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Category: Books

So You’ve Become A Taur, by Johannes Knapp – Book Review by Summercat

by Pup Matthias

So You’ve Become A Taur, by Johannes Knapp. $6, Jarlidium Press, 2018. Webcomic Archive #13. 24 pages, color.

Statement: I received a free copy of this comic for the collection of the Furry Library. My review was not influenced by this.

A comic about the challenges a taur face in a world meant for bipeds,  Johannes Karpp’s (aka Cervelet) takes us through the challenges a newly-taured individual faces, mixing in humor and well thought out and reasoned solutions to problems that would result from suddenly having an additional set of legs.

Originally posted online in 2015, this 2018 release from Jarlidium Press’s Web Comic Archive line includes new material, such as a backstory showing how our hapless hero became a taur, as well as a few new still images.

The worldbuilding is right up my alley, and something I think about constantly just for bipedal characters with tails. How do mass-produced store-bought pants work for digitigrade legs and tails of all sorts of shapes? What about chairs or vehicles?

Cervelet extends this “Well, what about” question to taurs and those with six limbs, and does so interestingly. It is something I will consider in the future.

The art is detailed and I get a sense of a coherent world behind the comic’s obvious PSA humor, however there are a few drawbacks, primarily with the drawn text that would have been better replaced with inked lettering.

Overall, if you’ve got a taur character, or are into worldbuilding with taurs, or just enjoy the humorous situation of a man suddenly cursed (or blessed) with new limbs, I can recommend looking at So You’ve Become A Taur.

Summercat

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In Flux, Edited by Rechan – Book Review by Summercat

by Pup Matthias

In Flux, from Furplanet and edited by Rechan, is an adults-only story anthology with four stories that feature transformation, which is, ahem, a personal favorite of mine. Yet despite two of the stories featuring kinks of mine, that are rarely touched upon, I find myself hesitant to recommend the anthology to the general transformation fetishist audience because I feel it may miss the mark.

This is not a knock on the technical writing skills of the four authors. Each story is well written and clear in their descriptions. The authors know their craft well and it shows. However, in terms of making subject matter for their audience, I can’t help but feel the anthology is lacking.

In Flux contains four stories.

Aesop’s Universe: Savages In Space, by Bill Kieffer, is a science fiction story involving a colony ship on its way to a new world that will be colonized, in part, by a tribal society of lions who are well aware of their technological setting. Huntress Thandiwe is horribly injured while hunting due to the ship becoming damaged from an accident, and her body becomes regenerated using her genes and DNA. This results in a fix to her eyes, but also an androgyn issue that went unnoticed, turning her male. This threatens to complicate issues with her Crewman boyfriend, the lion Bobby.

I love this story. Female to Male is something I enjoy, but more than that, the story goes into how the Thandiwe handles her new body and the changes, set in a backdrop of a major problem with the ship that she helps Bobby with. The story has a satisfactory, for me, ending, and manages character growth in the short few pages it has. The transformation itself isn’t described as much, but there is a video timelapse the character watches.

Wild Dog, by Franklin Leo, is a first person modern day story told from the perspective of Riley, an African Wild Dog. Shifting in this universe is common apparently, as any anthro can infect another anthro with their species. This serves as the center of the drama with his relationship with the dalmation Samantha when she nips him.

I did not like this story. The opening was promising, but the outcome when Riley confronts Samantha about the change being forced on him when he has tried to be courteous about not changing her just upsets me, and the ending feels like an out of character action for both Riley and Samantha. While transformation was at the core of the story, the actual transformation was minimal in description as it served as a plot device for the conflict.

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A tribute to Fred Patten, 1940-2018

by Patch O'Furr

Fred in 1993 at a furry party at San Diego Comic Con. Lizard unknown. Photo by William Earl Haskell.

Fred Patten passed away on November 12, 2018 at age 78, leaving a legacy as historian and founder for the anime and furry fandoms. He was the star guest poster here. It’s hard to think of having no more Fred posts, but easy to say how much he influenced everyone. I’m really going to miss him sending in news tidbits or emails from curious fans, and asking if I can use them, then working out collaboration posts from his prompts. This was one of many, showing how he was sought out as an authority on anime and furry by people as far away as Malaysia.

