Welcome to Lux, with a guest post about what she does when not hosting furry movie pizza parties. – Patch
On a beautiful fall morning in Reno, the edge of sunrise starts to paint the desert mountains. The color in the sky is just right. I rush to my balcony and put on my glowing pup hood for photos, which I will share to a majority audience of people with fuzzy wolf characters. I am profoundly happy.
Electroluminescent wire is a sister material to LEDs. They look similar, but they’re functionally quite different. An LED is a diode that emits a single point of light, but EL wire works like a capacitor. Since it has no resistance within, it doesn’t heat up when lit. An exposed end might give a small shock if it touches your skin (but it won’t kill you, or I’d be dead). It’s flexible, continuously lit throughout its length, and has many applications to create an amazing glowing costume.
Like any wearable electronics, EL wire has limitations and can be finicky. Its battery packs (drivers) are each rated for a different length of wire. Knowing how to troubleshoot your costume is integral to being a fiber artist with this material. It’s easy to learn but very hard to master.
The technology has been around for some time, but it wasn’t until the late 90s and early aughts when the folks at FunHouse productions in Oakland, California decided to really develop the platform. EL wire is the unofficial signage of the Burning Man event, where you can often find people in these costumes wandering around the playa as strobing neon silhouettes in the dark.
This art was largely contained to their scene in Black Rock City until dance troupes started popping up on America’s Got Talent. For the 2012 season, Team Illuminate put together dance routines and nearly went all the way. By weaving EL wire and using the interplay of darkness to create floating shapes and coordinated blinking, they made the world aware of wearable neon, including me.
At that time, I was a cosplayer in exile after 3 years of dedicating my life to the steampunk scene. Before that I was an overweight gay woman floating through college, dissatisfied with the meager results that came from hard efforts in academia. Steampunk offered a gateway to discovering femininity, permission to love my body, and an excuse to sew as many materials into a costume as conceivably possible. Insecurity about art prowess and my body led to leaning into the Christmas tree effect: adding so many layers to a costume that it’s hard to pick out one individual flaw and everything becomes kind of cohesive.
My costume was originally made to wear at the Michigan Renaissance festival. My parents were huge Rennies and they wanted me to have my own costume to wear there. I definitely caught people’s eyes by walking down the muddy trails and tipping my top hat adorned with a pair of raver goggles. I was invited to the blossoming steampunk scene in Michigan, where we showed up at an art gallery and drank whiskey while listening to Depeche Mode and wearing a lot of leather and belt buckles. Eventually conventions grew from this. They were fun to go to, but not sustainable. People in Victorian garb would stroll around hotels, looking at merchandise without buying, and skip panels that didn’t have much to do with the event. The few talent performances were novel, but they were never really enough to keep it going.
I had another excuse to leave. Friends that I brought into the scene were the kind who never have anything nice to say. That grew clear when I put together my magnum opus: The mobile jubilation station. A mobile steampunk DJ backpack that played music and was covered with fun gizmos. I was ready to take it to TeslaCon in Madison, WI, but I was bullied to not bring it. That’s when I decided to quit my airship crew, and steampunk altogether. My costume was packed and stuffed in the furthest corner of a closet and it was time to move on.
Jumping into my studies felt fruitless, because Natural Resource Management has little opportunity to spare. One night while blowing off lab work on my computer, I stumbled across a video of Team Illuminate dancing in the dark and became obsessed. A little voice in my head whispered “I bet you could do this”.
I ordered some wire and started experimenting. I remember when I first lit up a strand and held the little piece of neon in my hand. Bending it around my finger, making it wave in the light, I wondered how far could I go? I was encouraged by my dear friend Morgan, who runs Detroit leather company (a fellow steampunk expatriate.) I vaguely mentioned experimenting with glowing wire, maybe to make a costume, but running out of money. Morgan didn’t hesitate to help me with thousands of dollars so I could afford 10 fresh spools and start my business, studio Lux Operon.
Early experimenting. This was actually the first costume that I ever threw together.
I miss those skeleton arms so gosh darn bad but they were too fragile to continue to use. I’m hoping to remake them someday with fiber optics.
It was a struggle to find a home for this studio. I remember my first convention sitting in a little corner, selling goggles and trying to push electroluminescent panels that I had woven by hand. That year was humbling. Weaving really was my passion and no one seemed interested in the pieces I put together, but I noticed that My Little pony was very popular with cosplayers. I wove up a batch of EL wire cutie marks to keep in stock. Then Morgan and some other friends invited me to a science fiction convention in Chicago. I was halfway there when I learned the name of it was Midwest Furfest.
Oh God, not furries! I’m an alumnus from the Something Awful forums, so I thought I knew what the furry fandom was and wanted nothing to do with it. Reluctantly I set up my display in the dealer’s den and prepared for a parade of weirdos.
I was not prepared for the experience. Yeah, people were weird, but also kind, generous, excited, and fully willing to support my art. I walked out with almost as much money as I had made at an anime con five times the size. I decided to do a trial by fire and walked through the artist rooms and a room party. The sense of community I felt in steampunk was there, but like a fine aged wine compared to bitter vinegar. Everyone seemed to know who they were and what they wanted. This would be my new home.
Sometimes I wonder whether I’m furry enough for the scene. It’s been 8 years and I own a fursuit, know the language, host events and have many friends, but when I think about my character, I’m a neon demon who walks on the bottom of the ocean. My other characters don’t have a tuft of hair between them. I’m a bio nerd and my inner story revolves around the idea of microbial symbiosis and bioluminescence.
My fursuit, and friends at the Frolic furry dance party in San Francisco.
The anxiety is purely internal because I’ve never felt unwelcome. This fandom lets me be who I need to be, and give my art back to the community. Sometimes I give things away for free if I can for someone who can’t afford them. Otherwise my prices range from $30 to $120, which helps me appear at conventions, develop personal costumes, and push my craft further. I recently launched woven EL wire badges, developed from t-shirt panels I used to weave. I’d like to put them in the paws of as many furries as possible.
I’ve now spent enough time paying my dues that I felt like weaving EL wire might get people’s interest, and it does. This fandom is finally giving me the excuse to do something that makes me incredibly happy.
Once in a while my parents ask if I want to get back into steampunk. We are close but I guess it’s a higher art in their minds. They mention other places I can promote my work, and I say why bother? The furry fandom has support I need and people I want to hang out with. This is a gift that I think no other scene could give, and I’m proud to walk around my with badges in non-furry spaces and represent this community.
If you like the story, please follow me on Twitter, buy something if you want to, and never stop being as bold and beautiful as you want to be. We owe our happiness to no one but ourselves, and I hope that with or without costumes and art, you discover who you were always meant to be.
You were born to glow.
Like the article? These take hard work. For more free furry news, please follow on Twitter or support not-for-profit Dogpatch Press on Patreon. Want to get involved? Use these subreddits: r/furrydiscuss for anything — or r/waginheaven for the best of the community. Or send guest writing here. (Content Policy.)
Lerner Books has a new full-color graphic novel with a notable title, Mega Dogs of New Kansas. “Sienna Barlow loves nothing more than riding around New Kansas on top of her mega-dog, Gus. He’s one of the massive pooches protecting the human settlers of a strange planet. In fact, Sienna connects better with Gus than with other kids. So when a visiting official threatens to shut down the mega-dog program, Sienna sneaks off with her best friend. After she, Gus, and a stowaway crash their escape ship, they discover a danger to every human in their community — and launch a wild plan to save New Kansas.” Written by Dan Jolley and illustrated by Jacques Khouri, Mega Dogs is due this November in trade paperback. Lerner has preview pages to check out also.
You’ll want to show Monster Force Zero at any furry party night if you love midnight movies. This new release went through a few years of production with crowdfunding and shooting in Colorado at Galaxyfest. Furries are included briefly, but with love. Catch it on Amazon or other services above.
