FWG Monthly Newsletter: June 2020

Hello there FWG members, it’s time for another monthly newsletter! We’ve got a good bit of news for you this month, so let’s hop right into it!

First we’ll be streaming the Cóyotl Awards Ceremony on July 8th at 8 PM CST! We know you’ve all been waiting, but we’ve finally managed to get all of our things together for our trophies and managed to get safe shipping set up. We’ll be streaming live from our Twitter account via Periscope, so keep an eye out there for the stream. 

Second, we would like to give a warm welcome to our newest guild officer: Moonraiser! They will be taking over as Markets Manager. If you know of a furry market that should be listed in our Furry Writers’ Market contact them and we’ll get it added.

Don’t forget we have a wonderful beta reading program taking place on our Discord. This month @KILL!Roy beta read the most stories! We had 15+ reads officially documented through the program this month and we hope next month we can have even more.

Last month was Pride Month so we featured several FWG members all across the LGBT+ community. We encourage you to check these out to not only learn more about your fellow guild members, but to learn a bit about how various identities can affect writing.

We would like to remind everyone once more about our Microfiction Monday initiative. Any writer, non-members included, that can write a Tweet sized story has the opportunity to have it featured on our Twitter! You can learn more about the program and how to submit here. We almost ran out of submissions this month, so any stories that get sent in will almost certainly be featured! Take this opportunity to try a writing challenge and get a shoutout.

Last month we accidentally missed a few titles that was released and wanted to fix that! Anyone publishers or writers, with books going out should email us at furwritersguild@gmail.com with any books that are coming out to help us not miss any titles. This includes any self published work! With this in mind, the books we missed include:

We also have some other new releases from this month! Be sure to check these out:

Part of our website update was making our Furry Writers’ Market better than ever before! You can find all of open markets for furry writing we can track down here: https://furrywritersguild.com/furry-writers-market/

Currently, these anthology markets are open:

Consider checking out our page for details and writing up a story for one of these awesome anthologies!

One last thing before I sign off for the month. We said it on Twitter but I’ll say it here once more: Black Lives Matter. The Furry Writers’ Guild stands in support of all of our Black members as well as any other members of marginalized groups within our ranks. We always want our members to feel safe and to do our best to uplift their voices. If there’s anything the guild could be doing better in this regard, please get in contact with me right away: it’s a top priority. Until next month, may your words flow like water.

– FWG President Linnea “LiteralGrill” Capps

FWG Pride Month Spotlight: Herr Wozzeck

Welcome to our final FWG spotlight for Pride Month! We’ve featured a lot of awesome guild members this month, and we’re certain this last interview won’t disappoint. Today we’ll sharing our interview with Herr Wozzeck who’s pronouns are he/him. Enough with our introductions however, let’s let him introduce himself!


 

FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

Herr: So my name is Herr Wozzeck, and despite the fact that I have a German pen name I’m actually fully-blooded Cuban, born in Miami and now trying to spice it up in Boston. I got my start in writing and snarking fanfiction, before I found furry through the Furry Basketball Association, and I eventually made the shift from fanfiction over to here. I’m also a musician and composer: I play with Trio Menagerie, write opera criticism on the side, and hope to add to the operatic repertory at some point (quite possibly with some furry-inflected opera, if things go my way!) And that, is in addition to my fictional writing!

FWG: What is your favorite work that you have written?

Herr: Oof, isn’t that the question of the century? I find myself coming back to my Agundio Atti-Morales stories that I wrote while still with the FBA: there are definitely things I would change about them, but I feel like it was the first time I actually found comfort in my own literary voice, in a strange way.

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Herr: I feel like most great stories really have to start with having good characters: as I’ve said sometimes in the past, you can get away with a surprising amount of implausibility if your story is populated with characters people are interested in, whether they’re repulsed or they relate to them.

FWG: You’re new to the guild right? How has your time with us been so far?

Herr: It’s insane, actually, and it’s provided some validation that I never knew I needed. As a self-taught writer (and someone who used to do fanfic snarks), the impostor syndrome can get very strong. The fact I’m in the guild at all just motivates me to go further than I have before, and it’s awesome to chat with a bunch of like-minded authors and feel like you’re good enough to be part of the big boys, y’know? I mean, Christ’s sake, Kyell Gold is right there!

FWG: What does Pride mean to you?

Herr: Honestly, a part of me is still figuring that out, considering how late in my life I’ve blossomed on this front, but at this moment in time Pride is very much a time of year where I find I can celebrate my gayness just a little more than usual, and for me it includes celebrating how I view my sexuality in more than just the “I like guys” sense. But it’s also a time where I think we need to look back and remember those that paved the way for the rest of us to feel comfortable in our own skins. And it’s also a month to galvanize, because for as much progress as we’ve made, we still have a long way to go!

FWG: You’re not only gay but also a part of the pup and leather communities, right? What is it that you enjoy about these communities?

Herr: Both helped me grow to accept myself in my sexual liberation. However, there are other things that I enjoy about them.

So first, I think I’ll go ahead and use the term “pet play” to refer to “puppy play” throughout the rest: in addition to puppies, some people also will do similar things with cats and even horses, and as my titleholder friend would say we don’t want to exclude anyone! But me, pet play is very much a way to step back and not worry so much about the complexities of the world. Whenever I get one of my pup hoods on (yes, I have two), there’s just something about the way you physically perceive the world that shifts how you interact with it: all sound is muffled inside those things, and you have to speak extra loud to be heard, and something about that forces me to take things more instinctively, more gesturally, to just go with the flow a little more. There’s something about that which is incredibly freeing, and it can induce your stress to melt like nobody’s business. (Note that this does not speak for everybody’s experience: you don’t need gear to be into pet play. This only reflects my experience.)

As for leather, my interest in leather is due to something deeper, far less primal. Men in leather exist in a strange oxymoron: they project a rugged, strong, sometimes violent image of masculinity, but perhaps because of the violence inherent in some of the fetishes related to leather they’re also often the most tender, understanding men on the planet. The best people in the leather community exude a masculinity that portrays caring, nurturing behaviors as a kind of strength, and it’s kept my interest alive because it has helped me rethink what masculinity should be.

FWG: There are leather and pup pride flags out there. What place do you think these kinks and communities have within the LGBT+ community at large? Are these things a part of your gay identity or just another facet of yourself as a gay person?

Herr: I think leather and pet play stand as facets of myself as a gay man, but it is an important facet to celebrate during Pride. One thing that I think is lost in the corporatization of Pride is that, in its origins, Pride never shied away from more open expressions of sexuality beyond the standard “I like the same sex” or “I am not the gender I was assigned at birth”: some would call this a reason people didn’t take us seriously, but considering how part of my journey was breaking past my own sexual repression I say it is an absolutely necessary part of Pride. Leather and pup pride flags are an extension of this, and in my eyes it is an extension worth celebrating.

At the same time, as well, it’s important not to claim leather and pet play as exclusively part of my gay identity: to do so would be to discount women in both, as well as to discount the experiences of my trans brothers and sisters in both communities. Leather and pet play communities have a very predominant gay male lean, but as my titleholder friend would put it, both are for everyone within the LGBTQ+ community, and it should be celebrated as such.

FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us? (If not it’s totally understandable!)

Herr: I actually already shared part of my journey in a semi-fictionalized form on my FurAffinity account, so sure, let’s fill in some blanks!

So growing up Cuban Catholic, I found myself having a lot of negative reinforcement thrown my way about the gayness from two angles: the angle of Catholicism, and the angle of how the family used to perceive it.

The first thing: something a lot of people don’t really get about Hispanic cultures is that Catholicism reigns very supreme in all of them, and in my particular case it should say something about how strong a vein it runs in the culture that even Fidel Castro couldn’t kill Cuban Catholicism despite his best efforts. Because of that, I was born into an environment where any kind of sexual expression outside of the norm is frowned upon and considered universally dirty and unsafe, even when it’s heterosexual sexual expression.

Within my family, the first exposure to queer cultures mostly came from the disapproving whispers and eye rolls, including those told to my face: I remember one time when my family and I went to see the touring production of The Producers when it came to Miami that mom pointed out the two men in the row in front of me and pointing them out being like “look at that”. Incidents like that peppered in there over a long period of time, and there was one particular incident when I was 16 that sticks in my mind forever.

