Tales from the Guild: Music to Your Ears – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer, submits this review:

tales-from-the-guild-music-to-your-ears-edited-by-anthroaquatic-67102Tales from the Guild: Music to Your Ears, edited by AnthroAquatic. Illustrated by Blaquetygriss.

Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley Books, September 2014, trade paperback $14.95 (133 pages).

The Furry Writers’ Guild was, to quote its website, “founded in 2010 to promote quality anthropomorphic literature and provide support to writers active in this field.” To put it another way, also quoting its website, “The aim of the Furry Writers’ Guild is to be a place where writers of all demographics, genres, and abilities can come together and help improve the quality of anthropomorphic fiction and support its creators.” One must have “at least one short story, poem, or novel-length work featuring anthropomorphic characters/themes published in a paying venue (either inside or outside the furry fandom), paying either a flat fee or a per-word rate for your work, [or have] at least two short stories, poems, or novel-length works featuring anthropomorphic characters/themes published in a non-paying venue (either inside or outside the furry fandom). This includes conbooks. Please note that comics/graphic novels and self-published writing (including work posted on personal websites and gallery sites like FurAffinity) do not count toward membership.”

The FWG created the annual Cóyotl Awards in 2012 for excellence in anthropomorphic literature, as voted upon by the FWG membership. The FWG currently has 101 regular members and 6 associate members; the difference being that the regular members are all authors, while the associate memberships are open to others active in the anthropomorphic literary community such as furry anthology editors, furry specialty book publishers, furry book reviewers, and the like.

Now the FWG has started its own anthology series, “a collaboration of the Furry Writers’ Guild”, to showcase the writing of its members. This first tiny (5” x 8”; 133 pages) volume, Tales from the Guild, consists of eight original short stories, edited by AnthroAquatic (a.k.a. Sean Rivercritic), and illustrated by Blaquetygriss (identified on the publisher’s website as Aisha Galland).

All eight stories have been written around the theme of Music. “There are few things in this world that can invoke the range of emotions that music can,” says the blurb. “It can bring its listeners close together; it can drive its listeners apart. It is a core mechanic in what makes us human, but what about in those that aren’t quite human? ‘Tales from the Guild, Music to Your Ears’ features a collection of stories from veteran and newcomer authors alike that spans several universes, but show that no intelligent creature is immune to the power of music.”

In “Echoes From the Consort Boxby Mark Neeley, the bard Remi the rat has left the ossified Library and University of Music to search the land for some new songs; some new sounds. He is excited to discover what the bats like Oringa, the only one who will talk to him, consider music with their ultrasonic hearing. When Oringa is captured by the giant Queen of the green spiders, he has to rescue her to learn more. (Illustrated on the wraparound cover by Stephanie “Ifus” Johnson.)

In “Deep Down Among the Dagger Dancers” by Michael H. Payne, the squirrel Besker is lured out of his tree by the music of the Dagger Dancer (cat, or gliderumbler) Pelorus and his accordion, Wadsworth. But “The stories all say that Dagger Dancers hate accordion music!” (p. 26) They also say that Dagger Dancers eat squirrels, but Pelorus needs Besker to prove a point among his fellow gliderumblers. Cats. Dagger Dancers. Whatever. “How can he be a monster if he plays the accordion?”, Besker asks. (p. 29) This story is as sprightly as Pelorus’ rollicking music. It also reads like the first in a series. More, Mr. Payne, please.

In “Sugar Pill” by Mars, Mac the fox is despondent when his wife of eight years leaves him. Kinsey, a husky friend, takes him to an animal night club to forget his sorrows. It works, but it’s not the alcohol that does it; it’s the rave music. “‘And this club?’ He [panther bartender] waves a paw around and gestures at the dance floor. ‘It’s like a sugar pill. Most know it isn’t really doing anything, but it feels like it is. Just enjoying the music makes ‘em feel a whole lot better.’” (p. 48)

“Nocturne” by Nathanael Gass is narrated by Mr. Fredrick, a vampire bat pianist. But he is a vampire being drained of his blood by his dog captors, not a drinker. They, and the lion religious fanatic assassin, should be more fearful of his music. “He dashes towards me, and I turn my sonar into a crescendo to keep track of everything in sharp detail. I dodge, tripping him. Something breaks in his pocket as he falls to the floor: probably a vial of holy water. I smash the lamp down across the back of his head. He grunts, then turns and pounces at me. I’m still singing the crescendo to Chopin’s nocturne.” (p. 54)

In “Night of a Thousand Songs” by Jess E. Owen, the green rainforest-covered Isle of Enu is the home of tribes of red wolves, and more recently the coastal settlers brought by Baron Landry, the effete stoat nobleman awarded the recently annexed isle by a distant empire. There is an uneasy peace between the two. But when a legendary drac comes to Enu, its piercing screaming makes the isle impossible for both. A call for help to the empire is answered by a lone bard, the little sand fox (fennec) Nara, who determines that the drac’s unbearable screaming is its way of singing; and that its anguished lament should not be stilled by killing the drac. Nara finds a solution agreeable to all.

In “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” by Huskyteer, college assigned roommates Roger (raccoon) and Frank (fox) are a classic Odd Couple. Frank never studies and will probably flunk out, which is his problem; but his incessant playing of his rock records at top volume makes it impossible for Roger, a law student, to study, which is his problem. When Peace, the linsang who is Frank’s old friend and Roger’s current girlfriend comes with the news that she is going to lose her job because the coffee shop where she works is about to be bought and torn down by Mr. Brennan, a big fox real-estate developer, Frank organizes a big protest musical happening with Peace as the lead singer to generate public opinion against the proposed development; while Roger works alone on forming a legal defense that will stop Mr. Brennan. Both are necessary. Other characters are Moon, the jackrabbit drummer; Weird, the coyote harmonicist; and Mr. Brennan’s Siamese cat receptionist.

Mary E. Lowd donates her popular Shreddy the cat in “Shreddy and the Silver Egg”. Shreddy, one of several pets of the Red-Haired Woman, is annoyed because Cooper the labradoodle has preempted the best sleeping spot, and Susie the hyperactive spaniel puppy makes sleeping impossible anyway. Shreddy finds an unexpected rooftop sleeping spot by convincing a gullible warbler that he will look after her egg for her. A comfortable nest near a TV satellite dish, and a nice snack when the egg hatches… But when it does after being laid by a bird and incubated by a cat, it’s a griffin! Shreddy’s a father! Shreddy has to ask Cooper and Susie how to care for Egypt, the baby griffin. The solution involves Cooper’s singing (howling), the warbler’s birdsong, and the satellite dish’s reception of so much grand opera.

“Melody of a Street Corner” by Sean Rivercritic is set in a furry Grand Rapids, Michigan. Christophe, an arctic fox street violinist, plays Bach’s “Sonata No. 3 in C-Minor” as his specialty. Roland, a 7-year-old ermine orphan, hero-worships Christophe, and he also loves music. When he faces a choice between buying Christophe some bread and donating the coins to a fund for the Michigan Music Association, Roland’s decision has far-reaching consequences.

Tales from the Guild: Music to Your Ears is a fine first anthology that shows the FWG has a bright future. How soon can we expect a second book, and what will its theme be?

– Fred Patten