The setup: a nerd convention opens with all sorts of Star Wars, comic and cosplay fandom. A team of cosplaying artists is representing their own comic at their booth with dismal results. Suddenly, they’re accosted by arrogant rivals. It turns a dealer’s den into locker room bully turf. The bullies challenge the heroes to a cosplay competition that might reward their comic with new fans. They’ll find out more if they can get into a 13th floor party suite, to which they are guided by the hotel’s wise old janitor, played by Pat Tanaka. He returns to guide them at key points but has a dilemma of his own. Behind the door, the rules are laid out by a jury with a furry and two others who may not be what they seem. Then the furry turns them loose into a deliriously raving party.
That’s where you get the most of the all-too-brief furrybait. Anyone watching for it will have a big goofy grin when the heroes are swarmed by a choreographed fursuit dance. The teams have to figure out how to find their special powers and the main stage for battle action, presided over by a loud robot MC. The good guys advance, and that’s when things get weird.
Monster Force Zero delivers exactly the fun advertised on the label. It has pew-pew action to the max with a laser-eyed dinosaur. It makes the most of a modest budget by splashing everything with glowing CG lasers and graphics, sleek costuming, and a soundtrack by 20SIX Hundred that burbles and zaps with excitement. (Synthwave acts Occam’s Laser and Bourgeoisie were already on my playlists too — good choices!)
My pick for best-looking character: the mysteriously silent Yeti. The acting varies but does the job with dialogue that won’t tax your brain. It could benefit from a few more specific character moments, like when an introvert makes a move with a love interest, or a bad-ass cosplayer confronts a touchy jerk. It’s fine for kids and the crew can be proud of making a good light-hearted party watch. Order some pizza and queue this up.
Support Monster Force Zero as an indie production:
- Watch and leave a review.
- Share with everyone, and ask friends/family to leave a review.
- Like and share on social media.
It’s uncommon to see indie movies including furries on their own terms, rather than outside takes with cheap costumes. Of course the more campy it is the less it matters, but the fandom did support this production. If you want more, try this: Furry Nights movie review – a crowd pleaser for lovers of campy indie horror.
Like the article? These take hard work. For more free furry news, please follow on Twitter or support not-for-profit Dogpatch Press on Patreon. Want to get involved? Use these subreddits: r/furrydiscuss for anything — or r/waginheaven for the best of the community. Or send guest writing here. (Content Policy.)
Okay so, we found this in Previews: Sasquatch In Love. “Meet Holden: he’s well-read, caring, and single. He’s also the world’s last Sasquatch. When Holden falls for Grace, the filmmaker who’s come to rural Oregon to make a Bigfoot documentary, he enlists the aid of his best friend – local veterinarian Felix – to find out more about her.” Written by Jason Nutt and illustrated by Alexis Vivallo, this new full-color comic is due in early November from Action Lab.
A recent article at Animation World Network let us know about Hit Pig, a new animated feature based on the book Pete and Pickles by Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed. The film version stars the voices of Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Lilly Singh (A Little Late With Lilly Singh). “Set in a futuristic cyberpunk world, the film stars Hitpig (Dinklage) as a grizzled porcine bounty hunter who accepts his next hit: Pickles (Singh), a naive, ebullient elephant who has escaped the clutches of an evil trillionaire. Though Hitpig initially sets out to capture the perky pachyderm, the unlikely pair find themselves on an unexpected adventure criss-crossing the globe that brings out the best in both of them.” And hey, if all goes well it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more interesting anthro features coming out of the production company, Aniventure. “The London-based animation production studio is in production on Riverdance: The Animated Adventure based on the stage show phenomenon of the same name, and Blazing Samurai, based on Mel Brooks’ classic Blazing Saddles and directed by Mark Koetsier (The Grinch) and overseen and produced by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King). Riverdance: The Animated Adventure, Blazing Samurai and Hitpig will be delivered in 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively.” Here’s hoping.
Good grief, there’s been a lot of anthropomorphic content for young folks coming out of Penguin Random House lately! Now there’s Norma and Belly, Volume 1: Donut Feed The Squirrels (whew, another long title too) written and illustrated by animator Mika Song. From the publisher: “Norma and Belly plan to start the day with some pancakes, but when Norma accidentally burns them, these two best friends set out to find a new treat. Chestnuts might be nice . . . but what is that delicious smell in the distance? A new food truck has parked near their tree, and these two squirrels are going to figure out how to get their hands on these ‘donuts’ that it seems to be selling.” There are other graphic novels available in the Norma and Belly series as well.
That’s right folks! We’re keeping this one short and sweet. Oxfurred Comma begins today and we want to see you attend the first ever online convention that focuses purely on furry writing. Let’s hit the quick bullet points!
- All panels will be streamed live on the official FWG Twitch channel
- You can find the convention schedule on the Oxfurred Comma website. All times shown are in PST.
- You can find the Dealer’s Den either on the website or visit the LIVE version on the FWG Discord!
- Don’t forget to check out the Author’s Corner as well! So many cool projects and stories to see there.
- Invite your friends and share with the hashtag #OxfurredComma
That’s it! We hope to see you all there enjoying this fun weekend of furry writing!
Thanks to Twitter we found out about Wild Lands, a new fantasy role-playing game created by Steve Wood — an animation and game arts professor and fantasy illustrator, to quote him. “Wild Lands is a High Fantasy Critter TTRPG inspired by the stories I loved as a kid like Redwall, The Wind in the Willows, The Rats of Nymph, and Once Upon a Forest to name a few.” Over at the official web site it says “Scurry into adventure with Wild Lands, a cooperative storytelling RPG where players control squirrel knights, mouse mages, badger barbarians, and more!” Free trial downloads are available now.
Help vote for success for the only furry auction site!
For over 20 years, furries have had their own specialized auction sites serving the “Furry Economy”. In 1999 there was Furbid and Furbuy. In 2015 we had Furbuy and The Dealers Den. Now only the last one is standing — and thriving. It may be poised to leap ahead of big corporate sites with an ambitious plan.
The Dealers Den is a furry-owned marketplace that brings outsized benefit to sellers and users. They don’t have to use Etsy, Ebay or Amazon. They can efficiently reach each other within their own niche. It keeps things in the “fandom family” without corporate middlemen and control. Ask users what the site does for them. (“Very surprised and very grateful”: fursuit maker Beauty of the Bass talks about a $14,000 sale.) It makes big support for independent art.
But for any niche community, there are downsides. Keeping things personal and relying on trust can be risky. Anywhere in the fandom, scam sellers can come back under new names, or good sellers can be hurt by false bidding or cheating on pay. It’s hard to scale up for new features — like a verified purchase review system, payment processing, or escrow protection.
Enter the Dealers Den rebuild plan.
Sites like Ebay and Amazon can pivot as slowly as giant ships. But furry fandom is a good lab for experiments. Ask Dealer’s Den admin Vitai Slade. He’s devoted to Bitcoin and blockchain tech that allow decentralized, peer-to-peer markets. In his vision, it’s key to the site (and the fandom’s) future.
These will be features of the new plan (register an account to read the whole thing and vote for it!)
- SALES: “A peer-to-peer system for businesses and individuals to buy/sell merchandise to one another in a verifiable way.”
- CATALOGING: “Tracking ownership of one-of-a-kind costumes, artwork, and merchandise on a public blockchain.” (Like fursuit databases already in use.)
- COMMUNITY: “A social platform and phone app that rewards positive interaction with others and promotes sales.”
- ACCOUNTABILITY: “Built into the platform will be Positive/Negative incentivization… rewards for purchases, achievements for repeated good behavior/order completion, customer/business reviews, and strict penalties for non-payment that attach to each user account.”