These things really set me up for a rocky start for my journey: I was one of those “bi now, gay later” kids in my journey, and in hindsight a big part of the “bi now” was a side effect of the repression that comes with most Catholic upbringings. And that sexual repression was reflected in a lot of what I wrote: I won’t shy away from it, my fanfiction prior to when I finally grew comfortable with my sexuality broached some very messed up territory sexually, and while some of that can be chalked up to ‘dark and edgy’ I also think it was a symptom of how I looked at sex as being inherently bad since I kind of didn’t like my own relationship to sex and my sexuality.

It took until I was 23 and living in Cleveland, just after I’d first encountered the furries and met the man I eventually lost my virginity to. I won’t disclose his name here, but he was a rather older gentleman who was extraordinarily good to me. What I remember most about him, however, was the last time we met: when we were cuddling on my bed, he began talking about his love life. And when he did, part of me got the sense that a reason the relationship he was talking about failed was because he was very deeply entrenched in the closet in some ways: even today, I have no doubt he has never mentioned his trysts with men to anyone else in his life. And I remember asking myself ‘do I want to be like that the rest of my life’; that was the moment I sort of came to terms with myself, and resolved to come out of the closet. It ended up happening in Thanksgiving to my parents (technically before I was ready, but dad popped a question about it and the rest was history), and ever since I’ve started to learn how to be confident in myself as a gay man.

And that has been a slow process, but being part of furry fandom has definitely helped me learn how to express myself considering it is a space that doesn’t simply crush the conversation about sexuality the way Catholicism does. It helped really break me out of the sexually repressive mindset I was born into. What remained of my self-repression finally melted away after I encountered the Boston leather community when I did: I moved back in February of 2018, and encountered the bar party Fascination run by Michael Flowers, back when it was still in the basement of Jacques’ Cabaret. I’d never really had a group of in-person gay friends before, and the leather community provided exactly that. And then through that I met a puppy, got introduced to that circle, and the rest is history!

It hasn’t always been super easy afterwards, though: my family, while ultimately well-meaning, still kind of doesn’t completely get everything about how it is to be gay in that environment. I will also say, there is one thing that happened behind the scenes in November that really rattled me to my core and threatened to reverse all the fandom did to help me grow in that regard.

But on both of those things, there are also aspects that keep me going. I will say my family is a damned sight better about the gay thing now than they were in my teenage years! Part of it is that I’m not the only one in the family to fit under the queer spectrum (one of my cousins is a lesbian), but physical distance also doesn’t hurt that either. And as for the fandom, well, my support system in the fandom and the leather community has been so supportive that it overrode that incident significantly.

So now, I’m much more confident about my sexuality, and am proud to call myself a gay Latino furry. Still, as the old song goes, “don’t tell momma what you saw”…

FWG: How do you think being gay has inspired your stories?

Herr: A lot of times, I think of storytelling as being very therapeutic for me: Agundio Atti-Morales came when I was figuring out my relationship to God, family, and sexuality, my Colton and Darren stories are expressions of my joys and fears surrounding sexuality, Whip and Boot was very much a celebration of what I love about the leather community and what it did for my own identity…

…When you put it that way, I think it’s inspired quite a bit of my storytelling, really! And not in the least because of what protagonists I commonly write these days!

FWG: Do any of your stories feature leather or pup play?

Herr: My novel Whip and Boot is all about leather, and does include some of the kink involved with it! I haven’t written any fiction featuring pup play yet, and right now I don’t really have anything in the cards for that. I do have a chap book of poetry on the backburner about my friends in the Boston pet play scene, but I think I need to edit that a little more and try to add a couple more poems to it before I’m comfortable releasing it to the world. 

FWG: Do you feel like the issues that affect the outside world involving your identity affect your writing or publishing within the fandom or not?

Herr: My Agundio Atti-Morales stories were my therapy involving my identity as a gay Latino with a complicated relationship with his Catholicism, actually: the character and his family were conceived around the time I left Cleveland, and he ended up being the way I sorted out a lot of my feelings on sexuality, religion, and family. Outside of my sexuality, too, I have felt my writing affected by politics related to being a second-generation immigrant. One of my other FBA characters touched on this aspect of myself in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and what it would mean from an immigrant perspective.

FWG: Do you have favorite queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?

Herr: I’m going to go with two answers, because I actually have very different answers to this.

For queer writers in general, I would say I’ve always loved the poetry of Federico García Lorca, because how do you have that kind of relationship with Salvador Dali and not find yourself on the queer spectrum somehow? His use of poetic image has been a pretty big influence on my poetry, but I haven’t graced the fandom with that yet so I can’t say it influenced my writing within it. My puppy chapbook idea that might fix that, though…

For queer writers specifically in the fandom, I have to go with Kyell Gold. It may sound like a standard answer, but he’s one of the most venerated furry authors working now for a reason! While I can’t say it’s affected my fiction in the fandom, I will say that one of my current backburner projects is an operatic adaptation of his novel Green Fairy, and it is one that I am hopeful I will have in a state to be workshopped by the end of the year!

FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be?

Herr: This is going to stray so far away from queer writing that some folks will probably balk at it, but I would highly, highly recommend anyone interested in writing to pick up the Lexicon of Musical Invective, by Nicholas Slonimsky. It’s a collection of reviews of all the major composers, primarily the scathing reviews: if you need a dose of reality on how harsh some critics can be even to the greats, well, it’s a great book to have on your shelf! Also, old-timey critics have a gift with words that’s just indelible to witness.

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

Herr: Just wanted to take this moment to give a quick shout-out to queer opera, which is finding a foothold in the operatic repertory as of late. With operas like As One and Fellow Travellers finding a place in the modern operatic repertory, as well as companies commissioning operas like Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain and the Stonewall opera that premiered in last year’s New York City Opera season, it’s never a bad time to start looking into the world of how queer storytelling has started to permeate one of the oldest forms of theater in the world!


We would like to once again thank Herr Wozzeck for this fantastic interview! He can be found on FurAffinity, SoFurry, and Twitter @HerrWozzeck. You can also support him and his writing and musical works on Patreon. For more on his musical pursuits follow @TrioMenagerie on Twitter, or visit their Facebook page at Trio Menagerie. His newest book Whip and Boot from Bound Tales is currently available here.

We hope you enjoyed this spotlight as well as all of our other spotlights for Pride Month! We hope to keep featuring our members in the future. If you have ideas for a member spotlight, please contact our guild president Linnea “LiteralGrill” Capps. Until next time, may your words flow like water.

 

Pride Month Spotlight: Madison “Makyo” Scott-Clary

Welcome to another Furry Writers’ Guild spotlight for Pride Month! We’ve been so excited to share the viewpoints and stories of several of our guild members this month. Today we have an interview Madison “Makyo” Scott-Clary! Her pronouns are she/her. She is a transgender author, poet, programmer, and the editor-in-chief of Hybrid Ink. But why say more when she can tell you about herself? Let’s get right to the interview!


FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

Madison: I’m an author and editor living in the Pacific Northwest with my cat, my two dogs, and my husband who is also a dog. While I majored in music composition and work as a software engineer, I’ve been writing seriously for more than a decade. A lot of my work focuses specifically on queer folks, and often on exploring their lives in normal, comfortable situations – that is, genderqueer folks where their identity doesn’t define them, though it may influence the ways in which they interact with the world and vice versa. I also have a soft spot for metafurry works, where furries qua furries, rather than anthropomorphic characters, are at the heart of the story, as is perhaps obvious from my interaction with [adjective][species] in the past.

A lot of my writing is also defined by my identity as an ace trans woman and a polyamorous individual, and this crops up quite a bit in my writing. I can’t stop talking about it, really.

FWG: What is your favorite work that you have written?

Madison: Oh gosh, hmm. I think in terms of non-fiction, I wrote wrote a semiautobiographical work that took the form of a long, wandering website and book. In terms of fiction, while I’m fond of most of the pieces in the book, the story “Disappearance” in my collection Restless Town is probably my favorite, though I’ll be damned if I could tell you why. In terms of poetry, I wrote a cinquain ode called Growth that I’m very proud of.