Fred is remembered by many outside of furry. A memorial post on File770 highlights author David Gerrold calling Fred a “classic old-school fan”.  The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society’s memorial page has Melissa Conway saying: “He was, without a doubt, the dean of Furry Fandom.”

From fellow furry fans, Dronon posted a rememberence of Fred at Flayrah news.  So did Mark Merlino, cofounder of the first furry convention (ConFurence) and organizer of science fiction con parties that paved the way. Shortly before Fred’s passing, I ran into Mark and Rod of The Prancing Skiltaire (the long-running fan house in southern California) at PAWcon in San Jose. They had a table set up to remember gone but not forgotten fans. I think Fred deserves a place of honor in the middle of them all.

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Panique au Zoo; Une Enquête de Poulpe et Castor Burma, by Frédéric Bagères (story), Marie Voyelle (art), Jerôme Alvarez (colors) – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Panique au Zoo; Une Enquête de Poulpe et Castor Burma, by Frédéric Bagères (story), Marie Voyelle (art), Jerôme Alvarez (colors).
Paris, Éditions Delcourt, June 2018, trade paperback, €23,95 (187 [+ 5] pages), Kindle €16,99.

Fred Patten and Lex Nakashima strike again!

“Built in 1740, at the far northern end of the isle, the Canon Zoo is the oldest and greatest zoo in the world. Founded in the XVI century by the monk Sylvestre Marie, it is today managed exclusively by its occupants.

“Aimed at an instructive goal, it offers its visitors, through its presentation of natural habitats, the chance to see how they have lived, over the centuries to the present, “animals in a state of nature”.” The sign is defaced with a graffiti-scrawl saying, “Obey!”

The first pages, a general meeting in the director’s office (a tapir), establish that things are different today. (Also that the dialogue is full of French puns and double-entendres.) Something is causing some of the animals to mutate into forms that are embarrassing at best, potentially fatal at worst. The director has hired two private detectives, Octopus and Beaver Burma, to find the reason and stop it.

“Eight months ago, some employees began showing the first symptoms. I think the otters were the first.”

“What do you mean?”

“They became covered with spines.”

“Like porcupines?”

“Exactly.”

“Like ‘otter-pines?’”

“If you like. They’re incapable today of running their stand in the zoo.”

“What are they selling?”

“Balloons.”

[…]

“Next it was the turn of those that your colleague would call the ‘polar urchins’, who are living today in the canteen’s freezer.”

“Then the ‘cat-pony’ that we put into the Asian animal enclosure.”

“And the ‘oyster-constrictor’ who spends his days trying to swallow the ‘rat-engale’ trying to find its voice.”

“The affair took a nasty turn when we found the “serpent-pie-thon’ dead, of self-asphyxiation. The animals began to get scared.”

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A Peculiar School, by J. Schlenker – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

A Peculiar School, by J. Schlenker.
Olive Hill. KY, Binka Publishing, September 2018, trade paperback, $11.95 (326 [+ 2] pages). Kindle $4.99.

“Miss Ethel Peacock strutted and proudly displayed her plumage as she paced around the waiting room of Mr. Densworth Lion. She had come unannounced, but she was so excited about the idea she had received in a dream, that she dared not lose any momentum. She could have called ahead, but what if he refused to see her? No, she decided not to risk it.” (p. 3)

This is an animal fantasy, but not a furry one. The peacock plumage is on the male, but hey, this is a fantasy. Besides, Jerri Schlenker knows that.

“‘A peacock? A peacock, you say? What is a peacock doing here?’ Mr. Densworth Lion asked his secretary, in disbelief.

‘Technically, she’s a peahen. Her husband is a peacock. That is, if she has a husband. I don’t think she does as she introduced herself as ‘Miss’. But together: they would be peafowl,’ his secretary [a lioness] corrected.

Mr. Densworth Lion uttered a slight roar of impatience.

