FWG Pride Month Spotlight: Kayodé Lycaon

Welcome to the third and final Pride Month spotlight. This time we talked to Kayodé Lycaon (he/him), who has kindly answered our questions about his identity and his struggles. Please note that there is a content warning for some abusive subjects in some of these answers – Kayodé has highlighted them at the beginning of the relevant answers.

FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

Kayodé: Hi! I’m Kayodé Lycaon, a gregarious painted wolf living in the questionable habitat of southwestern Ohio, and I like to talk. A lot. So, steal a seat, grab someone else’s drink, and get comfortable.

I’ve done and learned a lot of things in my life. To misquote a phrase, I’m a wolf of many trades, master of one. I’m a senior software engineer who has worked in insurance, education, and now online sales. I’ve run a furry convention. I’m excellent at logistics. I read scientific papers, court cases, and textbooks. I run and play tabletop rpgs with friends. I leave dishes piled up next to the sink until I’m out of forks, but the kitchen table is always clean.

It’s a bit of a crazy life. (More on that later.)

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

Kayodé: This is where I plug my wares, right? My story Dark Garden Lake in The Reclamation Project – Year One (Available in paperback from FurPlanet and ebook from Bad Dog Books.)

Shameless plugging aside, I really do love it. The setting of The Reclamation Project is full of moral and technological complexity. There’s a lot of room to explore ideas and characters. It’s a really good anthology that I was proud to contribute to.

The story itself is a huge milestone for me. It is the first story I consider to be “good”. Many of my previous dabbles at writing have had good concepts and ideas, but this was the first to have good execution. There are flaws, but for being so early in my writing career it’s better than it has any right to be.

When I finished writing Dark Garden Lake, I knew I had created something special. Every time I feel like a failure, I can look back at it and know that I’m both a writer and an author. Even if I never write again, I will still be those things.

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Kayodé: A good story engages with the reader’s imagination. All art has an audience, even if that is just the artist. Every reader has their own experiences to bring to the table. Every word the author doesn’t write, gets written by the reader.

In my own works, I’ll paint a scene with a few choice details and give the audience room to imagine. I drop a hint or two at a backstory that only exists in my notes. I slowly give the reader’s my characters’ thoughts, fears, and motivations so when the action hits, they know how the character feels without me having to say it.

FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?

Kayodé: I haven’t been around here all that long. I officially became a member December 2019 about a year after I had started hanging out in the Telegram channel. A few months later, I was asked to fill in the Vice President role due to my prior experience in similar positions. Then the fire nation attac…the pandemic happened.

People stepped up to help run Oxfurred Comma. The newsletter is going out regularly. The guild has a number of volunteers who have come on board. It’s all very exciting and I’m looking forward to the future.

FWG: Can you give us a little insight into your identity, and how you fit onto the lgbtq+ spectrum?

Kayodé: I’m asexual, panromantic, and very much interested in sex. That last part throws people. (More on that when I talk about discovering my identity.)

There is an assumption by many people that asexuality is about lack of interest in sex. This belief is so pervasive that asexuality is seen as “opting out” of the LGBTQ+ community. The truth is, for some people, they identify as asexual because they have “opted out”. Since these people may later change their identification, this adds weight to this idea.

This incorrect belief is compounded by what asexuality actually is. Asexuality is about a lack of sexual attraction, not lack of interest in sex. For allosexual (non-asexual) people, sexual attraction is a fundamental experience. It is difficult to imagine what something feels like when you lack equivalent or applicable experience.

When I try to explain what asexuality feels like, I describe it as being horny without a target, but this leads people to imagine being frustrated or thwarted. This could not be further from the truth. When it comes to sex, I have plenty of choices, some being multi-player. I don’t feel any special connection to sex, it simply is, and I can do whatever I want with it.

This last part has led to many misunderstandings as I am also panromantic. I crave deep, meaningful relationships regardless of a person’s sexuality or gender, but those relationships have nothing to do with sex. This becomes a bit of a problem, as I can’t tell when someone thinks I’m flirting with them. It’s been a source of some painful misunderstandings and the butt of insensitive jokes.

