The History of Furry Publishing, Part One: Beginnings – by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer. Part Two, Current Publishers, posts tomorrow.
This is to some extent a “define your terms” question. Furry fandom got started, depending upon whom you ask, with the amateur press associations (APAs) Vootie and Rowrbrazzle. Vootie, “The Fanzine of the Funny Animal Liberation Front”, run by Reed Waller & Ken Fletcher of Minneapolis s-f fandom, lasted from April 1976 to February 1983; 39 bi-monthly issues. Vootie self-destructed when its Official Editors, Waller & Fletcher, grew too disinterested to continue it any longer. A member, Marc Schirmeister of Los Angeles, tried to keep it going, failed, and started its replacement, the quarterly Rowrbrazzle, beginning in February 1984. Rowrbrazzle was designed so that, when the Official Editor steps down or is unable to continue, another member is selected to replace him. Rowrbrazzle is still going after thirty years; the current O.E. is William Earl Haskell of Houston, Texas. So it’s technically a current furry publication.
Vootie and Rowrbrazzle, and later furry APAs such as the Furry Press Network, Huzzah!, and Canada’s FURthest North Crew, exist(ed) as membership clubs averaging 25 to 30 members, whose members print their own fanzines in enough copies for all members, and send them all to the O.E. for assembly into a super-fanzine of 25 to 30 copies that are sent to each member. The only way to get a copy is to join the APA and publish your own pages. Private membership APAs are traditionally not counted as furry publishing.
The earliest generally available publication in furry fandom was the fanzine FurVersion, published by Kyim Granger (real name: Karl Maurer) of the San Francisco Bay area. FurVersion ran for twenty-one issues from May 1987 to November 1990. It began as a simple mailing list of furry fans’ names and addresses, so they could keep in touch with each other in pre-Internet days. Fans began sending in their sketches and amateur fiction for publication, and FurVersion quickly turned into an amateur magazine for furry art & fiction. It had a cover price and subscription. FurVersion was the first of many amateur magazines published by furry fans from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. The most famous and successful was Yarf!; the Journal of Applied Anthropomorphics, edited and published by Jeff Ferris of the San Francisco Bay area, with the help of Bay Area furry fandom. It lasted for 69 issues, from January 1990 to September 2003. Yarf! is currently being republished as five-issue volumes by Jarlidium Press of Seattle (see below).
Other notable furry fanzines were PawPrints Fanzine, edited by Conrad “Lynx” Wong & T. Jordan “Greywolf” Peacock; FurryPhile Magazine, edited by Brian L. Miller and later Bryon L. Havranek; Steam Victorian, edited by Zjonni Perchalski; Mythagoras, edited by Watts Martin & Bill Biersdorf; Zoomorphica, edited by Watts Martin; FURtherance, edited by Runé (Ray Rooney) of the Funny Animal Anti-Defamation League; Gallery, edited by Richard Chandler; The Ever-Changing Palace, edited by Lex Nakashima; Fantastic Furry Stories, edited by Mike Curtis; Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe, written, edited, & published by a furry writers’ & artists’ collective in Seattle; Fang, Claw & Steel, edited by Terry Wessner in Canada; Fur Scene, edited by Martin Dudman in England; South Fur Lands, edited by Jason Gaffney and later Bernard Doove in Australia. Kyim Granger ran Fauxpaw Productions/Publications from 1996 to 2006; two fanzine-format magazines, Fur Plus and Fur Visions, and several fanzine-format novellas, notably the Fornax series by Matt J. McCullar about the misadventures of four ratel sisters trying to become a hit quartet in the sleazy pop-music industry. A couple of these fanzines lasted for fifty issues or more; most lasted around ten issues; a couple lasted only one or two issues. Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe is the only one still being published, and it is a special case. It does not accept general submissions; all stories have to fit into and are carefully edited to fit into its fictional interstellar universe. (The Tai-Pan is a merchant spaceship with an anthropomorphic crew.)