- MEDIATION: “an honest and vibrant marketplace… at low-cost and with high security over their funds and identity, while allowing our administrative team to monitor interactions and settle disputes between parties.”
Furries who are native to the internet will probably already be familiar with virtual currency. The specific blockchain tech is on the Cardano platform (info). My browsing saw it ranked next to Bitcoin and Ethereum (I couldn’t name better names.) To my understanding, users would cash in and cash out by exchanging dollars for equivalent tokens that exist in the global blockchain. Tokens would have to use site features, so you have to play fair and can’t just run off with money. One rule is requiring 10% collateral with auction bids, so you can’t do frivolous bidding without paying.
Vote to help make the plan happen — the deadline is October 20!
VOTE HERE AND SHOW THAT FURRIES WANT A FANDOM ECONOMY WITH EXCITING NEW FEATURES. (Add a Kudos number above the title.)
The plan is on Project Catalyst — a Cardano initiative to develop their entire concept. It’s like a crowdfund except all you have to do is vote. The Dealers Den is one of many proposals and Cardano will share millions in funding for those who win approval. I think it’s a test for whether Cardano will get used. THIS IS A RACE FOR APPROVAL BY OCTOBER 20 — DON’T WAIT!
Why join a plan like this? Look at the track record of The Dealers Den. It’s the foremost furry auction site that stays as close to free as possible. And this plan comes with decades of strong fandom growth, that can meet a leading edge of tech.
I’m working with modest knowledge as a non-techie, but can share a critical opinion: I’m not very into cryptocurrency in general. It reminds me of this joke: “imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin.” Wide adoption of Bitcoin raised a problem with excessive energy use. But Cardano uses “proof of stake” math, not “proof of work” like Bitcoin. It takes a fraction of the energy, making faster and more efficient transactions without sacrificing security. This peer-to-peer tech may just keep things in the fandom family and allow market mediation that is otherwise hard to develop.
There’s even an X-Factor on my mind; the power of adult art to help a fandom grow against mainstream judgement. There simply is demand for art that corporations won’t make, and fans serve it to each other. But it’s under threat by corporate power that serves a “war on sex” from conservative lawmakers. Payment processing is withheld, accounts are frozen, communities purged, and laws are changed to suppress it. In 2018, SESTA/FOSTA carved out an exemption to the standard of websites not being liable for adult content posted by users. Now only the biggest can afford compliance. As a result, Tumblr was purged, Craigslist killed its personals section, and furries suffered the loss of their dating site Pounced. Decentralizing could protect these things.
If blockchain tech is applied well, it has potential to raise power and freedom for the fandom.
Like the article? These take hard work. For more free furry news, please follow on Twitter or support not-for-profit Dogpatch Press on Patreon. Want to get involved? Use these subreddits: r/furrydiscuss for anything — or r/waginheaven for the best of the community. Or send guest writing here. (Content Policy.)
…and more graphic novels for young readers, coming to us from Penguin Random House. Possibly the strangest yet for the current crop: Shark and Bot, written and illustrated by Brian Yanish. “Shark loves water. Bot short circuits if he goes near water! Shark recites poetry. Bot recites facts. Can these two really be friends? They’re both a little awkward… They both love comics… And just wait til you see their dance moves when they confront a playground bully.” It’s available now in hardcover. Fun fact: Mr. Yanish works for the Jim Henson Company.
A new netlabel for furry music has been announced! When I think of a label, especially on the small indie side, I think of curation for a certain sound or scene. (Example: a Q&A is coming soon with a fur from Sri Lanka where I asked about Goa Trance.) Here’s one I’ve been enjoying: Numero Group is a reissue label. Imagine digging through thrift store junk and finding a weird one of a kind record that sounds amazing — that’s everything they put out. They specialize in the history of unsung niches, local scenes and their heroes. It makes richer music history than the well-worn stuff on classic rock channels.
Specialty and indie labels make diversity. With that in mind I talked to Finn.
A music style for furries?
From Fuzznet Music so far, I saw lots of EDM and electronic. Finn says: “That’s just the biggest amount. But we have classic, vocal and orchestral as well.” So will support for artists always be the main purpose or could there be more curation as it grows?
(Finn:) Yeah support for the involved artists is definitely the main goal. We don’t aim for a specific style or genre, but rather take in anyone that fits streaming requirements, sounds cool and wants to join. We define “Furry music” as anything that is made by furries, although there are a few furries who make songs with lyrics specifically tailored to furries, too. The idea is, by having all under one roof, if someone finds a song by our label the chances are high that they might check out the others and make a snowball effect.
If furry became attached to a certain style, what could it be? Imagine a cartoon world where Raccooncore is music from trash instruments.
I think apart from songs featuring furry lyrics (Fox and Pepper, NIIC, Nos Hyena etc.), music is a very broad and varied concept. I mean if the album cover, title or profile picture doesn’t feature an anthro character, there’s nothing that really “makes” it furry. A specific “furry sound” doesn’t exist, which is part of the reason it’s a less popular form of media inside this community. Personally I sure would be a fan of “Raccooncore” though. ;D
A label can back a scene, for example some are attached to record stores and festivals. It would be neat to have a con attract furry musicians. (There’s already a furry film fest — put ’em together!) You have ambitions to launch music, but do you foresee anything like that coming out? Is it just a matter of “time will tell?”
I think “Time will tell” fits best here. We’re still getting comfortable just launching and promoting music (I might add we also officially curate songs and artist that aren’t in Fuzznet via Spotify Playlists consisting only of Furry Musicians of various genres that are displayed on our Profile). Although we already have one small “gig” offering a few of our tracks to an upcoming furry-themed Minecraft con/event that has DJs playing live music. Doing similar things is something I’ll keep looking into.
Music Careers, Nuts and Bolts, and the Team
Well known musicians like Fox & Pepper or NIIC Dog built names by hard work on their own. Can you say more about working with a label, what a netlabel does, how it’s set up, the potential benefits of doing it for furry talent, and how artists or writers benefit from working together? Have you noticed anthology or collab projects that made an impact for musicians (like film scoring)? Is there a team collaborating with you?
The job of a traditional label ranges from management over distribution to marketing, or securing deals with other artists and projects. Though that often comes at quite a cost and turns increasingly less popular due to price and the fact that self-distribution becomes easier and cheaper each day (with the added benefit of keeping all your revenue to yourself). Same goes for promotion via social media if you know what you’re doing. Most furry musicians I know of run things by themselves for these reasons.
In terms of collab projects there’s the The Fandom documentary that has a completely original score by Fox & Pepper. I’d love to secure gigs and opportunities like these for our label.
A Netlabel is a rather new thing in the industry (obviously growing traction by growth of the internet itself). But it’s a rather loose term. Typically a netlabel is a small record label or brand name that almost exclusively exists in digital form and is run by a considerably lower number of people compared to a traditional label. Additionally artists often retain their copyright and more control over what happens with their music and data. Netlabels are often passion projects and tend to utilize guerrilla marketing rather than traditional means of promotion.
That’s pretty much the case for us. As of now, I run this whole project by myself, artists retain all their rights, we only distribute digitally and there’s no contractual limitations or obligations to speak of. I have a job in social media and online advertising so I put my profession to work, and mostly do it simply because I enjoy doing so. As of now we have 25 artists on board, and we communicate via our own chat group and frequently exchange ideas, opinions and updates.
How to Get Involved
Fuzznet has a Patreon. How else can potential members to join or support? What do you need? Are there any tips for what to avoid or how to stand out?
For people interested to join the project:
Officially sign ups are closed (there was more interest than expected and I’m working through backlog) but I’m still on the lookout for artists that seem particularly interesting or work outside the all-encompassing EDM/Electronic genre. We also prefer people who are not yet published on Spotify and other streaming platforms other than Bandcamp or Soundcloud. So if anyone reading this happens to still be unreleased and produces any genre that isn’t EDM (and I really don’t mean this in any bad way, I LOVE electronic music) I would be delighted to have a conversation with you!