It would be easier to deal with by “opting out” and just being on the sidelines as an ally, but I shouldn’t have to opt out. My experience is fundamentally different from a heterosexual person’s, and I have to deal with the same societal prejudices. Sexual attraction is pervasive at every level of society and culture. I’m constantly reminded that “your kind doesn’t belong here.” Whether I want sex or not, that makes me part of the LGBTQ+ community.

FWG: What does Pride mean to you?

Kayodé: Honestly, very little. I’ve always felt excluded from it as Kayodé and my memories prior to changing my name in 2019 are extremely spotty.

The one thing I do remember is being in fursuit on a float in a pride parade. Seeing all of the people in the crowd made me feel like I was on the outside looking at something beautiful within.

FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us?

Kayodé: It’s a long story inseparably linked to being bipolar and growing up in an emotionally abusive home. I’ll do my best to keep my descriptions brief, but my answer is long and may be triggering to some readers. Feel free to skip to the next bolded question.

I grew up in a family that considered mental illness to be at best a lack of character and at worst demon possession. “Try harder,” “suck it up,” and “you have no right to feel that way” were the messages I grew up with. Sexual desire of any kind was an unforgivable sin.

My struggle with identity started when I was nine years old and started having hypersexual episodes. Hypersexuality is terrible. At worst, hypersexuality is an unrelenting, insatiable need for sex. There is no relief from it. At best, sex consumes hours of each day just to stay sane. As I write this, I haven’t gotten to bed on time in weeks. Doctors and psychiatrists like to treat this as an addiction even though it is a well-documented symptom of mania. My parents were less charitable.

When I was twelve and other children were starting to go through puberty, I learned about how boys desire girls. It was all around me. At one point I got punched in the face by a jealous boyfriend getting mad for me talking to the person they had claimed. I didn’t understand any of it. I was constantly accused of being gay (an unforgivable sin) by my classmates because I wasn’t lusting after girls like they were.

By the time I was an adult, I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I wanted to have sex, but there was no one I wanted to have sex with. I wanted to focus on my schoolwork, but I couldn’t. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t stick with it. I wanted to have self-control, but I didn’t. This was all my fault.

When I moved to Ohio, I attended my first furry convention and finally found a community where I belonged. The next year I was on staff. Slowly, through my first fursona, I started to explore who I was. The end result was depressing. I was a fatally flawed person condemned to fight the same struggles and make the same mistakes over and over again. My sexuality and gender were empty, null values that were assumed to be “straight” and “male” because that’s how everyone expected me to be.

Eventually, I started to discover my lack of sexual attraction had a label, but I was too busy with year-long cycles of depression and mania. In 2018, I made the mistake of letting someone talk me into being chairman of a convention. In August of that year, the accumulated stress of a lifetime caused something in my brain to snap and thus begin a four-month long descent into madness. Prior to this I’d long avoided engaging with the sexual side of the fandom. I embraced it fully and read everything furry and erotic I could get my paws on.

In Feburary 2019, I was diagnosed bipolar and started treatment. At the time, I described my brain, identity, and memories as a vase thrown against a wall and I was sitting on the floor looking at the pieces. My fursona was the only thing I could cling to remember who I was.

In June, he died. Slowly, medication gave me the self-control I had always lacked, and I began to realize it wasn’t me that was flawed. My previous fursona proved to be nothing more than a false mirror. And I broke. I became nothing.
In the aftermath, I had to build a new self. I sifted through the shattered pieces of who I used to be. I built a new fursona and gave him those pieces to carry. Slowly, Kayodé emerged. I read about asexuality and learned there was nothing wrong with my sexuality. I read about romantic and aromantic people and understood why I wanted the relationships I did.

I’m still grappling with who I’m becoming. My psychotic break severely damaged my long-term memory and I’m sure bipolar medication isn’t helping in that respect. I don’t have much to connect me to my past. My identity still has no gender. It is a complete blank that I have no strong feelings about. I’m used to being treated as male, so I use male pronouns. When I hear Kayodé or my legal name, I don’t recognize them as referring to me. When I hear my previous fursona’s name, it brings up a past I want nothing to do with.

But I know the important things. I know the things I want to do. I know why I feel the way I feel and I know there is nothing wrong with what I feel. That’s good enough for now.

FWG: How do you think being lgbtq+ has inspired or affected your stories? Have you written lgbtq+ characters into your works?

