FWG Ballot Result: Self-Published Works Qualify!

A two-week voting period ended on September 30th, asking members to vote on the following questions:

  • Should self-published works qualify for FWG membership?
  • If so, what criteria be established?
  • Should unpaid works still qualify for membership?
  • Should we establish a minimum pay rate of ½¢ per word?

So as not to bury the lead:

Self-published works will qualify for FWG membership.

90 FWG members voted—not quite half the current membership, but that’s a pretty good virtual turnout. Here’s a breakdown of the votes.

Question 1: Right now, self-published work doesn’t qualify for FWG membership. Should that change?

  • 87.8% voted YES
  • 12.2% voted NO

Obviously, YES won overwhelmingly.

Question 2: If you voted YES, how should works that meet the already-established content criteria be qualified for membership?

  • 11.1% voted that works should net $200 earnings in a 12-month period
  • 11.1% voted that works should sell at least 50 copies in a 12-month period
  • 64.2% voted that either of the above should qualify
  • 13.6% voted “Other”

“Other” ideas included different values for the above, entirely different criteria such as receiving a minimum number of reviews, or no required threshhold other then the work simply being available for download or purchase.

Question 3: Right now, works published for free can qualify for FWG membership. Should this be removed from qualifications, so membership requires at least one paid story sale or qualifying self-published novel?

  • 51.1% voted NO.
  • 26.7% voted YES, but only if the self-publishing qualification passes.
  • 22.2% voted YES (unconditionally).

This was probably not a well-constructed question, in that it would have been possible for the two YES votes combined to be a majority but NO to still be a plurality; it would have been a better signal to split it into one definitive YES/NO and a second “If you voted YES, should it be only if the self-publishing qualification passes,” or similar wording. As it turns out, NO won a slim majority of votes.

Question 4: Right now, the membership criteria for paid story sales does not specify a minimum pay rate. Should we explicitly require a minimum of ½¢ per word?

  • 66.7% voted NO
  • 33.3% voted YES

In summation:

  • The self-publishing qualification passed, with the either/or criteria of number of copies sold or $200 or more earned.
  • No other changes to qualifications passed.

The new rules go into effect October 1, 2018 (i.e., immediately). The membership qualification page will be updated within the month, including some guidelines on what information we’d like to see as qualification proof.

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FWG Blog – October 2018

Welcome back to Furry Book Month (or Furry Booktober), as well as the FWG Blog!

Yes, it’s been quite some time since we’ve done one of these blog posts, but new VP Sean Gerace of Ottercorrect Literature Services and Goal Publications/Fanged Fiction (that’s me!) is resuming these, as well as our Author Spotlights and Title Spotlights—both of which will resume next month. Our blog post will be resuming its monthly status.

 

Guild Newsroom

For the last couple weeks of last month we had a vote circulating to members, the primary goal of which to come up with entry requirements into the guild for those that are exclusively self-published. The results? Our president will be sharing them once the vote is all tabulated.

 

Member Highlights

First, some highlights from last month, as featured from our FWG Member News section on the forums:

  • Frances Pauli had a story come out in the Wind in the Willows edition of Non-binary Review. The story will be featured and possibly dissected on the Alphanumeric Podcast, coming up in the near future.
  • Allison Thai had a story accepted to Ombak: a magazine for Southeast Asian speculative fiction, their first pro sale!
  • Hakuzo Sionnach’s latest novella, “Of Foxes and Spiders”, has been released on Amazon.
  • Mary E. Lowd had a few things come out in Daily Science Fiction this past month! “The Pink Agate“, “Hypercrystal Wish“, “Veins of Black, Dust of Gold“, and “The Oldest One“.
  • S.Park has had their gay romance novel about were-horeses, Stallion Assassin, accepted by JMS books.
  • Lisa Timpf has had both a furry story entitled “Gone” and a poem entitled “What Really Happened” released in New Myths, Issue 44. Their story “Roxy” and poem “Fidelis Reinvented” will be released in their Passages anthology, coming soon. They will also have their story “The Open Road” and two poems (“Moonlight” and “A Cat’s Confession”) appearing in From a Cat’s View by Post-to-Print Publishing.
  • Cybera Wolf is republishing their LGBTQ+ comedy with Deep Desires Press’s YA imprint, who are also publishing the fifth and sixth books in their “Tales of Monsterotica” series.

Three of our members have also been announced as upcoming convention guests of honor! Kyell Gold will be one of the guests of honor at this year’s Midwest FurFest, Frances Pauli will be featured at the next Furlandia in May, and Mary E. Lowd has recently been announced as a guest for the inaugural Furvana, starting this time next year.

To our members that have had something exciting happen in the past month not featured here: be sure to keep up with you Member News thread on the forums! Not only is this how we get our information, but these threads are able to be viewed by any person logged into the forums. Share your achievements with the rest of the writing community!

 

The Marketplace

For those of you looking to submit, keep an eye on the open markets on our website. For those of you who just forget, The Marketplace is your reminder for all things open for submissions!

