Book review – Furry Planet: A World Gone Wild is an enjoyable tour of furries around the world.
by Dogpatch Press Staff
Furry Planet is an Interesting Complement to Furry Nation – by Grubbs Grizzly
Six years ago, author Joe Strike released Furry Nation: The True Story of America’s Most Misunderstood Subculture (Cleis Press), a nicely comprehensive history of the furry fandom. Being very interested in the fandom, I naturally bought and read it. So, when Strike released Furry Planet: A World Gone Wild (includes History, Costumes, and Conventions) (Apollo), I of course purchased it as well.
The book is not what I expected.
Reading the title, I thought it was going to be more history, expanding upon the U.S.-focused first title with a history of conventions and furry culture in Europe, Asia, and other continents. In the book’s introduction, Strike even writes: “Furry Planet: A World Gone Wild remedies Nation’s oversight of the global furry community and in the following pages you’ll meet furs based worldwide who have been inspired by our misunderstood subculture….”
The first chapter, “It’s a Furry World,” starts off promising to stick to what I thought was the book’s premise with a brief look at the U.S. before moving on to a 28-page whirlwind tour of fandoms in the U.K., Europe, Russia, Singapore, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Most of the book after this, however, is about furriness outside the fandom. That is, how anthropomorphic arts have pervaded world cultures in everything from sculpture and paintings to film and performance arts.
This is some fascinating stuff. Strike, through interviews and research, has uncovered a lot of truly interesting tidbits about human culture, ranging from the humorous to the slightly disturbing. For example, there is a lengthy interview with Dr. Stuart Sumida, a paleontologist and expert on human and animal anatomy who has served as a consultant on many animated anthro-animal movies such as Brother Bear and How to Train Your Dragon. Dr. Sumida offers insights into how to create believable anthro animals. Strike interviews some avant-garde artists, as well, such as Anthony Ausgang, a leader in the “lowbrow artists movement”; Swedish sculptor Margit Brudnin, who is known for her large anthro-rabbit pieces; and performance artist and director Rob Roth, whose Craig’s Dream is about a homeless wolflike creature’s sad plight.
These are just a few of the interviews and discussions of various mainstream artists, some of them American, some of them from other countries. Mixed in with these chapters are discussions of literature, furry costuming, cartoons, Japanese monsters, video games, TV shows, and so on. Some of the players are furry (such as Patch O’Furr from Dogpatch Press and Dr. Courtney Plante of FurScience), and others are not (as noted above). It concludes with Strike’s musings as to whether or not furry will (or should) enter the mainstream.
This is a desultory, peripatetic performance that makes the book more easily digestible chapter-by-chapter, rather than reading it cover-to-cover. It’s rather like playing Pokémon Go in which you are exploring the world and Strike’s book serves as your mobile phone through which you are able to discover interesting creatures to capture, which makes the book best suited for readers with short attention spans. It’s enjoyable and interesting, with lots of little-known factoids (such as the story of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien at a party wearing some unusual garb), but disorganized in a way that disallows any possibilities for a smooth narrative.
Exacerbating this problem is the lackluster cover and page design (not even running headers or footers?) from the publisher, as well as the handling of illustrations. There is literally only one illustration in the main body of the book (comparing primagens and protogens) with 31 color illustrations at the back of the book. Now, grouping color photos at the back (or, more typically, in the middle) of a book is an understandable (and oft-used) way to save some printing costs on glossy paper while providing nice graphics. However, if you’re going to do that, it would have been immensely helpful to the reader to provide in-text page references for them. For example, when talking about Brudnin’s sculptures, add a note sending the reader to the photos in back (oh, and add page numbers to the photo pages next time, please, Apollo). A much better strategy would have been to put more black-and-white illustrations in the book’s main text, and then, for fun, add extra color photos in the back (or middle). Also, the book has extensive endnotes, which is great, but an index would have been appreciated.
Furry Planet is an enjoyable read, full of discoveries and surprises, but one that needs better focus and definitely a less misleading title and marketing. It’s really not a standalone book, but more of a supplement to Strike’s Furry Nation. I would recommend you buy Nation first, read it, and then get Furry Planet. Both are worthwhile and fun tours of the fandom from very different perspectives.
About the Author
Grubbs Grizzly is the owner of Uncle Bear Publishing, LLC (www.unclebearpublishing.com), which specializes in furry nonfiction. He is also the columnist for “Ask Papabear” (www.askpapabear.com) and runs the annual Good Furry Awards (https://www.askpapabear.com/good-furry-award.html).
Like the article? These take hard work. For more free furry news, follow on Twitter or support not-for-profit Dogpatch Press on Patreon. Want to get involved? Try these subreddits: r/furrydiscuss for news or r/waginheaven for the best of the community. Or send guest writing here. (Content Policy.)