At furry conventions, I tend to physically stand out from the crowd. I’m older than most furs, and don’t tend to wear “convention gear” like ears and a tail. Indeed, due to sheer absent-mindedness I often even forget to wear my badge. So it’s natural, I suppose, that “outsiders” often approach me and ask “Sir, what is this whole “furry” thing about, anyway? Why is everyone here dressed so strangely?”
So, in turn it’s also natural that I’ve given considerable thought to the matter. “We’re people who like anthropomorphic art and literature and such,” is my usual quick-and-dirty answer. “Think Nick Wilde, or Bugs Bunny.” And that’s usually good enough; people approaching a stranger in public generally aren’t seeking anything more. Yet this is also the simplest and most facile of all responses, one that opens more doors than it closes. For the people surrounding us when this conversation takes place have often traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to be there, crossed entire continents and oceans on journeys that they’ve often saved for years to undertake. With all due to respect to Nick and Bugs, there’s clearly something much deeper at work.
Continue reading That Whole “Furry” Thing
Being an old curmudgeon, I tend not to put a lot of credence in the opinions of others until I’ve established who they are and what they’ve accomplished. I don’t accept medical advice from non-doctors or nurses, for example. Similarly, should I ever experience legal difficulties I’ll spend the money to see an actual lawyer, not ask the patrons of a local bar what they think about the matter. Credibility, in other words, is an important aspect of human existence, and has been ever since we learned to communicate. It’s important, something we weigh and evaluate constantly while going about our everyday lives. Doctors and lawyers are pretty credible as a rule, in part because they belong to professional associations and go through certification processes that at least attempt to keep them that way. But… Is the car salesman who claims you can easily afford what seems to be an outlandishly high monthly payment entirely credible? Or, for that matter, a politician seeking your vote? Just possibly not.
In keeping with the above theme, let me therefore establish my own credentials and perhaps earn a bit of trust in my own right. I’ve been writing furry fiction—mostly transformation-themed—since about 1997. That’s a literary career of almost twenty years and counting. To clarify, I don’t mean that I’ve been poking around at writing for that long, or that I’ve written a story here and there over that period of time. Rather, I’ve been a serious, high-output furry writer for almost two decades, having written roughly twenty-five published novels and novellas, probably about the same number of short stories, and maybe another hundred mostly “internet storyverse” works of various lengths. Accomplishing this— alongside maintaining a full-time job and owning my own home— has required me, in essence, to think about furry fiction and very little but furry fiction and the furry characters which define it for many hours a week, over a span of time that constitutes most of the history of the fandom to date.
Perhaps the thing I think about the most is, why should a given character be furry in the first place?
Continue reading Furry Cred in Furry Literature; A Furry Opinion
(I promise— it takes a while but this column eventually gets furry.)
About a month prior to this article’s release I suffered some serious heart troubles. Little permanent damage was done, and the timely high-tech treatment I received was so successful that I actually feel better now than I have for years. It wasn’t nearly as a big a deal as it sounds when spelled out here. But, I have to admit, such a life-event can get a man to thinking. Another major life event is also looming up close for me— in roughly twelve weeks I’ll retire at last from my much-disliked factory job and be able to write or do whatever else I please full-time. I’ve worked very hard for this for a very long time, and saved money when it would’ve been much easier to spend it. In fact, I’ve been counting down the weeks for almost two years. Between the two, well, for the last few days I’ve been downright philosophical.
Continue reading No Beale Street, Nor Second Avenue North
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but in Real Life most of the furry fandom—for now, at least—lives in human bodies. We were all born with them, every last one of us. Some may claim souls of more diverse origin, but the flesh and blood nature of their humanity is beyond question. So, when I state that all of us are human and share common hard-wired human traits and frailties I hope people won’t throw too many stones.
For we are human, you know. Thoroughly, depressingly, and very completely so. We see the world through human eyes, hear with human ears, and process these inputs through a nervous system that, though we rarely consider the matter, was shaped solely by evolutionary forces and therefore is brimming with billions of years worth of illogical prejudices and mistaken priorities. Surviving long enough to produce successful offspring is the only thing that matters to Mr. Darwin. Not, for example, having the ability to apply dispassionate and objective logic to all situations. Yes, we’re the best-thinking creatures we yet know of. Yet at heart we’re still just another breed of animal, not immaterial shining globes of energy free from worldly distractions like hemorrhoids and noisy neighbors with ill-mannered children. Not only are we animals, we’re animals equipped with powerful drives and blind instincts, beasts who snarl and fight and sometimes even murder each other for reasons that an immaterial energy sphere would find totally incomprehensible. We’re demonstrably territorial, extraordinarily sexual, protective of our offspring and…
…we live in a social structure that requires a leader in order to function properly.
Continue reading Leadership, Morality and Humanity
In many ways I’m not a very typical fur. I’m almost fifty-three as I write this, work in a blue collar field, and have little to no interest in furry art or artists. (I’m into furry fiction to the near-exclusion of all else, fandom-wise.) I don’t have a “furry-name” or “fursona”, and my first fursuit, if I still had it, would be older than the word itself. I would never have heard of half the fandom-famous anthro-cartoon characters if it hadn’t been for the fandom itself, because I was already an adult—even in many cases middle-aged—when the programs aired and became part of the rest of the fandom’s childhood. Perhaps most tellingly, I was thirty-seven years old before I ever heard the word “furry” used in its fandom sense. In other words, I lived most of my life in the universe that existed before there was a furry fandom, and remember it well.
