"Every now and again I sit back and wonder what it would be like if other animals could really fight back against the egregious violence to which we subject them in a wide variety of venues ranging from research laboratories and classrooms to zoos, circuses, rodeos, factory farms, and in their own homes in ours and in the wild. This thought experiment takes life in The Awareness and reflects their points of view, and it's clear they do not like what routinely and thoughtlessly happens to themselves, their families and their friends. By changing the playing field Gene Stone and Jon Doyle force us to reflect how we wantonly and selfishly abuse other animals and the price we would pay if they could truly fight back. This challenging book also asks us to reflect on the well-supported fact that we need other animals as much as they need us. It should help us rewild our hearts, expand our compassion footprint, and stop the reprehensible treatment that we mindlessly dole out." - Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado (quoted blurb)
Suspense/terror/horror stories in which all animals, or all of certain species, turn against mankind go back at least to Arthur Machen’s unreadable “The Terror” (1917). Probably the best-known is Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds” (1952). I recently reviewed Steven Hammond's Rise of the Penguins (2012). In movies, the terror-animals have ranged from rats to all of the giant mutations like Them and Night of the Lepus.
How successful any of these are usually depends on two factors. The skill of the author (or the director) in building a mood of terror, and the plausibility of the reason given for the animals to turn against humanity. In The Awareness, both of these fail.
NYC, The Stone Press, March 2014, paperback $14.95 (ix + 221 [+3] pages), Kindle free.
These are the first two volumes of T.R. Brown’s Reflections series. Amazon.com has a special subcategory for them: Genetic Engineering Science Fiction. They should be required reading for every furry author who plans to write human-into-anthropomorphized-animal fiction. They are also good reading for everyone else.
The two are narrated by the protagonist, Todd Hershel. The setting is an unspecified future, but there are automatic/robot cars, artificial islands (“Libertarian Colonies”) for dissidents, personal computers that unfold from pocket-size, artificially-grown organ harvesting, references to a second American Civil War in the recent past and “the Vatican in exile” and bioengineered animal people grown for soldiers in wars. For legal reasons, these humanoid “neos” are required to look like the animals they are based upon.
I was driving back from a meeting with a supplier and there was a semi pulling a load of scrap metal slightly ahead of me in the next lane. My car alerted me to be ready to take over manual control, pulling me away from the e-mails I had been working on. I saw the reason immediately. An accident a couple of miles ahead. An ambulance and other emergency personnel were already on site. That probably saved my life. […] the semi next to me had a blowout in the front wheel. […] Autopilots are good, but they can’t handle an emergency like that and, before the operator could take over, the semi jerked into my lane […] (p. 1)
Todd wakes up in a hospital two months later. His body was completely crushed by the scrap metal. Since this was an unplanned medical emergency, no substitute body has been prepped for him. The only suitable usable body that can be found on emergency notice is a brain-dead felis neo – a female, at that. Todd’s wife Colleen is not happy about that, but she agrees that the important thing is to save his life. They can worry later about getting a new human body, or at least a sex-change operation back to male and cosmetic surgery to make him look more human, later.
The first 50-odd pages are filled with the details of Todd’s exploring his new body, bioengineered from a panther to be a brawny feline soldier.
“We considered just putting your head on the new body,” Walt [a doctor] continued, “but, in addition to the aesthetic problem of a human head on a felis body, there would also have been tissue rejection to deal with.” (p. 9)
The Face in the Mirror; A Transhuman Identity Crisis, by T. R. Brown, Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, August 2012, trade paperback $17.40 (501 pages), Kindle $2.99.
Chained Reflections, by T. R. Brown, Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, August 2013, trade paperback $19.99 (558 pages), Kindle $2.99.
This is the fourth volume in Sofawolf Press’ Artistic Visions series of art-sketch format albums, each showcasing one of the best artists in furry fandom. Each is a professional artist, but is especially well-known in furry fandom for convention conbook covers, badge art and other commissioned art, and trades with other Furry artists; many of which are posted on DeviantART, Fur Affinity and other art websites.
