’s all over Castelrosso…”

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Rats, Bats & Vats / The Rats, the Bats, & the Ugly – book reviews by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten

Fred writes: a few reviews of furry books that I wrote in 2003 or 2004 have vanished from the Internet.  I wrote them for the first version of Watts Martin’s Claw & Quill site, which he has apparently taken down. Here they are back online.

510BY7EKV5L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Rats, Bats & Vats, by Dave Freer & Eric Flint. Maps by Randy Asplund.
Riverdale, NY, Baen Books, September 2000, hardcover $23.00 (388 pages), Kindle $6.99; September 2001, paperback $7.99 (448 pages).

The Rats, the Bats, & the Ugly, by Eric Flint & Dave Freer. Maps by Randy Asplund.
Riverdale, NY, Baen Books, September 2004, hardcover $24.00 (391 pages), Kindle $6.99.

I had intended to review just the latter “sequel”. But it is such a close continuation of the former that to read RBU alone is like starting an 800-page novel in the middle. The introductory synopsis is adequate, but it is much more enjoyable to read the whole story.

Harmony and Reason is a colony planet founded on utopian ideals, which has evolved into a split between an elite upper class of founding Shareholders and an oppressed labor class of cloned “Vats”. Unknown aliens, the sea-urchinlike Korozhet, come to HAR to warn that it is about to be conquered by still other aliens, the brutal insectlike Magh’ empire. But the friendly Korozhet will share their superior technology with the humans to help them defend themselves. Among this technology are soft-cyber implants (brain chips) to increase the intelligence of animals. The two species of animal soldiers that HAR bioengineers are bats, for flying explosive devices into Magh’ camps, and “rats” (actually a bioengineered cross between rats and elephant shrews) which make fanatically vicious commandos.

It does not take long for the front-line troops to realize that the Korozhet are not the benevolent saviors they claim to be. They have engineered the Magh’ invasion to whittle down HAR’s defenses so they can safely conquer it for themselves. The creation of the bats and rats is to develop new cyber-controlled slave species. But by then, the Korozhet have gained psychological control over the incompetent Military High Command. To complicate matters, neither the Korozhet nor most humans realize that the bats and rats are more than just computer-guided cannon fodder. They are truly intelligent and are each planning their own revolt.

This may sound dramatic, but the two-volume novel is mostly a military-political s-f comedy. Much action revolves around the evasions that the front-line troops use to get around the stupidly suicidal orders from the pompous High Command so they can effectively battle the Magh’.

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