‘She’s a teacher at the aviary,’ his secretary added.” (pgs. 3-4)

This is at Cub Academy, run by principal Mr. Densworth Lion, in a nature preserve. The animals are civilized; Mr. Lion wears eyeglasses and sits at a desk with papers and a candy jar upon it.

But not too civilized. Or, not into the 21st century:

“‘What I propose. Mr. Densworth Lion, is that we use your school as a model – a model for a bigger school, a university of sorts, one that houses all animals.’

‘All animals?” he roared. ‘We teach cubs here – lion cubs. Such a proposal is ludicrous.’” (p. 11)

Mr. Lion will not even listen to Miss Peacock’s proposal for a school in which all animals are treated equally. Well, maybe not the animals domesticated by humans, like dogs and cats. They’re different:

“The dog barked for a good solid hour almost every night. What was he trying to say? Since dogs had taken up with humans, their language had become garbled and unrecognizable. It was obvious the humans didn’t understand them either as every night the human came out on the porch and yelled something to the dog in the scrambled tongue of humans.” (p. 13)

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Civilized Beasts Volume III, Editor-in-Chief Laura Govednik, Editor Vincent Corbeau – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Civilized Beasts volume III, editor-in-chief Laura Govednik, editor Vincent Corbeau.
Manvil, TX, Weasel Press, September 2018, trade paperback, $8.00 ([vii +] 109 pages).

Here is the third annual volume of animal poetry from Weasel Press. It contains 98 pages of poetry, of mostly one page or less. Several authors have two or more poems. There are far fewer familiar furry fan names this year than there was last year; other than the editors, I recognized only Michael H. Payne. There are five poems by Larry D. Thomas, the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate.

Civilized Beasts is popularly advertised as an anthology of furry poetry, but it is almost all about realistic animals or the wonders of nature. Many authors have written poetic portraits of their own dogs, cats, horses, or goldfish. To be fair, it’s hard to write a work of furry fiction of one page.

There are some rhymes and a lot of blank verse. The cleverest poem graphically is the one chosen to end the volume: “Telltale” by Ruth Sabath Rosenthal. It’s in the shape of a wagging tail.

Civilized Beasts volume III (cover again by Darkomi) is another charity for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “All proceeds from this anthology go towards the Wildlife Conservation Society.”

Full disclosure: I have five poems in this.

Fred Patten

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Mechanical Animals: Tales at the Crux of Creatures and Tech, Edited by Selena Chambers and Jason Heller – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Mechanical Animals: Tales at the Crux of Creatures and Tech, edited by Selena Chambers and Jason Heller.
Erie, CO, Hex Publishers, November 2018, trade paperback, $19.99 (417 pages), Kindle $5.99.

This is not a furry book, but an anthology of 22 stories and articles about mechanical animals, including a cyborg. Most of them are about mindless clockwork robots. There are a few that feature self-aware AIs in the form of animals. These are close enough to furries to warrant Mechanical Animals to be reviewed here.

Mike Libby, in his Introduction, talks about being fascinated by mechanical animals from his childhood. “When I was ten I wanted one of those battery-powered motorized dogs you would see outside Radio Shack, that was leashed to its battery-powered remote control, and after a couple of high-pitched barks, would flip backwards, landing perfectly, ready to repeat his mechanical trick.” (p. 9) Jess Nevins, in his 13-page “Mechanical Animals”, summarizes them in literature from Homer in The Iliad to real examples in history (“The German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Müller von Königsberg, aka Regiomontanus (1436-1476), was reliably reported to have constructed a flying mechanical eagle for the Emperor Maximilian in 1470.” – p. 29), to the present.

“Two Bees Dancing” by Tessa Kum is the first story:

“Focus. This pain is old and familiar. It is not important. Focus on what is important.

‘We aren’t going to hurt you.’

It is on the table before you. Small. Antennae relaxed, wings spread, legs locked and unmoving.

‘We need your help.’ (p. 33)

A nameless government drone pilot on permanent disability is kidnapped and forced to fly a reprogrammed bee for criminal purposes. Instead, the reprogramming puts him into mental contact with the HiveAI and into a whole new world.