These and other furry amateur magazines/fanzines ranged from home-mimeographed to professionally printed. In almost all cases, their editor was also their publisher. The individual publications disappeared for different reasons – in one case, a minor government official who did not believe in furry fandom threatened to have its editor arrested for fraud if he did not discontinue it, and the fan could not afford to fight it – but in general, in the early 2000s two things happened: (1) rising printing and postage costs meant that the publication would be sold at a loss unless the cover price and subscriptions increased so much that people would stop buying it; and (2) fan writers and artists switched to posting their works on Internet websites, and the free submissions of furry art & fiction that the publications relied upon dried up.
This did not matter too much, because by then, what most people mean by “furry publishing” had finally started. The first furry specialty publishing companies had appeared, usually getting their books printed through new print-on-demand technology. They had a rocky beginning, but by the early 2010s, several furry small presses were firmly established.
Furry fandom can thank Paul Kidd of Australia for this. Kidd has been a fanatic furry fan for decades. He submitted his earliest furry novels to mainstream publishers, who universally rejected them as too weird to sell. Kidd joined Rowrbrazzle in April 1989, and immediately started serializing one of his unsalable manuscripts; the furry 17th-century Mus of Kerbridge; so there is proof of when he started. Kidd did finally sell Mus of Kerbridge, published as a TSR Books paperback in April 1995.
The first furry book publishers began with Paul Kidd novels. Darrel Benvenuto, a grandiosely-promoting furry entrepreneur during the 1990s (he published four issues of The American Journal of Anthropomorphics, and advertised it as the leading furry professional magazine), announced around 1999 that he was starting the first furry professional publishing company. He did publish two trade paperback novels: Paul Kidd’s unsold A Whisper of Wings, with cover and illustrations by Terrie Smith (Vision Books, October 1999, vi + 348 pages), and the commissioned The Rats of Acomar, also with cover and illustrations by Smith (Vision Novels, October 2000, 197 pages). The Rats of Acomar was written to be the first novel in Vision’s Tales of the Mornmist series, and Benvenuto announced that the next three were finished, each by a different author, but they were never published. Benvenuto launched a comic-book line slightly earlier, Vision Comics, with four titles. Most never got past the second issue.
Meanwhile, Martin Dudman started United Publications as a bookstore near London. United Publications was primarily a mail-order service for importing American books and fanzines, more comic books than furry titles, for sale to British fans. But Dudman did want to publish furry books that were high-quality that no mainstream publisher would buy. In April 2000 United Publications released Paul Kidd’s furry Arabian Nights novel Fangs of K’aath (also serialized in Rowrbrazzle during the 1990s) as a hardbound book with a dust jacket and interior art by Monika Livingstone (iii + 364 pages). Furry fandom assumed that Kidd gave Dudman the manuscript for free just to get it printed. It was (and is; it’s still available) a beautiful book.
Unfortunately, Dudman decided that publishing a “real book” was too much work. United Publications’ next announced book was Tales of Perissa by Brock Hoagland; a collection of eleven furry pastiches of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian sword-&-sorcery adventures featuring a teenaged leopardess assassin. But when it was published in July 2001, it was little more than an 80-page comic-book format stiff-covered pamphlet of the first five stories. UP followed it up in January 2004 with Tales of Perissa: Book 2, also 80 pages with the six remaining stories; but only UP’s publicity considered these “books”. United Publications still exists, primarily as a British mail-order importer (a specialty today is American editions of Japanese anime & manga) but still publishing the occasional furry role-playing-game or furry comic-strip booklet. It does have three more “real” furry books to its credit: the novel Fangs of K’aath II: Guardians of Light, by Paul Kidd (January 2006, 337 pages); the collection Tales of the Fur Side, stories by Vixxy Fox, art by Dark Natasha (June 2006, 187 pages); and the hardcover Sabrina Online: A Decade in Black and White, by Eric W. Schwartz (April 2012, 164 pages). UP also publishes the annual trade paperback collections of the Sabrina Online Internet comic strip by Eric W. Schwartz; currently up to #14. (https://www.up1.co.uk/)
United Publications is still going, but it publishes new books so seldom that it’s not usually considered one of the successful publishers. Those are all in the U.S.