The art in these albums emphasize anthropomorphized-animal cartoons and similar humorous work, rather than realistic animal depictions. Other Artistic Visions albums have showcased the work of Hibbary (Hillary Leutkemeyer), Brian and Tracy Reynolds, Kenket (Tess Garman) and Ursula Vernon. These are all American artists.
The Art of Henrieke is the first to feature a European artist. Henrieke Goorhuis, a Dutch artist born in 1990, has become very popular in just the last five years for European Furry convention art and T-shirts, commissioned art featuring fans’ personal icons and for commissioned art for European zoos. Her most popular character is her own cartoon icon, Kiki the ring-tailed lemur.
Good artbooks speak for themselves. Almost every page of The Art of Henrieke: Sketches, Works in Progress, and Commentary by the Artist is crammed with sketches and finished line art.
St. Paul, MN, Sofawolf Press, January 2014, trade paperback $14.95 (75 [+ 1] pages).
Recently married couple Danielle and Jason Strong are both artists with a notably cartoony style — which they have worked together to spin into their own line of felt funny animal creations. Called Squshies, their web site displays the many species they have crafted and the wide variety of products they have crafted them into. They also have an active blog so that you can keep up with their latest work — which seems to come out very often!
Funny Animals and More: From Anime to Zoomorphics, based on Fred Patten’s weekly columns from Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research animation website, was published March 26 by Theme Park Press. It is available in paperback and digital formats, and on Amazon.com.
The book is about animation and comic books rather than specifically anthropomorphic animals, but cartoon and CGI funny animals are a major theme. Topics include anime cat girls; Pokémon and Monster Rancher; Astro Boy and Atomcat; how a popular 1970s anime TV series led to the import of thousands of baby North American raccoons into Japan as pets, whose descendants are ruining thousand-year-old Buddhist and Shinto shrines today; animated Summer Olympics mascots like Misha the bear cub, Sam the eagle, Hodori the tiger, and Cobi the sheepdog, from 1972 to 2012; Patten’s favorite childhood comic-book funny animals like Amster the Hamster, Doodles Duck and his nephew Lemuel, Nutsy Squirrel, Dunbar Dodo, and SuperKatt, and how he would still like to see them animated; Crusader Rabbit; rats in animation; Reynard the Fox in animation; and Disney’s forthcoming 2016 Zootopia.
It’s over! This is Book 6 and the conclusion of Jobling’s Wereworld series, which began with Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf, and continued through Rage of Lions, Shadow of the Hawk, Nest of Serpents, and Storm of Sharks.
The Wereworld Young Adult series is set on the island-continent of Lyssia on a fantasy world, in which each of the kingdoms and their dutchies, counties, and baronies are ruled by a Werelord who can transform into an animal, including birds and fish. School Library Journal has called the series “Game of Thrones for the tween set”.
It could also be called the Lyssian civil war saga. The island-continent of Lyssia is divided into seven kingdoms (see Jobling’s map), often called the Seven Realms, dominated by Westland which was ruled by the wolflords.
A generation before the series began, King Wergar of Westland was murdered and the dynasty of the wolves was overthrown by the lionlords, whose leader, Lionel, became the new King of Westland and began exterminating the wolflords. The other six realms of Lyssia, each ruled by a different werelord dynasty – bears, boars, and others – grumbled but accepted the new order.
Anomaly Productions have released a new full-color hardcover graphic novel called Shifter. It’s the first in a planned new series. “What if you could soar with the birds – not in a man-made contraption or by using virtual reality, but as an actual bird? What if you could literally be a fly on the wall in a top-secret meeting? What if you could become any animal in the world or, better yet, anybody in the world? What if you could become any creature that has ever existed (and some you never believed could exist)? Find out the answers to these questions and more in Shifter, the latest full-color graphic novel from Anomaly Productions. Shifter is a sci-fi murder mystery with a unique perspective, a pulse-pounding thriller that explores the depths of humanity’s evil and the tremendous powers of the animal kingdom.” You can find out more, and see more sample pages, at Anomaly’s Shifter page. Written and illustrated by Brian Haberlin (assisted by Brian Holguin), like many Anomaly Productions products Shifter features an available app to download. Aim your smart phone at the page, and animated characters leap out of the book and dance before you.
