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Review: 'Lagrange' by Phil Guesz

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (7 votes)

The book cover, showing the fragmentary remains of something floating in space.They called Marvin a chicken. And he was. (But only 5%.) He also plays the piano.

In the far-flung, space-traveling future, genetic manipulation has created a small subculture of modified humans that aren't exactly well-respected, but people will at least have sex with them and pay for the privilege. Marvin is pilot of the Pussy Pod, a small ship that safely transports people to and from the Henhouse, a brothel that sits just outside the limits of a space station's jurisdiction.

Legion Printing, May 2012, 78 pages. Available in eBook from Amazon.

Marvin's not a sex worker, but he respects them and cares about them. If he's a trifle ambivalent about his cattle car full of Johns, who can blame him? He's an excellent pilot and deserves more in his life. He shouldn't need to be covered in feathers, but his boss insisted because of the Henhouse's name. For Marvin, every day is a struggle to do his job well and not be bitter. He simply doesn't have the connections to find better work. But a man's got to make a living, even if it's just chicken feed.

Review: 'Five Fortunes'

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

Five Fortunes Five Fortunes, edited by Fred Patten (FurPlanet), is a collection of five novellas from some of the best writers who write for general audiences in the Furry Fandom. The five stories provided in this anthology are as follows:

  • Chosen People by Phil Geusz
  • Huntress by Renee Carter Hall
  • Going Concerns by Watts Martin
  • When a Cat Loves a Dog by Mary E. Lowd
  • Piece of Mind by Bernard Doove

I am not sure how well the the term "fortune" applies to the five works, so on that level the collection doesn't feel as if it is all that well tied together as a theme. However, with five long works here it's not too problematic to have them each be their own thing. It's not like there's a lot of "destiny" fans out there. Each story approaches the nugget of self-determination from a different angle: from being mindful of doing the right thing (Geusz), to the finding one's self (Hall), to finding a way to survive the week (Martin) or the condition of one's life overall(Doove).

It's a furry sampler of novel sized works. This size is perfect for people who don't always like short stories because the story's over just as they get to know a character, but also don't wish to invest in story cover to cover. If, somehow, you don't know these writers or their universes, then this is a good place to start learning.

Review: 'A Left-Handed Sword', by Phil Geusz

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

A Left-Handed Sword is a novella by Phil Geusz in which the characters used to be human beings. All of them have contracted a singular disease called the Lokiskur virus (Lokie for short), which has transformed them into animals. Lokie not only leaves its victims dehumanized and physically handicapped in their new forms, but often brain-damaged and depressed. They are also highly contagious; Lokie is an affliction that never lets go.

Legion Printing, September 2011, 80 pages. Available in eBook and printed versions from Legion, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Review: 'Capricious: A Texan Tale of Love and Magic', by Julie Cox

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (4 votes)

Book cover with a satyr-like silhouetteHere's a book that you might not immediately think of as furry. Capricious: A Texan Tale of Love and Magic, by Julie Cox.

At first, the book cover resembles the Kokopelli rock-drawing designs from the American Southwest. But if you look closely, you'll note that there are hooves and horns and, by gosh, that's furry enough for me!

Luke loves two things: his land and Sally. He pours a lot of magic and effort into one of them. The other he pretends to just like as a friend. Nobody is fooled except Luke.

Circlet Press, June 2014, 305 pages, ebook $6.99, paperback $14.95 (US). An audio version can be heard on the Nobilis Erotica podcast.

Review: 'Corpus Lupus', by John K. Smith

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (3 votes)

30300363.jpgThis book is actually a collection of three novellas about your worst nightmare: A WEREWOLF WITH A BADGE.

OK, I know for some of you (me included), the image that first comes to mind might be more erotic than horrific... but I assure you that your ride along is going to take you into some deeply, darkly, disturbing places.

Highridge is a cop that became a werewolf in an Urban Fantasy Setting where lycanthropes have a subculture and are an accepted part of modern society. And the revelation of their existence is no recent thing.

