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Category: Reviews

Dissident Signals, Edited by NightEyes DaySpring and Slip Wolf – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Dissident Signals, edited by NightEyes DaySpring and Slip Wolf.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, July 2018, trade paperback, $19.95 (349 pages), Kindle $9.95.

“Everyone wants to create a perfect world.

Whether crafted by benevolent computers or drafted in the boardrooms of corporations that own all we ever know, shining cities and indomitable Empires have risen to reveal the very best of us. The leaders we choose, and those forced upon us, can create hell or paradise. Sometimes they create both at the same time.” (blurb)

Of course, things don’t go as intended. This anthology contains “sixteen dystopian stories about greed, power, and control from worlds like ours but not ours. Stories about hope, despair, and those willing to stand up to their oppressors to resist.” (blurb)

The frame, created by the editors and illustrated on the cover by Teagan Gavet, is of a nameless individual holed up in a ruined building, broadcasting sixteen accounts of what went wrong all over the world.

In “0.02%” by Faora Meridian, 0.02% is the amount of the world population that is immune to Core’s brainwashing additive to the air, called Whimsy, making everyone happy and peaceful and docile. Since Core can’t Whimsy-fy the entire atmosphere of Earth, people are brought inside enclosed Colonies all around the world. The 0.02% of the population who are unaffected by Whimsy are considered unmanageable and warlike, and are regretfully euthanized. Jordan Mulley and her brother Blake are freedom fighters among the 0.02%, trying to infiltrate Core Colony Sixty-Two to rescue a youth about to be tested for his susceptibility or resistance to Whimsy. The characters debate whether a world where 99.9998% of people are happy and peaceful in a idyllic setting is bad, if the other 0.02% are killed.

“Chasing the Feeling” by Mog Moogle is like the previous story, but much bleaker. Mirra is also inside an enclosed dome, but the entire world outside is uninhabitable:

“The reddened sky dissipated over the wall. Behind the emitters, the deadly cloud was repulsed and the original shades of night stretched on in its place. With a hiss, the access hatch opened and the vixen crawled in.” (p. 39)

Again, everyone is brainwashed, but the regimentation is much harsher. Mirra also fights against the system, but subconsciously rather than deliberately, and it is implied that it is too late to oppose the system if any life is to survive. “Chasing the Feeling” is better-written than “0.002%”, but more depressing. Both “0.02%” and “Chasing the Feeling” are funny-animal stories. Their characters are described as anthropomorphic animals, but they might as well be humans.

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Cottons [1] The Secret of the Wind, by Jim Pascoe – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Cottons [1] The Secret of the Wind, by Jim Pascoe. Maps, illustrations by Heidi Arnhold.
NYC, First Second, July 2018, hardcover, $19.99 (242 [+ 22] pages), Kindle $9.99.

Watership Down is known for its creation of a language and religion for its rabbits. Cottons, a deluxe hardcover graphic novel trilogy, has a rabbit history, religion, geography, industry, currency, and “magic”. This is mostly presented as background information in the unpaged epilogue to this first of three volumes.

The story takes place in the Vale of Industry, one of two vales in the World of Lavender (which is much less realistic for rabbits than the rabbit world in Watership Down). The Vale has two main species of inhabitants, the prey rabbits (called cottons) and the predator foxes.

The main protagonist is Bridgebelle, an apparently ordinary doe working in Wampu’s carrot factory. The Industry page explains:

“Sometime during the Tooth Age, an industrious rabbit named Rekra had a wild idea: if rabbits eat carrots for energy, then there should be a way to extract the energy out of carrots in a more pure form. After many failed experiments, he discovered a method of refining carrots into a light orange powder called cha.” (p. [255])

“Wampu Industries”, where most rabbits work, refines carrots into the cha that powers all rabbit materialism. Also rabbit art, but creating art is considered a waste of needed cha. Due to the need for more and more cha, there are less and less carrots for food, leading to a growing hunger problem. Bridgebelle would rather be free to use cha to create objects of art (called thokchas), but this gets her a reputation of being lazy, frivolous, and wasteful of cha.