Kayodé: My own struggles with identity and relationships has more than inspired me—they are the entire purpose that drives my writing. Every one of my characters deliberately embodies a struggle or experience I have. It is somewhat unfortunate that I have an endless supply of source material.

Bipolar is defined by extremes. I have lived and experienced more in thirty years than a dozen neurotypical people would have in a lifetime. Mania fuels every extreme of emotion, from rage, to paranoia, to indescribable joy. Depression is an all-consuming emptiness. Psychosis is imagination unhinged, indistinguishable from reality. In four months, I lived an entire lifetime as an anthropomorphic wolf. Sadly, his experiences were worse than my own.

As a result, my (mostly male) characters span the entire rainbow: ace, bi, gay, trans, and more. I’ve found common experiences with all of them. With every story, I hope to give my audience a glimpse into a perspective they might not otherwise have seen.

FWG: Do you have favourite queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?

Kayodé: I have limited experience with furry literature and none with any queer literature outside of the fandom. But since I’m here… I’ll embarrass the hell out of NightEyes, because that’s always fun! His short story A Moment of Darkness in Knotted (Available in paperback from FurPlanet and ebook from Bad Dog Books) was a story I really connected with. It’s taken me a while to notice, but reading it made me much more comfortable writing the stories I like to write. If he can write about cancer, I can write about mental health.

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

Kayodé: Without a doubt, Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I particularly like the audio book. It’s a book about the process of making art—“ordinary art”, as they call it. How many times do we sit down in front of a keyboard and get nothing done? This book won’t fix that, but it will explain, in depth, how art gets made (or not made). There are pitfalls everyone falls into. Insecurity about the things we create is the rule, not the exception.
If you want to have a better relationship with your writing, Art & Fear is a good book to read.

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

Kayodé: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading my answers as much as I enjoyed writing them. (Also, buy the books!)

That is the last of the Pride Month spotlights for this year. We will be doing more spotlights throughout the year, of course.

The furry fandom is a special place because of (amongst other things) how open and welcoming it is to lgbtq+ people. It is a safe haven for many to explore and develop their identities, and this is something we need to cherish and embrace. This month and every month.

We at the Furry Writers’ Guild encourage everyone – our members, future members, and readers – to embrace and explore the myriad of identities that make us so special.

Stay Proud. Stay safe.
Happy reading.

FWG Pride Month Spotlight: George Squares

For the second Pride Spotlight of the month, we interviewed George Squares (he/him). Though George has had several short story credits to his name, he has recently been writing in a very different medium to most within the Furry Writers Guild.
This is what furry and queer writing means to him.

FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

George: Sure. I go by George Squares. I’m a gay man, I tend to focus heavily on writing horror, romance and erotica, and I’ve been in the furry writer’s guild for a long time. I’ve had stories published in anthologies such as Arcana and Dissident Signals for various presses.

Though I started out selling my writing for short story anthologies (one of the first things I published in the furry scene was a story called Interchangeable Parts in Will of the Alpha 2), these days I make a living off of script writing for various games studios. One of the biggest projects I’ve ever undertaken is managing and writing a visual novel for Echo Project called The Smoke Room, which updates approximately every month and a half. 

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

George: Hard for me to say. I really enjoyed writing a highly risque transformation story that I put up on fur affinity called Something to Trade (it’s probably not a read for everybody), but I think my short story in Arcana, which was for The Sun’s Major Arcana, really stuck with me. But I think my strongest work is going into The Smoke Room at the moment.  

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

A lot of things can make for a good story, but at the end of the day, I think that the most important thing is emotional resonance. We remember how something made us feel the strongest, so if a story can make its audience feel, it will leave an impact. 

FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?

George: I think I’ve technically been in it for around six to seven years. My involvement with the Guild had generally been around the periphery as my interest in publishing print media diminished. But what’s exciting for me to see more of recently is visual novels and interactive games getting embraced as “writing” in writing communities. People are opening up to supporting accessible multimedia projects that have as much depth as many books do.
FWG: Can you give us a little insight into your identity, and how you fit onto the lgbtq+ spectrum?

George: I call myself a gay man out of convenience (and I still consider that to be fairly accurate in terms of my identity), but if I went into the nitty gritty, I’m a masculine nonbinary person with some agender-leaning identity.
FWG: What does Pride mean to you?