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Madison: A good story should be emotionally impactful, have a consistent voice (or a well-reasoned and consistent change in voice throughout), and the characters should change throughout.

  • Emotionally impactful — I don’t necessarily mean that every story should leave me crying, but that a story is best when it inspires an emotional reaction in me, something that inspires empathy. To rip off Winthrop, the characters and I should “rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together”.
  • Consistent voice — One of the things that can turn me away from a work — novels especially — is a widely varying voice that leaves me liking some parts more than others, because it reduces cohesion. Voice need not be static, but if it is not, it should have a reason for its change. A good example of consistent tone is Frank Herbert’s Dune, which sets its tone immediately and sticks with it throughout. A good example of a well-used change in voice in a book is Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which follow’s one character’s struggle with sanity through their prose and follows another character’s growing obsession through unique typography.
  • Character growth — One thing that drives me bonkers about 90s/00s rom-coms (aside from the fact that 90% of them would be non-issues if the characters just talked with one another) is that the characters never grow or change. It’s usually the world changing such that they can suddenly wind up together. At most, the deuteragonists will change, and even then, it’s usually to disappear. A good counterexample would be Kevin Frane’s The Seventh Chakra in which both Arkady and Il-Hyeong both have well defined character arcs that leave them vastly different people than when they started.

FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?

Madison: Oh gosh, since…2014? 2015? Hard to say! One of the big changes that I’ve seen within the guild as time has gone by is that it has gotten a lot more active along the writing front. When I joined, there was discussion about writing occasionally, and the coffeehouse chats were certainly a thing, but in a lot of senses, it felt more like a social gathering of like-minded folks than a guild. There’s no issue with that, to be sure, but I’m glad to see it heading in a direction more focused on craft and the growth of the individual members now.

FWG: You’re not only transgender and ace but also polyamorous! What kind of poly relationship do you find yourself in and what do you enjoy about polyamory?

Madison: As a loose believer in many of the tenets of relationship anarchy, my relationship structure is complicated and at times nebulous. I’m married, have a few partners, a datefriend, a power-dynamic influenced relationship, and several folks with whom I share a mutual fondness without necessarily being in a well-defined relationship. As the polycule has grown (we shall soon overtake Wyoming in terms of population, thanks to the Greater Seattle Postfurry Polycule), I have found myself more and more fascinated with various relationship structures and their rammifications. Probably the best thing about it is the feeling of compersion, that opposite of jealousy that goes along with seeing someone you love happy and complete in their life, even if it’s not necesarily with yourself. Just makes my little heart overflow.

FWG: What does Pride mean to you?

Madison: Pride goes beyond simply the opposite of shame, vanity, or celebration, but it is thoroughly enmeshed with a sense of community and with responsibility. When I was coming out to myself as trans, it was a halting and occasionally isolating process, and it wasn’t until I started interacting with more trans friends that I started to blossom. This is part of a psychological process called “mirroring”, when you see in others some aspect of yourself.

The moment at which I started to feel pride in my identity was the moment my partner somewhat jokingly referred to me as a “trans psychopomp” (someone who guides souls to their destination, such as Charon across the river Styx), and I realized that, at some point without me noticing, I became someone whom others would look to and see some aspects of themselves in. It came with a sense of weighty responsibility, but one that I was, yes, proud to take up.

FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us?

Madison: I mentioned character development and growth when it comes to what makes a good story, and I think that that also applies to our lives outside of fiction. My story of self-identification has its own arc, its own pitfalls and high points, and its own character development, even for those who were perhaps at one point seen as antagonists. At points, the act of transition was deliberate and considered to an almost fractal level of detail (my journey to starting HRT being a good example), while at times it was taken with a lightness of heart that seems almost maddening in retrospect. My journey to gender affirmation surgery began with a friend mentioning that they had surgery, me saying “holy shit, you can just do that?” and then calling up an office and scheduling a consult within a week. As a bit of self-promotion, I wrote extensively on the process in my most recent interactive-project-slash-book, ally, which is perhaps one of the things I have made of which I am most proud. I hope you’ll consider checking it out!

FWG: How do you think being transgender and polyamorous has inspired or affected your stories? Have you written transgender or polyamorous characters into your works?

Madison: I have come out probably five or six times throughout my life — gay, genderqueer, trans, polyam, ace, etc. — to the point where I’m all but convinced that life is the process of continually growing and coming out. This leads to an awful lot of dealing with the inherent coarseness of identity. After all, identity is psychopathological: we only feel identity when it is something that we struggle with (or, as mentioned above, something we see others struggling with.

Because of this, most if not all of my writing focuses on identity. I jokingly describe Restless Town as “sad queer furries in Idaho”, because just about every character in those stories is dealing with identity, many of them queer identities. Often this is taken as a given, since I really like stories in which minority identities are treated as No Big Deal™, but it always plays some role. I’ve been told I write too much about gender, and been accused of writing parables, and you know what? I’m okay with that. It’s what’s important to me, and I think that it’s important to others as well.

FWG: You run and operate Hybrid Ink, do you think your identity has inspired what you choose to publish? If so, how so?

Madison: Hybrid Ink, as a publishing house, is explicitly focused on LGBTQIA+ stories. It’s in our tagline, in our mission statement, and in everything we focus on, so, not to be glib, but yes, and that’s very much the point!

FWG: Do you feel like the issues that affect the outside world involving your identity affect your writing or publishing within the fandom or not?

Madison: I struggled to answer this at first, as I would like to say that I am a flexible enough writer to be able to separate myself enough from my work, such that I can write any story. I really don’t think that’s totally true, though. As I’ve worked through my identity, and as I have seen it challenged politically and socially over the years, my writing has shifted drastically to this aforementioned need to show it normalized. There have been times when I have been tempted to take out my frustrations on my characters and write all sorts of horrible situations of them dealing with transphobia or the like, but every time I start a story like that, I immediately realize that that’s just not what I need. What I need is a bit of proof, however fictional, that happy queer people exist, and that this is okay.

FWG: Do you have favorite queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?

Madison: Hmm! A few, I think, though with some of them, I don’t know their identities, but they have still written formative works. Jen Durbent, who wrote Hybrid Ink’s first publication, My Dinner With Andrea, is a pretty big inspiration for me. Ditto Blue Neufstifter/Azure Husky, whose microfiction works have often left me in awe. In terms of works, Max Gladwell and Amal El-Mohtar’s This Is How You Lose The Time War has had a huge influence on both my queer-writing-ness and personal style, and Hanne Blank’s Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality has very much influenced my non-fiction within this realm.

FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be?

Madison: Aaargh, this is such a hard question! It probably changes by the month! Right now, I think it would be the aforementioned This Is How You Lose The Time War. That book wrecked me over and over again. Tore me up, spit me out, left me more whole than when I started. It’s scifi, but somehow manages to be so without being particularly “hard” or “soft”. It’s romance without being saccharine. The voice and style is just heartbreaking.

You’ll have to forgive me a pair of honorable mentions, but I hope you’ll understand the reason. I have been very much pushing that writers learn about their craft from media other than just the novel and the short story. Please, please, fellow writers, give graphic novels a go if nothing else. Both Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole and Craig Thomson’s Habibi similarly wrecked in in the best possible way.

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

Madison: You’re more important than you realize! I quoted John Winthrop earlier, and his words are well worth keeping in mind: “We must delight in each other, make each others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together — always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.” Keep up the good work, and keep on supporting each other!

Also: back up your work.


We would like to thank Madison once more for participating in this interview! You can keep up with Madison’s writing on her writing twitter @makyo_writes and her Mastodon. You can also support her on Patreon or Subscribestar. Finally, you can find her writing at makyo.ink and you can find Hybrid at hybrid.ink.

We hope you all enjoyed reading, be sure to stay tuned for our final Pride Month spotlight next week!

 

 

 

Pride Month Spotlight: Hugo Jackson

Welcome to another Furry Writers’ Guild spotlight for Pride Month! We’ve been so excited to share the viewpoints and stories of several of our guild members this month. Today we have an interview Hugo Jackson! Their pronouns are he/him or they/them. They are a non-binary author and has written three books so far in The Resonance Tetrology. But why say more when they can tell you about themself? Let’s get right to the interview!


FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

Hugo: Well, in furry circles I’m Archantael, a big and fluffy/scaly pangolin-fox hybrid, but in writing I go my professional name Hugo Jackson where I’m distinctly more fleshy. I’m 34, and probably the most distinct thing about me (from the point of view of me living in the US, anyway) is that I grew up in Britain, so my accent is British even though I’ve been here for over eight years now. I have been a published author since 2010 but have been an avid writer and slave to my overactive imagination since I was very very young. It’s been a great journey being able to embrace that, and it’s something I’m grateful for daily, not least of all because it brought me to the furry community and all of its amazing, sincere, colourful creatures and members.

FWG: What is your favourite work that you have written?

Hugo: Well, Legacy (my first novel) will always be the biggest milestone for me, not least of all because it’s the one I usually throw at people when I conjure up the bravery to actually sell my books to people, but Ruin’s Dawn, which is the third in the fantasy series, I feel had a real step up in my writing style and strength of voice, so that’s what I’m most proud of currently. It’s also the one I’ve been able to incorporate more of my personal views and experiences in the community, and myself, into, which makes it more personal through its unfolding.

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Hugo: I think anything sincere, written in your authentic voice, will make a good story. Obviously form and structure play a big part in making it readable and exciting in terms of pacing and suspense, but the best stories are the ones told without fear of condemnation for their sense of self-expression. Being bullied when I was younger, for a considerable amount of time, it became very easy for me to think ideas of fantasy or sci-fi were too much, and now I’m railing against that in my own work and in what I see in others’ stories. Make those superpowers and have your characters love whomever they feel most at ease with. Make a story completely yours, and you’re already well on the way to something good.

FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?

Hugo: I think I joined back in 2013, just after Legacy was picked up by Inspired Quill. The membership requirements were fairly stringent back then, but given how much the self-publishing, indie, and Patreon markets have exploded in that time, the criteria for becoming a member have loosened a fair bit, and the availability for prospective writers to join via Telegram or Discord has made it more accessible for more people too. Writing and imagination aren’t things to be rationed to the elite- everyone deserves a fair chance at expressing themselves and achieving an ambition for the worlds that have grown within them, and I’ve loved seeing more people join in and take the chance to talk openly to other members about anything writing related, from story concepts to the actual publication process.

FWG: You are nonbinary correct? Can you explain what that means to you to the folks reading this interview?

Hugo: To me, being nonbinary is a multi-faceted identity. I mean, any identity is, gender or not, but particularly to me is the idea of breaking the barriers between gender conformity and expression. The idea that actually, we have always been more than we’re told we are, and that we can take hold of something more unique than we were promised.

Being nonbinary means so much to me because it describes the emotional parts of me I had trouble reconciling, the way I didn’t fit in when I was younger, the ways I wanted to embrace my identity and creativity when I was younger but wasn’t able to, especially where bullying led to self-consciousness or anxiety that made me hold myself back from so much of it until I met the furry community and I discovered more than I ever knew I didn’t know about what I could be.

FWG: You’re also pansexual! What does being pansexual mean to you?

Hugo: Essentially, and I know this varies from person to person, to me it’s the idea that anyone is attractive, no matter their gender. Some people claim this means you don’t acknowledge gender but to me it’s the exact opposite- I am aware of and embrace all identities I have the opportunity to meet and I can love and find them attractive all the same. The only things that will turn me off someone are aspects like bigotry, ignorance, hate, or mean-spirited nastiness. The TL;DR of it is, if you’re kind, you’re beautiful.

FWG: What does Pride mean to you?

Hugo: Oh wow, it’s so all-encompassing. It’s a celebration, an affirmation, a chance to connect with both a history and a future of gender identity and sexuality, the chance to try and come together to fight against oppressive conditioned behaviours from both outside and within ourselves and learn to love each other and ourselves more wholly, even if just a bit at a time. It’s a chance to find out who to protect, who to love, who to support and empower, and find those same things in others for ourselves.

FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us?

Hugo: I feel kind of boring, it was a fairly slow process for me. I had… well, I suppose there were many tell-tale signs as I was growing up and a few distinct experiences that should, had I been given the knowledge at the time, have told me that I was more than just ‘a straight boy’. Times when I embraced roleplaying a girl more readily than a male character, or when I had no issue whatsoever in my first stage role in high school wearing a big pink poofy dress. Or just… many other moments like that, getting a massive crush in a big way on a guy in my acting class (because holy crap he was beautiful). It wasn’t until after I found and really engaged with the furry community that the seeds of my identity began to propagate much more quickly, seeing the freedom of others’ self-expression, people who had fought for years to be who they are now, and finding kindredness and inspiration in them. They have inspired me in so many ways, and it’s something I’ll be eternally grateful for.

FWG: How do you think being nonbinary and pansexual has inspired or affected your stories? Have you written nonbinary or pansexual characters into your works?

Hugo: It has, if for no other reason than I want to represent something I don’t see in much media but I feel should desperately be shown more authentically. I see far more scope for a greater range of characters to interact with each other in different ways, and love more authentically. I wish I had known more about myself and the world even sooner, that I could have introduced more LGBTQIA+ characters into my Resonance books from the very beginning. As it is, I have a nonbinary character in Ruin’s Dawn, and a few characters in the series overall who I now know definitively are pansexual, and many other sexualities besides. Being as my books are young adult fiction, adult relationships don’t come into it that much, but sexuality and gender identity are still relevant to teenagers, so having nonbinary representation is super important.

FWG: Do you have favourite queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?

Hugo: I actually read criminally little for being a novelist, I mostly devour graphic novels. Having said that, almost all of the graphic novels I read are by queer authors and artists- Noelle Stevenson, Rebecca Sugar, Molly Ostertag. Any queer author writing genuine rep and creating fantastical worlds is going to light the fires of my imagination, and encourage me to go even further in my own work.

FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be?

Goodness, the one that comes to mind most for me (aside from knowing I’d love everyone to read mine someday), would be The Dark Portal by Robin Jarvis. It’s a younger teens book, but has incredible suspense, magic-wielding mice and demon cats in the sewers of London, so I feel there’s not much to go wrong with that.

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

Hugo: Your voice is unique in all the world. Don’t lose the chance to use it for good, for yourself or those around you, whether in fiction or in reality.


We would like to thank Hugo once more for participating in this interview! You can keep up with them by following them on Twitter and checking out their blog. Their books are available through Inspired Quill and the first chapter of Legacy, Book One, is available for free at https://www.inspired-quill.com/product/legacy If you want to hear them read that and a few other things, they also have a YouTube channel.

We hope you all enjoyed reading, be sure to stay tuned for another Pride Month spotlight next week!

Pride Month Spotlight: Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen

Hello readers and welcome to our next Furry Writers’ Guild spotlight for Pride Month! Today we’ll be interviewing Den Leinir Turthra Jensen! Their pronouns are either they/them or it/its. We could tell you more about them, but why when they could do it themself? Let’s get to the interview!


FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

Leinir: I’m originally from Denmark, but moved to the UK about a decade ago, as my better half is from there and it was easier for me to relocate. We now live together with a good friend, and our pet two legged rat in a doer-upper bungalow in the English Midlands. Usually, I’m a pretty relaxed sort of person, and quite enjoy cooking a bit of food. Especially for people who enjoy it, which luckily is the case most of the time.

I’m not a full time writer, so my everyday thing is being sponsored to work on free and open source software, primarily in the KDE project, where I work primarily on the KNewStuff, Calligra Gemini, and Peruse projects. Recently, I also became involved with The Tail Company (guess what they make… no, not just tails, but yes, also those), for whom I maintain their Android app, for controlling their DIGITAiL and EarGear animatronic gear.

FWG: What is your favorite work that you have written?

Leinir: Oh no, the scary question! They’re my babies, I couldn’t possibly chose… One of my favourites, though not only for the story itself but also everything else surrounding it, is probably my story about a society where we have carnivores in a modern society very similar to our own, and the kind of effects that might have on society. It is set in a Denmark, where the first pack of wolves in over a century recently established themselves. That is to say, that has happened in our world, but it functions as the catalyst for the story as well. This story started out really just with that in mind, and without any proper plot behind it, the way most of my stories do.

What developed as I wrote was a bonding tale that made one beta reader tell me, whatever else I did to that story, to not change the ending as they thought it had made them a better person. If I never make another person think that, I will be contented to know that i at least made one person feel that way. The story, and the recipe that goes with it, can be found in The Furry Cookbook, which exists only as a frankly glorious hardcover version the creation of which I am proud to have been a small part.

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Leinir: Characters. Believable ones, with more depth than you encounter in the story itself. The ones that leave you wanting to know more, about them, and about their world. The ones who can keep a conversation that isn’t necessarily just for the plot.

FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?

Leinir: I’m a brand spanking new member, with my actual membership proper less than a month old. I have, however, been hanging out in the guild spaces for several years now, and I have seen the guild go through a couple of series of changes. When I joined, the guild seemed in a little upheaval, and since then it has pulled itself together substantially. When I joined, it was really mostly to hang out with a bunch of people who also write, but what I found was not only friends, but encouragement and help with building skills that have come in more than a little handy since.

Until joining, I had no real desire or plans to attempt to write anything for publication, and here we are now, with several stories in a variety of anthologies, a small set of contributor copies on my shelf. Even a recipe to go with one of those stories, thanks to The Furry Cookbook I mentioned before.

FWG: You are agender correct? Can you explain what that means to you to the folks reading this interview?

Leinir: Certainly can! Usually, when describing this, I will just say that it means I don’t have a gender, but of course that is something of an oversimplification. Gender, it seems, is a case of multi-dimensional geometry. The simplistic view on it tends to be the idea that there is just one axis with male at one end and female the other, which at least on many companies’ websites sees to be interpreted as absolute values, so you can only pick one of those.

My own version, which also is a simplification, but which catches at least a fair bit more of the nuances of reality, is to have three axes: The male/female axis, to put you anywhere between the two. An inclusive/exclusive axis, which lets you suggest whether your position on the first axis is a mix of either extreme, or an absence of the one to which that position is nearest. And finally, the strength axis, which lets you position the strength of affiliation with the position on the first axis.

Given that bit of geometric fiddling about, for me, I fall fairly in the middle on the first axis, and on the second axis somewhere fairly near to the exclusive side, which puts me at more or less having an absence of gender, rather than having one. And then we get to the strength axis, which is where I feel occasionally like a bit of an impostor. Not in a terrible way, not really, but more because the strength of my gender identity is not particularly high.

What this means is that while i was born with male primary sexual characteristics, I do not really suffer very much from dysmorphia, or even dysphoria. That is to say, I would prefer not to have these things, but from there to actually being disgusted by them like some are, or it having any kind of effect in my day to day life outside of everybody calling me him a lot, it doesn’t affect me any great deal. That is not to say that it doesn’t have some semblance of effect, because of course it does – see for example my textual facepalming above about binary gender choices in random web registration forms and the like. It simply means that, really, for me, day to day, it is at most an inconvenience and a disappointment that the world is so stuck in a binary, when the real world is so much more fuzzy.

FWG: You’re also asexual! What part of the asexual spectrum do you fall under and what does that mean to you?

Leinir: This is a slightly more… new discovery in myself, so I’ve not thought as deeply about how to describe it as i have with my gender… But, with that in mind, there is a similar thing going on here with the axes, though I’m not sure how to label them. However, one thing that made me think I was not asexual in the past was that well, I do occasionally do the sexy stuff, and I do enjoy that when it happens. I greatly enjoy wearing slinky clothing, like spandex and the like, and I have been a rubberist for longer than i can remember. Rubber being, of course, one of those materials that seems to have all manner of sexual connections, with people having this funny idea that if you wear rubber, it’s a sex thing. For me, then, being asexual is not really a case of being repulsed by sex the way some are, or anything like that, rather for me it means that it is not something I desire, not something I seek out.

I am a highly tactile person, and those materials I mentioned earlier play into that. My entire thing is about hugs, cuddles, stroking, brushing and raking hair, that sort of thing, in that kind of way which means it could involve sex or not, and I really could care less about that. The same for the various aspects of kinkiness that you might encounter, like bondage, even vacuum beds: Everything that I actually do seek out, such as those things, are not sexual in any real way, they are, in effect, about comfort. They are about calm, relaxed pleasure. Nothing more, and nothing less. Sexytimes? Sure, that can be fun, I guess, but I just… don’t really care, i guess.

FWG: What does Pride mean to you?

Leinir: Pride to me means, well, a few different things.

For us, now, where we live, at least to a degree, it is mostly a celebration that we have for the most part arrived at a point where we are not discriminated against in any real kind of big way. There is more to be done, but this seems to be mostly a kind of reluctance to just remove legislation wholesale which has some semblance of reasoning, without having something more reasonable to replace it with. And I kind of get that. Blood donations for gay men, weird requirements about self identification, and other nonsensical things like that notwithstanding.

It also means fighting, and solidarity. We may well be sort of mostly okay where we are, but that does not mean it is like that for all. Pride for me, for us, is then also a way of showing our support for people who do not share the privilege we have for living in a country that at least tries to do these things with some semblance of humanity in mind. Where we are considered people.

With that in mind, it also means memory. It means that pride today, where we live, is remembering that those who came before us fought for our right to be who we are, without having to apologize or hide, without having to fear for our lives.

FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us? 

Leinir: Unlike the story told by so many, my journey has been a calm one, supported by those around me. Going through thinking I was bisexual, and even gay, and finally discovering that it is… not quite straightforward enough for that kind of labeling. Because what’s it called when your husband married someone they thought was male, because they didn’t really know any better at the time, and who doesn’t really seek out sex anyway? Gay doesn’t perhaps seem to fit that, but there’s not much in the way of terminology to match, and so queer, in its vagueness, kind of fits. But even that feels not entirely right, and so I simply keep discovering and learning. Maybe that is where my own little part of this huge journey is a little different: I do not feel these things strongly enough for it to be something that stops my life, and with those around me supporting me, it is much easier to explore it, and simply let the discoveries happen when they want to.

FWG: How do you think being agender and asexual has inspired or affected your stories? Have you written agender or asexual characters into your works?

Leinir: I imagine it must have a strong effect on my stories that I do not seek sexual gratification, and that I am tactility… if not obsessed then certainly attached. My stories tend to have a lot of affection in them, but while I have had a whole range of different types of relationships in them, they are never strongly seeking, they are never fiery passionate, not in the way that one might see them in a lot of popular work. Not even going so far as some of the various almost-porn (with which there really is nothing wrong, don’t @ me 😉 ), it just is not really something that tends to pop up in my mind as a motivation point for the characters.

Some of them certainly turn out to have desires, and those do get fulfilled – even if usually after fading out, or perhaps refused because motivation and no you don’t always get to have the thing – but it is usually a motivator in the story. I sometimes wonder if this reduces the scopes of what stories i can tell, but also, as such motivations don’t really work for me as a person, I would feel uncomfortable trying to work them in. It would feel, perhaps, a little disingenuous. In other words: Yes, my asexuality has most certainly affected my writing, and being agender means I have, well, a few characters with either entirely unspecified gender, or explicitly no gender, and a bunch of varieties on that whole handwavy thing.

FWG: Do you feel like the issues that affect the outside world involving your identity affect your writing within the fandom or not?

Leinir: Frankly i am not sure. The parts of my writing which are, I guess, sociopolitical in nature tend to focus on other things than sexuality and gender identity, and for those it rather has a tendency to sneak in, because, well, in my head there just isn’t anything wrong with it. That is not to say no conflicts arise, because they do, but it tends to not really be a main motivational factor for any antagonist, or even protagonist, it just is a thing which is there.

In my less deliberately commenting work, conversely, it does seem to sneak in more often. Not so much the gender related ones, but rather the asexuality ones I mentioned just before; the hugs, just casual cuddling and contact. With the social distancing that is currently so front and center (and likely will be with us for a very long time, and rightly so), it feels like maybe I need to think very carefully about how to frame that in the future.

FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be?

Leinir: Well, that is a question and a bit! A couple spring to mind, I’m sorry, I cannot do only the one.

