Introducing The Furry Canon

There is a long and rich tradition of furries in fiction. From the classics of Aesop’s Fables to the latest and greatest in sci-fi/fantasy novels, comics and movies, we’ve seen countless stories featuring anthropomorphic creatures. Many of those stories are fine for what they are—morality tales or pieces of fizzy entertainment that allow us to escape into a different world for a time. Some of them, however, touch us so deeply, that they become landmarks for our personal development. When we find ourselves in the company of like-minded individuals, we find that many of us share the same landmarks; entire communities have developed on the backs of this shared connection.

JM (editor horse-in-chief of [a][s]) and I were talking about Fred Patten’s article “What The Well-Read Furry Should Read,” which features what Fred considers to be the top ten classics of the fandom. It’s not a bad list, but we had a number of questions. How on Earth did he manage to narrow down hundreds of years of furry fiction down to a ten best list? What was the criteria to make something truly great? How did Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Animal Farm make the list, but Maus and The Wind in the Willows did not?

I know how subjective terms like “greatest” can turn an innocuous list into a flashpoint of debate, and we here at [a][s] love our opinions and classifications as much as the next data-wonk. So we thought—why not create our own list of novels and stories that we believe serve as cultural touchstones for the furry community? If you wanted to give someone a list of four or five novels that explained the furry aesthetic and the community’s fundamental love of anthropomorphic animals, what would you include?

Thus, the idea for “The Furry Canon” was born. We’d like to introduce an ongoing, occasional set of articles that digs into a book or set of stories, reviews them on their own merits and then determines whether they should be added to a list of stories we feel represent the “idea/aesthetic” of furry as a whole.

This is a delicate operation. Who the hell are we to determine what gets added and what doesn’t? Well, we’re enthusiastic readers, just like you. To hold ourselves to an objective (or at least transparent) standard, we thought we’d make a list of criteria that would help determine whether or not a work should be added to the list.

QUALITY. Obviously, we wouldn’t add just any book or story to the Furry Canon. If we’re going to suggest these works the curious or uninitiated, at the very least they should be excellent books to read. Is the work strong enough that, even without the elements we’re most interested in, we’d be inclined to read it?

LONGEVITY. This is a little trickier, but there are a lot of stories that set the world on fire for a year or two, then mysteriously and suddenly fade away. Does the work still hold up, even across the gulf of time and the changes society has undergone since it was published? Is it a perfect encapsulation of a point in time of the furry community or the broader world? Is there something in the work that’s still relevant and vital?

RELEVANCY. Does the story capture a central aesthetic, idea or emotion that’s quintessentially furry? Does it serve as a cultural signpost for the community, something that we can know and understand? What is it about the work that serves as an excellent representation for our fandom?

Obviously, our decisions on what gets included and what does not won’t work for everyone—but we’re hoping that over time, we can cultivate a list of our own that works well as a literary representation of our community.

So, what do you think, [a][s] readers? What novels or collections would you put forward as candidates?

About Jakebe

Jakebe is a jackalope who's been traveling around furry world since 1996, since has settled down in the technological wilds of Silicon Valley. He is happily married to a dragon, and they write fiction and non-fiction of various types in a cozy little den. His blog touches on storytelling, furry topics du jour, movie reviews and short fiction.

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20 thoughts on “Introducing The Furry Canon

  1. Goodness, am I first? Only four?

    Richard Adams, “Watership Down”

    Brian Jacques, “Mossflower” (or “Redwall” if you insist)

    Jack London, “The Call of the Wild”

    Felix Salten, “Bambi”

    Anna Sewell, “Black Beauty”

    (Yes, I know, that’s five.)

    1. Oh, and I agree that Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows” is very important. It would make my top ten, but not the top four or five, mainly because I feel it is not as dependent on the qualities of the different species as I would like, and not as thoroughly grounded in all levels of the necessary society as it should be. The absence of any females among the animal characters, for instance, is a flaw. The source of food, clothing, and other necessities is nearly invisible, etc.

  2. Well, “Watership Down” and “Black Beauty” (along with the rest of the Furry Writers Guild suggested readings) are a given. “Black Beauty” was a huge mainstream hit when it was first published, to the point it impacted British culture as a whole. It is the first truly proto-furry novel, I can’t remember immersion into a real animal’s point of view being taken so seriously before.

    I’ll add two more unusual suggestions:

    Phil Geusz, “Graduation Day”
    I red this story many years ago and I still remember it vividly as a striking example of immersion in a setting populated by anthro animals and analysis of real world problems that an human-turned-animal could face. The basic premise of the story, the humanity of all the characters and their problems, the questions it raises about identity and about the extent to which one’s body affects the course of his or her life, it’s just wonderful. In fact I would recommend the whole package of stories set in the “Bling Pig” and “Xanadu” shared settings because of their in-depth exploration of such concepts, but if I have to pick one story out of the bunch it’s certainly this one.

