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.