One being the Helliconia Trilogy by Brian W. Aldiss, which was my first proper entry into serious, highly conceptual sci fi. The thing is nearly as old as I am, but that doesn’t stop it from being the thing which made my young mind go all funny with idea. That it is also the book I was reading when our house burnt down in 1995 might have had some effect in cementing it in my mind (and no, that was a long time ago, we’re all out the other side and all we lost was belongings, everybody was safe, including the animals).

The other book is The 40,000 At Gehenna, by C J Cherryh, which is not as religious a book as the title suggests. It is, without going into it too deeply, a story about a colony of artificially grown and, effectively, hypnotically programmed humans who were in essence dumped on a newly discovered planet and, due to some social upheaval at the other end of their supply lines, ended up having to fend for themselves on a world where life already existed before they landed. The programming included some base stipulations to ensure they would love and take care of that world, and the book explores what that means and how that kind of broadly termed instruction might be interpreted.

Finally, I will mention that i am right now utterly engrossed in a book by fellow FWG member, JFR Coates, whose space stoats and the immense hardships they live through in Reborn and the sequel Traitor are currently bringing me as close to tears as anything has for a long time. I am not yet through book two yet, and already hunger to spend more time in this world, and consequently am delighted to know there is a third book on the way. It is astonishing, and if you haven’t grabbed copies yet already, you absolutely, definitely should go and do so right now. Perhaps finish reading the interview first, but definitely go and grab that.

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

Leinir: You should be immensely proud of the wonderful, supporting place that is the Furry Writers’ Guild, and furry in general. When I joined in the late 90s, this was a much maligned community, which mostly just ignored the trite commentary by others about these weirdos and their fluffy or otherwise animal things with human type stuff also going on. As time passed, I got to watch, and experience in person, how this evolved into one of the most welcoming and aware communities out there.

When the internet went insane and people realized just how prevalent, shall we just say certain political thoughts, were, we were able to look around, frown, and be a bit confused, all the while the world outside praised us for being the one place that had really not allowed that lot to spend any amount of time with us outside of a few, scattered, and decidedly tiny and unwelcome parts. It is a wonderful thing. Be proud. Furry or not, just the fact you made it to here means you have some interest, and have at least some awareness of that fact.


We would like to thank Leinir again for this wonderful interview! You can find a list of their published works on their Goodreads account and follow them on Mastodon. Stay tuned for next week when we feature another member of the guild for pride! Until we meet again, may your words flow like water.

 

 

Pride Month Spotlight: Al Song

Hello readers and welcome to the first of many Furry Writers’ Guild spotlights for Pride Month! Today we’ll be interviewing Al Song! His pronouns are he/him/his. He has been published in such anthologies as Fang 8, Roar 9, Tales from the Guild: World Tour, The Furry Cookbook, Foxers or Beariefs, Sensory De-Tails, Howloween, and Difursity. As it was also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month just a few days prior, we want to present this interview as an intersectional look a Pride alongside Asian Heritage. So what are we waiting for, let’s dive in!


FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

Al Song: I’m a gay red kangaroo living near the caffeine-fueled city of Seattle. My parents are refugees from Laos, and they had me while they lived in Hawaii. I majored in German Studies and Comparative Literature when I was in college. I also took some French, Japanese, and Italian courses, since I fell in love with learning new languages. Culturally speaking, I’m a vegetarian charcuterie board of various foods that seem like they typically shouldn’t belong together. At least it always gives me something new to write about. I typically write and read queer slice of life romance and am editor or such works at Thurston Howl Publications. My other artistic love is music, which is another topic I truly enjoy writing about. Between fretboards and keyboards my fingers probably don’t like me very much.  

Off topic, but I love escape rooms. I’ve done forty of them, and they never get tiring.

FWG: What is your favorite work that you have written?

Al Song: “Rekindling” in Difursity is definitely a story I hold close to my heart. I put a lot of my identities and struggles into that short story. The protagonist is a gay, Laotian-American college student, and the story discusses the intersectionality of being both gay and Asian-American along with some issues my family and I have been through. 

“Serenity in Blue” in Fang volume 8 is another story I’m proud of, since it’s the first story I ever published, and Fang is the first furry anthology I read when I was in college. This story discusses the struggles of life after graduating from college in the modern world, along with the big topics of queerness and mental health, which are subjects that unfortunately are not often discussed in Lao culture. 

When it comes to both of these stories I wanted to bring up things that are rarely discussed and brought to light. Despite all the heaviness, these stories also contain romance and love. I’ve set out to expose audiences to new perspectives identities, while also trying to show those who have been pushed down that there can be hope out there. 

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Al Song: If a story makes a lasting impact (typically a positive one) in my mind, then it’s usually a pretty good one. I’ve read short comics, poems and have listened to songs with concise stories that have left me with more profound thoughts and emotions than some novel series or even shows that lasted multiple seasons. If it’s been a few years, and I’m still thinking about a story, then it’s done something right. I’m not talking about stories that have left me with a bad impression or have triggered me and won’t leave my memory banks. I typically read YA, romance, and slice of life novels that take place in the present, so when a book or short story can stand out amongst all the other books in a positive manner, then I’ll know it was worth my time. If it can also give me a smile when I think about it, then it gets bonus points.

FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?

Al Song: I’ve been in the guild for about two years or so, but I’ve been following it for much longer, since I have friends and peers in within the guild. It feels like there are more opportunities and places to submit stories, and there are more and more diverse voices in the guild itself, which is definitely important. It also seems like there are even more opportunities to learn from one another in the guild.

FWG: What does your Asian Heritage mean to you?

Al Song: It means a lot to me, since it’s shaped my life and its experiences in so many different ways. Being born and raised in the US with a Laotian background has its challenges, but I would never trade my ability to speak Lao for another language or trade my culture in for another one. When I grew up I wished that I could just be like everyone else, but I realized that my identities are incredibly important. I’ve been exposed to so much good food, music, and people who have built me up and helped me through life. It also seems like many people within the US don’t know anything about Laos. I recently had to explain to someone where Laos is located and that Lao is a language. It gives me a chance to teach people something new about the world and broaden their horizons. 

Unfortunately, being both gay and Lao-American can make things more difficult than they need to be. I don’t feel like very many people in queer circles can understand what I go through as an Asian-American, and in Lao spheres queerness is usually a taboo topic, so it feels like I can’t really discuss it with my family. The toughest thing is that I usually don’t feel like I have a place where I can truly belong. Despite all of this I think my identities have helped me become more empathetic with others and what they go through, since I’m always a fish out of water.

FWG: How has being gay affected or inspired the stories you write? Have you written gay characters into your stories?

Al Song: So far I’ve exclusively written queer characters as protagonists, since I’m gay, and there are just so many stories featuring straight protagonists and characters out there, and I want my readers to be able to see parts of themselves within my characters and what they go through, and I want them to be able to ship characters without having to make them queer, since they’re already queer characters. There have been so many times I wished a series or a novel I really enjoyed had more queer representation, so I wanted go out and make that happen.

FWG: How about your heritage? Does it and your gay identity ever mix in terms of inspiration for your stories?

Al Song: Most of my protagonists are Lao-American and Gay. This intersection is probably one of the biggest topics I talk about. Not many people will know what it’s like, and I definitely want to get that experience out there, especially through such a fun medium. Furry editors I’ve worked with have mostly reacted positively to this less common perspective. It’s not often you read about queer Asian-Americans in literature, and whenever I see these characters portrayed positively it definitely brings a smile to my face. Even though I’m focused on creating stories for other queer folk and people of color, I also want my stories to resonate with those who don’t share my identities as well. I write about universal things like rejection, creative struggles, and love, but giving the stories a gay and Asian twist seems to help them show a unique perspective. I’ve taken a lot of my personal experiences as a gay man along with my Laotian heritage and have put them into my stories, because I do want to make a positive impact and to show others like me that we’re not alone in this world.

FWG: Do you feel like the issues that affect the outside world involving your identity or heritage affect your writing within the fandom or not?

Al Song: Definitely, the mainstream media could really do a better job with representation of both Asian-Americans and queer characters, since there’s a huge lack of both identities in TV and film, and as much as I love YA novels it’s not that often that I get to see queer people of color as protagonists. Sometimes we do see a character who is gay or Asian, then they end up becoming a side character and it makes me even sadder when they get all the stereotypes applied to them. In my stories I want to undo this and to show off characters who share my identities in a positive manner.