This world was the world of the “paleofur”. The time before any of us knew there were others like us, who shared our interests and tastes. Before the internet brought us together, in other words, the long, long era when being a fur was a terribly lonely and to some degree even shameful thing.
Continue reading Paleofurs— The Anthropomorphic Fans of the Past
I’ve long been fascinated by the art of communication. While writing is my forte, I’m also fascinated by radio—I was a teen-aged disc jockey for a time at an educational station—and just about all other forms of gasbaggery. One of the things that has struck me most profoundly over the years is how much all the various means of exchanging thoughts and ideas have in common with each other at the basic level.
Over the years I’ve chosen a very few favorite literary passages and other odds and ends of communication and thought long and hard about what makes them work so well. One is an excerpt from Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, more specifically the arrival of the Midnight Circus Train. Another is the last few paragraphs of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which never leaves me dry-eyed. A third is a lesser-known but still famous scene from book five of the Horatio Hornblower series (Beat to Quarters was the American title) by C.S. Forester in which the protagonist, half-mad from noise and terror and the strain of command in the most brutal sort of combat struggles to maintain his sanity as he (largely by pure force of will) stands for hour after hour in the hot sun with the corpses of his friends and shipmates piling up ever deeper all around him. These are all three of them brilliant gems of the literary art, and each achieved much of their impact using very different techniques. Indeed, they share only a single thing in common.
Not one of them is one syllable longer than they absolutely must be in order to achieve the effect intended. Indeed, each is remarkably short compared to the power they command in the reader’s mind. Not a shred of “non-essential” or “second-rate” material is present to water down the impact of the rest.
Continue reading When You’ve Said Too Much
Special Note: This column was first written for TSAT Magazine in 2001 (on September 9th actually, if memory serves). TSAT was an early e-zine that focused entirely on transformation stories, that branch of fiction in which one thing is likely to very soon become another. All of my own earliest works as a serious authors were transformation stories and many of them still are, as I find TF to be a superb literary mechanism for examining the human condition via making it somewhat less human. At any rate, I’ve received several requests over the years to republish this column despite its age in a more available forum, and so I’ve touched it up for [adjective][species]. Please note that while the column refers specifically to transformation stories again and again, I believe that what I said over a decade ago still pretty much holds equally true for furry fiction today.
(So why didn’t I just edit the thing radically enough to make it about furry fiction instead of TF? Because for some unknown reason I’m inordinately proud of this piece, and feel that I owe it to both TSAT Magazine and the struggling beginner writer that I then was to keep it in as original a state as possible. Don’t worry; it’ll be just fine.)
Continue reading Making Miracles
This is a lightly-edited reprint of a column in Anthro Magazine that first appeared in Issue #14, in 2007.
Perhaps my favorite activity at conventions is having dinner with groups of friends at local eateries. Anyone who knows me well will recognize that I’m pretty fond of my chow to begin with, and to be able to share my dining experience with a (usually) mixed group of old friends and new acquaintances is, well, the highlight of my calendar. Usually, at least once during a con I’ll try and round up a suitable group, and off we go for what is always a memorable time out.
One of the most remarkable such con-dinners I’ve had in recent years took place in Memphis, during Mephit, at the Germantown Commissary. A group of about fifteen of us of mixed ages and of varying degrees of my acquaintanceship formed a convoy and ran across town to this trendy establishment, which allegedly sold the best barbeque in town. On the way our convoy broke up and some of us were separated, causing much anxiety. The Commissary proved to be the most highly-overrated restaurant I’ve ever experienced; it was crowded, the servers were rude to the point of surliness, and the food was okay at best. At any other time I’d have been very unhappy with my evening.
But because of the people I was with, the experience was absolutely magic.
Continue reading Not-So-Distant Cousins
There are always key moments in any human relationship, whether said relationship is rooted in business, romance, politics, or pretty much anything else. When I was an adolescent, one of the most current memes in society was that a person’s first impression of someone or something was the most crucial moment of all. While of course I can’t recall all this in encyclopedic detail, at that time the market was flooded with books on how to improve your first impression, and said books were filled with charts “proving” just how vitally important this was to success in life’s endeavors. The principle was even carried over into academics—kids were given “fun math” to do on their first day in school, to improve that vital initial impression. I recall this pretty well because, being a teen at the time, it provided me with my first-impression of the self-help book industry and, well… We all know how lasting a first impression can be, no?
At any rate, it’s inevitable that furs coming into the fandom tend to undergo a whole series of “firsts”.
Continue reading Furry Impressions
I probably shouldn’t even attempt to write this article. I lack any real background knowledge on the subject, and have no academic credentials of any kind whatsoever. While I enjoy writing and contributing the occasional essay, I really ought to be devoting the time to my fiction-writing career instead just now; it’s at a crucial point, and not in a good way. Nor will many people will read this compared to my works of fiction. I’m beginning late at night after a long, hard shift at work knowing full well that I’ve got to get up extra-early tomorrow, and this after going short on sleep last night for other reasons entirely. In short I’m a damned fool to be sitting here typing this. And yet here I am, pounding out the words into my iPad at the local 24-hour eatery.
Why? Because I feel a strange compulsion to do so. A compulsion, I feel, that has much to do with not only who I am as a person, but also why I’m a fur. And it was inspired, of all things, by a coincidence in timing. Just days after finishing the final draft of a novel that in large part deals with the taboo of human cannibalism, I watched with wonder as the British media erupted in outrage over the discovery of horsemeat in the human food chain.
Continue reading Food Stuff