In addition, the foxes (all shown as evil villains) are trying to force the rabbits to turn the carrot factory over to them. They want the factory and the cha for different reasons: Marrow Winterborne to kill the rabbits and gain a supply of endless power; Sylvan to enslave the rabbits and use the cha to lead the foxes to the Black Sun and summon the Broken Feather King, the ruler of Empyrean, the cottons’ Hell (but it is in the sky); and Vor for the cha as an opium-like drug to which he is addicted.

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Tales of the Firebirds, by Kyell Gold – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Tales of the Firebirds, by Kyell Gold. Illustrated by Tess Garman.
Mountain View, CA, 24 Carat Words, June 2018, trade paperback, $14.95 (167 [+ 1] pages), eBook $6.99.

Kyell Gold is the author of the five mega-popular “Dev and Lee” novels, published by Sofawolf Press between 2009 and 2016, featuring the homosexual lovers Devlin Miski (tiger), a football star for the Chevali Firebirds, and Wiley Farrel (fox), a gay rights activist and football talent scout: Out of Position, Isolation Play, Divisions, Uncovered, and Over Time. Tales of the Firebirds is Gold’s own collection of twelve short stories about Dev, Lee, and their friends (mostly Dev’s Firebirds teammates), written to answer readers’ questions and to fill out their personalities.

Gold says in his Introduction, “Spending a decade in the Out of Position world inevitably led to me thinking about things that might have happened off the stage of the novels, first to the main characters Lee and Dev, and later to a number of the side characters. Many of the stories in this collection were published elsewhere; some were written just to explore certain characters, and one was written to round out the collection about a character who won a Twitter poll.” (p. [1]) Most were published somewhere, some appeared only on Gold’s website, and a couple is original.

Three of the stories feature Dev or Lee, mostly before they met each other. The other nine focus upon one of their friends, enemies, Lee’s father, or Coach Samuelson: Jay Cornwall (stag football player), Colin Smith (fox religious bigot), Gerrard Marvell (older coyote football player), and so on.

Since the Dev and Lee novels are about both gay relationships and football, those are the main themes of these stories. From “Halftime Entertainment” featuring Jay Cornwell:

“Later, after the game, there’ll be a quiet dinner in Crystal City’s gay neighborhood, where a big coyote and stag blend in pretty well with the rest of the gym rats from the beach. There’ll be a few drinks in a bar, maybe dancing in a club where the lights stay low and we can bump and shove without football pads between us. There’ll be time to undress slowly at his apartment, to look at each other and touch each other, to make comments on workouts and the injuries of the season, my sore shoulders, his sore knee. And there’ll be, maybe, a little time tomorrow morning before my team’s plane leaves. This moment here is all about the game and the sex, the need and the release, the here and the now, but it doesn’t stop me thinkin’ about the other stuff while I’m getting’ my hands on him.” (p. 24)

From “Heart” with Hal Kinnel (fox sports reporter):

“Chevali’s quarterback – Aston, the wolf – is not top-five. But he doesn’t turn the ball over a lot and he’s got a good arm. He’s not accurate, but his misses are usually low or out of bounds, not the kind of misses that turn into picks. The wolverine at running back gets compared unfairly to Gateway’s wolverine (Bixon, the one Lee was talking about), which is kind of like comparing me to the star of that new vampire movie because we’re both swift foxes. But Jaws is better than average, and when you factor in his durability, he’s probably top-five in the league. Maybe number six, depending on if you count Yerba’s tandem as one.

Aston marches them down the field and then the drive stalls. But they punt with good field position and pin the Pilots back inside their ten, and it’s on that series that Miski gets to make a play.

It’s second and four, and the quarterback zips the ball to the tight end. The rabbit grabs it cleanly and turns to run upfield –

–and Miski is right there, wraps him up and drives him down to the ground. There’s a hiss from near the front; I look up and see Lee at the end of a fist-pump, and realize that the hiss was the end of him saying ‘Yes!’

He catches my eye and grins, and I can’t help but grin back. His eyes sparkle and he walks over. ‘If you want to make another easy twenty,’ he says in a fox-whisper, ‘go lay some more money on the Firebirds. We’re gonna win.’” (p. 106)

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ROAR Vol. 9, Resistance, Edited by Mary E. Lowd – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

ROAR Volume 9, Resistance, Edited by Mary E. Lowd.
Dallas, TX, Bad Dog Books, July 2018, trade paperback, $19.95 (297 pages), eBook $7.95.