For people interested supporting the project:
The easiest way to support would sure be to simply stream, favorite or add our music to your personal playlists on any streaming platforms we publish on. You can find all our main platforms here.
Otherwise we can always use more money (haha who doesn’t) for paid promotion, paying for tools/plugins and funding our online presence. We could also always need people just sharing our posts on Twitter and Instagram, or fellow people that know their way in the marketing world.
Tell me again where to find the music?
Our main links are fuzznet.world/music (landing page) and music.fuzznet.world (streaming links). Both pages include all the information about us, release dates, artists and social media links. We focus our main efforts on Spotify, as that one is the globally biggest platform to work with. For our Furry Musician playlists (for ALL furry musicians, in or outside of Fuzznet) we have playlists.fuzznet.world.
My main homepage is fuzznet.world where you’ll find all the various other projects I have to offer.
We’ve talked before about the works of Paige Braddock, both as a writer and an illustrator. Now they’re back with a new full-color graphic novel, Peanut, Butter, and Crackers Volume 1: Puppy Problems. (Woof, what a title!) “Crackers is a rescue dog who’s a bit on the nervous side, but pretty comfy at home with Butter, a very plump cat who–like all cats–is all about himself. The two pets have a good life: big backyard, nice couch, good eats, and an owner who goes to work every day so they can pretty much do what they want. Enter Peanut, a brand-new puppy with big floppy ears, unabashed energy, and no appreciation for the quiet life. The little dog is a chowhound who dips into everybody’s food bowl. He drools, he chews up stuff, he doesn’t get how stairs work, and he’s afraid of the dark. Yowl! Not to mention he’s hogging their owner’s lap. Even the squirrels in the yard are laughing at this goofy little canine. Butter and Crackers have had it! This puppy has to go! But when the backyard gate is left open (the cat’s idea, of course!) and Peanut wanders out and gets lost, the older animals remember what it was like to be alone–and lonely. Butter and Crackers to the rescue!” It’s available now in hardcover from Penguin Random House.
Okay… Folks, we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: We cannot make this stuff up. If we could, we’d be making a whole lot more money. This came across our Twitter feed, which lead us to an article from Variety: “Warner Bros. Animation has started production on an animated preschool series called Batwheels, which will star some of the most iconic vehicles from across the DC universe, fighting crime in Gotham City alongside the usual squad of Batman, Robin, Batgirl, and more. The show’s main crime-fighting crew is led by Bam (The Batmobile), and also includes Bibi (The Batgirl Cycle), Red (The Redbird), Jett (The Batwing), and Buff (The Bat Truck). Together, the sentient super-powered vehicles must navigate the growing pains of being a newly-formed super team, as well as the growing pains that come with just being a kid.” Batman meets Cars, coming to Cartoon Network and HBO Max. Did we mention that the series is aimed at preschoolers?
And here’s another interesting graphic novel we found out about from Harper Collins: A Cat Story is a new full-color work written and illustrated by Ursula Husted. “Cilla and Betto are two friends who need a place to call home. The docks in Valletta are too wet, and the scraps of food too scarce. The city’s streets are too busy, and the humans too unreliable. But what about the quiet garden from old kitten tales—a place where all cats are welcome, and the humans are always kind? Could the stories really be true? As Cilla and Betto embark on a grand adventure to find out, they begin to spin a tale of their own—one that will take them through the art and stories of many journeyers who came before, and that will bring them to a surprising destination.” It’s available now — and hey, at the moment it’s on sale!
So we’ve been learning about Party Animals, a new multi-species game available on Steam. “A physics-based party game” — their words. Visit their official web site and it’ll make more sense… at least a little. The important thing is, there’s a free version available for download through October 13th, so hurry! They’re also looking to bring in new members for their development team.
Wow! Recently we were contacted by Devon McBride-Wilson, creator of Firewake. Here’s what he had to say: “Rabbit Valley continues to expand its equine portfolio as the second issue of Firewake has gone up for preorder. This comic series follows the down-to-earth veteran detective Firewake and his cocky rookie partner Zaffa as they investigate and pursue the unstable criminal mastermind Sable Nox. Issue 2, Questions, sees Zaffa get closer to Firewake’s niece as he confronts mobsters at the restaurant she waitresses at, while Firewake himself meets the mysterious biomancer mare Fancyber, who says she has information for him.” We like what we’ve seen — and we’ll let the creator explain why. “While Firewake is safe for readers 10 and up, its gritty atmosphere, semi-procedural style and fantastic action break new ground for equine stories. Influences from My Little Pony are mixed with elements from CSI and Batman, and if you’re a fan of those, this is definitely worth checking out.” What he said!
Welcome to Alec Esther, a new media theorist and aesthetic scholar. Alec uses “affect theory” to investigate how people find belonging and becoming in group spaces. Alec’s undergraduate thesis was about Porter Robinson’s Virtual Self project. Now here’s a critical personal reflection about the furry fandom, and the feeling of distance between internal self and external fursona.
I. Pentagon Dust
“Wait a second,” my bunny-eared DJ buddy stopped us mid-walk. “You don’t actually HAVE a fursona, do you?!”
We were hopping along the San Jose Doubletree halls to find refuge in a PAWCon room party when the question arose. I’d hoped to dodge his accusations at least before a drink or five, but my neck was barren of badges sans my con admission. I guess that justified his suspicion: what kind of furry would frolic about a convention without a testament to their fuzzy side? Yet the remark only reminded me of the discomfort of human skin, the way it bumps and tingles at the first sign of trouble. My DJ name was on a flyer of his creation, advertising the very same party to which we strode. He knew who I was. Was there a part of me that mattered more?
I stashed this question in my carry-on and flew it back to my then-home in Arizona, a state in which I’d just partied the weekend prior at Arizona Fur Con 2019. I had only 48 hours before I’d be on another flight to an even greater challenge: a weekend in Florida spent with a furry mentor and his friends. Loath am I to pass up an adventure, but the thought of being surrounded by more “established” furries filled me with a hollow dread. More intimidating than the social falsehood of “popufur” status was the feeling of self-fulfillment that I knew I lacked. From the moment of my arrival in MCO, I’d be a fursona non grata in the inescapable form of isolated flesh.
It was not yet the weekend when I landed in Orlando. The others would touch down on Friday, and Thursday had yet to wreak its temporal terror. That day I took my mentor’s offer to accompany him to the UCF campus as he took his Thursday classes. I sought comfort in the arts building, just as I often did during my Midwestern education in art history, and admired the great works of UCF’s aesthetes until one peculiar project tackled my stomach to the tile floor.
Across from me hung a woodblock print of a tiger pawing a soccer ball. The slight slant of his eyebrows signaled an immeasurable depth of worry. Above his back a condor spread its wings, holding a #2 jersey with placid pride—and only a faint mountain range in the background seemed to connect this athletic accolading to a place past the hall in which I witnessed it.
Passersby warped around me as I internalized its every line. Messy graphite in the margins titled the piece El Caballero del Fútbol, a reference to the late Colombian athlete Andrés Escobar and his contemplative playstyle. But beyond the boundaries of real-world referentials I knew this tiger. I saw in him the essence of my favorite text-based roleplay character whom my mentor had met in an elsewhere long abandoned. This tiger was the reflection of countless jockish moodboards and visual collages stashed in my dusty Google Drives. And the question of his jersey-clad existence was one I’d ask myself in lieu of commissioning artist friends. Each contour of that printed tiger’s nine-shaped tail was a reminder of the striped soccer player that had existed inside of me for so long, yet could never quite come out at my call, stuffed inside the never-unpacked travel bag I called my grief. For so long I had wanted him out of me—and here he was, an omen of my current discomfort, intensifying and yet deconstructing all that I knew about my desires to become something greater than myself.
