Guest post: “Anthropomorphic Diversity” by Lauren Rivers

Anthropomorphic Diversity

by Lauren Rivers

 

When writing anthropomorphic fiction, one of the major elements is determining the species and the variety of your cast members. One of your first decisions is should they all be of the same race. While it may be to your fancy to have an entire cast of foxes, the positive side to this is that you can delve into the variations of the species. You can discuss the habits of different types of foxes such as fennecs versus the red fox, as well as highlight cultural differences much in the way that science fiction does with aliens and racial situations. An example would be a story where fennec foxes are considered exotic and used for slave labor, or a case where arctic foxes are racially profiled and perhaps have a unique ability the others do not, such as the creation and manipulation of ice. This also comes with a downside for people that don’t like how foxes tend to be overused within the fandom.  They could be turned off by the fact that your characters are all variants of the same species. Additionally, one should consider that in a situation where the entire cast ‘looks the same’ from a general perspective, individual characters may have a harder time standing out.

Another possibility is centaurs or any characters with a humanoid torso and animal lower half. The positive side to this addition is that you can more or less make up your own rules as to the species and what they are like. For one, they are capable of more physical action than most normal anthropomorphic characters, though most of the issues with centaurian species are logistical. If you include centaurs, then cars, furniture, group travel, everything must be modified for the existence of centaurs. Adding an extra two feet to some of your characters can slow you down if you do not have a plan in mind for your four-footed cast members.

Let’s not forget about humans themselves. The plus side to the involvement of humans in furry stories is that non-furries may enjoy the story simply for its own merits. Humans are easiest for people outside of the fandom to understand, and logically so. If you want your story to be more broadly accepted, consider a partly human cast. Be wary of using the humans only on the side of evil though, as the ‘evil humans versus good anthropomorphic characters’ plot line is a frequent staple in furry fiction. It may be seen as ‘one of those stories’ in the same way that comas on soap operas are often not taken seriously.

Finally, a species-diverse cast is yet another option. If you have every cast member a different species, or at least no more than two of any one type, you maximize the chances that every reader will find at least one species they enjoy. Additionally, it gives you more variety in descriptions. For example, if there is only one bovine character in your story, they will be easily recalled and will more quickly establish themselves in the reader’s mind. The pitfall with this approach is that you may have more characters than you can handle, if you attempt to fit too many species into your zoological odyssey.

As a writer, you clearly have many choices for how to populate your world. The choice is of course, up to you. However, bear in mind that you must know what kind of story you want to tell before you begin the casting process. Being aware of this will often do most of the work for you. Think of the characteristics each type of anthropomorphic being will add to your story and then decide if they’re the right one for you. If you’ve done your planning properly, it should seem as if most of the decisions have been made all by themselves.

 

Guest post: “Professionalism Among Furry Writers” by Tarl “Voice” Hoch

Professionalism Among Furry Writers

by Tarl “Voice” Hoch

 

I was reading a review for Children of Steel and overall the review was well done, but at the end the reviewer had the following to say:

On a final note, and I debated on whether or not to bring this up in my review but decided that it was warranted, the book does need some editing for grammatical issues (apostrophes, commas, etc.). While it wasn’t enough to really detract from the story, it did recur enough that I felt it should be mentioned. (source)

What bothers me about this review, is that the reviewer states that they considered not bringing up that the book had editing issues. In something like the Furry Fandom, in published books (electronic or print) editing should be taken seriously. We as writers and editors in this fandom are responsible to try and present the best material possible, especially when people are paying upwards of $20 for a print copy ($10-$15 for ebooks).

Bad editing should not be expected. Nor should bad grammar and punctuation. Nor should they be glossed over. Yes, there will always be those mistakes that are missed by the author, editors, and publisher. However, an effort should be made to produce the best material possible. If there is a problem with the editing, that should be stated in the review, not debated over. We are no less accountable for our works than furry visual artists are to theirs.

I once did a few My Little Pony pieces of art back when that fandom was young. I was very proud of them, despite the fact that I knew the lines were not as clean as they should have been. Still, I posted them and waited for the responses. What I got were a lot of comments about my line work and how I should have vectored them like the show itself did. So what did I do? I looked up vectoring and applied it the next time I did artwork. Clean lines are equivalent to proper grammar/punctuation/spelling.

There is a large debate over furry fiction becoming mainstream. As the fandom continues to garner more and more public interest, we as writers within the fandom should strive to be as professional as possible. If we want our works to stand out and to be presented as OUR works (not our fursona’s), then we should treat our field as professionally as possible.

Just because we are ‘Furry Writers’ does not mean that we should hold ourselves any less accountable to the quality of our work.