It means many things to me, but it mostly means a celebration of the perserverence of Queer (Or LGBTQIA+) identity over institutional hegemony and police brutality. I know we can trace most of the original celebration’s significance back to Marsha P. Johnson’s thrown brick at Stonewall. 

I’ve never had the chance to attend a pride event or celebration in person, but I know how important it is to people who are like me.
FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us?

George: A lot of it was pretty uncomfortable, as, no doubt, many folks in the same boat will tell you. My parents were devout baptists, so a lot of my adolescent and teen years had to be spent in secrecy and suppression. But a part of that was self-imposed due to religious indoctrination. 

It wasn’t until college, where I got to be on my own and explore who I was, until I felt ready to embrace something I already sort of knew from as early an age as 13. My parents were more accepting than I thought they would be at first. I still talk to them about this to this day, but our relationship is still rocky.

FWG: How do you think being lgbtq+ has inspired or affected your stories? Have you written lgbtq+ characters into your works?

George: Well, the graphic sex between men is impossible to miss, for starters. But when I’m writing without explicit sexual depictions, yeah, my sexual and gender identity always comes into factor. I think about what’s depicted as attractive or desirable to the PoV character. I think about what a touch is like between characters with chemistry vs. characters without it. And I think about what I would want to see in a work as a reader when I’m writing something, because even though we can’t always write only for ourselves, we can manage to write for people who are like us who are hungry for relatable stories.

FWG: Do you have favourite queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?

George: Well I definitely have to mention Howly, who created Echo, which eventually led to the entirety of Echo Project. He’s very kind, he works hard, and he undervalues himself considerably, but I wouldn’t have been able to make games without him.

I also want to mention Redd the Shibe, who is my co-writer for The Smoke Room. We have banged our heads together on plenty of walls figuring out how to code and how to make a game but I really think we managed to get past our major hurdles, and I’m proud of us.   
I also need to mention some Devs in the MLM furry VN scene who I think are doing interesting work:
-Grizz (Password)
-Eddio (Killigan’s Treasure)
-Basket (Tennis Ace)
-Xarishro (Fuelled by Insanity)-Raus (Shelter)

My earlier influences in terms of MLM representation in furry stories were K.M. Hirosaki/Rikoshi, Kyell Gold, and Ryan Campbell, and I’m looking forward to reading God of Fire in the near future. 
Robert Baird, and Ian Madison Keller are also really lovely writers who are enthused about their craft.

I have never asked my good friend and fellow writer Jess E. Owen’s private thoughts on her identity, but I would not be as good of a writer today without her, and I needed to mention her. 
I also need to mention my husband Cafealopex, whose early work in the Redwall Online Community over a decade ago inspired me to write in the first place.

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

George: Tough question, considering I want everybody to read widely, and I think everybody reading the same single book could lead to pop cultural problems (what’s that saying I keep hearing again and again about…. ‘read another book’), 
But… I think “Into the Wild” is a pretty solid nonfiction book that almost feels like it’s written like fiction, and I think anybody could get into it. It’s entertaining, it’s shocking, it paints a really good picture with scenes, and I think it has an important lesson.

IT is another book that I think would benefit a lot of people probably but it is very dark and very upsetting. 
If I had to choose a narrative game for everybody to play, it would be “Night in the Woods.”
If I had to pick a book for pride month for everybody to read? How about Wolfsong by T.J. Klune. Can’t go wrong with gay werewolf men. 

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

George: Remember that lots of things can be considered writing and that there’s lots of ways that you can make a living as a writer inside and out of this fandom. Don’t let anybody who tells you otherwise keep you in their shadow.

Celebrate pride month in your own way. 

George is one of the writers with visual novel company The Echo Project. Updates for all the visual novels can be found at The Echo Project’s Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/EchoGame
You can follow George on Twitter @georgesquares

We have one more Pride Spotlight to come before the end of the month. In the meantime, please do check out George’s work. You will not be disappointed.

FWG Pride Month Spotlight: Ian Madison Keller

Pride is a very important month for so many reasons, especially amongst the furry community. Furries, as a whole, are significantly more queer than the rest of the population. Many identify with the lgbtq+ spectrum, and all efforts should be made to preserve the furry fandom as a space that is safe for everyone. The furry writing community is no different. This Pride Month, we will shine the spotlight on a few of the writers who give the furry community its wonderful diversity.