I opened Telegram. “Hey,” I texted my friend. “When you’re out of class, come to the art building. I wanna show you something.”
We beheld the image together for a millisecond upon his return, the hallway quieting as if in mourning. “It’s good,” I spoke through the silence. I knew he would understand, that his eyes would trace each pentagon and the ridges of his paws, making the connection to a self only he had seen in actio-
“Yup,” he chirped. “You ready to go?”
I blinked. “I mean, I just want a moment with this- there’s…” I forced the feeling out of me, upset that the tiger’s company couldn’t do so alone. “Just, the emotion in his face…”
My mentor squinted. “Yeah… What little there is of it, anyway. Okay; shall we go?”
Just like that we returned to the car, he from his classes and I from a funeral for my future self. I was unsure of what had just occurred, but I did know that I was still in waiting, breath bated in hopes of reconstructing the immediate intimacy I had felt with the tiger just prior—and how insidious, the following invalidation. But the invalidation of what? My friend hadn’t done me any harm. No one had. Had they? So why did I feel as heavy as wood myself, cut and spliced into plaintive shards, dripping from the eyes with painted anger?
El Caballero was an affective cataclysm whose tremors I could not quite grasp. The tiger felt as guarding as he was guarded, grounding me in his presence long enough to bring me closer to him. But I could not shake the feeling that, in that moment of reciprocity, I had confessed in no uncertain terms an inner self for which I reflexively longed. That tiger… I wanted him to pull me out of myself and thrust me back inside the person that he and I could have been, and I wanted my mentor to behold that person, too, and I did not know why I wanted any of these things at all.
This memoir-manifesto hopes to address that which has led to my personal furry friction: the problem of the fursona and its identitarian distance. I draw upon Brian Massumi’s theory of “affect,” part of the experience of feeling something, to argue that the fursona is a dysphoric object that does not constitute open identity so much as it enforces identity’s dead-end nature within the furry fandom at large. I conclusively claim that furry processes of “homecoming” all too often require displacing the same self that needs a home in which to heal. I end this manifesto with a call to foster furry belonging that pivots from the notion that we must find home in others, including the others that we make for ourselves.II. Fellow Feelings
Most of us enter the furry fandom through the funny feelings we get from those of fuzzier persuasions. We find animals evocative: their forms of play are exciting, their aesthetics sensorily appealing. Critical theorist Brian Massumi defines this fuzzy logic as “affect,” or the sense of feeling something, through which we move into a new state of being. Our becomings as furries start with a sensation — like a fursuit hug, a tear shed to a Disney film, or maybe an erotic reckoning. While these moments “move us” in the emotive sense of the phrase, Massumi argues that this “movement” is actually a literal shifting of our subjective states. If we have an affecting encounter with art or objects, then the “affect” of that encounter leads us to conceptualize new ways that we might live or be. For some, Simba’s smirks or a fursuit performance have no fundamental importance. For others, their affect is transformative, begging questions of identity, resonance, and fetish whose answers to which the affected subject feels their way.
The most important part of affect is that it doesn’t tell us what those answers are. Things that affect us open the door to new understandings of ourselves, but it’s up to us to move through that door, and there’s no one on the other side of it that defines what we’ll be when we get there. We make sense of ourselves through these encounters without conceding to a greater sense of culture nor purpose, venerating our experiences in ways entirely our own.
What does an ineffective affect look like? Consider the outrage of fans when a band presumably “sells out.” Suddenly the ways that the band shepherds us to self-understanding have been compromised. Their affect returns a new value that dominates our interpersonal contact with them, now inescapable from the green hue of major-label marketing. Massumi calls this feeling “stasis,” or the point where affect can’t move us anymore. Anyone who’s experienced the frustration of stasis knows that it’s all in their heads. It’s an affect, not a provable science. Yet our ability to intuit how outside actors “trap” affect is crucial to our becomings. Affect’s autonomy relies on its indeterminacy. If we feel that the affect guiding us has “something else” to it that’s on the tip of our tongues, affect loses its efficacy.
To move with affect again, we need to make a space in which the door is a collective gateway to our greater selves. Affect doesn’t direct us to a higher power. Affect moves us towards ourselves and others, such as those who define in their own ways what furry affect means to them. The things that activate our fuzzy feelings create points in which we find each other equally transformed—and through the mediation of these emotional charges we create our so-called culture.
In other words, furriness is a state of mind that we collectively create through our individual emergence. We enter the fold of furriness by folding into each other’s affected states.III. Static Machine
Maybe it’s no coincidence that Massumi’s best example of “becoming” starts on the soccer field. According to his theory, we become soccer players because the ball mobilizes us with its appearance. The goals catalyze our movement, sanctifying the ground on which we run. These connections mold us into players — yet we, the affected ones, are the masters of what that play looks like. Our becoming as “Soccer Players” is really just a conversation between our bodies and a polyvinyl presence whose screams of “kick me!” we are obliged to answer. Wrapped in the goals’ embrace, we translate all that we feel in the ball into an activity to which we intentionally belong.
In my mind’s eye I stand before my favorite tiger on one of those fields, guarding the goal to which the youthful feline looks for an opening. My tiger prances about the pentagons with a determined demeanor, hungry to score just as I’m hungry for his sense of self-satisfaction. His sweat-matted hair spikes in fluffy triumph as he wipes his forehead with the bottom of his shirt. His black stripes contrast not with brilliant orange but instead a purplish-white hue, as if a shadow spread across his snowy Bengal fur. And though he’s never told me his name, I know him as well as I know myself, the person staring in somber delight at his feisty, fearless form.
Any other furry would know this tiger as a “fursona,” or a character created either to manifest oneself in anthropomorphic likeness or simply as a fun exercise in animalistic design. Surely my tiger befits a bit of both descriptions. He’s the visual ideation of an alternate path of my former youth, one where I might have run my interest in soccer into the very dirt below us. Each grass stain he bears on his jersey is one I avoided on my journey to academic success. I won’t sugarcoat this part, either: he’s skinnier than I am. Plenty about him screams “self-insert,” a fetishistic wish fulfilled within the confines of my life story. But he’s his own person, too, whose individuality underlines an identity beyond mine. Just as some see their fursonas as characters with no bearing on nor stake in their creators, my tiger straddles the line between fictionalizing my reality and calling pure fiction his home.
So why can’t I call myself a part of his? Why does seeing him hurt so much?
I think of the tension between us as I gaze upon his playful posture. I want to play with him. But “wanting” is a logical term here: he would not traverse this field at all if I didn’t want him to exist. And I want my tiger to exist because he materializes for me the journey I’ve taken along my furry path. I’ve constructed him to tangibly demonstrate furriness’s impact on me, and that demonstration isn’t just for others. As long as he exists in my mind or otherwise, I can witness in the third-person my becoming in the fur. It doesn’t matter if I want to be him or not. What I want is his demarcation of my own internal transformation. So long as I behold him, I always have a reference for the continuum of sensational experience that brought me to him in the first place.
Yet witnessing my transformation through his presence defines him as an object of my desire. He’s an object that I “want” to see, to experience, to take into myself. If I can’t see him, I lose sight of my becoming. I want what he has, or at least what he means to me, because he consecrates the generative energy that created him. But my desire for him reinforces our distance. If I were living an openly affected life, I wouldn’t need a referent for that transformation in order to feel realized. I wouldn’t have to want him. His “being” is contingent on my desire to see him, but I only desire to see him because he inversely validates me, the harbinger of the affect that gave him this existence.
