Tales from the Guild: World Tour, Edited by Ocean Tigrox – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Tales from the Guild: World Tour, Edited by Ocean Tigrox.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, July 2018, trade paperback, $9.95 (210 pages), eBook $4.95.
This says, “Edited by Ocean Tigrox. Co-edited by Madison Keller, George Squares, and MikasiWolf”. Giving credit to everyone involved.
This is not a sequel, but it is the second Tales from the Guild book. The first was Music to Your Ears, edited by AnthroAquatic, and published by Rabbit Valley in September 2014.
The Guild is the Furry Writers’ Guild, founded in 2010 by Sean Silva. In 2012 it created the Cóyotl Awards, voted on by the FWG members annually for the best anthropomorphic novel, novella, short story, and anthology of the year. The FWG currently consists of over 180 members; most of the authors who write the stories that fill the anthologies and novels from the furry specialty publishers. Tales from the Guild is a showcase of the writing of its members, published as a fundraiser for the Guild.
World Tour consists of eight stories set all around the world. “But how would these tales change if, instead of humans, the world was populated by anthropomorphic creatures?”
“She Who Eats” by Frances Pauli is set in Ternate, East Indonesia. Kittitas Jones, a calico cat, travels from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, to Ternate where her mother has just died:
“The boat railing pitched again, making the Molucca Sea a diagonal slash of blue and turning Kit’s stomach inside out. She clenched both paws around the wood and closed her eyes tight against the vertigo, the sense that her world was toppling overboard.” (p. 11)
Kit’s mother was a scientist who left modernized Jakarta for Ternate ten years ago to study the native customs, and never came back. Kit, traveling there to wrap up her mother’s affairs, finds that Ternate is inhabited by Monitor lizard natives who still practice their old culture, including the eating of meat.
“‘I was hoping to be quick.’ She flicked her tail against the back of her legs and pressed the tips of her claws against her pants leg. ‘I’m not here to sightsee.’
‘These things take a while,’ the tiger [the captain of her boat] insisted. ‘You’ll see. Island animals don’t move like city animals, don’t do anything like city animals. He shuddered, prompting her curiosity despite her intentions.
‘What does that mean?’
‘Island life is slow,’ he said. ‘But Ternate is different. Some say, in the shadow of Gamalama, they still eat the meat.’ He grimaced, showing a mouthful of yellow-stained fangs.
‘That’s ridiculous.’ Kit sniffed and then pressed a paw pad over her nose. She mumbled, trying not to let the smell in. ‘My mother wouldn’t have stayed if they did.’” (pgs. 12-13)
Kit and her mother were vegetarians. “’Predation was eradicated through generations of adaptation, through study and dietary modification…’” (p. 31) Kit learns that her mother went native and became She Who Eats, the high-priestess/goddess of the lizards’ religion, which included eating fish; and that the natives want her to become her mother’s successor.
It’s a good story, but I’m not sure how it shows “instead of humans, the world was populated by anthropomorphic creatures”. According to Wikipedia, Ternate and its natives are modernized. Kit wouldn’t have to take a small boat to get there. “During the 2011 eruption [of Gamalama], Indonesia closed a domestic airport near the volcano for several days”. The story looks like a fantasy in more than turning Ternate’s inhabitants into anthro Monitor lizards.
“The White World” by Dark End is set in Antarctica, around Antarctic Station Zeta-3:
“Antarctic Station Zeta-3 was a series of industrial buildings connected by a spider’s web of underground tunnels, all kept at a habitable temperature and humidity. The natives found it uncomfortable to be in for too long, but tourists, especially artists, loved the exotic environs and visited during the summer months, when travel in and out was easiest. By far the most common inhabitants of Zeta-3 were scientists, engineers, and explorers like Estela, coming from far-off countries to investigate the last Terran frontier.” (pgs. 44-45)
The main characters are Estela, a Portuguese lynx with psychological problems – maybe; Igor, a Russian polar bear; and Hugo, a ghost if he isn’t just in Estela’s imagination. There actually isn’t anything in the story that calls for the characters to be anthro animals, except the suggestion that, outside the station, the natives – anthro penguins – have their own culture.
“Waterlogged” by Madison Keller is set in a Portland, Oregon inhabited by anthro otters, beavers, raccoons (local natives), dogs, cats – and humans:
“Sam slapped her long, flat tail on the docks watching the otter police divers swim the corpse to shore. As they grew close, the spotlights illuminated light-brown fur, a stocky body, webbed feet, and a flat tail like her own. A beaver. Dead in the Willamette River.” (p. 61)
Sam Digger is a beaver police detective, and this is a murder mystery. A human is a suspect:
“‘Rick. Eric Russel?’ She poked the human’s leg to get his attention.
The human set his phone down and turned on his stool, scanning the bar overtop of Sam’s head. ‘Huh, thought I heard my name?’
‘Yeah, down here!’ Sam’s tail struck the wooden floor again with a solid whack.
