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.