Review: 'Stories of Camp RainFurrest'
Seattle’s first Furry conventions began in 1998. There were eight annual ConiFur Northwests, growing from 275 to 525 attendees, before they self-destructed after the 2005 event.
Rainfurrest (or Rainfurrest Anthropomorphics International) was first held in 2007 to be ConiFur’s replacement. It seems to be more successful; Rainfurrest has grown from 370 attendees in 2007 to 1,420 last year.
Practically all Furry conventions have souvenir “conbooks”, and two or three short stories by members are a feature of these. Rainfurrest 2011 decided to take this a step further.
This anthology was created and written by the fans at Rainfurrest. All the writers and artists have waived all fees, so that all the money will go to charity so our furry friends can have a better life. Thanks to our writers, artists and FurPlanet for this dream has come true and we are hoping that we can do more anthologies.
(The charity of Rainfurrest 2011 was Love a Mutt Pet Rescue, of Western Washington.)
The creator (Gene Armstrong) and editor (Leonard Burstiner) identify themselves inside, but they want all credit for this thin book to go to RainFurrest itself. (The alternation between Rainfurrest and RainFurrest grows irritating.)
The theme of Rainfurrest 2011 was “Furry Camping”, which became the theme of the anthology. The 108-page Stories of Camp RainFurrest contains eleven short stories; two are illustrated, and two have been included on the 2011 Recommended Anthropomorphics List.
“Creation of Camp RainFurrest” by Gene Armstrong is a three-page short-short that sets the theme. “Home Sickness” by Sorin is a practically generic tale of the reluctant loner kid (otter) who is positive that he will hate camp, being wooed out of his sulks by his enthusiastic bunkmate (red fox). “Within Our Nature” by Garrett Biggerstaff is narrated by T.J., the camp cook, the only predator (unspecified feline) in a camp of prey species. He is only there because his boyfriend (stallion) is the head counselor. He expects to have a boring time not getting caught smoking and trying not to inadvertently scare the prey kids, and is happily surprised when a nerd kid (beaver) turns out to have more guts than he shows.
Raccoons tried their hands at archery, as they did every year. In a rare feat of cooperation, two of them held the bow, two pulled the string, and one notched the arrow and aimed. The first five times, the bow knocked them down and tangled them up, but the sixth time: success! The arrow sailed through the air and almost hit the hay bale target. This was an all-time camp record. The raccoons chattered with impish glee, eager to boast of their victory to the other animals. But they almost lost themselves to squabbling when none could agree which one of them was most responsible for the perfect shot. (p. 25)
In “All Are Welcome” by Ryan Hickey, two separate groups are encouraged to come together in friendship: a Summer camp of predators with one nervous prey (mouse) boy, and three older teen counselors (wolf, bear, and cheetah) who are friends but have just discovered that they are rival gay lovers. “Salute the Flag” by Kandrel pits a secret cabal of indignant barely-adolescent campers (feline, squirrel, ferret, and fox) as the Committee to End Oppression against the scowling older-teen Counselor Stevens (wolf) who wakes everyone in his cabin at 5:30 a.m. and confiscates campers’ candy.
“Summer’s Leap of Faith” by May Kay Biggerstaff posits Camp RainFurrest as a refuge for magical human-animal beings to be themselves; the natural wereanimals, the skinwearers, and those who turn animal by any sorcerous spells:
And now you had the distinct honor of trying to pick a beast form out of thousands of animals, trying to find the one that matched you. Everyone else got what they got, so you were soooo lucky; except the beast shifters who could take any animal form they wanted, or the skinwalkers who did the same through ritual. (p. 53)
Sixteen-year-old Zala’s confusing adolescent growth is manifesting in her turning into four beasts at once. She hopes that a session at camp with other young shapeshifters will help her decide what animal to become.
The protagonist of “First Time at Camp” by James Stringer is James, the son of a blue tiger father and a black wolf mother, who is always being hassled by adults who think his weird fur coloring is punk-dyed and that he is a troublemaker. James meets Rain, a young cougar who accepts him for what he is. “Where the Heart Is” by Mary E. Lowd keeps to the camping theme but does not feature any Earthly camp. Four friends at the interstellar All Alien Café, a Woaoo (koala), a Heffen (red-wolf), a Srellik (long-tailed green lizard), and a Lintar (large blue fish whose head is in a water-filled diving helmet), decide to take a vacation together in the Srellik’s spaceship to the Woaoo’s home planet, to the forest where she used to camp out as a child.
In “‘A Few Hangups’” by Trey Jackson, Julian (cougar) and his girlfriend Edith (rat) go wilderness hiking together in Forestalia. Julian finds out that you can’t rough it and be a million-dollar wheeler-dealer via cel phone at the same time. In “Antebellum” by Garrett Biggerstaff, Malcolm, a drafthorse colt, reminisces about his previous stay at camp where he became best friends with Mike, a cat, and the other pals he developed, Ian (bull) and Aaron (regular horse).
Eleven stories. Eleven variations on a theme, some more imaginative than others. On the whole, this is a project worth supporting. And it will be repeated, because Rainfurrest has announced that it has been a big success. Rainfurrest 2012’s theme is steampunk and weird/mad science. The deadline for 5,000–8,000 word submissions has already passed. The second convention anthology will go on sale at Rainfurrest 2012, 27–30 September at the Hilton Seattle Airport & Conference Center.