As is often the case when the werewolves are (mostly) good guys, there are worse things out there than wolfmen.

Legion Printing and Publishing, 2010, ebook $2.66 (194 pages).

Review: 'An Anthropomorphic Century', edited by Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (6 votes)
AnAnthropomorphicCenturyFront420.jpg
Cover art by Mark Brill

Edited by Furry Fandom's most beloved Eagle, Fred Patten, An Anthropomorphic Century reprints stories ranging from 1909 to 2008, including the talents of Peter S. Beagle, Philip K. Dick, Michael H. Payne, Phil Geusz, Renee Carter Hall, and more… including myself.

Starting with "Tobermory" by Saki in 1909, Fred does an excellent job putting these stories in a historical and social context. Around the midpoint, however, the historical context begins to soften just a little. The stories are excellent, but not all are milestones, so I would have enjoyed a bit more perspective in what was going on in the real world when they saw print.

Fred may have decided to let the newer stories stand on their own rather than distracting readers from the work themselves. Perhaps this was a good decision; the collection puts on no airs that of a textbook, after all – but Fred Patten is an expert historian of two fandoms (the other being anime). I couldn't imagine a person better suited to bringing external context to these stories.

Disclaimer: I have a story in this anthology. I'll address that story last.

Review: 'The David Birkenhead Series' by Phil Guesz

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

shipsboy.jpgBased in a far future where humans have conquered the stars, this 7 volume space opera follows the life of David Birkenhead, slave rabbit.

The star-faring human race, finding no aboriginals to oppress on the various colonized worlds, create their own non-human slaves. Rabbits, dogs and horses are as nearly as intelligent as humans. The margin is so thin that only their limited education and indoctrination make it seem like a big difference. The House of Marcus, the creator of the rabbit line, has always endeavored to treat rabbits as free as the law allows, but all over the Empire, they see rabbits reduced to mere property status. They begin to secretly manipulate the gene pool so that rabbits might one day be seen as equals ... despite the fur. Their plan is cautious and will take several generations to bear fruit. David Birkenhead is one of two rabbits to be secretly tinkered with, but before he is even born, three houses and their worlds revolt. The Empire begins a series of battles with this new Imperial Nation. Plans to uplift the rabbits further go on the back burner. And then David turns 12 ...

So, you may ask (as many readers on Goodreads.com or Amazon have), why rabbits? Well, I really don't see cats making good slaves. And ther's heavy European influences here, so I wouldn't expect to see birds, which I might if we had more Asian influences. Rabbits are simply cute and make good foils for the violence and turmoil that unfolds. Plus, Phil Guesz is a lapine master.

Ship's Boy (The David Birkenhead Saga Vol. 1), Legion Printing and Publishing, Inc, June 4, 2012, trade paperback $5.99 (90 pages).
Midshipman (The David Birkenhead Saga Vol. 2), Legion Printing and Publishing, Inc, August 8, 2012, trade paperback $8.99 (193 pages), eBook $0.99.
Lieutenant (The David Birkenhead Saga Vol. 3), Legion Printing and Publishing, Inc, September 10, 2012, trade paperback $9.99 (167 pages), eBook $2.99.
Commander (The David Birkenhead Saga Vol. 4), Legion Printing and Publishing, Inc, October 5, 2012, eBook $2.99 (167 pages).
Captain (The David Birkenhead Saga Vol. 5), Legion Printing and Publishing, Inc, October 31, 2012, trade paperback $7.99 (133 pages), eBook $1.99.
Commodore (The David Birkenhead Saga Vol. 6), Legion Printing and Publishing, Inc, November 21, 2012, trade paperback $13.99 (302 pages), eBook $2.99.
Admiral (The David Birkenhead Saga Vol. 7), Legion Printing and Publishing, Inc, November 30, 2012, trade paperback $8.99 (119 pages), eBook $2.99.

