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 Cedric G! Bacon, the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher at Thurston Howl Publications.
Those familiar with furry writing have likely seen his written works in Infurno, Furries Hate Nazies, or Thrill of the Hunt. He is particularly known for his horror stories though never turns down opportunities to work outside his usual comfort zone.
With the introductions out of the way, let’s get onto the interview!
FWG: What is your favorite work that you have written and favorite work you have published?
Cedric: I’m actually going to separate this into three answers, hahaha. The first two are my written/published, and then one that I’ve published for someone else.
For my own favorite work that I’ve published it’s a tie: the first would maybe be “Yule Carol” in 12 Days of Yiffmas (Red Ferret Press). To give a summary, it’s a Christmas themed story set in Japan and focuses on a vixen named Kiyohoko missing her deceased husband Heath terribly. Thus, on Yule Eve, she performs a ritual that binds his spirit into the physical plane, albeit briefly.
I took inspiration from the Bon festivals with this one and a lot of creative license in terms of the traditions, but the end result became very satisfactory and for being an early attempt at erotica, it was probably one of my most successful due to having dark elements and not outright horror, but also having characters that are just genuinely likeable, without having to force the reader into liking them, and I tried to make it appear as believable as possible. Definitely one I recommend to readers but because it’s in an erotic collection, definitely for the adult readership!
Second favorite story that I’ve written and published, it’s “The Battler” from Furries Hate Nazis. I’ve always been a fan of boxing and wrestling, and I’ve always wanted to do a story featuring either sport. It ended up becoming that “The Battler” (which was partly inspired by the story of Salamo Arouch and also being set in the universe of The Adventures of Peter Gray by Nathan Hopp) was that story, and it gave me an opportunity to say something about anti-Semitism and racism in the 1960s.
The final act fight scene between my Jewish boxer Mickey and the Nazi antagonist Vilm was probably the most cinematic writing I’d ever done, and definitely had to look at the various motions and movements from sources like Christy Martin’s fights and the old boxing anime Ashita no Joe.
For my answer on favorite written but not yet published, that would be “Poyekhali!” which will be appearing in ROAR 11. It’s a little bit of alternate history, but largely inspired by the Soviet space program that launched human beings into orbit. The main thrust of the story is inspired by Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, but I also take bits from others who were there, and even created an anthro version of Laika. But the reason I liked this story so much is because it used so much of my favorite themes—strong women in the leading roles, history, action, and research—and I can’t wait for everyone else to read it soon too!
And for my favorite work that’s not my own but one that I’ve published, I think that would be Fire-Branded Leather by F. Gibbs. It was the first long form work I ever edited and so it was great having a great writer to work with and break the ice, learning communication and listening skills along the way. First in a trilogy (with the second book, Cold Trailing, out now and the third on the way!) I can’t say enough how much I’ll always stand by this book.
FWG: What do you think makes a good story?
Cedric: For me, I think a good story the sum of a bunch of different parts. When I sit down to write, I always try to think of the things that could click: the characters for one, setting for another, dialogue for yet another, and the plot that I’m hoping to tell with the story. Sometimes, even with beta reading and positive feedback, the story may not land…that doesn’t necessarily means it was a terrible story because as well known, there are a lot of intentionally terrible stories that actually did get published (looking at you Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey), but one that just didn’t hit right with a reviewer or an editor doth not a bad story make. But the key ingredient I think in this literary bouillabaisse is the writer having the confidence and believing in the story to really make it good: its that having the faith in the characters and having a solid track as you’re moving from point A to point B to point C with the plot, and the dialogue is firing on cylinders with you, you just have this knowing feeling that “Hey, this is actually turning out pretty sweet!”
FWG: What does Black History mean to you?
Cedric: It’s most definitely the acknowledgment of the achievements made by folks that don’t get that shine too often. Yeah, we do celebrate the achievements of Amelia Earhart for example and her most definitely defining pioneering career as an aviatrix, but how many know about Bessie Coleman, who was the first woman to be an African American and Native American pilot? Or the recently passed Charles Saunders, whose novels and stories of the heroic Imaro gave a blackness to the fantasy genre that’d previously been dominated by writers (Lovecraft, most notoriously) who often relegated the black character to a stereotype.
I’d be the first to admit that I never knew much about Black History growing up, besides the big stuff that you learn in school. The good stuff, the stuff that really makes one take notice, didn’t come to me till much later, or learning how many sacrifices were made to retain one’s pride (Muhammad Ali telling the draft board to stuff it saying he wasn’t going to Vietnam—in a famous rebuttal—when he did, which stalled his boxing career for a long while is one example to think of) in order to make movements for a race that’s been marginalized for centuries due to being a couple shades darker than their friends and neighbors.