The first spotlight for this year’s Pride Month is Ian Madison Keller (he/him).

FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.

Ian: I grew up in Utah and southern Idaho, and escaped to the Pacific Northwest as soon as I could. Although I wanted to be a writer since High school I ended up majoring in Accounting and not writing for many years.  But in 2012 I picked writing back up again and released my first book in 2014 and my first short stories were published in 2015. I also went back to school to get a certificate in editing, and have been editing stories and novels since 2018.

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

Ian: Short stories, my favorite would be “Don’t Cry” one of the flash fictions I wrote for Flower’s Fang about the queen. I wrote it while figuring out the motivations for the queen and I just really love everything about it. Novels would be one of my latest, “Ritual of the Ancients.” I had a lot of fun writing the thriller elements and figuring out how the vampires and shifters of my world interact with each other.  

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Ian: A strong emotional core. No matter how action packed a book or movie, if I don’t care about the characters then I probably won’t finish it. 

FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?

Ian: I’ve been with the guild since 2016. I’ve seen a lot more encouragement to new writers lately and more inclusivity, like with the online writing convention put on by the guild and the multiple ways to communicate, with the Discord, the forums, and the telegram channel.

FWG: Can you give us a little insight into your identity, and how you fit onto the lgbtq+ spectrum?

I am trans-masculine and bisexual.

FWG: What does Pride mean to you?

Ian: Being proud, not ashamed, about my identity. Something I’ve struggled with a lot from growing up in the mormon church/church of latter-day saints. That’s why Pride looks like a big party, a celebration, because for so many of us we were told that our identities were wrong, something to hide, and even repress.

FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us?

A very long one. I didn’t even know transgender was a thing until I was in college. I actually found out about it by typing “I wish I was a boy” into google and stumbling on LGBT and trans positive websites. Surprisingly the college I went to in Utah had an LGBT center, but there weren’t any trans-masc folks there. Even at the local Salt Lake City trans support group, I was usually the only guy there, and I got a lot of pushback from both that group and the women I dated to not transition. I ended up going back into the closet for more than a decade before actively pursuing transitioning again. 

FWG: How do you think being lgbtq+ has inspired or affected your stories? Have you written lgbtq+ characters into your works?

Ian: It affects all of my works, and almost everything I write has LGBTQ characters in it. Flower’s Fang has a lesbian couple, in The Dragon Tax you find out that one of the characters is bi, as well there is a non-binary elf character. And in my urban fantasy Changing Bodies story, the main character is a gay trans-man in the middle of transition. As well, I’ve written many short stories with a spectrum of characters of varying identities. 

As far as inspiration, some of my stories have been me wondering how a certain species might approach transitioning. Or how a vampire might deal with being transgender and unable to take hormones. Or about how dragons might feel about gender identities.

FWG: Do you have favourite queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?

Ian: I honestly have not read a lot of books by queer authors. However, that is something I am currently working on by actively seeking out works by out queers. The way this has affected my writing is leading me to put lots of queer characters in my stories, so that others can read about the kinds of characters I wished I’d been reading about my whole life. 

Recently I did find a nonbinary author, Dorian Graves, who writes queer urban fantasy stories that I’ve greatly been enjoying.

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

Ian: I would go with House of Shards by Walter Jon Williams. This book is probably the biggest influence on my writing. Lots of humor wrapped in a serious story, and a whole host of alien races. 

FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?

Ian: Don’t forget the outside world exists! Be sure to put down books sometimes to venture out of the house. You’d be surprised by the things that can jump-start your creativity. Try to have hobbies outside reading and writing

Ian Madison Keller is a fantasy writer currently living in Oregon. Originally from Utah, he moved up to the Pacific Northwest on a whim a decade ago and never plans on leaving. Ian has been writing since 2013 with nine novels and more than a dozen published short stories out so far. Ian has also written under the name Madison Keller before transitioning in 2019 to Ian. His most recent series is Changing Bodies, a vampire & shifter urban fantasy published with Goal Publications. You can find more at his website, http://madisonkeller.net.