Short Story Markets:

Publisher Title Theme Deadline Pay
Sofawolf Press HEAT Erotic furry stories October 14th $0.01/word + one copy of the finished title
Thurston Howl Publications Purrgatorio The ten regions of Mount Purgatory —a followup to Infurno and Seven Deadly Sins October 15th (Sloth and Avarice only—rest are closed) One copy of the anthology (non-paying)
Thurston Howl Publications The Furry Cookbook Furry stories featuring a food or beverage item November 1st $10/story + one copy of the anthology
Goal Publications The Daily Grind Furry stories featuring coffee November 14th $0.0075/word + one copy of the anthology
Fanged Fiction Thrill of the Hunt Furry erotica featuring a predator/prey dynamic December 1st $0.0075/word + one copy of the anthology
Zooscape Zine Zooscape Excellent furry stories N/A (continually open at this time) $0.06/word (maximum $60) for original, $20 for reprints
Thurston Howl Publications Species: Bunnies Furry stories featuring bunnies January 1st One copy of the anthology (non-paying)
Thurston Howl Publications Breeds: Bunnies Furry erotica featuring bunnies January 1st One copy of the anthology (non-paying)
FurPlanet Inhuman Acts 2 Furry noir stories February 1st $0.0050/word + one copy of the anthology
Thurston Howl Publications Even Furries Hate Nazis Furry stories against Nazism February 15th One copy of the anthology (non-paying)

 

Novel Markets:

 

Special Events and Announcements

Furry Book Month has begun, and a lot of our publishers have special promotions going on right now! If you’re a publisher or author with a promotion not listed here please email fwgblog[at]gmail[dot]com with your promotion so we may add it.

  • FurPlanet will take 10% off all orders with code FBM2018, and any order over $100 will receive a free book up to $20 in value.
  • Bad Dog Books is offering 20% off all books—excluding sale items—with code FBM2018. In addition, all issues of ROAR, FANG, and other selected anthologies will be 50% off.
  • Fusselschwarm, the biggest German/European distributor, is offering 15% off all English anthologies, novels, and novellas ordered via email (order[at]fusselschwarm[dot]net) for the month.
  • Goal Publications/Fanged Fiction is offering 15% off all books, both print and ebook, excluding sale and clearance items, with promo code FBM2018.
    Goal Publications author, Jako Malan, is also running a drawing for the sequel to his award-winning title, reWritten. Check out this page for the full details, and win a chance to be a part of a major scene!
  • Thurston Howl is offering $3.00 off of all furry orders.
  • Jaffa Books will be taking 10% off of all ebooks.
  • Ottercorrect Literature Services will be taking 10% off all new projects for FWG Members with contracts signed in the month of October.
  • Rabbit Valley is giving 20% off orders of $50.00 or more with the coupon code FurryBook2018 during checkout.

 

Wrap-up

Our forums are open to all writers, not just full members of the FWG. Check them out here and join in on the conversation. While you’re there, check out how to join our Slack and Telegram channels. Before joining any of these, though, we ask that you please read up on our Code of Conduct! With all the negative going around in the world these days, both furry and non-furry, we want to make sure the guild feels like a safe place to all its participants, free of threats and hate speech.

We have two weekly chats, called our Coffeehouse Chats! Our first one is Tuesday at 7:00pm EST in our Slack channel, and our other is Thursdays at Noon EST on our forums in the shoutbox. Both of these chats feature writers talking about writing, usually with a central topic. As with the above, these chats are open to both members and non-members.

Awareness Week: Post-Colonialism Suggested Reading

To close off the FWG Awareness week for March, we’ve reached out to editors, authors, and publishers in the furry fandom to bring you a short reading list of works touching on post-colonialism and the development of cultural identity in former colonies. While not a common topic both within furry literature and outside it, such themes can be found in the stories listed here. Please bear in mind that this is by no means a comprehensive list, though!

Furry Short Stories:

  • We Are One” by Thurston Howl (from ROAR 8), a sci-fi horror story about finding a paradise supposedly untouched. To say more would give away spoilers.
  • Migration Season” by J.A. Noelle (from Seven Deadly Sins), a story about the clash between cultures and the cost of pride.
  • Long Time I Hunt” by Erin Lale (from ROAR 7), which follows a wild cat spirit through time, starting with its connection to Native Americans through to present day.

Furry Novels:

  • Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, which follows three generations of polar bears in a circus.
  • Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen, set in the distant future where humans have vanished and their uplifted animal creations have built their own society.

You can find the furry anthologies and novels here:

Non-Furry Novels and Series:

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, a novel with two overlapping story arcs, both of which focus on Okonkwo. The first arc focuses on his fall from grace within his tribe, and the second focuses on the culture clash that devastates Okonkwo’s world when aggressive European missionaries arrive.
  • Cities of Salt by Abdul Rahman Munif, a story of the disruption to a poor oasis community after oil was found there.
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, set in Kerala, India, 1969, this story follows the trials and tribulations of a family as it tries to cope with cultural changes.
  • The Alliance-Union books by C. J. Cherryh, an expansive series that follows Earth and its interstellar colonies as they declare independence, expand and encounter other species, and the conflicts that ensue.
  • The Ancillary Trilogy by Ann Leckie follows a former ship’s AI trapped in a human body as she tries to learn what it means to be an individual, and uncover the act of treachery that tore her former life away.