Review: 'The Dragons of Krynn' ('Dragonlance Dragons' #1) anthology edited by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

dragonsofkrynn.jpgAlmost 30 years ago, Dragonlance exploded into the role-playing world with new sets of player characters and a fresh take on monsters. In my circle of friends, reading about Dragonlance proved more interesting than actually playing in the setting.

It's my understanding that there are over 200 novels and collections in the Dragonlance universe. I believe the last new Dragonlance novel was released in 2010, with the last reprint released in 2011. Along with Dungeons & Dragon's world of the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance was one of the most popular shared worlds in fiction. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more of these books waiting for us in the future.

When I last set foot on Mount To-Be-Read (what I call my queue of unread books) this old classic was waiting for me. I have had mixed experiences with the Dragonlance books and I hesitated at reading it for a moment.

But then I wondered how the dragons of Dragonlance would stand up to a furry eye? That made me curious as I tended to read the TSR novels as I would read any other fantasy novel. Maybe I shouldn't have a different mind set when reading different sub-genres but I do. I look for more logic and more relationship in furry stories either with the environment or with other people/creatures. While in a different sword and sorcery fantasy realm, I care more about mood and the character's struggle to reach his goal.

So, I set out to read The Dragons of Kyrnn with a furry eye, looking and hoping for anthropomorphic tales that elevated a dragon from monster to character.

Interestingly enough, some of the best of the stories had very little dragon in them. Still, there were five stories in the collection that I will recommend to my fellow furries and scalies.

Wizards of the Coast (TSR), March 1, 1994; trade paperback (390 pages, 15 stories, 3 poems).

Review: 'Song of the Summer King' by Jess E. Owen

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

15751365.jpgWhile I could say that Song of the Summer King by Jess E. Owen is a very satisfying action adventure young adult book played straight (which is true; it follows a coming of age story formula and it knows it), there's a lot of subtle choices made by the writer which makes this book stand out: how inaction is in itself implicit action; how listening can appear to be a prophetic power to those who have never attempted empathy; how refusing to choose between two bad options can be a valid choice.

From the beginning of the novel, Shard lives passively: he's enthralled by a patriarchal society of fascist conqueror griffins who believe only the strongest survive. He lives in constant (well-founded) fear of never being trusted and eventual exile, which are his driving influences to seek strength and social accolades. But when Shard's own heritage gets foisted upon him, he has to choose between being comfortable or being ethically consistent with what he finds to be the truth, all the while reconciling his racial differences from the dominant griffin tribe.

Shard has to question everything when he discovers that the world is more complicated than he once thought, and that it is incredibly frustrating when those closest to him continue to live trapped in their oversimplifications about what it means to live a good life.

Spoiler warning: This review does discuss plot elements some may consider spoilers below the break.

Five Elements Press, 2012, $4.99 Kindle, $25 hardcover, $12.99 paperback (264 pages). Illustrated by Jennifer Miller.

Review: 'God of Clay' by Ryan Campbell

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Goccover.jpgWhen I finished God of Clay by Ryan Campbell, I described the experience as "satiating something I was hungry for." And usually when I read genre fiction, I have to take bits and pieces of things I want from the books I read and make compromises. "Well, this book had gay protagonists at least, even if the conflict didn't let you forget that, and the characters paid for it." Or "this book has people of color as opposed to the assumption of a main character's innate whiteness, but it is overshadowed by western mores and still exhibits egregious exoticism." Or "well, there's a woman over 40 who plays a significant role, but she's more or less window dressing."

God of Clay, on the other hand, was a buffet of the things I was hungry for: colorful sensory splendor; anthro and human presence; smart character decisions the fueled further conflict; a non-white cast of main characters; gay protagonists with sexuality not intrinsically tied to the main conflict; a world where you can still be older than 40 and be a woman and make life changing decisions for yourself and your tribe.

See also: Review by Fred.

Sofawolf Press, September 2013, trade paperback $17.95 [on Amazon] ([5] + 259 [+ 2] pages), Kindle $7.99. Illustrated by Zhivago.