These are Books 4 and 5 in Jobling’s Wereworld saga. Book 1, Rise of the Wolf, was reviewed here in May 2012, and Books 2 and 3, Rage of Lions and Shadow of the Hawk, were reviewed in January 2013. The final volume, War of the Werelords, will be published on October 8.
The Wereworld Young Adult series is set on the island-continent of Lyssia on a fantasy world, in which each of the kingdoms is ruled by a therian Werelord who can transform into an animal, including birds and fish. School Library Journal has called the series “Game of Thrones for the tween set”. In Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf, teen farmboy Drew Ferran learns that he is adopted and is really the werewolf son of the murdered Wolf King Wergar of Westland, Lyssia’s most powerful nation, which has been usurped by Lion King Leopold who has replaced the old wolf aristocracy with his own lion nobility.
In Rage of Lions and Shadow of the Hawk, the animal nations of Lyssia fall into civil war over whether to acknowledge Drew’s claim to the Westland throne, or whether they should acknowledge any ruling nation rather than declaring their independence; while the supporters of the Lions try to reconquer the whole island-continent. Drew gains allies, but he is betrayed several times, and loses his left hand.
How complex the series has become is shown by Nest of Serpents beginning with a Cast of Characters that takes four pages. Wolflords, Lionlords, Catlords, Staglords, Hawklords, Ratlords, Crowlords, Jackallords, Bearlords, Foxlords, Horselords – you name the animal, and there is probably a werelord for it. (I don’t think there are any Skunklords or Raccoonlords – but those are North American animals, and these are American editions of British books.) And lots of human commoners.
“Wereworld: Nest of Serpents”, Jan. 2013, hardcover $16.99 ([xiv] + 494 +  pgs.), Kindle $9.78.
“Wereworld: Storm of Sharks”, May 2013, hardcover $16.99 ([xvi] + 454 +  pgs.), Kindle $9.78.
Both by Curtis Jobling, published by The Penguin Group/Viking, with a map by the author.
Victoria Gannon is a self-taught artist who creates works under the name of Leptailurus. For a long time she has toyed with the idea of creating her very own Tarot deck, and now she has begun work on that very project. Savage Divination is its name, and it’s “a full 78-card tarot deck inspired by myth, lore, and legend focusing on the profound spiritual connection between man and beast”. For a little more than one week from now, Leptailurus is running a Kickstarter campaign to finance the creation of the final product, including the rendering of the art and the printing of the cards — with lots of perks for contributors, including original sketches and prints of the various cards themselves. There’s a video at the Kickstarter page explaining it all, and showing many more examples in completed and work-in-progress form.
Housepets! Are Gonna Sniff Everybody is the fourth annual collection of Rick Griffin’s award-winning (Ursa Major Awards, Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip, 2009 to 2012) Internet full-color comic strip, following Housepets! Are Naked All the Time, Housepets! Hope They Don’t Get Eaten, and Housepets! Can Be Real Ladykillers. Book 4 collects the strips from June 6, 2011 to June 4, 2012. These are the story-arcs #43, “The Great Water Balloon War” to #55, “The Trial in Heaven”, plus all the one-off gag strips between those.
Book 4 is back to lacking a real title page. Boo, hiss!