 

This post first appeared on Tarl “Voice” Hoch’s blog on Goodreads.

Book of the Month: Anthropomorphic Aliens, edited by Fred Patten

Anthro Aliens coverSeptember’s Book of the Month is edited by FWG associate member Fred Patten and includes a story co-authored by member C. Alan Loewen.

Anthropomorphic animals have been imagined for as long as stories have been told. This is especially true of science fiction, where the endless possibilities of alien worlds make fertile ground for creativity.

 Contained in these pages are stories from across the spectrum of science fiction, ranging from 1950 to 2013, and featuring feathers, fur, and scales. Each creature is a unique blend of humanity and the alien. Childlike or savage, independent or autocratic, they come in all sizes and shapes. Some are recognizable as reflections of humanity, while others are strange and wild creatures that defy description. All of them ask the same question: What kind of creatures will we find when we go to the stars?

The anthology features eleven stories:

  • “Mask of the Ferret” by Ken Pick & C. Alan Loewen
  • “The Inspector’s Teeth” by L. Sprague de Camp
  • “Specialist” by Robert Sheckley
  • “In Hoka Signo Vinces” by Poul Anderson & Gordon R. Dickson
  • “Point of Focus” by Robert Silverberg
  • “Novice” by James H. Schmitz
  • “What Really Matters” by Elizabeth McCoy
  • “Kings and Vagabonds” by Cairyn
  • “The King’s Dogs” by Phyllis Gotlieb
  • “A Touch of Blue: A Web Shifters Story” by Julie Czerneda
  • “Fly the Friendly Skies” by Bryan Feir

Cover art by Roz Gibson.

Order from FurPlanet.

 

Now available: Tales From the Guild: Music to Your Ears

tales coverThe first FWG anthology, Tales From the Guild, Music to Your Ears, is now available from Rabbit Valley!

There are few things in this world that can invoke the range of emotions that music can. It can bring its listeners close together; it can drive its listeners apart. It is a core mechanic in what makes us human, but what about in those that aren’t quite human? Tales From the Guild, Music to Your Ears features a collection of stories from veteran and newcomer authors alike that span several universes but show that no intelligent creature is immune to the power of music.

Featuring stories by Furry Writers’ Guild members:

  • M.H. Payne
  • Mary E. Lowd
  • Huskyteer
  • Sean Rivercritic
  • Mark Neeley

And soon-to-be members:

  • Mars
  • Nathanael Gass
  • Jess E. Owen

Cover by Ifus

Contents:

  • Echoes From the Consort Box – Mark Neeley
  • Deep Down Among the Dagger Dancers – M.H. Payne
  • Sugar Pill – Mars
  • Nocturne – Nathanael Gass
  • Night of a Thousand Songs – by Jess E Owen
  • Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out – Huskyteer
  • Shreddy and the Silver Egg – Mary E Lowd
  • Melody of a Street Corner – Sean Rivercritic

Available from Rabbit Valley.

 

Guest post: “Writing Furry Speculative Fiction” by Mary E. Lowd

Writing Furry Speculative Fiction

by Mary E. Lowd

 

My favorite books as a kid were all about talking animals. As I got older, it got harder to find those sorts of books. Sure, there’s the occasional piece of science-fiction with animal-like aliens or off-beat literary novel from the point of view of an animal, but, mostly, talking animals are seen as kid-stuff in our culture. So, when I set out to write a serious, hard science-fiction novel featuring talking otters as the main characters… Well, I was breaking new ground as far as I knew, and I had to make up the rules as I went along.

Since then, I’ve learned that there’s actually a name for the genre of fiction I was craving, and there’s a whole community of readers, writers, and publishers who’ve put a lot of thought into how that genre works. I was ecstatic when I discovered the furry genre. Finally, I wasn’t alone, writing about otters with spaceships.

There are a couple of different kinds of furry fiction. Perhaps the most mainstream is ‘the secret life of animals.’ These stories are usually set in our normal world — talking animals co-exist with humans who are simply unaware of the dramatic tales unfolding around them. (E.g. Watership Down by Richard Adams and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.) Animals in these stories are often only slightly anthropomorphic. They can think and talk like humans, but they’re otherwise normal animals.

The other extreme of furry fiction features animals who are so thoroughly anthropomorphized that the differences between different species have become largely aesthetic, possibly metaphorical. Foxes date bunnies; elk work in office buildings with mice. Instead of co-existing with humans in the normal world, these anthropomorphic animals replace humans. In this kind of fiction, the different animal species are merely different flavors, adding texture and color to characters in a simple short-hand.  (E.g. Maus by Art Spiegelman and Save the Day by D.J. Fahl.)