(All of these can be found either at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com!)

Many thanks to Mary E. Lowd and Kiris, whose suggestions helped us put this list together!

Awareness Week: Author Spotlight – Jako Malan

Welcome to the second FWG Awareness Week! This is a bi-monthly event, run by the moderators in the FWG Slack group (Searska GreyRaven, ritter_reiter, and George Squares) as a way to bring focus to minority culture and writers in furry literature. Through features such as interviews, reading lists, and author AMAs, we hope to provide ample material and a safe, respectful setting for inter-cultural dialogue within our diverse community.

Our focus this month is on authors from post-colonial nations, and for our second interview we’d like to present Jako Malan! Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Jako is a computer programmer by trade who has a recurring fascination with the furry fandom. He considers himself a casual furry, enjoying the added aesthetic quality and versatility of working with non-human characters. After a delightful episode of globetrotting—which included an extended stay in the US and England—he now lives with his wife and two young children in Bellville, nestled comfortably behind the Boerewors Curtain. Jako is the author of the post-human anthro novel reWritten, and his anthro stories can also be found in Passing Through and Symbol of a Nation. A member of the Furry Writer’s Guild, he can be found there and on Twitter under the alias Erdwolf_TVL.

Disclaimer: While the Awareness Week project seeks to amplify underrepresented voices and perspectives, please bear in mind that our interviewees comprise one opinion out of many, and do not represent everyone within their demographic.

Tell us briefly about yourself as an author. How long have you been writing?

I see myself as a creator in a more general sense, rather than an author. I allow my imagination to run amok; mashing together ideas that seem completely unrelated and (sometimes) outright ludicrous. I tend to latch onto a specific theme or idea and become completely obsessed by it. I tend to move on to the next theme or idea rather abruptly, though. If I had the time, talent and resources, I would probably make movies. Writing is a quick and economical alternative, though, so it has been my tool of choice.

As a hobbyist writer, I don’t force myself to write a specific quota of words per day. I often go months (sometimes years) without writing a single word of fiction. When the bug bites, however, I tend to be very productive. I wrote large parts of reWritten in the mornings before work and during lunch breaks, checking in well over 2000 words on a good day.

The oldest piece I have in my archives dates from around 1992. It is essentially a piece of fan fiction loosely based on my favorite TV show at the time – Ovide and the Gang.

Creative writing was one of my favorite subjects, though I didn’t produce much work outside of what was expected of me in school. I spent most of my free time being a computer nerd – creating and playing DOOM mods and writing computer programs.

The writing bug bit me in my senior year at high-school. I wrote three fairly long fan fictions based on the Star Wars prequels – Gungan lore with a host of original characters. It was fun, but being fan fiction, it would never be published. I started toying with the idea of creating something original around this time.

Throughout, most of my writing was done in English, despite it not being my mother tongue. Afrikaans is a truly beautiful language, but it takes a lot of work to do really well. It involves a lot more typing (because of accent marks and double-negatives). The potential audience size is also a lot bigger when sticking to English.

After finding inspiration in the Furry fandom in the early 2000s, I started working on an early version of what was to become reWritten. This first incantation – Shadows and Reflections – was written as a script for a graphic novel. It was mostly complete in 2006, though I only managed to get the first 25-odd pages illustrated before funds (and motivation) ran out. I might revive this one day, though.

I took a lengthy break between 2008 and 2016, during which I wrote (mostly terrible) poetry whilst building my career, traveling the world. My wife and I got married in 2013. Our daughter was born in 2015 and our son in 2016.

Despite many sleepless nights during this time, 2017 was my most productive year to date. I was accepted into the Furry Writer’s Guild. My debut novel and two shorts were published.

Right now, I’m stewing over a novel-length furry piece, three or four short stories, and the script for my visual novel, Project Greenfields (the latter being most active). I’d really like to have something done by the South Afrifur Convention in July, but so far this year has been more about fighting fires than stopping to smell the flowers.

How did you encounter the furry fandom, and why did you start contributing to it?

I think that most of us start out as furries. The characters on cereal boxes, sport mascots, cartoons, movies… We literally grow up surrounded by anthropomorphic animals. It is our “normal” as kids.

I remember a particular despair when my father told me that cartoon animals didn’t “live” like we do – I could not meet them nor visit them in their hometowns. I guess we all have that watershed moment where we can choose to continue believing in cartoon animals or not. (Clearly, I chose the former.)

Though I kept my interest in animal people, I spent my young days oblivious to the existence of the furry fandom. These were pre-Internet days, so ideas travelled more slowly.