FWG: Do you feel that your Blackness has affected your writing? How about your work in publishing?
Cedric: I think it’s informed how I shape certain characters and situations, most definitely. In “The Battler” for example, I made the narrator a black man who has to deal with the racism of his fellow humans but also that of the furren (borrowed once again from Nate Hopp for an anthro species) who will deign themselves uplifted from humans and especially a black man like my narrator. That the boxer he trains is an anthro and Jewish was a nice thing to write because it’s two people who come from different backgrounds but don’t care and are just happy to have each other in their lives for this experience… It’s just the hope I always have but have been disappointed on in reality.
The experience of having one’s differences made front and center has happened to me a number of times, from the drive-thru at McDonald’s all the way down to relationships, and internally that feeling of being like an outsider looking in is something that isn’t forgotten. And then that feeling that if I spoke up and out then the consequences could either be dire or fatal depending on the circumstances. There’s a lot of wrong that’s out there and few speaking on it, and the ones who do are just the worst types who are only speaking on it and chasing clout.
Since becoming the top bat at THP, I’ve continued our namesake’s mission to always look out for marginalized voices that are speaking and saying what they have to say as loud as possible. And not only that but taking ownership of their stories and not having them told by someone without that background or knowledge—despite the well intentions, I must say. And you know, as a publisher I’ve had a chance to really get to know what is happening and the voices that are out there. And I’ve come to the realization that there’s no such thing as everything and everyone “having a place” and firmly do reject what the status quo has made of things. The status quo will protect shitty—if I can say that, if not censor haha—views and coddle the ones saying them, and that’s just not cool.
I want our authors—our BIPOC, our women, our trans—to feel that they can speak on those issues that have affected them and not feel afraid to say them. I want them to say “FUCK YOU” to the Karen at Target that was acting out on them and not using their preferred pronoun. I want them to tell their story and be proud and stand up and be counted and know that they all do exist and ain’t going anywhere.
FWG: Do you feel that issues in the outside world affect your writing and publishing in the fandom?
Cedric: I believe so! I’d only be regurgitating my viewpoints above so I’ll be shorter here, but I think a combination of growing up reading superhero comic books and literature gave me an intense dislike whenever I read or see or hear about injustice being done. I was also raised by strong women so I have a fondness for a woman that takes no shit from a man, and if I may use this spot to say so, I very much welcome submissions from women in the fandom to send their works, whatever the genre, on over!
FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be and why?
Cedric: That would probably be Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. It was the first time I truly felt I was reading about a character just like me, not just because the main protagonist Atticus Turner was a black young man in mid-1950s America, but also because he was a black young man who’d grown up loving the stories of Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and other white writers who often denigrated people of color in their stories and grappled with that dichotomy, just like me.
The novel upends the expectations that the weirdness of Lovecraft et al was just that of the white man, and Ruff ties in a lot of the racism that was happening across America with the weirdness occurring to Atticus and his family, dispensing with Lovecraft’s whole thing of making characters white, upper-class academics and intellectuals and showcasing Atticus and his black, working-class and very close-knit family who approach the horror, are summarily frightened, but try to approach it logically and without Lovecraft’s whole trope of beginning scared, staying scared, and then going crazy afterward.
That it was made into a TV series last fall on HBO should be another feather in its cap for interest. There were a bunch of deviations from the novel in the adaptation, but I think with that translation from prose to visual, it really helps enhance the theme and messaging and allows for the story to go deeper than the novel did (for example, dispensing with two male characters and adding more women to the cast really does a further one-up) and also creating further horrors and atrocities of that Jim Crow era in the United States at that time.
FWG: Do you have any projects incoming you’d like to tell people about?
Cedric: The conclusion to F. Gibbs Fire Dog Trilogy in The Eastern Horizon for one! Another conclusion is the third book in Stephen Coghlan’s furry sci-fi series GENMOS (Genetically Modified Species) entitled Conclusions. We also have the anthologies The Furry Game Show Network, Beneath the Suit, Howloween Vol. 2, Difursity Vol. 2 coming soon and as we speak we’re going through submissions for iPawd and edits for The Howling Dead. So far, the beginning of the year is looking quite up for Thurston Howl Publications!
FWG: Any last words for our readers?
Cedric: Just one! Tell your readers to never give up on their hopes and dreams. Writing is hard, goodness knows it is, but it’s just like anything else: time, effort, patience, and a little bit of persistence. Make your messaging clear and concise and don’t sweat about all that stuff about compared to so and so and such and such. Stand on your own two feet first and do your best on your own first, and all that good accolades will follow!
We would like to thank Cedric once again for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. He can be found on Twitter @batced. We hope you’ll join us again next week for our final interview with a Black creative within the furry fandom for Black History Month. Until next time, may your words flow like water.