Welcome back everyone! As February comes to a close, we wanted to share our final interview with a Black furry creative in honor of Black History Month. Today, we’ll be speaking award-winning editor and author extraordinaire Krisis “KC” Alpinus!
Kiri has edited books like Claw: Volume 1, Species: Wildcats, and Soar: Volume 1 and also freelances as a Narrative Designer for several dating simulators and digital comics. She has also done work as a Cultural Consultant and Sensitivity Reader for various entities and authors. She is a graduate student of Political Science, a political activist, and in her own words, “An openly and unapologetically Black woman.”
With our interviewee properly introduced, let’s get on with the interview!
FWG: What is your favorite work that you have written?
Kiri: All of my works are my favorites. I put them out into the universe because they are works of my heart and I love each and every character as if they had sat down with me and told me their narratives themselves.
If you’re looking for what works that I think would be most representative of me, I can recommend “Power & Pleasure” in Give Yourself a Hand or, more blatantly, “No Dogs” in Roar: Volume 9.
“Power & Pleasure”, while a NSFW story, is a testament to feminine sexuality, but also finding one’s own sexuality and surrendering yourself to it. I wanted to tell a story about a woman who has come into her own and is guiding another’s discoveries by explaining her own insecurities regarding sex and pleasure. Though the main antagonist in this story is the embodiment of pleasure or hedonism, I found that I enjoyed exploring how relinquishing yourself to pleasure or the things that please you ultimately shape the person you become…or, it at least opens you up to the possibilities or questioning what you’ve been told. I also enjoyed creating a character that didn’t define themselves by their gender identity or sexuality; they defined themselves by what pleased them or what felt good to them.
“No Dogs” is the result of talking to a few friends up here about the American South’s brand of racism and how it starts at a young age. I related to them how I and a few other Black kids had been slurred in elementary school by a classmate and his punishment was being sent to his teacher’s classroom, while we were often disproportionately punished for minor infractions.
I also was beyond pissed at how in this very warm, accepting fandom, we still have organizations that have very bigoted people in leadership positions and we have people denying that bigotry exists at all in the fandom, let alone in places that are designated “safe spaces” for people who have been historically marginalized. It infuriated me how it felt that in some matters, furs in my own, chosen community could put the life of a Black person below that of a dog. And yet, it happened and I got to see it with my own eyes. So, using the tools that I had available to me at the time, I showed how it feels to be a young, marginalized person who has to face bigotry and prejudice and still manages to rise above it.
Plus Staffordshire terriers are so sweet.
FWG: What do you think makes a good story?
Kiri: Some will say it’s characters. Others will say that it’s the plot that makes it a good story. I’m of the mind that it’s a lovely mix of the two. One of my favorite tv shows to watch is Scandal, by legendary show writer, Shonda Rhimes. That show has some of the best plots that make my little politically-poisoned mind squeal. Elections tampering, infidelity, covert governmental organizations, and a love story that set my fuzzy soul on fire, but these plots would have been nothing without dynamic characters that made me love them and made me tune in each week to see what happened to them as they advanced the plot. They had agency, backstories, and were all beautifully flawed in ways that made them relatable.
Stories NEED that mix. I need to care about your characters to become invested in your plot. I need the plot to do something that makes your characters come alive. I’m a very much “in my head” person, so as I said earlier, I need your characters to seem real enough that it feels like I’m getting sucked into that world and everything that happens outside of it stops. In a world that has gone crazy with inequality, greed, diseases, and mounting bigotry, when I’m done fighting against this, I need something that helps me to escape.
When I write, I try to give that feeling of immersion and make my characters so realistic, so that even if they’re an alcoholic, polyamorous lesbian tigress with silver fur, it feels like you should know her (and scream at her to get her life together). I need your story to give me a sense of immersion that is not easily broken, not even in the bathroom (I’m a habitual bathroom reader).
FWG: What does Black History mean to you?
Kiri: When I was younger, Black History was a month of discovery and a showcase of Black excellence. I was shown poets, authors, innovators, scholars, movers, and shakers. I felt a sense of empowerment and kind of special. I thought that this was OUR time, a time where we mattered more than just being slaves and oppressed people. It showed we were complex, resilient, and talented people. I used to love Black History Month.
Now, it feels like one long, drawn-out performance and whataboutisms. Every year, there’s a growing group of “very stable geniuses” who adamantly ask, “why is there a Black History Month? Why isn’t there a ‘Mexican’ Heritage Month (Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month is Sept. 15 – Oct 15) or an Asian Heritage Month (May)?” Or my personal favorite, “what have Black people done to have an entire month?” (That’s the reason for the month, friend.)