In the early days of dial-up internet, my sister and I joined the Jar Jar Binks Fan Club Message Board. (I believe this still exists.) Amongst others, I met a dragon scalie from Pennsylvania who introduced me to the furry fandom. I managed to visit him during my first trip to the USA and we are still in contact to this day. I am not sure if he still considers himself a furry, though.

Yerf!, VCL, IRC, and various awful websites hosted on AngelFire became my staples. I did some personal furry-themed illustrations and paintings. It dawned on me that Furry would be a good platform to tell my stories in. Apart from being a genre that piqued my interest, it would also give me an audience to target – one that I considered myself a part of and understood fairly well.

The rest is history, I guess!

Who are your favorite authors? How about furry authors?

As far as mainstream fiction goes, I liked reading Arthur C. Clarke, PJ O’Rourke, Neil Gaiman, and local veteran author Leon Rosseau. Furry authors I like reading include Tempe O’Kun, Watts Martin, Patrick Rochefort, and Mary E Lowd.

I must confess, however, I’m not a big consumer of fiction. (I’d probably be a more prolific writer if I were.) I do consume a lot of poetry, non-fiction, and music with strong lyrical content, though. I adore the work of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Justin Hayward, and Jacques Brel. Local poets and songwriters whose work I enjoy include Amanda Strydom, Koos du Plessis, Anton Goosen, and Randall Wicomb.

I try to appease my lack of reading by convincing myself that programs are novels for computers. And that writing fiction is programming for the human mind.

By that measure, I guess, I am a prolific writer after all.

You’ve lived in the US and the UK for an extended period, before returning to South Africa. How did life abroad compare to life back in South Africa?

After finishing high school, I spent four months working as a telephone operator at a New England ski resort. This was pre-9/11 – the USA was still the place we knew from watching television as kids. The fabled land of opportunity, yellow school buses, red fire hydrants and Mickey Mouse. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to the USA again hereafter. It is telling how things have changed since then (and, I think, not for the better). I’d love to visit the USA again, this time with my wife – though I’d be hard-pressed to live there long-term. The strong consumerist culture of America is very different from the more conservative norms / austere circumstances most South Africans grew up with. What I do like about the USA, however, is how easy it is to get hold of “cool stuff” and that you never have to travel very far to find that rare record, piece of electronics, or… furry convention?

I lived in Kew Gardens (South East London) between June 2005 and July 2006. I was on a working holiday visa, though I did manage to cement the first of a good nine-year-long career at a large multinational. I really enjoyed my stay in London and really wished I could stay a bit longer. It is not without its share of social ills, but it is a well organised and charming old place.

What I miss most about London is the public transport. The ability to walk around town at just about any time of day, not being bored and being reasonably assured of your personal safety. London is great if you are young and single. Not the ideal place to raise a family, though. London kids are… strange. I also have fond memories of hanging out with the London Furs during this time.

As of today, I am back in Cape Town’s northern suburbs, where I was born and grew up. With my wife and kids, it is convenient to be close to my parents and in-laws. Cape Town is a beautiful and pleasant place. Not as vibrant as Johannesburg. Not as accessible as London and not as ambitious as Boston. It does offer a very decent standard of living and has good amenities.

You once mentioned South Africa as “a setting with unique stories that’s woefully underrepresented in the sci-fi community”. Aside from the distinct choice of species you show in your stories, what would you personally want to see in South African furry or sci-fi fiction?

Little things can make the difference between a narrative that feels tired and done – and something that feels fresh and innovative. There is hardly such a thing as a new story. As writers, we have been pretty good at repackaging these old ideas and distracting the audience with fancy new decor.

Take the movie District 9, for example. It is not African per se. The plot could have worked just as well in another international city. But little nuanced things gave it a distinct local flavour. And I think audiences appreciate this. The animated piece Khumba is also a good example (although in my opinion, it tries a bit too hard to appeal to international audiences).

Many popular period pieces have local equivalents (or local perspectives) that allow a writer to make great use of the local scenery. We had a revolutionary war against Imperial Britain. (Two, in fact!) We had an age of pioneers, which includes a lot of conflict with the indigenous peoples. We had our unpopular war (the Angolan Border War). We had our civil rights movement (against apartheid). The list goes on.

In terms of furry, obviously we have incredible biodiversity. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to species. Our relationship with animals is different to that in other parts of the world. Human influence is still big, but since land is not at such a premium (such as in Europe), animals have less contact with humans and can “be themselves” to a larger extent.

On a grander scale, what I would really love to see is more pre-colonial African folklore, superstition, and culture woven into our stories. I think the emphasis thus far has been too focused on recent history (Nelson Mandela, the fight against apartheid, etc.) I don’t claim to be an expert in African culture, but I DO know enough to know that I haven’t even scratched the surface.

South Africa has had a long history of tension and conflict – examples which come to mind are the Boer Wars and the struggle against apartheid, echoes of which still remain today. Do these conflicts influence your writing, and if so, how?