ROAR volume 9, Bad Dog Books’ annual anthology of non-erotic furry adventure short fiction, is the fourth edited by Mary E. Lowd. It follows last year’s vol. 8 devoted to Paradise, and 2016’s vol. 7 devoted to Legends. This year’s theme is Resistance; “[…] the vision of resistance […] expressed through the voices of fifteen amazing authors.”

I suspect that Lowd accepted stories based on their quality rather than their relevance to the theme. The stories are all very good, and an excellent mix of types, although I don’t see what connection some of them have to “resistance”.

“Saguaros” by Watts Martin features Hanai, a coyote aristocrat, and Tamiisi, her shy rabbit maid, in a desert world of magic:

“Tamiisi stepped toward the wall. The neighborhood lanterns were first to meet her eyes, fixed lamps glittering from lawns and porches and thorn-trees, floating lamps trailing behind or in front of unseen travelers. As her eyes adjusted, she could trace the lines of sidewalks and carriageways, see the pennants atop the highest tents of the Great Market. Sky-fish flitted through the air, over and under the stone bridges, leaping to touch the rare flying sled. If she remained perfectly still, listened ever so closely, she could hear the clockwork birds twittering in faint harmonies as they returned to the park to roost for the night.” (p. 19)

But is the magic the coyotes’ or the rabbits’ – or someone else’s? The rabbits are unhappy with their lot, but what happens doesn’t seem to be due to anyone’s “resistance”.

In “Ghosts” by Searska GreyRaven, the resistance is that Cal, an Angora neko-form, is lesbian and rejects the straight heterosexual life her domineering father demands that she lead. Cal’s partner after he dies is Deanne, a black cat neko-form scientist trying to prove the existence of ghosts. When Cal’s father’s ghost continues to try to force her to “return to God”, the story becomes like a dramatic Ghostbusters:

“I squinted my eyes shut, and suddenly felt a burst of heat along the side of my face. My father snarled and let go, dropping me to the floor. I lay, gasping for air and opened one eye.

Deanne stood in the doorway, a heavy contraption slung over one shoulder. She held what looked like a gun from a game of laser tag in her paws.

‘What … the hell?’ I coughed. ‘Is that?’ I couldn’t think of the word.

‘Nope. It’s a spectral inverter. And it’ll scorch your retinas if you look at it!’

The ghost of my father roared and flew at Deanne, who roared right back and hit him again with a beam of red-black energy. My father dodged and laughed.” (p. 47)

Calling Cal and Denise “neko-forms” instead of just cats is necessary because there’s also a non-anthro pet cat in the story.   Also a rat-form, corvine-forms, and a lupine-form for anthro animals, plus humans. The ROAR vol. 9 cover by Kadath illustrates “Ghosts”.

In “Froggy Stews” by Humphrey Lanham, Uri, a frog, and Clyde, a sea lion, are roommates despite the disparity in their sizes:

“The [drunken] frog nodded. Clyde offered up a flipper for Uri to climb onto. On a normal day, Uri would never allow himself to be carried about by a larger animal like that. Today, however, he didn’t think he could successfully move from the sink to the couch without looking more ridiculous than he would in the arms of a sea lion.” (p. 57)

After six months, one of the two decides that the Odd Couple relationship isn’t working out. I’m not sure where the “resistance” is here. In fact, I’m not sure why a normal-sized frog and sea lion would ever decide to become roommates in a normal human house in the first place. All anthro fiction requires some acceptance of fantasy, but “Peeling off his grey turtleneck and $100 jeans” (p. 53) – this is a normal-sized, normal-physique frog? And a normal-physique sea lion doesn’t have legs. “Froggy Stews” reads smoothly, but the constant description of the frog’s physical normality (a small, hopping, cold-blooded reptile) made it impossible for me to envision him dressing in clothes, getting drunk, and living in a house-sharing relationship (a two-story house, at that) with a much-larger mammal who doesn’t have legs.

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Cold Blood: Fatal Fables, by Bill Kieffer – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Cold Blood: Fatal Fables, by Bill Kieffer.
Capalaba, Queensland, Australia, Jaffa Books, May 2018, trade paperback, $17.00 (323 pages), Kindle $5.50.

