Dogpatch Press

Fluff Pieces Every Week

Month: September, 2016

Helga: Out of Hedgelands, by Rick Johnson – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

41k8zrifsulHelga: Out of Hedgelands, by Rick Johnson. Map.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, March 2014, trade paperback $14.99 ([ii] 583 pages), Kindle $0.99 free with app.

The five volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles are really only four volumes, published between March 2014 and September 2015; with a 37-page appendix only on Kindle, Dragons: The Untold Story, published as volume 5 for readers who want to know more about the backstory of the Dragons in the story. The pricing is designed to encourage the sales of the Kindle editions. The four volumes are vol. 1, Helga: Out of Hedgelands, March 2014; vol. 2, The Overending, March 2014; vol. 3, Silversion, February 2015; and vol. 4, Willowers, September 2015.

Helga was published in March 2014, but carries a 2012 copyright notice. It begins in a small fogbound harbor town, where a stagecoach is just leaving:

“Just outside, Livery Rats scrambled to prepare the Drownlands Weekly for departure. Travelers loaded quickly as burly Dock Squirrels tossed bags and trunks into the rooftop baggage rack. As soon as the baggage was loaded, the Weekly rolled away from the station with creaking timbers and rattling brass, its freshly serviced wheels smelling strongly of snake grease.

Bouncing along the bare track leading away from the Drownlands station, the Weekly rumbled through the sparsely settled frontier of the Rounds. Except for the Weekly and a few cargo wagons, the bone-jarring road was little used. A river of mud when it rained and a dust-choked washboard of ruts in the dry season, the many stones in the Cutoff road gave its only predictable surface.

Three of the passengers in the Weekly on this particular spring day were creatures we will hear much about in this account of former days. There was a strongly muscled young Wood Cow with soft, thick hair and a lively face. Dressed after the manner of her clan – long barkweave jacket and leggings, lizardskin boots, forest green linen shirt – Helga dozed fitfully, her head lolling against the jostling headboard. Although exhausted by her long journey, a smile played across her face. The sound of the rumbling wagon assured her that she was, indeed, at long last coming home.” (pgs. 2-3)

I’ve quoted this at length to give you a taste of Johnson’s writing. Depending on your taste, it’s either incredibly padded and takes forever for anything to happen, or it’s incredibly rich in detail, so much so that you almost object to the action that sidetracks you from the abundant descriptions of the anthropomorphic world in which it’s set – Helga’s world.

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The Digital Coyote, by Kris Schnee – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51bo46jw5qlThe Digital Coyote, by Kris Schnee.
Seattle WA, CreateSpace, July 2016, trade paperback $8.49 (238 pages), Kindle $3.99.

This is Schnee’s third Thousand Tales book, following the novel Thousand Tales: How We Won the Game, and the novella 2040: Reconnection. There is also the short story “Wings of Faith”, in the anthology Gods with Fur, ed. by Fred Patten (FurPlanet Productions, June 2016). To quote from my review of 2040: Reconnection: “Ludo is the advanced Artificial Intelligence who can scan anyone’s brain and recreate it in ‘her’ fantasy world, in the setting and body of their choice. Handsome men and beautiful women, noble warriors, flying griffins, anthropomorphic animals; anything, living in an ancient Greek or medieval European or sci-fi futuristic paradise. Of course, their original body in 2040 A.D. Earth is dead, and the consequences of this back on Earth may be unknown, but who in Ludo’s world cares?”

Pete Timaeus is a Washington, D.C. senator’s aide; great at data analysis but otherwise with massive psychological problems about dealing with the real world. He wants Ludo to “fix” him. “She” demurs:

“‘You can fix me!’

The AI shook her head. ‘That’s not what uploading is for. People already argue that converting a human brain into software destroys the soul, that my residents are false copies made for suicidal customers. If I deliberately get your mind wrong, what’s the point?’” (p. 3)

What Ludo does is to take Pete into the computer world of Talespace as he is, with his inferiority complex and hypochondria and inability to make choices and acrophobia and insecurities about dealing with other personalities, and lead him into fixing himself. Mostly as a coyote.