    Bernard Doove, “Forest Tales”
    I strongly believe some of Doove’s chakat stories are must-read furry literature, even though I’m not a huge fan of his writing myself. While it may be lacking in literary merit his work deals with aspects of the furry imagination which aren’t represented in the classics, such as customized species, new forms of sexuality made possible by species differences, furry as a form of transhumanism, and borrowing of elements from various genres and mainstream settings. Those are key elements of important furry experiences such as roleplaying and fan fiction authoring.
    Looking at the book’s page on Amazon most reviewers can’t seem to look past the explicit sexual elements of the story, but in my opinion dismissing Doove’s stories as “just porn” is unfair. His inventions struck very deep chords in some people. There’s a reason Doove has published many books over the years and still has a dedicated following.

    1. After a bit of reflection I’ll add yet another one: “Romance Reports” by SleeplessBrony.
      Yes, it is My Little Pony clop fiction. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful pieces of furry erotic literature ever written.

    2. Scale, thanks for the suggestions. I can tell you that both Black Beauty and Watership Down are coming shortly.

      Of your other suggestions… wow. MLP erotica is certainly a surprising suggestion, and I imagine you can guess my initial reaction, but I’m not going to judge something without reading it. I can’t be quite so generous with Bernard Doove’s work. While Goldfur is a lovely chap—he and I are both Australian and we’ve met a few times—I have never been able to find a way to approach his writing.

      But I guess the biggest problem comes to light when you suggest Phil’s book. Phil is, as you know, a regular contributor to [a][s], and anyone writing about his books will be aware of this. It is very difficult to critically review by-furry for-furry books because we are a tight-knit community, and we know that the writer is going to be paying close attention. I know from writing a couple of furry reviews (in [a][s] and elsewhere) that it’s going to be very difficult for a reviewer to reject a by-furry book.

      That’s not to say that we won’t be reviewing by-furry for-furry books as part of this project, but I can tell you that nobody has planned to attempt one in our first tranche of ten or so Furry Canon reviews.

  3. Interesting. I believe a certain horse fur made the ridiculous argument that the furry fandom was not a fandom, partly due to there not being a furry canon.

    And I must note that at least part of me was disappointed this was not about a furry cannon.

    1. We keep the furry cannon in reserve for clever and slightly snarky commenters.

      But back on topic, I think what makes this idea so powerful is that we are never going to agree with what should be in the furry ‘canon’. Jakebe and I disagreed with some of Fred’s choices; we disagree with one another on other selections. I think this project can help us differentiate between books that are furry, and those that are merely anthropomorphic.

      Any recommendations for the [a][s] Furry Canon are never going to be definitive, because our fandom isn’t wholly rooted in any work of art. That’s when I meant when I said that we’re different from other fandoms, because other fandoms exist specifically in relation to some universal source material.

    1. Fred, thanks for stopping by and thanks for your support of this project. As you know, it was your list that helped prompt the idea, and as you might have guessed a big part of that conversation was around points of disagreement.

      That’s the magic of something as opinion-based as reviewing, and I hope it comes across as engaged and respectful, rather than as just contrarian. It’s certainly intended to be positive, and we will continue to use your list and reviews as a key guide as we dive deeper into the Furry Canon.

  4. I love this idea, definitely worth addressing. My inclination is to sub-categorize submissions:

    Talking animals/Animal perspective (where animals are still animals but the story gives them a voice or focuses on their perspective, humans sometimes play a role) ie: Aesop, Watership Down, Animal Farm etc

    Anthropomorphic Animals (Animals that stand upright, wear clothes and have technology, live in a world suited for multi-species animals): “Rabbits in Waistcoats” works such as Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, works by Beatrix Potter, Kyell Golds Out of Position Series and many other fandom works, Ninja Turtles, Usagi Yojimbo, Autumnlands

    Anthropomorphic Animals as allegory for humans (Anthropomorphic animals that represent humans directly, in a human world with no additional world building for animals) such as Maus, Blacksad, the only examples I can think of are graphic novels or films though.

    Categorizing like this could get messy though, works might fit multiple categories. Just an idea. Might borrow some of these ideas for the youtube channel.

    1. Hi Arrkay, thanks for the encouragement and of course you are welcome to explore this with Culturally F’d – I love to hear what you have to say. I can tell you that several of your suggestions are already in the works.

  5. Going to keep it close and personal and doing some recommendations that led me to discover the furry fandom in the first place (long story short stumbled on it when trying to look for more like the following) so the 4 I would recommend:

    Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann
    A group of woodland animals try to escape a common problem and need to work together
    Watership down by Richard Adams
    Rabits trying to find a place to live
    Wolves of Time by William Horwood
    Wolves guided by an ancient story to fix the mistakes of the past
    Fire-Bringer by David Clemence-Davies
    Deer in thrall by ancient prophecies

    All of these have in common that the animals in them behave intelligent but still have reasons (be that cultural or otherwise) to behave and deal with the issues as if they where wild animals (to some extent), which I think is an important part of the furry aesthetic which is an important difference between furry stories and (aesops) fables

    1. Hi Botch, I think we’re all in agreement with you about the furry aesthetic in the books you’ve named. Thanks for your list – and hopefully we can introduce some books to you as well.

  6. While I’d eagerly second;
    Call of the Wild
    Wind in the Willows, Black Beauty, and Bambi,

    I’d also like to see more from more recent classics and nominate:
    Alan Dean Foster: Spellsinger
    Andre Norton: The Iron Cage
    and the Chanur series by C.J. Cherryh

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