I always say that my indoctrination program was interrupted at a very critical point. Until the age of 13, I experienced a very different “normal” than I did thereafter. Some of the mind-shifts my generation had to make were rather dramatic. People who were national heroes before were now suddenly the villains. Things that you took for granted before were suddenly gone.

An example of this would be the role of Afrikaans (my home language) in society. Before apartheid ended, you would see both Afrikaans and English on just about every product you buy at the store. Appliances and cars would have Afrikaans manuals and labels. Most things are exclusively English nowadays. There is also a move towards English-only in academic circles, as students believe they will be more employable in the global economy.

Overall, though, I am grateful for a very privileged upbringing, comparable in many regards to that I might have had, were I born in Europe or the USA around the same time.

I think the conflict that has the biggest influence on my writing was the border war with Angola and possibly the Rhodesian bush war. These are recent conflicts where the distinction between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” isn’t as clear cut. These were messy, politically complex wars. Many who died were ignorant to what was really going on.

To say these things do not influence my writing would be ignorant on my part. reWritten doesn’t deal with the above mentioned conflicts in any direct way, however. It is more of a statement on post-humanity (more on this later).

The search for cultural identity is an involved process for furry species created by humankind, as in your novel reWritten. Did growing up in a nation with an analogous background (i.e. a colony created by a powerful nation) affect the way you portrayed this aspect of furry identity?

As a white Afrikaner, the search for identity is very topical. People have very strong opinions about who we ought to be. A pseudo-identity was manufactured for us by the nationalist government. For better or worse, it was forced down our throats. It is probably the closest we’ve had to a true identity, but it is neither authentic nor sustainable.

Ultimately, I think we are heading towards self-discovery, but we are not there yet. Other groupings in South Africa are in a similar process of self-realization: the Lost Generation, the Born Free generation and those I consider to be the “True Millennials” (born after the Internet).

Each of us have a story to tell and a destiny to fulfill. And we also have to figure out how to live together in harmony.

Though there may be undertones of this seeking in reWritten, the Mammalæ world is more post-human than anything else. The sons of man look at the wreckage of the world we left behind for them. They try to make sense of what they see. And try to survive at the same time.

I think we are pretty bad tenants in this world, but Mammalæ have a different perspective on this.

Their society is built in the ruins of our own. They were created in our image, to live amongst us. It is therefore inevitable that they would imitate us in many respects. In other aspects, however, their society is much more complex. With many different species of different shapes and sizes, created for different purposes and with different natural tendencies. Their society inevitably operates differently.

This is a challenge, but it also enables many things that would be difficult to portray in a homogenous society. I alluded to the inner working of their society in reWritten, but I hope to explore this in much more detail in Greenfields.

For non-native writers looking to use South Africa as a setting, is there anything you would like to see them portray more of? Are there also any stereotypes or misrepresentations you would like to draw attention to?

There are parts of South Africa that can be used as a plug-in replacement for other parts of the world, without too much inner knowledge. To make a story truly South African, subtle details will need to be considered. To make a story both South African and one that appeals to an international audience… I think this still needs to be done well.

With regards to Africa as a whole, I’d like to echo something that is often said. People need to realise that Africa is a continent and not a country. Africa has many languages, many cultures. Many histories. There is room for The Lion King and derivatives. But to think that Africa is just about savannahs with animals running around is like thinking that London is the entire United Kingdom. Or that New York City is the be-all and end-all of the USA. Or that Germany is one big year-long Oktoberfest.

Which of your works are you proudest of?

Naturally, I am very proud of reWritten. It has been a long and exciting journey to get my work in print. However, the piece I had the most fun writing and re-reading (to date) is “The Savage Caravan” (Passing Through anthology by Weasel Press). It sets the tone for a spicier kind of story that works well in the furry market. The Gentler Times canon which it belongs to is also a lot more accessible than that of Artisans and Opportunists (the universe of reWritten). It is more Zootopia-like, in that it uses the existing world we live in, but where humans are replaced with anthropomorphic animals.

Any parting words of advice for aspiring writers in the fandom?

As an author, you have a duty to explore. Expose yourself to new ideas. Learn to absorb without feeling an obligation to change yourself (or the others). If you only expose yourself to that which you are comfortable with, your writing will be boring and predictable.

Furthermore, I encourage you to find your own measure of success. Not everyone who writes a piece will get published. Not everyone who gets published will sell a million copies (or make any money to speak of). Unless you are a professional writer, write for yourself first, everyone else second.

When the time comes to show your work to the world, take the time to polish your work and make it accessible. Get an editor. Have your stuff beta-read. Be willing to make changes you don’t necessarily agree with, if they will make your work more accessible.

Make use of all the wonderful free resources that are available online. Visit tvtropes.org. Join the Furry Writers’ Guild. It is a small community with many folks willing to help. Often for free.

Lastly, play nice. Don’t be a primadonna. It is a small community and hardly anything nowadays happens without everyone knowing about it.

 

Discuss this article on the Guild forums, or check out Jako’s page on Goodreads.