Readers had better consider Cold Blood an adult book for all the graphic M/M sex in the original stories.

This is Kieffer’s collection of six anthro “furry noir” novelettes set in his Aesop’s World universe. Five of them feature his Brooklyn Blackie wolfdog private investigator. The sixth features Frosty Pine, a Bearded Dragon roadie of another Bearded Dragon who is a rock star. Two of them are reprints; “Brooklyn Blackie and the Unappetizing Menu” from the anthology Inhuman Acts: An Anthology of Noir, edited by Ocean Tigrox, and “Unbalanced Scales” from ROAR vol. 7, edited by Mary E. Lowd. If you liked those samples of Kieffer’s furry crime noir stories, here are more of them.

Cold Blood does not have a Table of Contents. Allow me to add one:

“Welcome to Aesop’s World”, a four–page Introduction, p. [5]

“Shepard”, p. 11

“Brooklyn Blackie and the Dude-Less Dude Ranch”, p. 61

“Brooklyn Blackie and the Rainbow in the Dark”, p. 110

“Brooklyn Blackie and the Unappetizing Menu”, p. 177

“Brooklyn Blackie and the Reverse Badger Game”, p. 233

“Unbalanced Scales”, p. 272

Kieffer’s “Aesop’s World” furry stories are set in the city of New Amsterdam, in the nation of the United and Independent States. It’s our world with differences, from barely-changed names to real supernatural forces. There are languages like Aenglish and Gallish; states like Tejas; religious figures like Xrist. The species names are the same (Dogs, Cats, Rhinos, Anoles, Roadrunner), but they’re divided into Warms, Colds (or Repts), and Avis.

Blackie is a minor character in “Shepard”. Police detective Andrew Shepard, an Alsatian, is not corrupt, but he is a sadist who gleefully beats up suspects and anyone he doesn’t like. But he’s loyal to his friends. Young Blake Black, the son of Waldo “Big Blackie” Black and his wife Lynne (wolves) is the seventh son of a seventh son, and is believed by the superstitious to be cursed. When little Blackie is kidnapped by the Illuminati Arcana cult to be sacrificed to their god, Shepard bursts into their church to rescue him. (He is really Shepard’s and Lynne’s illegitimate child.) But things aren’t what they seem:

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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.

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Queen of Arts, by Frances Pauli – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Queen of Arts, by Frances Pauli.
Moses Lake, WA, Gastropod Press, February 2018, trade paperback, $8.99 (184 pages), Kindle $0.99.

This is purely a funny-animal soap-opera. It’s also a connected collection masquerading as a novel. “Queen of Arts” is on pages 1 to 132. “In the Margins” is pages 134 to 167. “Off the Record” is pages 168 to 182.

Waterville has two rival newspapers, the Arts Examiner and the Gazette. They compete for scoops and more, angling for contacts with the municipal government and Waterville’s social leaders. When the latter decide to hold a Waterville Festival of the Arts, including a city-wide art contest, and the Gazette pledges to sponsor its prizes, the Arts Examiner has to scramble to make up any lost ground.

Stella Rose, the Arts Examiner’s senior editor, is the protagonist. Stella is a cinnamon bear. Marge, a squirrel, is the assistant editor. Vanessa Lorne, a rabbit, is one of the Examiner’s reporters, along with Gerald, an ibex, and Buck, a zebra photographer. Others are Mr. Mort Growning (tapir), the paper’s manager and Stella’s boss; his secretary Francine Tsarong (snow leopard); Mayor Stimple (bison); Lydia Willard (black panther), an art gallery owner; Terrence Ortega (polar bear), another art gallery owner; and many more.

“‘There you are.’ Growning huffed and leaned to the side, out of the line of the mayor’s horns. His rubbery snout uncurled, dangling like a stub of hose below his piggy eyes. ‘Stella, at last.’

‘I’m five minutes early.’ She checked the clock on the far wall to be certain.

‘Fine. Yes.’ Growning waved a gesture of dismissal. ‘Feel free to continue, Mr. Mayor.’

‘We’ll rely on you for full coverage.’ The bison’s voice shook the door on its hinges. ‘I want a dedicated team for this.’

