Review: 'Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe; Omnibus One'
Seattle, Tai-Pan Literary &
Arts Project, September 2011
[Editor-in-Chief: Gene Breshears]
Trade paperback $15.00 (176 pages)
The Tai-Pan Literary & Arts Project is one of the oldest organizations in Furry fandom. According to the Editor’s Introduction, it was started by a group of seven Seattle fans having dinner at a Denny’s during Norwescon X, March 24-27, 1988. They decided to publish a shared-world Furry space-opera fanzine, set in the 36th century against an interstellar background, with a group of writers and artists featuring the same Furry characters in stories edited to be mutually consistent. (See WikiFur for the full historical story.)
Today, twenty-three years later, the Tai-Pan Project has included over fifty writers and artists. It incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2000. Its Editors-in-Chief have been Whitney Ware, 1988-1994, and Gene Breshears, 1994-present. It holds a social/editorial dinner Writer’s Night gathering in the Seattle area on the third Saturday of every month. Its publication, titled The Tai-Pan under Whitney Ware and Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe under Gene Breshears, is published approximately twice a year; issue #49 is scheduled for November 2011. Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe won the Ursa Major Award for Best Anthropomorphic Magazine in 2003 and 2004, and the story “In His Own Country” by Kristin Fontaine in issue #39 won the award for Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction in 2005.
Omnibus One is an oversized (8 ½” x 11”) trade paperback with a cover by Chuck Melville. It actually contains a bit more than the complete The Tai-Pan issues #1 (January 1992), and #2 (February 1992), which have been remastered and re-laid-out (though not without some new errors). There is early incidental artwork of the cast scattered throughout the book. Finally, a couple of items are shown from a preliminary version of #1 in March 1991 and out of print since then. Readers who have the actual first two issues will still want this compendium.
The first 60 pages present the guidelines of the 36th century background (historical, technical, and economic) and the interstellar freighter The Tai-Pan and her crew, which the Project’s writers have used for their stories; in article form by Gene Breshears, Alan Chapman, Mark Davis, and others. The first fiction in this Omnibus are the following two short stories from issue #1, “What Tales He’d Tell” by Whitney Ware (illustrated by Arion Morgan) and “A Bird in the Hand” by Rachel Erlich (illus. by Nancy Robak). These are both all right but sleight; brief trifles introducing the Tai-Pan and four of her crew.
“New Queensland Station” by Gene Breshears, Keith Alan Johnson, and Whitney Ware (illus. by Jackie Duram-Nilsson), a novella from issue #2, provides the real adventure in this book. “The Tai-Pan” has just arrived at New Queensland Station, the major space station circling the planet Aussland, to deliver an agricultural cargo, when a civil war breaks out. Both sides in the war want the freighter, the majority of the ship’s members are taken by surprise while on liberty, and within the first few pages over a dozen of the crew just introduced in the cast list are killed. The action is well-written military science-fiction, and it never lets up.
The short stories from issue #2 are “Jumping Planet” by David Dailey (illus. by Diane Salts), and “Between a Laugh and a Tear” by Whitney Ware (illus. by Viki Sinex). The former is another tale of how The Tai-Pan gets one of her crew, while the latter is a somber followup to “New Queensland Station”. The omnibus closes with the two brief outtakes from the preliminary version of issue #1.
This Omnibus One is a great sampler of the oldest continuing publication in Furry fandom. The opening pages describe the stories’ background in detail, while the stories themselves present the earliest adventures of Captain Marko Rasputin (panda), cargo master Eli (raccoon), computer techs Te Teko Bush (tree kangaroo) and Frith (ferret), general crewman Chester (ringtail), cook Cory DuPlessis (wolf), and a couple of dozen others that regular readers of the Project’s fanzine will consider old friends. The other artists represented by full-page or spot illustrations include Terrie Smith, Kristin Fontaine, April Lee, Joyce Norton, Tom Milliorn, Roy D. Pounds II, and many others. A collection of the best of Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe has been overdue for years; the decision to reprint the entire issues in Omnibus volumes is just as good.