Awareness Week: Author Spotlight – Erkhyan

Welcome to the second FWG Awareness Week! This is a bi-monthly event, run by the moderators in the FWG Slack group (Searska GreyRaven, ritter_reiter, and George Squares) as a way to bring focus to minority culture and writers in furry literature. Through features such as interviews, reading lists, and author AMAs, we hope to provide ample material and a safe, respectful setting for inter-cultural dialogue within our diverse community.

This month, we wanted to highlight authors and creators from post-colonial nations. Here to kick off the March edition is Erkhyan! Erkhyan was born, grew up, and still lives in the central highlands of Madagascar. He has held jobs such as illustrator, translator, and various one-shot DIY projects, while his usual hobbies include reading, attempting to write, drawing, spending way too much time on Wikipedia, and video games. He goes around learning to be a fosa — please note the correct spelling! Erkhyan can be found on Twitter under the same handle (@Erkhyan).

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Disclaimer: While the Awareness Week project seeks to amplify underrepresented voices and perspectives, please bear in mind that our interviewees comprise one opinion out of many, and do not represent everyone within their demographic.

Tell us briefly about yourself as a creative person – you’re both an author and an artist. How long have you been doing either of them? What are your favorite themes to cover?

I’ve dabbled in both writing and drawing since the mid-to-late 1990s. I got to the point of being able to show my drawings publicly in 2000, and my writing in 2005.

My favorite things to draw are natural landscapes and, unsurprisingly, furry characters. I mostly draw pinups of characters, but when I feel technically able to do so, I like drawing pictures of characters being affectionate with each other.

In writing, a theme I find myself often coming back to is finding your own place to belong in society when said society never made you feel like you had one.

You’ve been around the furry fandom for several years. When did you first enter the furry writing scene, and what drew you to it?

I’ve been aware of the furry writing scene since 2006 (in the days of Yiffstar), but didn’t quite join until 2010 through the late FurRag. At the time it was mostly just a combination of my love of reading and my interest in anthropomorphic animals, but the old urge to write my own stuff quickly resurfaced after that.

Who are your literary and artistic influences, both in furry and in general?

Writing-wise, my biggest non-furry influences are Timothy Zahn and Aaron Allston. On the furry side, there’s maybe too many to count so I’ll only mention a few. Kyell Gold and Kevin Frane were among my earliest influences. Rukis and Ryan Campbell are more recent ones. But the fact is, if I’ve read your writings in the last ten years, chances are I count you as one of my influences.

On the drawing side, Disney movies are obviously my earliest influence. Then came Claire Wendling and Juanjo Guarnido. Then, in no particular order: Chelsea Kenna, Rukis, Nesskain, Kenket, Teagan Gavet, and Kamui, to name a few…

In both cases, I admit I have far many more influences within the furry fandom that outside of it. I have no formal literary or artistic training, and it shows in my choice of inspirations.

You’ve lived in Madagascar practically all your life. Can you tell us some aspects of your culture that you think define Madagascar the most?

If I were to summarize contemporary Malagasy culture in a few words, it would be: heavy reliance oral traditions, the pervasive influence of the spiritual on daily life, a strong preference for DIY solutions and repairs over replacement, and a strong accent on respecting one’s place in both clan and tribe.

Madagascar used to be part of the vast colonial empire that France once boasted. Personally, how do you think the Malagasy culture and identity have developed since gaining independence? Does French influence still make itself felt in everyday life?

French influence is still very heavy on Malagasy everyday life. The French language is ever-present in commerce, education, and the media. People will often switch to French when Malagasy vocabulary fails them. Or when communicating with someone who speaks a dialect of Malagasy that sounds too different to be easily understood. Or, in general, when communicating with members of the various expatriate communities (mostly South Asians, Chinese, and French).

My personal take on the evolution of post-independence Malagasy culture is that a lot of it has had to be rebuilt from shaky foundations. Most of the Malagasy ethnic groups relied almost entirely on oral traditions before, and very little of that was committed to writing before the missionaries, then the colonial authorities either rewrote it to suit their purposes, or outright tried to suppress it. Malagasy literature barely had time to be born before it found itself bound to colonial rules.

Nowadays, very few traditions have survived intact. Most are more or less heavily bastardized, a few (like the fitampoha) had to be resurrected or even reinvented almost from scratch. Malagasy history as the common people know it is often fragmentary and heavily tinted by tribal tensions, and sometimes differs quite significantly from history as academic historians know it.

Much of your art and writing revolves around Madagascan species, as well as Malagasy history. Can you tell us more about these themes, and how you bring them out in your work?

My switch to using Madagascan species and Malagasy themes is actually relatively recent, coinciding with my personal struggles. Being the grandson of a Frenchman and raised as a French-speaker, I grew up severely at odds with the both the tribalism of Malagasy culture, and its painful history with France. It wasn’t until these last few years that I finally started to work on the fact that, regardless of my limited French heritage, I am still mostly Malagasy by blood and have lived almost all my life in Madagascar.