When writing speculative furry fiction, it’s possible to fall into these extremes. You could tell the story of the first colonists on Mars from the point of view of their pet cat. Or, the first colonists on Mars could be cats with no explanation given for their furriness. However, I love the stories that fall in-between, and, I like it best when those stories have an answer to the obvious question: why can the animals talk?

This question has been explored so much by the furry writing community that some people feel it doesn’t matter anymore, much like the question of faster than light travel in mainstream science-fiction. How does the FTL drive work? Who cares? It just does. However, the type of FTL drive in a sci-fi universe determines the sorts of stories that can be told there. Similarly, the type of anthropomorphic animals determines a great deal about a sci-fi universe’s history and culture. So, it’s worth knowing the tropes.

The oldest trope is parallel evolution. See, those golden-furred, feline bipeds who live in family groups with one male figurehead where the females do all the work… Those aren’t lions. They’re aliens. From a different planet. They just happened to evolve to be really similar to lions. (E.g. The Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh.) This is a great trope. It’s easy to use and widely accepted.

Another answer to the question, ‘why can the animals talk?’, is that they were genetically uplifted by humans. (E.g. Startide Rising by David Brin.) This is my personal favorite. Of course, it raises its own question of ‘why?’ Were we designing soldiers, slaves, or simply companions? Are they treated as equals? If so, did they have to fight for their rights? How long did that take? Different answers to these questions lead to wildly different universes. If we were designing soldiers, then the talking animals are probably larger, predatory species. (E.g. Forests of the Night by S. Andrew Swann.) If we were designing obedient slaves, they  might be dogs or a docile species like bunnies. (E.g. Ship’s Boy by Phil Geusz.)

A final possibility is that the animals actually are humans who have drastically modified themselves. (E.g. The Book of Lapism by Phil Geusz.) In this case, the species of animals will be chosen by individual characters for personal reasons. Individuals who choose to modify themselves so extremely are likely to be rich, eccentric, socially outcast, or part of a fringe subculture.

And, of course, all of these answers can be adapted easily to fantasy universes by replacing science with magic and scientists with wizards.

As you can see, explanations have been developed that will fit anthropomorphic animal characters into almost any piece of speculative fiction. And, from fantasy to space opera to near future hard sci-fi, most speculative fiction can benefit from the color and texture added by a few talking animals. Besides, they’re just fun to read.

So, now that you’ve learned the basic tropes, go forth and add anthropomorphic animal characters to your speculative fiction!

 

This post first appeared on Jester Harley’s Manuscript Page.

Book of the Month: Huvek by James L. Steele

Huvek coverAugust’s Book of the Month is by FWG member James L. Steele.

Humanity has gone to the stars, split and fused the atom, colonized hundreds of worlds, and rejoiced at first contact with alien life. Until the killing started.

Man has been at war with the Kesvek for over forty years. Nearly indestructible, relentless in battle, and unwilling to negotiate, the reptiles constantly push forward. Colony after colony has falls, and the human race can do little but hold them back. Humanity knows very little about their enemy.

The Kesvek plan to change that.

There is much to learn, and the Kesvek are willing to teach.  So long as humans can survive the process, mankind will discover what caused the conflict, and what is required for peace.

No matter the cost.

Order from FurPlanet. (Mature content.)

 

Guest post: “Why Furry” by Frank LeRenard

Why Furry

by Frank LeRenard

 

It’s one of those extremely difficult, often tiresome, and seemingly ubiquitous questions in furry fiction: why use anthropomorphic animals and not just humans? And I see all manners of mental acrobatics going on amongst all of us in trying to answer it. We’ve come up with some decent excuses along the way: simple stylistic choice, a means to bring up complicated issues like racism without offending, etc. But it’s a tough question to answer effectively, because in the end the reason may simply be that we think anthro animals are cool.

But there’s a sort of hidden tradition embedded in furry lit, something a bit more penetrating and philosophical than what usually comes to mind.

So, we homo sapiens spend an awful lot of time trying to understand ourselves. All of the so-called great literature of our day seems to be focused on that nebulous concept we call ‘the human condition’. I’m sure part of this quest stems from the general idea that humans are super special, something new and interesting in the universe, the most intelligent creatures of Planet Earth and masters of all that surrounds us. So in our sometimes overly simplistic thinking, we try to reconcile that idea with the well-known fact that humans also often act like completely irrational beings, fighting and killing over stuff like jealousy or love or power (so-called ‘animal’ things), and this confuses us and makes us ponder what truly makes us human.