Two popular and well-known anthropomorphic art calendars are completed again, and taking orders for 2014. The Rare Calendar is dedicated to anthropomorphic species that are less usually drawn. This year, the theme is “festivities”, which each of 13 artists drawing anthro characters celebrating various holidays from around the globe. Artists like: Ashalind, Bloodhound Omega, Heather Bruton, Centradragon, Alector Fencer, Firefeathers, Golden Druid, Katmomma, Nimrais, Donna Quinn, Rhyu, ShinigamiGirl, and Windfalcon. The Rare Calendar web site has more details and order information. Meanwhile the Werewolf Calendar (which speaks for itself!) includes lycanthropic art from the likes of Maria Anisimova, Balaa, Blotch, Dark Natasha, Sarah Finnigan, Goldenwolf, Katie Hofgard, Kyndir, Nambroth, Nimrais, Synnabar, Tachit, and Vantid. Check out their web site to order a copy, or to order last year’s calendar if you missed it.
Zootopia (working title). A Disney animated movie about talking animals. How original!
Amid Amidi reports on his Cartoon Brew website about Disney’s plans to produce a 2016 animated feature about a fox and rabbit “odd couple” in a world of talking animals. Let’s hope this gets farther than Silly Hillbillies on Mars. (Hey, Disney, whatever happened to that?)
Disney still has to go some in the odd couple teamups to beat Roger Rabbit & Eddie Valliant. Ah, but "The twist is that the entire film is set in a world in which humans never existed (a la Pixar’s Cars) and animals have built everything." How original! Hmmm -- Robin Hood? The Lion King?
This could be interesting, depending on whether Disney does anything with the predator-prey situation as in Bill Holbrook’s Kevin & Kell setting. It’s too early to tell.
Endtown has been a black-&-white Monday-Friday webcomic since January 18, 2009. Its popularity has grown fast, and it was shortlisted for the 2011 Ursa Major Award in the Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story category. A rave review by Bill Sherman in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (June 24, 2011) [originally on Blogcritics] began:
A snappy blend of Boy and His Dog sci-fi plus funny animal comics, Aaron Neathery's Endtown is one of the underseen gems in web comics. Originally debuting on the Modern Tales site - and more recently migrated to GoComics - the weekday series charts the travails of the beleaguered underground survivors of a mutant spawning radiation plague.
Endtown is set six years after a cataclysmic war has destroyed almost all life on Earth, leaving only a lifeless, desertlike surface and a few subterranean towns. The survivors are divided between the airtight-suited Topsiders, ruthless 100% human purists who kill other survivors on sight because they may be mutants, and the mutants and “impure” humans who try to survive in the underground enclaves. The “mutagenic plague” transformed its human victims into horrific monsters or, what makes this strip of Furry interest, anthropomorphic animals.
“Endtown 4”, by Aaron Neathery. [Introduction by Steve Gallacci.] Bellevue, WA, Jarlidium Press, July 2013, trade paperback $15.00 (131 [+3] pages).
C. Edwards reports on the Cartoon Brew website that Amazon Studios, which produces childrens’ animation for streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video and the U.K.’s LOVEFiLM, has greenlit pilots for four new animated series to begin in fall 2013. Two of the four contain anthropomorphic characters, and a third has monsters and mutants, probably anthro.
Still working our way through San Diego Comic Con discoveries, but now we have this BIG news from Disney’s D23 Expo to talk about. During the opening day presentation on upcoming animated movies (including Disney’s Frozen and Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur), Disney made an announcement about a new animated film called Zootopia, which is scheduled for release in 2016. Check out this summary from Slash Film: “Tangled director Byron Howard will direct the film from a script by Jared Bush. They’ve been working for the last year and a half on the project, spurred in in part by a love of the Disney Robin Hood feature. Howard wanted to do a film with animals in clothing. They hope to continue ‘Disney’s amazing legacy of animal-based animated films’… We’ve seen movies featuring animals in the natural world, and in the human world, but we’ve never seen animals in a modern world designed by animals. What would animals do differently than humans would? So the filmmakers talked to experts, from anthropologists to safari guides to imagineers as they began to design an animal civilization which is ‘distinctly animal’.” Are you excited yet? We are! Here’s the plot: “In the animal city of Zootopia, a fast-talking fox who’s trying to make it big goes on the run when he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit.