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.