All of that leads to the themes I use the most: the pros and cons of Malagasy tribalism, and the fact that so much of our history beyond the last couple of centuries is throughly mixed with myth. I usually tackle these themes by having characters who are trying to find their place in society despite being (or having become) outcasts. Whenever supernatural elements exist in my settings, I now try to base them on elements that do exist in Malagasy folklore: nature spirits, lingering ghosts, and the taboos enforced by their presence.

Are there any stereotypes or misrepresentations that you’d like to draw attention to?

So many misconceptions about Madagascar wouldn’t exist if not for Pandemic 2 and the Dreamworks cartoon franchise… In particular, how many ports and airports we have and how easy it would be to lock down the coutnry’s borders, how many people actually live here, whether we actually like to “move it move it”, whther or not we’re safe from the plague (ironically, Madagascar is the world capital of plague cases) … Whether one reacts to these with humor or annoyance tends to depend on how often these misrepresentations come up.

If there are misrepresentations I’d like to address, it’s Madagascar as a small island (it’s actually the size of mainland France, one and a half the size of California), and our relationship with Africa. Madagascar is geographically and politically an African country, but our history and culture have been isolated from the mainland for so long that for most people there is just no feeling of sharing much with even our closest mainland neighbors.

As a speaker of Malagasy, French, and English, you’ve been in a unique position to make linguistic observations, such as of place-names and folk etymology common or individual to each language. Do you make use of this when writing stories about Malagasy characters? If so, how do you go about “translating” idioms or other figures of speech?

I tend to stay away from untranslatable idioms and concepts, but otherwise I like to play with language. For example, the etymology of Malagasy names is often much closer to everyday language than in Western cultures. Until the relatively recent adoption of the first-middle-last name system, many people used to have names that said a lot about them: their past achievements, their ambitions, etc. I often make use of that while naming my Malagasy characters, giving them meaningful names that might not always be obvious unless one speaks Malagasy.

In the end, I wouldn’t mind using local idioms if giving them context doesn’t come in the way of a story’s pacing.

Which of your works are you proudest of? Feel free to include any upcoming stories or pieces.

That’s a rather difficult question. I do not have enough finished written works for me to feel proud of them, but I admit I can’t wait to finish my first stories set in Madagascar.

As for my drawing, it’s a hard choice, but recent favorites include “Dazzle the Stage”, “Tsingy Mena”, and “Lefona sy Ampinga”.

Any parting words of advice for aspiring writers or artists in the fandom?

Honestly, I can’t think of any advice other than: just do it. The furry fandom is so centered on creative activities, it would be a shame not to contribute to it if you wish to. You can always learn on the way—exchanging ideas and tips with other artists and writers is a good way to do that. Keep in mind that, even though you will always have something to learn from others, there’s a chance that you will have something to teach others too. If not in your skills, then in the messages your art and writing send out.

 

Discuss this article in the Guild forums, or learn more about Erkhyan on his SoFurry page

Awareness Week: Suggested reading – Southeast & East Asia

Welcome once again to the FWG Awareness Week! To help us in our goal of highlighting minority culture and writers in furry literature, we’ve reached out to editors, authors, and publishers in the fandom to bring you a short reading list of works both from and about our region in focus: Southeast and East Asia. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of titles, we hope it serves as a good jumping-off point and gives a rough starting view of the cultures and people from this area.

From the region:

Allison Thai (who we interviewed earlier this week) is a Vietnamese-American husky who has been published in several furry anthologies, including Symbol of a Nation, ROAR 8, and Arcana – Tarot. Readers may be interested in her story, “A Time For Giving“, from Arcana, about an injured, stranded Russian wolf who is given hospitality by a family of Mongolian horses, despite her deeds as a treacherous NKVD agent. Her entry for ROAR 8, “Hope for the Harbingers“, sees God lift up damned souls from Hell to appoint them as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, while Death finds a glimpse of redemption in doing his duty.

Al Song, a Laotian-American kangaroo with a degree in German literature from University of Washington, writes in “Serenity in Blue” (from FANG 8) about a fresh college graduate unhappy with his employment as a security officer, and his attempt to seek out a better future for himself. In “Tempus Imperfectum“, to be published in Tales from the Guild – World Tour 2, a young Italian otter newly immigrated to Germany finds friendship and romance through his high-school orchestra.

Singaporean artist and writer MikasiWolf writes in “Adversary’s Fall“, from Gods With Fur, about the mythical Monkey King, who, with the help of a drunk merlion and an old comrade, seeks vengeance against the most powerful demon of all. His story, “Fathers and Sons“, found in Dogs of War, talks about a young recruit who, despite his disastrous first day in military service, eventually learns the experience gained by generations of servicemen.

About the region:

Faolan provides “Instinct“, the closing entry to the Species: WOLVES anthology – an account of a lupine K-Pop idol pack of the same name, as they attempt to maintain group cohesion despite their individual egos and feelings for one another.