The tension that comes from this desire is dual-pronged. I cannot validate my becoming without his presence, but his externality increases the distance that I feel from my presumably transformed self. In other words, I can’t return the value of my becoming as a furry without my tiger’s presence, but he solidifies that value as oppositional to my own. My desire to find myself within furriness is captured in his fluffy exterior, a becoming that is always in-progress yet stuck in his place: not mine to feel, but mine to observe. Affect can’t actualize me as a furry without me staying in that state of longing. I can only affirm my affected state through my unresolvable desire to see it in action.
My tiger is static. He has unwittingly captured what I’ve wanted for myself—a way to be seen as becoming and belonging—inside of him. It’s not that he “overshadows” me, nor that my human flesh is “secondary” to him within a culture beyond this soccer field. My belonging to furriness is instead predicated on him because he is the only way I can affirm to myself the emergent powers of furriness at all. I am always staring into the abyss of a self in flux that should have been me from the start.
The soccer ball hits my leg, shaking me from my thoughts. I watch the ball slow to a gentle roll from my back-left, gliding along the grass until it plants a peck on the goal’s firm netting. My head swivels from the sign of my failure to the tiger before me. He’s cheering with his fists up. Gotcha! his body says with the faded varnish of a fever dream, his smiling eyes begging to receive my own.
I’m not sure that I can reciprocate. I pick the ball up with a weary smile and punt it towards the setting sun.IV. Shepherd (He Heals Everything?)
In 2018, the Reno-based convention Biggest Little Fur Con pulled off an impressive feat. It’s typical for American furcons to feature annually rotating “themes,” or adventurous aesthetics that dominate one’s registration badge, souvenir T-shirts, and the hotel’s hallway decor. BLFC 2018’s theme was that of the Broadway musical. In addition to the standard fare that filled the schedule, the con’s creative staff teamed up with furry rockstars Fox & Pepper to honor the theme with a live musical of their own, “BLFC: A Musical Tail.”
“A Musical Tail” follows Thistle, a starry-eyed canine who’s excited to experience a weekend of firsts: his first flight; his first furry convention; and his first love, having fallen for jaded con vet Clover with which Thistle rooms for the event. Clover attempts to control Thistle’s naivete as the dog dotes on fursuiters, misconstrues the erotic arts (“A ‘pup play’ panel? I love puppies!”), and eventually unravels at the unprecedented depths of his own sentimentality. When the two separate at a Saturday-night shindig and Clover leaves Thistle’s frantic texts on read, Thistle succumbs to his ever-growing pile of frustrations — his ruined plans, his screwed-up schedule: “Every dollar spent on this is feeling wasted!” he laments on a rooftop as the party rages on below him.
Yet through his wailing Thistle realizes how much of his frustrations rest on his unrequited feelings for the other man. “You were supposed to be my perfect iteration!” he angsts through song. “You were supposed to solve this crushing desperation!” Thistle’s mourning of what-could-have-been evolves into grief for what he wants Clover to be: the conduit for the home that unfolds around Thistle as he belts his pain and anger. Thistle’s belonging isn’t in the party nor the people at it. Thistle needs a rock, and nowhere is this need more clear than in his climactic cry: “You were supposed to be the thing to fix it all!”
Overanalysis may do a disservice to the obvious. Thistle’s got it bad, and no amount of theory can handwave his love away. But Thistle’s slip of the tongue — that Clover is the thing that was supposed to fix Thistle’s tensions — points to Thistle’s internalization of Clover as the key to a kingdom that couldn’t possibly be without a lock. Despite Thistle’s demonstrably independent identification with the furry fandom, his failure to find fulfillment in his surroundings leads him continuously back to Clover. In every word, the poor puppy becries his burgeoning sense of belonging and the limerent bind that makes its actualization impossible. Thistle’s implicit realization is that, if home is where the heart is, it can’t beat in the furry fandom proper. Thistle needs Clover to tangibly embody the ephemerality of furry homecoming so that there may be something to come home to after all.
My Floridan mentor’s TV rolled the recording of “A Musical Tail” on the final day of our weekend outing. The six of us sat on a couch as wide as I was lonely, swapping stories of the show’s production while it played. I turned to my laptop to ease the growing rift between myself and the play, ostracized by its glorification of a communal experience that I still couldn’t grok. Meanwhile, the past words of fellow furs echoed through my mind: you’ve brought this isolation upon yourself, you know. The proof of my belonging was in the pudding of our friendship. I was there, on that very couch, listening to stars of the show recall with harrowing hilarity the project’s planning process. What room did I have to speak of social discomfort when those around me had already let me in?
Thistle’s soliloquy transmitted my troubles back to me. As soon as he opened his muzzle I knew his pain. His anguish defined how it feels to be so trapped in one’s state of longing that home becomes an elsewhere of its own, just as I had to internalize my furriness to seek comfort within it. Furry affect wasn’t a limitless field of potential to me. It was a wrestling match between the unstoppable force of my desire and the immovability of myself, which unveiled the greatest paradox of all. I could only partake in the couch’s communion so long as I reconciled that the way we realized each other would ruin me. What made it feel like home was its acceptance of my displacement: I could be anything I wanted to be so long as I stared my liminality in its static face. But if I did that, then how liminal could I really be? The deposits of my desire were too deep to be contained in a singular entity that only fulfilled me through my opposition to it. Thistle’s need paralleled my longing for a home that I had to materialize away from myself, not within myself, because I could only find “home” in furriness through my own undoing. I could be blind to the home inside me or long for the mirage before me. Either way, my heart would tear in two.
Therein lay the real friction between myself and the rest of the couch: furriness couldn’t bring me towards them so long as furriness’s final frontier returned for me the same hollowness from which I supposedly emerged. Everyone else could use the fursona to make a home within themselves and each other, but I was doomed to succumb to its static shocks, desperate to verify the potency of my unfolding at the expense of setting myself truly free. And even if I rejected the fursona myself, I would always long for the evidence of my affective evolution. Just as Thistle languished in his need for another, so was I unable to escape myself without the double-bind of an existence so distant and strained.
The musical number ended. I excused myself, slipped on my shoes, and hit the pavement of the Orlando suburbs, hoping to leave my heartache behind for a moment. I only returned when the clouds began to weep with me.V. Goodbye to A World/Unison
On the penultimate evening of PAWCon 2019, I encountered a YouTube livestreamer while working at a friend’s vendor booth. It was easy to hear him coming: the giggles of his roving gang would’ve put a hyena to shame. Despite the species similarities, however, the first words I heard from him were that he didn’t belong. “I am not a furry,” he said to his virtual audience as he walked past my booth. “Fake news, I swear.”
Minutes later he returned to my table, his camera pleading for my attention. “Hi,” he waved. “You have something to say to YouTube?”
I put a hand over my heart, faux-flattered. “Wow!” I gasped. “What have I always wanted to say to an audience of people…?”
“Take your time,” he replied.
I fell back into silence as a cacophony of incoherent thoughts filled my head. There were so many things I wanted to tell him. Most important of them all was that I understood his proclamations of opposition. Yes, even as I sold furry merchandise at a furry convention, I knew how it felt to question my place within it all. After all, opposition is one of the easiest ways to occupy the space between yourself and what you love. Why bother with the pain of a broken heart when you could just break it with your own hands instead? I didn’t know if this streamer’s heart beat in time with the rhythm of my pain—nor if he even cared to investigate it—but in his vocal objections I saw the same aches that plagued me even as I sat in the booth before him.
The irony of his approach was so heavy that it robbed me of my voice. I answered with a non-committal meme, he laughed, and I watched him turn his back on our silently shared antagony.
All too often I, too, openly reject furriness—despite my ten years being in and around it—because claiming it reignites the distance that I feel from other furries. On the days that I do claim furriness, I do so in hopes that my contributions to the fandom encourage others to find themselves within my work. This manifesto isn’t a cry for pity. It’s a call for furs to reimagine how they create community and to “flesh out” what more furriness might mean to them. In what ways are we fostering creative self-expression that moves us beyond the rigidity of our desires? Does the mythological allure of home fuel our collectivization, or is the tension between our inner selves what causes us to long for it in the first place?