“Brass Monkey” by Delia Sherman is set in a clockwork late Victorian London. The characters in Jenny Wren’s Doll and Mechanical Emporium are elderly, crippled Mrs. Wren, the shop assistant Miss Edwige, and Mrs. Wren’s adopted daughter Lizzie. “If Mrs. Wren was the heart of the emporium and Miss Edwige its back and legs, then Lizzie was its inventive mind.” (p. 53). When the emporium becomes especially busy at Christmastime, “The door opened and out came Lizzie in her leather apron, her magnifying spectacles pushed into her cloudy hair, and on her shoulder a small capuchin monkey, such as commonly accompany organ-grinders, wearing a little scarlet vest.” (p. 54). The monkey is Annabella, Lizzie’s clockwork invention, made to help sort out the beads and ribbons and coins of the business day. When Annabella proves skilled enough to tell real coins from counterfeits, the three women set out to find the counterfeiter – but it’s Annabella who solves the case.

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The Moons of Barsk, by Lawrence M. Schoen – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

The Moons of Barsk, by Lawrence M. Schoen.
NYC, A Tom Doherty Associates Book/Tor Books, August 2018, hardcover, $26.99 (430 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $13.99.

This is the sequel to Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, reviewed here in 2016. Barsk has such an unusual and unique plot that you should really read it before The Moons of Barsk. Both have interstellar settings and are set in the far future when humanity is extinct and has been replaced by the descendants of uplifted animals.

You also need to read Barsk first because there is no synopsis here. The opening paragraph is:

“Amidst torrents of rain and blasts of lightning, Ryne stepped from his boat onto the shore of the last island, the place where his life ended. The mental beacon that had guided him across the open water faded away. Clarity replaced certainty, composed of equal parts confusion and anger. Flapping his ears against the downpour he muttered a phrase heard by his students at least once a tenday for the past six decades. ‘The math is all wrong!’” (p. 11)

But Chapter One is titled “Nothing But Lies”. Pizlo, Jorl, and Ryne are Fant, elephant-men of the planet Barsk, looking like a human with an elephant’s head; great flapping ears and a trunk. That’s not why Fant is reviled as abominations throughout the galaxy, though. Of the eighty-seven races (species) of the Galactic Alliance, the Fant are the only ones who are not furred. The Yaks, the Prairie Dogs, the Giant Anteaters, the Hares, the Sloths; all the others have respectable pelts. Only the Fant, divided into Elephs (uplifted Asian elephants) and Lox (African elephants), are disgustingly nude, with wrinkly gray, hairless skin, plus those giant flapping ears and the huge mobile nose.

The Fant are not only known for their hairlessness, though. Barsk is the only planet where the wonder drug koph can be found. Koph enables rare individuals who take it to access the nefshons of the dead and to become Speakers to the dead. “He could see nefshons; the subatomic particles of memory and personality would come at his call. If he summoned enough of them that had belonged to a dead person he could even talk to them.” (p. 22) Barsk is partially about some Fant, and the attempts of some individuals of the other races of the Alliance (notably Nonyx-Captain Selishta, a Cheetah) to get more koph.

Barsk focuses upon a few individual Fant on their planet, and a few members of the Alliance, notably Selista the Cheetah and Lirlowil the Otter, a Speaker, who are especially dependent upon koph. The Moons of Barsk is about Barsk’s relationship with the rest of the Alliance, focusing on why the Alliance wants to destroy Barsk.

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The Passage Series, by John J. Sanders – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

The Passage series.

Rites of Passage, by John J. Sanders.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, September 2016, trade paperback, $11.00 (viii + 257 pages), Kindle $1.99.

City of Passage, by John J. Sanders.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, June 2017, trade paperback, $12.00 (v + 277 pages), Kindle $2.99.

Voices of Passage, by John J. Sanders.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, September 2017, trade paperback, $14.00 (vii + 326 pages), Kindle $3.99.

The Passage trilogy is set on Earth in the far future when humanity is turning much of it over to evolved AIs and new anthropomorphic animal clans that live like the pre-industrial native Americans.