But still, there’s also the acts of random performativity that really just irritate me. I see so much kente cloth and invoking of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. that I get physically ill. It’s all just a show. While things are a bit better now than they were in Dr. King’s time, we still have a long way to go. I can still get killed for driving while Black, walking while Black, being Black in my own home, or worse, being Black while minding my openly Black business. I mean, how far have we really come? The destruction of “Black Wallstreet” aka the Tulsa Race Riots or the destruction of Rosewood aren’t mentioned. Hell, people who live in Tulsa, OK didn’t even know about the riots because of how suppressed information surrounding it was, but it’s our history. It’s American history that should be told.
Honestly, I’m kind of sick of the saccharine version of Black history that is made palatable to the White moderates. Well, it’s not that palatable because apparently, some people can opt-out of Black history teachings. Funny, when I was in school, I had to learn about every racist traitor of the Confederacy that owned people who looked like me and debated the humanity of my ancestors, but some kids can be opted out of learning about the contributions and sacrifices Black Americans made for this county. Can’t say that I’m surprised that people think we came here of our own volition and were happy to do so, but boy am I disappointed.
FWG: Do you feel that your Blackness has affected your writing?
Kiri: I mean, my Blackness affects everything that I do and how people see me, so not sure how it wouldn’t affect my writing. It’s who I am and what I was raised around. It’s my culture and my history. When I write, I write for Black audiences about issues that Black people have, but under the illusion of strictly writing anthropomorphic creatures. I am glad to have non-Black eyes on my stuff because it challenges the norm, but I do like having an anthropomorphic fantasy that Black people can somewhat relate to.
FWG: Do you feel that issues in the outside world affect your writing in the fandom?
Kiri: The issues inside of this fandom affect my writing, let alone those outside of it. As I mentioned earlier, when I wrote “No Dogs”, I was quite pissed about how Black people being murdered by cops was a ho-hum, but animal abuse was abhorrent. There’s nothing that makes you feel ignored by your fandom than logging onto Twitter and seeing someone who is con staff of a rather large con call your people “thugs” and “animals”, but want the head of a woman who abused a dog. I mean, you can both be disgusted by animal cruelty AND the over-policing of Black bodies. I do it every day.
I pretend to be a dhole* on the internet, but when I turn off my phone or shut down my computer, I am still a Black woman. When I create these stories, I create them as a Black woman and when I talk to people at furry cons, it’s not as a red dhole, it’s as a Black woman. A disabled, light-skinned, opinionated-but-honest Black woman. Any and everything that affects me under those categories are things that affect me inside of this fandom and sadly, I don’t have the complexion for the protection from those things. I’m not awarded that escapism here.
Furries are people and just like people, they bring their biases and prejudices with them, but sadly Black people and other PoC have to deal with them. We can’t be dogs, cats, frogs, or dragons on the internet. We’re usually having to justify our existence to the nearest sparkle dog who doesn’t understand what rights we’re exactly missing.
So, to answer your question, yes the issues in the outside world affect my writing in the fandom because the fandom does not exist in a vacuum where we’re all cute, fluffy animals who hold hands, sniff each other, and hug it out.
I don’t even dream in that color.
FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be and why?
Kiri: Fiction: It would be Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Zora was a wonderful writer and helped preserve a lot of Black traditions through her writing. I remember watching the movie Oprah produced and it blew me away. It was one of the things that awakened me to my own powers and abilities as a Black woman.
Non-Fiction: Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. Read it and you’ll know why I recommended it.
FWG: Do you have any projects incoming you’d like to tell people about?
Kiri: Unbreakable Anthology has a couple of sequels in the works, so check those out. Buy my book Soar: Volume 1. Lots of good fantasy from various cultures and backgrounds. Vote for me in the Coyotl’s and the Ursa Majors. (Shout out to the folks who recommended Soar for the Leo’s.)
FWG: Any last words for our readers?
Kiri: Pet dholes. Drink mead. Save dholes (Like please, save the dholes.)
We would like to thank Kirisis once more for sitting down to answer all of these questions for us. You can find her on Twitter @SwirlyTales and we highly recommend checking out the projects she has worked on.
As this is our final spotlight for the month, we would like to encourage all of our readers to check out all of our interviews in this series. Supporting Black creatives and learning about Black perspectives isn’t something should not just take place during just one month — make sure to keep expanding your knowledge. Until next time, may your words flow like water.