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Rise of the Silver Moon, by Kuragari Inuken and K. G. Hobbes – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

rise-of-the-sliver-moon-by-kuragari-inuken-and-k-g-hobbes-206943Rise of the Silver Moon, by Kuragari Inuken and K. G. Hobbes. Illustrated by Shiki Z. Shigls.
Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley Books, May 2016, trade paperback $20.00 (177 pages).

This is a Medievalish fantasy adventure with funny-animal warriors and wizards, including “dragonkin”. I’m not sure what the dragonkin are supposed to look like, despite the picture of one on the cover:

“The dragonkin straightened and unfurled his wings briefly, flexing them in the cool night air then folding them against his back. Adjusting his clothes nervously and checking that he was presentable in his reflection from a window he stepped up to the door, and knocked far more quietly than such a large fist would seem to allow.” (pgs. 2-3)

So the dragonkin have large wings plus clothes. How does that work? Are the shirts or tunics backless? If the dragonkin are humanoid, do they sleep on their backs with those wings?

Never mind. For a funny-animal adventure like this, it doesn’t matter.

Khan the dragonkin/dragon is the monk-sensei of a martial-art school. He is determined to climb a cursed mountain for the healing flowers that grow only at its top. The flowers grow at the foot of a stone statue of a humanoid wolf that comes to life when he picks them. After an exhausting fight, Khan throws the wolf off the mountaintop to its death. But when it dies, the wolf’s spirit possesses Khan:

“He felt something bubble up in his chest and rise in his throat, escaping his maw in a loud lupine howl! Khan clapped his hands over his mouth and shivered as he kneeled, feeling extremely weak and shaky. Another howl pierced the now silent night and made the dragon double over retching on his hands and knees.” (p. 19)

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The Origin Chronicles: Mineau, by Justin Reece Swatsworth – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51tacpDt0ML._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_The Origin Chronicles: Mineau, by Justin Reece Swatsworth. Illustrated by the author.
Grampian, PA, Dolphyn Visions, December 2008, trade paperback $34.95 (391 [+ 1] pages), Kindle June 2016 $3.98.

“The universe is a living experiment in the realm of possibility. From the largest stars down to the smallest particles of matter, everything exists because at some point it became possible to exist. In this context, time simply marks the beginning and completion of these possibilities. Everything changes in the universe, yet amazingly it never stops experimenting. As one object reaches the end of its existence, a new one is born … the possibilities are endless.

The only constant in the universe is the experience of curiosity. Curiosity is not only the signature of possibility, it is the beginning of it.” (p. 6) Etc., at great length.

The Origin Chronicles: Mineau is the story of one dolphin’s experiences. To the reader, his background may be of greater interest.

“My family and I decided to swim over to the celebration on this particular occasion. After all we lived on the coastline directly opposite the city, and it was only a short swim to reach the docks. The levitation tram would be packed at this hour and honestly, something just felt more natural about the water. There was noting quite like a warm ocean on a brisk evening!” (p. 9)

“As we both glided through the water, I marveled at the sights taking place below us. Vast green tunnels and tubes could be seen stretching for miles, providing services like power, transportation of goods, and walkways for those who did not feel like traversing the waterways of the city and getting wet. These tubes were particularly busy tonight.” (p. 11)

Mineau is part of a world of anthropomorphized dolphins. He is an adolescent living in a coastal city designed by uplifted dolphins for uplifted dolphins. “Dolphins were shown being given legs and arms to be able to work on land, which allowed them to have increased mobility.” (p. 21) Who uplifted the dolphins? That would be a spoiler.

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Poem Anthology Civilized Beasts 2016 – OPEN FOR SUBMISSION

by Pup Matthias

2237d0_279de4e132234f0dbc1eb187f7931614When most of us think of Furry writing we think of your standard novels, novellas, short stories, even comics, but one form that doesn’t get the same attention is poetry. Mainly cause there hasn’t been too many opportunities in the fandom to showcase anthropomorphic poems. There are a few exceptions like Heat and the soon to be released anthology Wolf Warrior III which offer collections that mix poems with short stories, but there hasn’t been an anthology dedicated to poetry alone. Until last year when Laura “Munchkin” Govednik released Civilized Beast. Now she’s back again for round two. Civilized Beast 2016 is open for submission.