‘Exclusive coverage?’ The tapir’s trunk extended to its full length. Not exactly impressive, but enough to tell Stella his interest was piqued, focused on whatever the bison had proposed before she arrived.

‘Now, now.’ The mayor tugged at the front of his suit, and his two companions exchanged a look that told Stella they wouldn’t be getting an exclusive. ‘The Gazette has sponsored the awards. We have to allow them…’

‘You went to the Gazette first?’ Growning clutched at his heart with one hoofed paw. ‘To the Gazette? We’re the Arts Examiner. Arts. That rag only publishes a column on culture once a fortnight, not to mention some of the garbage they’ve printed about y–’

‘They came to us.’ The bison rumbled over the top of Growning’s tirade. ‘Almost the second we had the idea, in fact. We have to allow them coverage, but the Examiner has more space for arts columns. We came to you first.’” (pgs. 7-8)

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The Demon and the Fox, by Tim Susman – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

The Demon and the Fox, by Tim Susman. Illustrated by Laura Garabedian.
Dallas, TX, Argyll Productions, July 2018, trade paperback, $17.95 (277 pages), ebook $9.95.

The Demon and the Fox is subtitled “Book Two of The Calatians”. Book One, The Tower and the Fox, was published last year, and The War and the Fox, the concluding book of the trilogy, will be published next year.

Kip Penfold is a teenage fox-Calatian in a world analogous to New England in the early 1800s where the American Revolution failed in 1775. The Calatians are magically uplifted anthro animals, legally considered full humans but prejudiced against as inferior by most humans; at the bottom of society. (Along with women. And the Irish. Don’t ask about the Negroes or the Native Americans.)

There have never been any but White Caucasian (which doesn’t include the Irish) male sorcerers before, but an unexpected, almost fatal attack from an unknown enemy has forced Prince George’s College of Sorcery in New Cambridge, Massachusetts to open itself to a wider call for applicants to replace its murdered students – “any Colonist of magical inclination and ability may apply” – and Kip, along with an otter-Calatian, a woman, and an Irishman take advantage of it.

In my review of The Tower and the Fox, I said that “In a sense, this is a typical British schoolboy novel in a fantasy setting.  […] Despite the official call for applicants, there are those among both the college faculty and the other students who consider it disgraceful that non-Whites (including Irish), animals/Calatians, and women are allowed to become students. They are determined to make them fail. […] The Tower and the Fox covers the first semester of the College of Sorcery’s new class.”

The Demon and the Fox begins with the start of the second semester. All four have survived, and Kip is now the apprentice of Master Odden, one of the College’s full sorcerers and teachers. Their work, both for Kip’s learning and for the College’s defense, is to discover who was behind the magical attack on the College about six months ago that almost destroyed it.

The first sorcery Kip learns horrifies him, and almost breaks up the quartet:

“Kip’s indecision over whether to tell his friends about the calyx ritual lasted all of four minutes once they were again all together in the basement. ‘They drink the blood of Calatians!’ he said, pacing back and forth through the old papers and dusty stone floor.

Coppy, the otter-Calatian who’d also become an apprentice, didn’t react with the horror Kip had hoped. ‘I thought it might be something like that,’ he said.

‘You never said. We talked about it for months!’

‘I know.’ Coppy rested a paw on Kip’s arm. ‘Didn’t want to upset you. People do horrible things to Calatians in London and I heard summat about blood when I was a cub there.’

Kip’s tail lashed back and forth. ‘I wish you’d told me.’

‘I couldn’t.’ Coppy squeezed his forearm. ‘It was your dad. If he wouldn’t tell you, ‘twasn’t my place.’

‘You don’t have to protect me all the time,’ Kip said.

The otter lifted his paw and rubbed at his whiskers. ‘But I really didn’t know for sure. Why start trouble with rumours?’” (p. 13)

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Dwale’s critical review of “Red Engines”: When furry fiction becomes islamophobic propaganda

by Patch O'Furr

Dwale is a member of the Furry Writers Guild whose story “Behesht” won a 2017 Coyotl award. Follow them on Twitter. Thanks to Dwale for this guest post! Here’s a few previous articles about the anthology. – Patch.