I’ve heard many furries argue that the fursona’s externality is what embodies them. Some of the fursona’s reconstitutive powers can be healing, especially for trans individuals, queer furs, and fellow body dysmorphics. Nothing I’ve written is meant to oppose those perspectives whatsoever, nor do I believe that affect theory is prescriptive. The fursona is so unique because it’s one of the only technologies that constructs a home that one can see for themselves. Dismantling that home altogether is fruitless. I hope, however, that this analysis has centered another kind of marginality: the ones for which the fursona is not an escape, but a sacrifice, the final nail in a boarded-up property built by dysphoria’s raking claws. Some of our paws are simply too worn to justify pulling back the planks from it any longer.
That’s why my own paws stroke these keys until I hear someone knock on the door to my dingy domain. From my window I see my tiger shivering; he’s seeking shelter from the falling snow that pushed him away from his ultimate purpose.
I can’t help but shed a tear. Each of us is a place, and yet he’s come to rest in mine. I rise from my writing desk, unlock the entrance, and warm us both by a fire that may free us from colder flames.
- Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 72-82.
- Ibid, 72-77.
- Biggest Little Fur Con. 12 May 2018. “BLFC 2018: A Musical Tail.” Youtube. Accessed 2 September 2020.
BIO: Alec Esther is a community advocate in Madison, WI who promotes civic engagement, critical inquiry, and radical social change. When he’s not cooking up a spicy Cephalid Breakfast in Magic: the Gathering, he spins all things bright and special as “DJ REDACTED” on Datafruits.fm. You can follow his local organizing and theory work on Twitter @highestwinds, contact him on Telegram @redacteds, or reach out via email at email@example.com.
There are some interesting graphic novels for young readers coming soon from Random House. First up is Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker, written and illustrated by J. C. Phillipps. They describe it like this: “Pacey’s little sister, Mina, has always said her stuffed unicorn, Slasher, is real – but seriously? He’s a stuffed toy! Then again, he does seem to be leading Mina outside her room and to . . . some kind of weird magical unicorn land? Pacey may not believe in unicorns, but she’s not about to let her little sister be kidnapped, so she does the only thing she can: Follows them to unicorn land (that she totally does not believe in). And for the record, it’s NOTHING like the stories. First off, what’s up with Slasher’s attitude? It’s not Pacey’s fault he’s trapped in a ridiculous stuffed body. And that Alpha Unicorn guy? Not. Nice. Pacey will just be grabbing Mina and taking her home, thankyouverymuch . . . that is, if she can work with the grumpiest unicorn stuffy ever to outsmart the Evil Alpha Unicorn and find the way out – preferably without stepping on any poisonous killer flowers.” Nothing complicated about that set-up, right? The book is out now.
Hello there FWG members, it’s time for another monthly newsletter! Let’s dive right in because we’ve got a lot to cover!
If you’ve somehow missed it, Oxfurred Comma, an online convention for furry literature, will be taking place from October 17th to 18th in conjunction with Furry Book Month. Here are some of the other important dates you have to look out for:
- Panel Submissions Deadline: October 7th
- Dealer’s Den Submissions Deadline: October 7th
- Author’s Corner Submissions Deadline: October 7th
- Flash Fiction Contest Deadline: October 13th
- Slam Poetry Reading Signups Deadline: October 15th
We want to especially encourage panel submissions currently for the convention. We have the opportunity to take more specific writing panels than most conventions can offer. So share with the world your expertise, let us hear you read from your latest book, or do whatever else you can think of!
We also want to let you know that NSFW panels WILL be accepted so long as they follow Twitch guidelines. The short version: if you’re offering educational content and not showing pornographic materials on screen? You’re likely good to go!
We are also proud to announce that Oxfurred Comma will also be presenting the Oxfurred Comma Inclusivity Award (OCIA). This award will be given to a person that has done work to advance recognition for marginalized peoples and groups within the furry writing community. We hope this will be a strong step in the guild’s continued work in uplifting marginalized voices within the furry community.
Finally, we have one last reminder about our ongoing discussions on requirements to join the guild. We invite you to discuss this on the forum as well as on Discord in our guild feedback channel and on Telegram.
With guild business out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff! We featured another two members this month on the blog for interviews that we hope you check out.
- Ana Vallens on Furry, Reporting, and Patreon Guidelines for Adult Content
- Khaki on The Voice of Dog and Recording Stories
We’d love to take this opportunity to mention we would love to feature more interviews like this, as well as potential guest posts on writing tips for our blog. Please contact a guild officer if you would be interested.
We saw a few new releases cross our path this month you might want to check out including:
- The Female Trackers (Poached Parody) by P.C. Hatter
- The Sky Fires by Frances Pauli
- Soup of the Moment: A Tale of BARSK by Lawrence M. Schoen
There’s also a kickstarter currently running for Difursity 2! Let’s support BIPOC furry authors and make sure this gets funded.
- Difursity 2 from Thurston Howl Press
Remember, we now have our Promotion Tip Line to submit to if you have new releases coming out, so don’t hesitate to fill that out so we can feature your book in our next newsletter!
You can find all of the open markets for furry writing in our Furry Writers’ Market! Currently, these markets are open:
- Oxfurred Comma Flash Fiction Contest (Deadline: October 13th, 2020)
- Reclamation Project: Year Two (Deadline: October 31, 2020)
- The Vore Studio (Deadline: October 31, 2020)
- Dogbumps Academy of Wayward Wixards (Deadline: November 1st, 2020)
- 1921: Furries In Fedoras (Deadline: November 1st, 2020)
- Dancing With Devils (Deadline: November 30th, 2020)
- Electric Sewer 2: Boogie Nights (Deadline: December 1, 2020)
- The Howling Dead (Deadline: December 15th, 2020)
- Can You See Us Now? (Deadline: January 1st, 2020)
- Difursity 2 (Deadline: January 1st, 2020)
- iPawd – A Furry Music Anthology (Deadline January 10th, 2021)
- The Fox Spirit Book Of… Love (Deadline Unlisted)
We also want to let people know we need more stories for Microfiction Monday as we’re almost out! So get those submissions in here.
I would like to end this month’s newsletter with a special request. Both Can You See Us Now? and Difursity 2 opened for submissions this month. For BIPOC writers reading this, I would love to encourage you to submit. For those that aren’t, I want to ask that you promote the submission calls in any spaces you can. Here is a tweet about Can You See Us Now? and one for Difursity 2.
I want the word spread to as many people as possible so that the resulting slush pile will be massive beyond all reason. Let’s all take this time to help uplift marginalized voices and help them share their stories. Keep well, stay safe, and keep on writing.
– FWG President Linnea “LiteralGrill” Capps
Welcome back to another FWG interview. Today we’re featuring Khaki from the Voice of Dog. Don’t know the Voice of Dog is? Ever wanted to learn a bit about recording your own stories? Then read on and enjoy the interview!
FWG: For those that may not know you, tell our readers a bit about yourself.
Khaki: Hey! I’m Khaki. I used to go by “Alex Vance”, and I’ve done a lot of things in this here fandom, except Fursuiting and Con Staff.
I founded Bad Dog Books, FANG and ROAR, wrote and produced the graphic novel series Heathen City (and won an Ursa Major for it!), guested on the Furry Basketball Association and Bad Dog Book Club podcasts, and was privileged to be asked as Guest of Honour to Rusfurence in Moscow, JFTW in Bristol and CesFur in the Czech Republic.
Nowadays I’m a professional photographer, and at furry cons you’ll always find me with my trusty camera and a big dumb grin.