Takaa Silvermane‘s story collection, Closer Than Brothers, examines gay relationships throughout history. “Sparring Session” follows fox Gichoi and cat Daejung in in 667 CE South Korea. Following Korean funeral rites of the time, the two soldiers take a respite from battle and find intimate comfort in each other despite the knowledge it is forbidden love. In “Kamogawa“, three-tailed fox Akio abandons his guard post in Sekigahara, Japan (1600 CE) to find his childhood playmate, white cat Hideki, in a nearby stream. Not your typical “Romeo and Juliet” story, the two are now on opposite sides of the war. What will they do to preserve themselves – or sacrifice for love of the other?

In Kyell Gold‘s “Unfinished Business“, from Heat #13, as private investigator Jae Kim visits supernatural Wolftown Detroit, he runs into his former boyfriend and some issues from his Korean family.

Edited by Fred Patten, the Symbol of a Nation anthology consists of eleven short stories and novelettes featuring the anthropomorphized animal symbols of nations, and exploring their significance and the ideas they represent in their cultures.

Though himself not a furry author, the origami animals in Ken Liu‘s short story “The Paper Menagerie” (read) come to life as magically as our own furry characters do. This poignant story, about a young Connecticut boy, his Chinese mother, and the cultural tension of immigration, is the first work of fiction to win the Nebula, the Hugo, and the World Fantasy Awards.

Special thanks go out to Ocean Tigrox, Thurston Howl, Makyo, and Dark End for their suggestions and assistance in putting this list together.

Discuss this article on the Guild forums, or check out the profiles of our FWG members.

On the Inside, Looking Out: Furry in a Human Land

Guest post by KJ Kabza

Back when my schedule allowed, I enjoyed participating in the FWG chats every week. (Which you’ve tried and enjoyed too. Right?) Occasionally, a furry writer would mention that they hoped to someday sell one of their borderline-furry stories to a Regular Science Fiction or Fantasy Market.

Funny thing, that. Because I’ve been writing stories in the wider science fiction and fantasy field for 15 years, and I hope to someday sell one of my borderline-furry stories to a Definitely Furry Market.

Writing for furs versus the larger speculative fiction community can be very different experiences—so different that one switch-hitting author once told me, “You’d think that my furry fans would buy my non-furry work and vice versa, but that’s not the case at all.” When you have stories to tell that could fall in either camp, what’s the best way forward?

I’m sure your opinion gets colored by where you start. I find myself working in general SF and fantasy circles, but then again, I began selling my work well over a decade ago, when I barely even knew what furry was. Besides, when I started, some of my early work sold for one cent a word, which is comparable to what is considered professional rates for writers in the fur community today, 15 years later. And nowadays, when I can sell some pieces for what SFWA defines as professional rates (at least six cents a word), it seems hard to justify sending a borderline-furry story to a furry market that will give me a fraction of that pay.

On the downside, however, it took me many years to build my current network of other writers and editors. In contrast, I suspect that someone who starts off selling fiction in the smaller fur community will likely find it much easier to connect with fellow creators and fans and feel supported at every stage of their career. Sofawolf, one of the most prestigious publishers in the fur community, has a booth at Anthrocon, one of the most prestigious cons in the fandom, that’s staffed by friendly people who are happy to explain their submission process to you. I can’t imagine having the same conversations at a Penguin Random House booth at San Diego Comicon.

The best way forward is also colored by the degree of furriness in what you write. I doubt that Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine would be interested in an erotic love story about a kangaroo male model and a misunderstood muscle tiger, but those borderline-furry stories are definitely another matter. In 2013, I sold my story “The Color of Sand,” which features a single mother and a forgotten human civilization—but also talking sandcats and outright furry TF—to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Never say never.

If your motive is to write strictly for fun and not for profit at all, the considerations get even blurrier. I’ve written and posted fan fiction under other names, both on Fur Affinity (as a fur) and on Fanfiction.net (as a hopeless human weeb). Both experiences have been very positive, with far more feedback given to me than I’ve ever gotten from a general SF or fantasy piece published in any professional venue.

This month, my first print collection of short fiction, The Ramshead Algorithm and Other Stories, releases on January 16. It comes from the world of Regular Science Fiction and Fantasy, but you’ll find several of those borderline-furry stories within. A young man in a damaged family learns of his non-human heritage. A securities lawyer has a double identity as a cat-like being that can fly. And a race of talking sandcats reveals themselves to be powerful magicians to a mother in need.

I suspect that Ramshead will be interpreted and accepted as a not-furry book among the not-furry crowd, the same way some of its component stories have been accepted. However, my next project, a novel I’m going to finish drafting after Ramshead launches, can’t be interpreted that way. That project is unambiguously furry, to the point where I’ve had to explain it to general SF fans as, “Redwall, but with pre-literate, non-Western cultures.” I’ve told so many other stories in the borderline-furry category, I want to see what it’s like to take the plunge.

I’m not sure about Penguin Random House, but maybe Sofawolf would like it.

KJ Kabza has sold over 70 stories to venues such as F&SF, Nature, Strange Horizons, and more. His debut print collection, The Ramshead Algorithm and Other Stories, is available for pre-order now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.