FWG: What kinds of intersectional issues have you had to deal with while being a gay Asian author? What would you like people to know about these issues and how could they help to improve to make these less to deal with?

Al Song: I’ve been around a lot of authors who think they can just write whatever they want about a marginalized group or identity that the author doesn’t share without any consultations. I understand that this is a heated topic, so let’s talk about music for a second. It’s very cringeworthy to see an actor play an instrument incorrectly on the screen, and if you’re going to write technical aspects of a musical performance or the life of a musician, then please do your research and reach out to some musicians and have them look over your work. Violin bows need to be rosined, and fretboards and fingerboards are different things. There have been times when I’ve read a musical description and felt a lot disappointment and realized the author probably wasn’t a musician. If you’re going to talk about a group of people who don’t share your identities, and you don’t want to look foolish, then maybe you should reach out. 

Unfortunately, within the fandom I’ve seen Asian characters not always presented in a great light. I’ve read stories where we’ve been heavily stereotyped and speak in broken English, ones where we become exoticized and fetishized, and at times we get shown in a negative light as the antagonist. Sometimes it’s a combination of these things. It’s definitely disheartening to see this happen within the fandom, since it’s a place I love so much. For some reason explaining to people that I don’t want someone to be attracted to me because of my race is more confusing than an AP Calculus class. It would be nice to have more writers and editors who are cognizant of this when they’re crafting stories and are publishing them. Telling someone that their lived experience is incorrect is definitely not helpful. The same thing applies to straight people who write queer characters. At least reach out to someone.

FWG: Do you have favorite Asian and/or queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?

Al Song: Shawn Wong is probably my favorite Asian author, since he was also my intermediate prose instructor at the University of Washington. He taught me so much about the importance of writing a story with a message, along with his own struggles as an Asian-American writer with immigrant parents. He really shaped my understanding of what stories are along with how to have a more critical view of them. He also helped me realize that writing about my issues and experiences is extremely crucial, and that those things shouldn’t be hidden. One of my favorite gay authors is David Levithan. After reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson during my senior year of high school I was inspired to write similar slice of life gay romance stories that also dealt with mental health. The novel was so sad and funny, and it just made me so happy. This made me want to create joy in the hearts of those who read my stories. 

FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be?

Al Song: “Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel,” by Sara Farizan. It’s a smart and hilarious YA novel about being a nerdy, young, queer, person of color, with immigrant parents in modern day America. I got to meet the author while I was a student librarian at the Q Center of the University of Washington. She gave me some of the best advice that I continue to follow today when it comes to writing. This was during a time when I had some people tell me that I was writing too much about music and romance, so she pretty much told me to keep writing about those things if it’s what I love doing. Thanks to her advice I’ve been published in multiple anthologies. 

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

Al Song: Honest art is something I really enjoy, and it’s been the thing that’s helped me garner a modicum of success when it comes to writing in the fandom. I definitely write what I know, and I’m sure most people know a good amount about themselves along with the issues they’ve been through. Every person is different and unique, so when we each put ourselves into our art it allows us to shine and stand out. It’s definitely understandable that vulnerability is a tough and scary thing, but between putting ourselves and our works out there, dealing with rejection, and facing heart-rending critiques; vulnerability is at the forefront of all of this. It can be used to strengthen us and our creativity. As cliché as it sounds, maybe you should just be your true self.


We would like to thank Al once again for this interview! If you’d like to follow him or his works you can do so on Twitter @song_roo, or on his FurAffinity page or SoFurry page. Stay tuned for next week when we feature another member of the guild for pride! Until we meet again, may your words flow like water.

FWG Monthly Newsetter: May 2020

Hello there FWG members! For those of you that have been with us for a long time, you will be excited to hear that we are bringing back the monthly newsletters! For those newer to the guild, we once produced monthly newsletters to tell people about things like new open markets and guild news. We’re hoping to bring this back to give all our members information to help them thrive while writing anthropomorphic fiction!

First it’s been a very busy month for the guild. We updated our website, got a new logo, opened up a new Discord channel, updated our membership listings, and voted on new by-laws and a new code of conduct. With all of our listing updates, we are showing 114 active members! We’ll keep accepting any updates as they come in, but we’re happy so many of you got the form filled out fast.

The vote to implement our new by-laws and code of conduct passed with over a 90% majority of members, so these will now be put into place. You can now see them on our website. With this in mind, this opens up several new officer positions within the guild. If you might be interested in becoming our Public Relations Officer, Markets Manager, or potentially the Cóyotl Awards Chair, please get in contact with a guild officer so we can talk to you!

Speaking of the Cóyotl Awards, where are they? We did hold our vote for the 2019 awards and have the results tallied. Issues with the current Covid 19 pandemic have made getting our normal supplies for our special coyote trophies a bit difficult as well as makes sending them out to winners tough. We are considering a special awards stream for the winners hopefully very soon and we promise to keep you posted.

If you haven’t joined the new official FWG Discord, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. One of the new features on the Discord is our special beta reading program, so we would like to spotlight Rockie Thiger (@Thiger on Discord) for providing the most beta reads for fellow authors this month! If you’d like to learn more about this new program or simply jump into the conversation come join us on Discord.

We would also like to welcome the newest members of our guild: Rockie Thiger, David “Ryft Sarri” Yenser, Resolute, Stacy Bender / P.C. Hatter, Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, Jensyn Grayves, Metassus, and Herr Wozzeck! We are very excited to have these wonderful writers join our ranks.

In honor of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, we interviewed FWG member Allison Thai! You can find that full interview here. We’ll also be featuring some authors during Pride Month on the blog, so keep an eye out!

One last bit of guild business, we would like to remind our members about our Microfiction Monday initiative. Any writer, non-members included, that can write a Tweet sized story has the opportunity to have it featured on our Twitter! You can learn more about the program and how to submit here.


Several new books have been released over the last couple of months including:

Goal Publications also has two novels available for pre-order now including:

We want to express some particular excitement for Awoo, Who’s This? Coming from Bound Tales, this special anthology features members of the Furry Writers’ Guild trying to write in the style of other members. Funds from this anthology go to help the guild so consider giving it a look!


Part of our website update was making our Furry Writers’ Market better than ever before! You can find all of open markets for furry writing we can track down here: https://furrywritersguild.com/furry-writers-market/

Currently, these anthology markets are open:

Consider checking out our page for details and writing up a story for one of these awesome anthologies!


We know there’s been a lot going on lately, but we hope the guild can keep working together to keep making this an awesome space for all of our members. If you have any ideas for special programs we could work on, be sure to let us know! We have more projects around the corner that we’re very excited to show off when they are ready. Stay safe all of you wonderful furry writers!

– FWG President Linnea “LiteralGrill” Capps

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Spotlight: Allison Thai

It’s May, and in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month we wanted to feature one of our authors with Asian heritage within the Furry Writers’ Guild. We interviewed Allison Thai who has been featured in publications such as Zooscape, Infurno: The Nine Circles of Hell, and ROAR Volume 8. Without further ado, let’s get to the interview.


 

FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

Allison: I am the oldest daughter of Vietnam War refugees. My first taste in animal stories came from the Redwall and Warriors series. Though my fursona is a husky, according to Vietnamese myth I’m actually a fairy-dragon hybrid. No, I didn’t make that up. The Vietnamese creation story claims that the Vietnamese people are descended from a dragon lord and a fairy queen—con rồng cháu tiên: children of the dragon, grandchildren of gods. Pretty rad, huh?

FWG: What is your favorite work that you have written?

Allison: “In the Name of Science,” featured in Thurston Howl Publication’s Infurno anthology. It’s historical fiction set in WWII Japan, based on Unit 731 and written in the form of logs from a young ermine surgeon, who gradually becomes disillusioned and disgusted by the work she’s doing. Writing this story let me grapple with the horrifying reality that Japan had conducted covert human experiments upon other Asian groups. Giving this dark piece of our history an anthro twist doesn’t make the inhumanity of it any less.