FWG: What do you think makes a good story?
Khaki: Oh dear. What makes a good meal? Not the wine or the dessert, though they can diminish or lessen the experience!
I think the thing that a story is most dependent on is its characters. They don’t have to be “people”, but they have to be interesting, comprehensible, and real — which is to say, as a reader, you can feel when a character only exists to further the plot, and isn’t fueled by internally consistent motivations, even if you don’t yet know what those motivations are.
Now, if only it was that easy to recognize while you were writing them…
FWG: From your introduction, it’s clear you’ve been involved in the world of furry literature for a long time. Can you tell our readers about The Voice of Dog and what inspired you to start the project?
Khaki: I retired from writing some years ago — nothing dramatic, I just fell out of love with writing. I still missed it in the years that followed, but I realized it wasn’t the writing itself I missed, but rather the furry writing community. And I’d also enjoyed doing story readings for the Bad Dog Book Club, but when that podfaded, I didn’t really have an outlet or impetus any more.
The Voice of Dog was, however, born from the COVID-19 pandemic. Early March, we were all feeling uncertain, and powerless, and stuck at home and isolated, and I knew some folks were feeling that much more than I did, and I felt powerless to help them.
It was rather spontaneous, honestly. I told my friend Rob Baird “Hey, I want to Make Something today. Can you give me a story to read?”
I was looking for something to do with the extra time I got now I didn’t have to commute every day, and specifically to do something that could give people a sense of hope, community and courage, however small.
I shared my reading of Rob’s Story, which was “Bad Dog!”, and an excellent story about defiance and courage in the face of systematic oppression. And I wanted more. I asked other writers for stories, anything they wanted to share, as long as they ended on a high note.
I picked the cheapest, easiest podcast host I could find to spend more time making it and less on overhead, and started releasing stories every day. I wanted my fellow furries to have something to enjoy, or to look forward to, or at the very least, to know that someone out there cared enough about them to make something every single day.
Of course, it was also a great way to give furry writers a boost and broaden their audience, so even after two months of 7-days-a-week podcast episodes, and the New Normal started to become clearer, I knew I wanted to continue.
Now there’s three stories a week, but they’re still passionate, excellent, diverse and, crucially, there’s no bummers.
FWG: Can you tell us a bit about the organizational process needed to put out multiple episodes a week?
Khaki: Certainly! Obviously I care about gear, like a good microphone and pop filter, but the challenge for this project wasn’t just cleanliness or even narration quality. I had to be able to produce multiple episodes a week, so comfort and convenience were also high priorities.
I’ve made submission templates, which authors fill out when they submit a story to The Voice of Dog, which includes stuff like their introduction, links to their credits, pronunciation guides and character voice descriptions, which saves a lot of overhead.
I have my recording set-up refined so that I can speak into my microphone while reading comfortably from my screen, with good posture to aid breathing.
FWG: Recording so many episodes must take a lot of editing. Do you have any techniques to help reduce the time it takes?
Khaki: I make a lot of errors! Mispronunciations, or losing my place in the sentence, a wee catch in my throat or the eternal struggle to do character voices consistently and authentically.
To save myself from the overhead of editing each recording afterward, I do the editing while I record; a technique called punch-and-roll recording. When I make a flub, I move the playhead in my recording software back to the beginning of the sentence. When I hit record, it first plays back the last five seconds of audio, so I can mouth along, and remember my intonation and breathing rhythm, and then immediately start speaking.
The edits aren’t always perfect, but they’re quick; I can record a single story in a single one-hour session, and that’s important when you have to produce several a week, every week.
FWG: What is one of the biggest challenges when trying to record the podcast?
Khaki: The biggest challenge is… quiet. Outside my room there’s a street, where there are often children playing, or adults talking, or cars driving past. Most of my recordings are early in the day, before it gets busy.
FWG: Can you offer any advice to someone interested in recording stories?
Khaki: When people ask me for advice, as a photographer, on which camera they should buy, I usually advise “one that you’ll have with you every day” and that’s the same for anyone who wants to learn to do this. If you have a budget, don’t spend all your money on the most expensive microphone; consider investments that make your life easier. An extension cable for your headphones, a desk arm so you can easily position the mic. A riser to put your computer’s screen higher, so you can read it more comfortably while recording.
All those things are sources of stress, and the listener can feel those in the recording, even if they can’t hear them explicitly. When I record a story, I’ve made sure I’m physically and mentally comfortable, and ready to enjoy the story. I’m in a headspace where I’m genuinely eager to talk to the listener again, and I’m excited to see how the story will go.
I believe that makes story readings enjoyable to listen to. Just like music, as a listener we’re empathetic to the experience that the narrator or musician conveys, both through their performance and through their actual emotions. When I sit down to record, I do so with genuine love in my heart, for the story I’m reading and the listener who’s going to enjoy it.
FWG: So do you think anyone reading this, with a little effort and research, could record their own audiobook or story if they wanted to engage that way with readers?
Khaki: Certainly! I know several writers who’ve done just that — of course Mary E. Lowd, who reads short pieces on her Deep Sky Anchor podcast and recently Madison Scott-Clary started her podcast Makyo Writes, for the same purpose. Oh, and Huskyteer, Altivo Overo and Rob MacWolf have all read their own stories on The Voice Of Dog.
I know some people are uncomfortable with the sound of their own voice, or worry about speech impediments (I have a slight stammer myself), or that they don’t think they’re good enough actors to do character voices and accents.
It takes practice and exercise and a love of learning — much like writing itself! But I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this can make great readings of their stories that are a delight to listen to, if they’re willing to put a little time into refining and practicing.
Nobody starts out great, but as writers, we know that all too well. But it’s fun to do, and very rewarding.
FWG: Would you consider doing voice work for any authors who might still feel too intimidated to record for themselves?
Khaki: That’s one of the purposed for The Voice of Dog! That’s my baby, so I’m selective about the stories I accept; their length and tone in particular.
But I’m in talks with at least one writer, to do an audiobook version of their in-progress novel later this year. And I made an open offer on Twitter regarding the upcoming Oxfurred Comma furry writing convention: if there are writers who want to do a panel that includes a reading of their work, but they’re uncomfortable or uncertain about doing it themselves, I’m happy to do the narration for them, either live or pre-recorded, depending on when their panel is.
I always want consider stories before I narrate them of course, even outside of my podcast. It is, after all, my voice speaking those words, and I wouldn’t want my voice associated with something I don’t stand for. This goes for professional voice-over work I’ve done as well, for commercials and training resources. I’ve turned down paying jobs because there were things in the script that I didn’t want to say.
But I’ve done some 120 episodes of The Voice of Dog now, and I’ve never rejected a story for being “objectionable”. I’ve been amazed at the furry writing scene’s maturity and responsibility, and the breathtaking diversity of perspectives and stories, it’s truly wonderful.
But yes, to your question — yes, I’d certainly consider doing voice work for other authors.
FWG: Any last things you’d like to tell the readers?
Khaki: Getting back in touch with the furry writing community after a decade or so has been so wonderful, and I want to thank you all for being part of that. The young folks and the old folks, the patient and the passionate, the carefree and the contemplative, I’m proud to be among you and make another modest contribution to furry fiction.
I can tell it’s been too long since I retired from writing, because I struggle to find the right words to convey just what you all mean to me. So I’ll take advice I’ve given often myself, and steal someone else’s. In the words of Michael, the angel from The Good Place:
I’ll say this to you, my friend,
with all the love in my heart
and all the wisdom of the universe:
Take it sleazy
We would like to thank Khaki once again for the interview! Be sure to check out The Voice of Dog and if you’d like to hear more of Khaki’s wonderful voice you can check out Cover My Ass where Khaki and his friend K pretend to review a book they haven’t read every week. Until next time, may your words flow like water.