Rites of Passage begins with the Otokononeko, the clans of the evolved lions and house cats living in the Great Sequoia Forests of West Coast North America. There are several offhand references to the humans, in San Francisco, Fresno, and other West Coast North American cities, but they are mostly offstage (at first).

“She dreamed of the dancing, songs sung, and stories told around the large fire. Dohi Aleutsi told a hilarious story about a young human male whose flying car was eaten by a Giant Sequoia tree. Her father and mother had undoubtedly heard the story before. Her father at one point in the story remarked that the car was still in the tree.” (p. 68)

The opening focus is upon Kaniko of the Otokononeko’s Anitsiskwa clan. The novel relates – or bogs down, for those who are not interested in such detail – the culture of the feline civilization in the Great Sequoia Forests. There are seven clans; the Anitsiskwa, Aniwaya, Anigilahi, Anikawi, Aniwodi, Anisahoni, and Anigalogewi. The symbol of the Anitsiskwa is bird claws; that of the Anikawi is antler-adorned leather vests; and so on. Kaniko’s parents and brothers are described, and the Otokononeko game of Stick and Rabbit is both described and played. It is around page 43 before the plot starts moving. Yet the first 42 pages are not boring. They are well-written and present the feline native civilization and characters’ personalities in great detail.

“She heard his crow calls and stopped her movement to listen to the forest. Jamel called two more times and silence. Her third-born brother, Domic, was much more patient and quiet. He was the kind of cat that would lie in wait for you to walk by before he’d pounce on you. She felt the summer breeze sweep through the trees and the tops swayed making the light in the forest dance. Still she waited for the slightest sound of movement. When she left her first-born brother on the ground, she had moved a little tangent to the point where she had heard his last call. She knew he had already moved, and she predicted he would move toward the inner parts of the arena. There the trees thinned until they opened up completely to form a loose circle around a small glade. Domic had long legs and could move faster when the trees were farther apart. They both knew this, and she knew he needed to get between him and the thinning trees,” (pgs. 18-19)

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Jack Wolfgang T.2, Le Nobel du Pigeon, by Stephen Desberg (story) and Henri Reculé – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Jack Wolfgang. T.2, Le Nobel du Pigeon, by Stephen Desberg (story) and Henri Reculé (art).
Brussels, Les Éditions du Lombard, June 2018, hardcover, €13,99 (62 [+ 2] pages), Kindle €9,99.

Here is the latest installment in the Fred Patten and Lex Nakashima service to notify you of high-quality French-language animalière bandes dessinées that are not likely to be published in English.

This is album #2 in the Jack Wolfgang series. I said of #1, “The Jack Wolfgang series looks like it’s designed for the Blacksad market. The main differences are that John Blacksad is a private investigator, and his cases are crime noir with excellently drawn anthropomorphic animals. Jack Wolfgang is a C.I.A. secret agent, and his adventures are, well, too light and too exaggerated for the James Bond market. Say they’re Kingsman clones, with a mixture of funny animal and human secret agents saving the world from megalomaniac funny animal and human villains.”

The humans and the animal-people share the same society. The carnivores have not had to eat meat since the invention of super-mega-tofu several centuries earlier. The humans and animals are supposedly equals, but in actuality, the humans look down on the animals. Jack has to fight this in his CIA human superiors as well as among the world criminals he goes after.

Jack Wolfgang’s cover identity is as the “more elegant than George Clooney, cooler than Tex Avery’s wolves” (vol. 1) leading food critic for the New York Times. This supposedly allows him to go to all the major cities of the world to check their top restaurants. In actuality, he goes to where the CIA sends him, or to where his leads take him. In vol. 1, Enter the Wolf, he met Mme. Antoinette Lavaux, a sultry panther-woman jewel thief who was not officially involved in his case then, so he did not have to bring her in. Since then, by implication, they arrange to meet in the top night spots around the world – Rome, Monte Carlo, the Côte d’Azur, Biarritz, San Francisco, etc. – when they are not “on duty”.

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