Review: 'Jane, Jill and Jasie', by Malcolm Cross

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (6 votes)

Jane, Jill and JasieThese stories concern the sex and/or love lives of three female anthropomorphic thylacine clones. Only read if you’re of legal age and interested in a long review, et cetera.

The first story in this collection, “Dick and Jane", deals with the disillusionment and despair of Jane, who must learn to live with the fact that the love she putatively shares with a human man is something altogether more depressing.

“Jill’s Forty-Ninth" (which, for my money, felt to be treading the most well-worn formal path of erotic fiction), tracks Jill, one of Jane’s “sisters", who works a dull office job during the week, but gets dressed up at the weekend to invite sex and other pleasurable indulgences from wealthy men. The story concerns her attempt to negotiate an agreeable arrangement with one man in particular.

The final story, “Jasie’s New Start” is a more straight-forward and minimal affair about Jasie, who seeks out a childhood sweetheart in an attempt to escape from the reputation of her kind as superficial and oversexed, and kindle a new, more stable life. [Bad Dog Books, 2013, $2.99.]

Fanfic goes mainstream with Kindle Worlds

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

Interesting news for writers of fanfiction as Amazon announces Kindle Worlds, an e-book platform which invites published and aspiring authors to submit original titles based on licensed properties, to be sold in the Kindle Store.

Kindle Worlds titles of 10,000 words and upwards will sell for $0.99 - $2.99, with royalties set at 35% of net revenue. Short stories of 5,000 to 10,000 words may also be accepted for publication, with a royalty rate of 20%. The platform is to launch in June.

Many furry scribes, as well as mainstream authors, cut their writing teeth on fanfiction for series as diverse as Pokémon, Harry Potter and the Final Fantasy universe; famously, Fifty Shades of Grey started life as Twilight fanfic.

Opinion: Do rabbits need a reason?

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (6 votes)

In my review of fluffy’s Unity Book 1: Ascent, I mentioned in the first line that I was dubious about furry science fiction. I gave that book a positive review, despite it being furry science fiction, because it was good science fiction. In concluding my opinion piece on furry criticism, I added as an afterthought that I am also dubious about the value of furry prose.

In both cases, Phil Geusz seemed to take these assertions as personal challenges. To the furry criticism piece, he suggested I try Watership Down, a book I was – to put it mildly – already familiar with. As readers had given me plenty more suggestions about what I could spend my spare time with that were not as friendly, I did not give it much thought.

But Geusz was more effective with his response to the Ascent review, offering up one of his own books in defense of the idea. I immediately plumped for another rabbit book, The First Book of Lapism, based on an earlier review by Fred Patten.

I chose this book for a variety of reasons, but the main one is the basis for this piece. Geusz’s story about a rabbit based religion is another good piece of furry science fiction, and it illustrates a need for “justification” in furry writing.

M.C.A. Hogarth publishes audiobooks of 'Stormfront', Kherishdar collections

Your rating: None Average: 2 (5 votes)

M.C.A. Hogarth is now publishing audiobooks of her works, professionally narrated and unabridged. Her first three offerings are "Stormfront," a military SF adventure from her Pelted universe (home to Ursa Major-winning story "In the Line of Duty"), and the two Kherishdar collections, The Aphorisms and The Admonishments, featuring the catlike aliens, the Ai-Naidar. Audiobooks are available from Audible.com, iTunes and Amazon.

Cóyotl Awards 2012 nominations open until April 15

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (4 votes)

As an alternative to the Ursa Major Awards, the Furry Writers' Guild (FWG) recently set up the Cóyotl Awards to promote quality writing within furry fandom. Unlike the Ursas, which have open nominations and a rank-based voting system, the Cóyotl Awards are using a more complex scoring structure based on plot, character, setting and literary merit.

Both general and mature works are eligible for nomination, but you can't nominate work you are directly involved with (as specified in the rules). Nominations are to close after April 15.

Nominating and voting is limited to people in the Guild, whose membership requires having stories previously published by other people (i.e., submitted to and accepted by the editor of an online or print publication; not posted to your Fur Affinity or SoFurry page).