But really, as time has gone on, a lot of things have become clear. For one, we aren’t the center of the universe. The universe, in fact, has no center because it exists as a kind of geometry for which a center is impossible to describe. We’re not the center of our own solar system, either; the sun is. And the more we study our neighbors, those other ‘lower’ species that inhabit this little planet with us, the more we start to realize that we’re even pretty closely connected with all of them, too. We share many behaviors with other animals: crows can use tools, elephants display empathy, octopi can figure out how to open jars even if they’ve never seen one before. Maybe the time has also come for us to admit that we’re not the center of the Earth’s ecosystem either.

So what do we as a species do in this new realm of apparent purposelessness? It seems a bit of a depressing existential quandary to deal with. But, you see, this isn’t the only way to think of it. Because in this realm, what’s really happening is that we’re finally starting to perceive the ‘other’.

One of the most famous photographs ever taken was an incidental one nabbed by Bill Anders in 1968 while he was on the moon, which was later dubbed ‘Earthrise’. He admitted that getting the shot wasn’t even in the plan at the time; just one of those moments where you turn around and think to yourself, ‘Oh, that’s cool. I should take a picture of that’. But it resonated deeply in the public. It was the first picture of Earth taken from another world. A first outside look at the place where we all live, a giant blue marble set against a deep black backdrop, a splash of color juxtaposed with the dreary cratered grayness of the moon’s surface. Earth in its proper context.

But the topic here is anthro characters in fiction. You see, it’s hard to build a complete picture of something if you’re living inside it. This is as much true for humanity as it is for the Earth or the Milky Way galaxy. The fact that we are the only species we know how to communicate with on a fundamental level is problematic in that respect, because we can never really gain an outsider’s view of our own species. And so we’re left with this conundrum, this constant effort to learn more about ‘the human condition’ by peering at it through human eyes.

But fiction is bigger than that, because it relies on this thing we have called ‘imagination’. Maybe we can’t see ourselves as we truly are from our current vantage point, but we can always pretend. In our imagination, we can sit back and take the long view, look at the Earth from the moon.

There are other options than anthropomorphized animals, of course. Aliens, magical beings, robots, etc. But at some point, if you get too far out there, the whole picture just starts to look like a barely visible blue dot amongst billions and it loses its impact. You don’t want to get so far out that you can’t even find the thing you were supposed to be trying to understand. Who knows how aliens might even think? Do they have bifocal vision, hearing organs, stomachs? Do they see better in visible light or infrared? Do they see different wavelengths as colors? Do they communicate through speech, chemical signals, vibrations in the ground, what? And robots can pose a similar problem, assuming we’re the ones programming them; they either have this simplistic, binary manner of thinking that ends up generating seemingly bizarre solutions to common problems (see: a modern robot trying to enter a car; there’s a video of this somewhere), or else they just end up thinking themselves superior and take over the world.

But I already mentioned that there’s a nice midpoint that’s readily available: other animals. They’re different, but we have common ground. We know they exist, too, and we’ve taken some time to study them, so you don’t have to start completely from scratch. Plus, we all evolved through fairly similar pathways, even think in similar ways about certain things, yet our biologies and brains are distinct. It works out very well for the imagination, as a little spark to step out of the realm of being human, but not so far that your whole audience (who is, until further notice, always going to be human themselves) can’t relate to it. Why not exploit this? Because talking animals are kiddie stuff?

Of course, that’s the point I’m making. They aren’t, or at least they don’t have to be. You want to explore ‘the human condition’ like all great literature is apparently supposed to do, you do it from the outside. And there’s this great resource sitting right beside us that we can exploit for that purpose. Use it.

Or else just do it because anthro animals are cool, I guess.

 

Book of the Month: ROAR Volume 5

Roar 5 cover

July’s Book of the Month is FurPlanet’s latest volume of the furry anthology ROAR:

Can you keep a secret?

Secrets are made to be broken they say, but what of the consequences? When secrets come to light who profits, who suffers, and who triumphs?

ROAR volume 5 has arrived with a thrilling new set of tales. Fourteen authors have crafted stories exploring and exploiting the secrets held by their characters. When the last page is turned, will there be anything left to reveal?

It won’t be a secret for long—

Contents:

Reynard and the Dragon by Searska GreyRaven
The Wharf Cat’s Mermaid by Mary E. Lowd
R & D by Ryan Campbell
Once Upon A Time… by Alms
The Painted and the Plain by Huskyteer
The Color of Mantis by C. Casey Gardiner
Eels for Heels by Sarina Dorie
Alter Child by H. A. Kirsch
Fear of the Dark by Ben Goodridge
Oakdale by W. F. Albone
The Harvest Moon Ceremony by NightEyes DaySpring
The Letter From Brundisium by Allen Vigilis
Should Have Known by Yannarra Cheena
Variables by Roland Joviak

Pre-order from FurPlanet.