So where did the idea of doing a poem anthology come from?

The idea for Civilized Beasts started in the Furry Writer’s Guild.  I was surprised to find there were other members and future members who also had a high interest in poetry and hoped to see more of it in the community.  Through various discussions, I realized that a poetry collection about animals for animals could be a great way for people in and out of the furry community to connect.

When it comes to theme, Civilized Beasts does the same thing as Heat by having a generally open theme for everyone to play with.

The theme this year is the same as last year: Animals, be it the outside observation of animals, in the mind of an animal, or the symbolism of an animal.  By leaving the theme so open, it allowed poets a lot of freedom last year, and an incredible variety of poetry was submitted because of it.  It is my hope that poets will be just as inspired this year, so I decided not to limit the theme.

Munchkin is looking for all kinds of poems. Whether they are your traditional rhymes, sonnets, haiku, or free verse. You are free to write what speaks to you. Munchkin wants you to think outside the box. To go wild. There’s even no word count limit to your poems.

For anyone interested, there’s no maximum or minimum line count, though longer poems will be looked at more critically since we only have so many pages to work with. 

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Furries show how a good community is the antidote for soullessness.

by Patch O'Furr

There was a silly post here that mixed politics and the friendly community of furries. I got a little heat from all sides for that. (I wouldn’t have it any other way… whether it’s a controversy or a furry cuddle sandwich, I like being in the middle.) Why do that? Because it’s a group of people just like other people, so they mix it themselves sometimes.  Not my fault for noticing.

It relates to a post by another blogger. Let’s get to his in a minute, but first meet Zachary Byron Helm. He’s a talent I have appreciated since Livejournal, the kind who would be considered some kind of subcultural mogul in a big coastal city.  He has gathered a following of his own from his lair in Colorado. It’s an entirely different subculture, but you might have seen me post about loving punk/goth and industrial music from time to time. (Subcultures are at their best when they mingle and mutate.)

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The Dragon Tax, by Madison Keller – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

511ionAOd9L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_The Dragon Tax, by Madison Keller
Portland, OR, Hundeliebe Press, June 2016, trade paperback $9.99 (141 pages), Kindle $2.99.

This lighthearted little book is an expansion of the short story that appeared in the RainFurrest 2015 charity anthology, A Menagerie of Heroes; now out of print. Sybil Dragonsbane, a young professional dragon slayer, is called to the Kingdom of Thima. It has a dragon problem – but not the usual kind:

“‘Actually, we quite like having a dragon on the island,’ the King sat forward, eyes shining. Multiple chins jiggled as he wagged his hard around theatrically. ‘They bring lots of adventurers through the town, adventurers who all pay for a permit to hunt the dragon. They drop gold at local businesses before going off on their hunt. Whether they survive or not, that is not my problem.’” (pgs. 5-6)

None of the previous dragon hunters have survived, and the dragon has amassed quite a pile of gold and gems. Now King Jonathan has decided to tax it. The problem is getting the dragon to pay the tax. That’s why he has summoned Sybil; to offer her the new post of Thima’s dragon tax collector:

“‘My fee is double.’ Sybil placed her hands on her daggers.

‘Double?’ the King roared, surging to his feet. ‘I’m not asking you to kill the thing.’

‘True, what you’re asking is even more dangerous. You’re asking me to leave a dragon alive, a dragon that now will know my scent and my tricks. If that won’t work for you …’” (p. 8)

What happens, about a third of the way through, is unexpected. It is probably supposed to be a major surprise to the reader, but it is impossible to keep from giving away a spoiler and to go on reviewing the final 2/3 of the book. Briefly, Riastel the dragon turns human; Sybil learns that King Jonathan and his wizard Baldwin lied to her and have a more sinister plot, and the dragonhunter and dragon-turned-human team up to save both their lives. Also, Sybil is a young woman and Riastel makes a very handsome and hunky human male. Romance ensues. This is Book One of a series, so the reader will not be surprised to have an ending that leads to further adventures.

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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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