‘Oh my gosh!’ Rick slid off his stool and crouched in front of her. Alcohol fumes from his breath stung her nose. ‘Aren’t you just so cute!’
‘Sir, I’m a detective with the Portland City Police Department.’ Sam held her badge up into the human’s face while she backed up a few steps. ‘Are you Eric Russel, Dillon Dam’s emergency contact?’” (pgs. 67-68)
The species in this story are their natural sizes. The humans are much larger than foxes, beavers, rats, skunks, and similarly-sized mammals, but smaller than the bears, bison, and foreign animals like zebras, hippos, tigers, and pandas. Different areas of Portland are designed for different species:
“With the house being human-sized in construction the light switches would be above her head, out of easy groping reach, so Sam pulled out her flashlight and clicked it on. After a few moments of shining the light around near the door she located the switch. She had to stretch to reach it. Sam blinked, blinded by the overhead light as it winked on, but at least now she could examine the room.” (p. 80)
The species have adapted to living together despite their natural sizes and appearances. “The locks on the other side of the door rattled and the door clicked open to reveal the gorgeous female beaver from the Voodoo surveillance video. She wore a pair of lacy pajamas covered by a robe.” (p. 84) There is enthusiastic mutual M/M sex between a human and a much smaller animal. “Waterlogged” has a stereotypical plot, but the multispecies setting makes it highly unusual.
“Frost Bridge” by Amethystos, set in the Bering Strait, is the first story that matches the challenge of “if, instead of humans, the world was populated by anthropomorphic creatures”. The characters are Sybil Windbrooke, a sparrow, and Dmitri, an old elk (reindeer), and the location is the Siberian side of the frozen ocean over what used to be the land bridge connecting Siberia with North America. Dmitri has built a Frost Bridge rest point for the exhausted herds of elk who are drawn by instinct to migrate each year from Siberia to America over the ice bridge that no longer stretches all the way:
“Dmitri suddenly surged forward and loomed over the bull. Standing side by side with another elk, Sybil could finally see that his large frame and huge antlers were outstanding, even by elk terms. ‘I have seen dozens more winters than you – yet, you come to challenge my knowledge? I, who journeyed the Frost Bridge to its end? I, who watched as my herd fell from cold, fro exhaustion, from starvation? I, who lives my winters out in solace where the cold burns?’
‘What’s your name, fool?’
‘I am no fool,’ spat the bull. ‘My name is Artyom. We traveled for miles across Siberia because our souls call out from the other side of the land. You must feel it, too. The path of our ancestors burns in our hearts. We must go to meet them.’
‘You are fifty winters too late. Each year, the bridge grows shorter and shorter. No elk has returned from the land of our ancestors for as long as I’ve guarded this place. I offer you food and shelter. I can guide you to the next rest point on your journey south. But I cannot allow you to pass without the knowledge that you will die on the bridge.’” (p. 102)
This is turning into a long review. Let me say right now that all of the stories are well-written and enjoyable, although all except “Waterlogged” and “Frost Bridge” fail at being “instead of humans, the world was populated by anthropomorphic creatures”. The others are really funny-animal stories that would work just as well with human characters.
“Tempus Inperfectum” by Al Song takes place in Stuttgart, Germany, and is about Volker, a badger, and Lorenzo, an Italian otter, who are young amateur musicians in a M/M relationship. “The Forgiveness Hex” by George Squares has Acapulco, Mexico as a very Catholic location. Lupe and Eliana, lovebirds, are cousins; two girls at St. Aloysius school, preparing for a school pageant with Sister Luciana, a doe, as their teacher. “Vanillupus and Other People’s Wits Take on the Inhospitable World” by Slip Wolf, is an almost-slapstick comedy (and my favorite); narrated by Van, a vain husky rock star. His private airplane, flying with him and his backup entourage from gigs in Europe to San Francisco, is forced by storms off course to Prince Patrick Island, Canada, at the edge of the Arctic Circle. They barely manage to land on an airstrip by a town of penguins. (Yes, penguin at the North Pole. The story justifies it.) “Here I am, trapped thousands of miles from waiting fans in a polar purgatory with the skies unflyable, a giant ice floe blocking the only way out by boat and nobody loving me – let’s not forget that part.” (p. 174) Van’s team convince him that while they’re there, they might as well create a winter-wonderland music video. “The Gaucho” by Corgi W, is set in Tres Lagos, Argentina, a small town at the tip of Patagonia. The gaucho, an old bobcat, encounters Luc, a coyote, the mayor’s young son. Or is it Lucia, the mayor’s young daughter?
Tales from the Guild: World Tour (cover by Lando) is enjoyably exotic, with eight stories bouncing from the South Seas to the South Pole; from rainy Oregon today to the frozen Bering Strait thousands of years ago; from Germany to Mexico; and from the top of Canada to the tip of Argentina. It’s a very good showcase of the authors in the Furry Writers’ Guild.
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