Dwale continues – and see an update from Furplanet at end.

Disclosure: I have a story in this anthology. This analysis will contain spoilers.

I’ve been making my way through “Dogs of War II: Aftermath”, edited by Fred Patten and have now almost finished. I had thus far thought it more or less innocuous. Then I read the second to last story.

I’m not going to beat around the bush: I found “Red Engines” to be an offensive, even dangerous work of fiction. It is a nakedly Islamophobic diatribe, the publishing of which, while not surprising given today’s political climate, is saddening.

The story is told from the point of view of an AI-controlled robotic bird who calls himself Hughin. Hughin comes to an unnamed village in an unnamed part of the Muslim world; desert country (these kinds of stories never take place where the land is green).  He sees the dust trails of an approaching army identified as the “Allies.” He perches on “the town minaret” (I guess this is a one-mosque town?), then flies down to a school.

At the school, he meets Aisha, a young girl, and asks her if there are other children present. She takes him inside where he meets and questions the others, recording their answers. Hughin, you see, comes from an island of artificial intelligences and has been told to collect as much data as he can from these kids before they are killed. The reason he does this is to preserve them in some fashion. He is not part of the conflict, we are told, he is supposed to be a neutral observer.

From this information, Hughin constructs within himself what he calls a “djinn,” a virtual representation of what he has learned from the children. Throughout the remainder of the story, this “djinn” spouts off phrases such as “Eat the Jews!” And while Hughin admits that this pseudo-mind is a “nasty parody,” the reader is never really offered much of a counterpoint.

They hear an explosion nearby, and when the children ask who is attacking, Hughin says, “The allies.” He thinks to himself, but does not say, “and you’re all going to die.” This makes clear that the coming battle is not a surgical strike. It is to be a wholesale massacre.

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Liberation Game, by Kris Schnee – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Liberation Game, by Kris Schnee.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, May 2018, trade paperback, $8.99 (307 pages). Kindle $3.99.

This is both a sequel to Thousand Tales: How We Won the Game, 2040: Reconnection, The Digital Coyote, Thousand Tales: Learning to Fly, and all the other stories in this series, and an independent summation of all of them. It covers the years 2036 to 2040, from when the Artificial Intelligence Ludo was just starting to set up the Thousand Tales/Talespace gameworld, to when it – maybe – becomes a legally recognized independent country. It features new characters, although some previous characters appear in it. (Nocturne, identified in the first novel as a black-feathered griffin-girl, is described more fully; she’s not an eagle-lioness combination but a raven-lioness.)

Liberation Game features three main characters: Ludo, in “her” beautiful human woman form; Robin MacAdam, a young American, a member of the Latter Day Saints/Mormons helping to build a community in the Central American nation of Cibola; and Lumina, a centauroid deer robot (very shiny but metallic; not very “furry”).

As Liberation Game begins in 2036, Ludo has just begun her mission to help humans “have fun”. Lumina is one of the first independent AIs that Ludo has created. She was intended to become the android companion of a German doctor who Ludo hoped to encourage to become a supporter of Thousand Tales and one of its first uploaded residents, but he is killed almost immediately, leaving Lumina at loose ends. She drifts over to Robin’s project.

Robin, the assistant of Edward Apery, are the two Mormons/Americans helping the local natives of Cibola to construct a modern village, Golden Goose. The name is intended as both a symbol of what they hope to accomplish, and as a subtle hint to Cibola’s corrupt government that it can get more over the long run by letting the experimental village succeed than by taking all its assets as “taxes” immediately.

“The village of Golden Goose existed by a strange partnership. The Latter-Day Saints (or Mormons) had pumped money into Cibola in the hopes of winning over some of the local Catholics. The government had eagerly deeded them some land to start economic reconstruction. Robin himself had initially cared more about travel and adventure and damn good local coffee.

The village’s other partner wasn’t human: Ludo the gamemaster AI.” (p. 5)

At this point, Ludo is mostly a silent partner, helping to subsidize Golden Goose’s development for the long-range goal of building one of her centers of Thousand Tales and uploading human minds into Talespace. Edward/administrator and Robin/engineer are the tutors of the local natives, and their representatives to Governor Leopold, their Cibolan government official.

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