Black History Month Spotlight: Rhyner

Hello again everyone! It’s February, so in honor of Black History Month, the FWG wanted to feature interviews with Black authors, publishers, and creators within the furry fandom. Today we’ll be interviewing Rhyner — a Black/Mexican transmasc queer dragon who hosts the What The Fuzz?! podcast which interviews furries of color to ask “real questions to dig into the people under the fur.”

In the world of furry writing, Rhyner actively updates Rhyner Writes, a blog where he discusses general topics for furry audiences. He was also a member of the inaugural Oxfurred Comma Inclusivity Award committee.

With this in mind, just one last thing from Rhyner before we get to the interview — “Please keep in mind: no one person can represent an entire group and that includes myself. I can only speak to my experiences and shared experiences as a mixed person. One story doesn’t paint the picture.”

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

Rhyner: Normally you’d think it’d be a story I’ve written, but honestly nothing I’ve written has ever given me as much joy as the articles I have up on my website. The one in particular that folks seem to love is about overcoming anxieties to chat with others over Telegram or forums. While it’s something incredibly small it means a lot to me to be able to help someone with something that is so easily overlooked.

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Rhyner: A “good” story to me is a plot driven by realistic, grounded characters. They can have fantastical powers or be facing the annihilation of the universe, but if they don’t have relatability it’s not going to keep anyone invested in what’s going on. For instance “Breaking Bad” and “A Silent Voice” are wildly different stories that have pretty much nothing in common. Why am I so drawn to the plight of some old boomer selling meth on the side? Why do I care about what happens to some deaf girl? It’s because I can understand their struggles, and I latch onto them little by little. We see them at their worst, we see them do terrible things, but we see them do great things too. It’s that heavy helping of humanity that makes a story resonate with me no matter how recycled the plot itself is. But hey, if you want to throw some lore in there too it sure wouldn’t hurt!

FWG: What does Black History mean to you?

Rhyner: Black history at this moment means to me… Retreading my footsteps. It means going somewhere I’ve been before but things don’t look the same. People like me who grew up in “liberal California” were told racism was over when MLK gave his speech. We were told they desegregated schools and everything was fine after that. The Civil War being fought over slaves? “No, of course not! That was about states’ rights.” Since the start of June I’ve started to learn the real history. The resurgence of BLM flooded my timeline with things I never heard about before. The MOVE bombing, the rise and fall of Black Wallstreet, mass incarceration, and the list goes on and on. It’s painful to have to go back and re-learn your own history. Like getting bleach out of your clothes. But I’m glad to learn and I’m hungry to learn more.

FWG: Do you feel that your Blackness has affected your writing?

Rhyner: Yes. Normally I’d say it wouldn’t, but I have to write every script for my podcast. It wasn’t easy to come to terms with the fact that people will treat me differently simply because I’m black, but thanks to this Summer I quickly understood how the world saw people like me. I’ve had to make it clear why these things affect me since it could very easily be my black mother or black roommate or black best friends that end up meeting an unfortunate and untimely demise. With that in mind, going forward with writing outside of the scripts I don’t think I could go back to writing with a main character who doesn’t face similar struggles. 

FWG: Do you feel that issues in the outside world affect your writing in the fandom?

Rhyner: Yes. Although racial issues specifically really only pop up in the scripts for my podcast as mentioned before I find themes of social anxiety to be a prevailing topic amongst my blog posts. There isn’t a lot of furry literature to my name, but the stories I have started out there on SoFurry that aren’t just, well, erotic have themes of feeling unable to connect with others. 

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

Rhyner: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. It is nothing short of incredible how much information and thought was put into the careful articulation of every page in this book. It paints a massive, overwhelming picture of what black people are facing and have been facing in the United States from the start of slavery to now. It painstakingly goes over how the drug war started, how it was used as a weapon against black people, and what effect it’s had on us today. It’s a must read if you care about civil rights. Period. 

FWG: You interview a lot of BIPOC furs for your podcast. Have they ever mentioned furry writing or publishing? If so, what kinds of comments have you gotten about it?

Rhyner: Yes, some have. For example one guest known for his outlandish NSFW drawings, is also something of a storyteller. I thought to get his perspective on why writing tends to be overlooked in the fandom and he remarked that it was quite simple, really. Fursuits and art are instantly satisfactory while reading a story takes time – time that could be spent looking at 30 or more pictures in the same time span. It’ll be continually be difficult to get noticed as a writer in the fandom. All we can do is make it easier to get the works out there and put it front and center. 

Another guest on the show described the struggles of starting up a furry driven publishing business. Despite this, I found his drive to be inspiring. After all when forced to compete with Sofawolf, Furplanet, and others – why not have some fun with it? 

FWG: Is there anything the furry writing community could be doing to be more welcoming to Black creators?

Rhyner: The best thing the furry community can do is to be open and uplift. Be open to the storylines brought on by BIPOC creators of all backgrounds. If you’re a publisher, feature black creators during black history month, Indigenous furs during their month, and so on. If you’re a reader and happen upon a story you enjoy that’s from a black person or another person of color be sure to share their work.

Don’t be afraid to call out bigotry when you see it.

FWG: Do you have any projects incoming you’d like to tell people about?

Rhyner: Well, What’s The Fuzz?! Is available on all platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and you can see the full list on my website again anything else I’ve got cooking will be posted up on my Twitter @whatsthefuzz_

FWG: Any last words for our readers?

Rhyner: 2020 was a hard year for everyone and BIPOC individuals in particular. Police brutality raided our timelines. Ignorant questions cornered us at every turn whether it be at the mall, at work, or at home. The audacity of it all. To shepherd BIPOC people, as a monolith, into the role of reluctant teacher to quench the curiosity of the average white moderate. 

In the end, we were expected to dust ourselves off and bounce back like nothing happened. Everything changed, but also nothing changed at all. It’s 2021 now. 

Don’t shield the racist in your group chat. Ban them. Keep Nazis out of furcons, group chats, furmeets – everything. They have no place in this fandom and never will. Don’t just use the hashtag #BLM to make your account prettier. Act on it. We need people to understand the difference between an anti-racist and the person who says they aren’t racist. 

My advice to you? Check out sometime and look through the educational resources. There are articles, books, movies, TV shows, documentaries, plays, interviews, audiobooks, and more about the topics of racism in all of its ugly, insidious forms. 

Don’t forget that no BIPOC person owes you an education. You have everything at your disposal to educate yourself. Looking forward to seeing you at Howlfest. Take care.

We would like to thank Rhyner once again for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. We hope you’ll join us again next week as we interview another Black creative within the furry fandom. Until next time, may your words flow like water.

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