On a lighter note, I absolutely love how THP went all out with the presentation of this hellish-themed anthology: black pages, white font, interludes to show the fates of characters who’ve committed sins. THP took a step further with my story: using cursive and courier fonts to reflect the alternation between my protagonist’s personal writings and her more objective, detached recordings of atrocities she took part in.

This was certainly no joy ride to write, and I came out disturbed by this story that I had pulled from the darkest, deepest recess of my mind. Still, I’m proud and grateful to have written it. What I hope to achieve with “In the Name of Science” is to raise awareness of an event sometimes known as the Asian Holocaust—not talked about as much as its Western counterpart—and share with the reader what scares me the most: not fictional monstrosities, but how man is capable of being the cruelest creature.

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Allison: I need to have characters who are grounded in reality, and a character arc I can resonate with and root for. Readers can suspend their disbelief and accept fantastical things like sentient spaceships, schools of wizardry, superhero societies, talking animals, etc., but if there are no believable, relatable characters, that’s when a reader like me puts down the book. The protagonist doesn’t have to be necessarily likeable, but plausibility and authenticity in the voice, personality, and drive is a must for me. I’m also a sucker for beautiful style, poetic prose, and poignant, succinct turns of phrase.

FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?

Allison: I have been in the guild since 2016. Since then, I’ve learned a lot from being among other furry writers on how to approach worldbuilding and characterization specifically for furry stories. I appreciate that aspect of the guild and the furry writing community very much. Though I’m not entrenched in guild management, nor have I been at the helm of any anthro project, I’ve seen attempts to advocate the recognition and merit of furry literature, from the existence of things like Furry Book Review to the much-needed arrival of Zooscape, a new anthro magazine created and run by Mary E. Lowd. (I have a story there, by the way, a novelette on Arctic foxes in Iceland, and had the most fun writing it!)

As someone who has one foot in the furry writing community, and the other in the genre/SFF/speculative fiction community, I’m seeing the gap between them grow smaller and smaller as, for example, my fellow writers who normally stay behind the spec fic circle begin submitting and publishing their work in Zooscape. I look forward to a future of more overlap among the writing communities, and building enough readership and resources to get furry literature sold and published at professional paying rates.

FWG: What does your Asian Heritage mean to you?

Allison: It’s an important part of me, and will always be a part of me, but my awareness and acknowledgement of it comes and goes like a tidal wave. Sometimes, like when I go about my Americanized daily life, or I’m too occupied with studying or working, I don’t think much of it. Other times, though, thrust it from the periphery to the forefront. Those other times have been, among other things, Lunar New Year, or attending Vietnamese church with my parents, or the surge in anti-Asian sentiment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Being born and raised in Houston, I take it for granted that I had grown up in the largest Vietnamese-American population outside of California. Only when I travel outside of Texas, outside of Houston even, do I become very aware of how scarce Asians are in many other areas. I’m comfortable with my identity and wouldn’t want to trade it for anything else. While my Asian heritage is an important part of me, that’s not all there is to me.

FWG: Do you feel like the issues that affect the outside world affect your writing within the fandom or not?

Allison: COVID-19 is the prevailing issue I’m sure that’s on everyone’s minds lately! So far I haven’t written anything in response to the pandemic. I did, however, write a (non-furry) Russian plague doctor story 2 years before this COVID-19 mess came down. As someone studying to join the medical profession, this issue is close to my heart. The clinical setting, the people who work there, and the kind of work they do are familiar elements that I often return to in my stories. Given my experience of working in the ER, sometimes I wonder what an ER run by animals for animals would look like. Currently I have my sights set on writing a long-ish furry ER story this summer.

FWG: Do you have favorite Asian authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?

Allison: Ken Liu, who’s Chinese-American, and Aliette de Bodard, who’s Vietnamese-French. What I admire most about their work is the incredible range they explore. Ken Liu is a versatile writer whose prose shines in whatever genre and topic he dabbles in. In addition to stories inspired by Vietnamese and Chinese culture, Aliette de Bodard has written Aztec alternative history.

All of that gives me inspiration and courage not to pigeon-hole myself into writing only Asian stories. I know that choice to write only from your background or not is a very, intensely personal and meaningful one for POCs, and there’s no right or wrong in going about it. Again, it’s a choice. But for me? I’d find writing only what I know to be restrictive, and quite frankly, boring. I don’t want to write about Vietnam and Vietnamese characters ALL the time. I wouldn’t enjoy that. I’m a highly curious creature and fascinated by all sorts of things. Norse mythology and Russian history are among those interests. I like that writing gives me the freedom to explore lands, cultures, and stories beyond my own experience. 

FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be?

Allison: I’d probably have to point to the book that most recently made me cry: The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. No, it’s not furry, not even speculative fiction, but I recommend that writers should have a wide range and balance in their reading, and I recommend this book nonetheless. Lifting words from a review I had written for it a while ago: “Anthony Marra has a way with words and storytelling that frames and captures a vivid, bleak landscape of northern industrial Russia, and paints in a cast of characters whose triumphs and tragedies I resonated with as if they were my own. A myriad of relationships are explored, strengthened, and broken. Brotherhood transcends time, space, and the ruthless oppression of the Soviet Union. Romances spark, ignite, flicker, and fade.

Regardless of your preference for novels or short stories, I believe The Tsar of Love and Techno is the best of both worlds by delivering the poignant snapshots of short stories while interconnecting them to impart the satisfaction of a full-fledged novel. Characters come back in ways you don’t expect and their arcs come in full circle, all revolving around a mysterious, obscure Russian painting. This is definitely a book you’d want to revisit to connect the dots and pick up details you had missed before.”

Tell the guild where it can find you, to follow you and read your works!

I had dug out a neat little den for myself on Twitter as @ThaiSibir. As for my list of published short fiction (many of them in furry anthologies), you can find that on my website: 

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

Hold on to your love and passion for writing. When the payments and publications have great chances of not coming your way (because, let’s be real here, rejection’s the name of the writing game), what else do you have? To keep at this writing business, remember to have fun and write for yourself first. Everything else comes second.


 

You can find a list of Allison’s published short fiction on her website as well as follow her on Twitter @ThaiSibir. We hope you found this interview exciting and informative! If you have suggestions for future highlights and interviews, please contact our public relations officer here. Until next time: may your words flow like water.

FWG By-laws and Code of Conduct Official Vote

Hello again Furry Writers’ Guild members! We have allowed discussions to take place surrounding our previously suggested by-laws and code of conduct on the forums as planned and taken time after to formulate our newly suggested changes based on member feedback. With this in mind, it’s time to bring this to a vote! A link to the voting form will be included at the end of this blog post. Let’s get to it shall we?


We wish to bring to a vote an update to our by-laws. You can view our current by-laws >here. We discussed why they needed updating in our previous post. The amended by-laws being brought up for vote can be found >here. All changes are highlighted in red.

We also wish to strengthen our Code of Conduct. Our current Code of Conduct can be found >here. Based on suggestions from our members we have made the following changes:

  • Made an Unacceptable Conduct section with specific wording to protect subjects discussed in works of fiction
  • Removed specific language that looked to be policing kinks
  • Better detailed the process for filing complaints

We would like to offer a general content warning as some of these things listed in the Unacceptable Conduct section might be triggers for some within our community. >The full listing, alongside the changes we wish to make to the Code of Conduct can be found here. Changes to the Code of Conduct are highlighted in red.


We would now like to bring these amendments up for a vote! Voting will remain open for two weeks, from May 16th through May 30th. The link below will take you to the official voting form.

>FWG By-Laws And Code of Conduct Voting Form

Thank you again so much to all the FWG members that provided feedback and to everyone voting on these proposals. We’ll have an announcement on the results out to you all once the voting period is over.

Regarding Proposals And Discussion

Today, May 3rd, the FWG administration announced a series of proposed changes for which the membership was to hold a vote. It was soon made apparent that we had overlooked some significant details and that discussion and restructuring of the proposals would have to take place.

In accordance with this realization, we hereby announce a discussion period during which the finer points of the proposals may be analyzed with the care they deserve. This period will extend through May 9th, during which time all FWG members are invited to share their thoughts and concerns. A new vote will be held thereafter. Official discussion will be taking place >in this thread on our forums.

We apologize for the hasty rollout and thank you for your understanding. We look forward to hearing from you.