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Review: 'The Face in the Mirror' and 'Chained Reflections', by T. R. Brown

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The Face in the Mirror 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.

The Return of Pantha

No, not the semi-cat Teen Titan, this is Pantha from Harris Comics — home to the famed Vampirella. Now Dynamite Entertainment has revived Pantha in a brand-new full-color comic book series written by Brandon Jerwa with art by Pow Rodix. Pantha is a shape-shifting cat-woman, an embodiment of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. “She stalks the night, driving the forces of Chaos from the shadows and hunting them down like prey! Much more than a feral shapeshifter, Pantha is also an avatar for the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet – and she’s going to learn that history can repeat in a violent, terrifying way! Featuring the  return of several heroes and villains from the pages of Pantha and Vampirella, ‘Dangerous Game’ will be an important cornerstone for the future of  Dynamite’s epic Vampirella universe!” That’s the official word from the publisher. Look for it this June.


image c. 2012 Dynamite Entertainment

Thailand smuggler tries to check a leopard to Dubai

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Flying first class may help you avoid luggage charges, but it doesn't mean you can pack endangered animals in there, as the BBC News reports.

A man flying from Bangkok to Dubai was arrested by undercover police after trying to check in suitcases containing rare juvenile animals: two leopards, two panthers, an Asiatic black bear and two macaque monkeys, all sedated and packed in carefully-crafted containers.

Freeland Foundation director Steven Galster observed the arrest:

It was a very sophisticated smuggling operation. We've never seen one like this before. The guy had a virtual zoo in his suitcases.

Researchers link big cat habitat and coat patterns

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Creating a feline character? You might want to decide on their habitat before picking a coat.

Research by the University of Bristol's School of Experimental Psychology has found correlations between the complexity or irregularity of a cat's pattern and its habitat:

[...] cats living in dense habitats, in the trees, and active at low light levels, are the most likely to be patterned.

The researchers admitted that this rule did not explain the coat of cheetahs, who have evolved spots despite a preference for open plains.

The team discounted suggestions that coat patterns in big cats were linked to social hierarchy or gender, as they did not differ significantly between such individuals. Their paper, Why the leopard got its spots, was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Wild panthers in Australia?

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According to this article, there are many sightings of feral panther-like cats in the area near Sydney. If this is true, it's a real problem for Australian native animals (and plants), already under attack from feral pests such as cane toads, pigs, rabbits, and foxes.

"Rogue panther" responsible for mauling?

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According to this article in the Virginian Pilot, a big cat of unknown species and origin has been spotted in the community of Chincoteague Island, VA. The rumors of the cat's presence have recently been compounded upon by a reported mauling of a resident.

Six injured by stray panther

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Zeenews.com has a brief write-up about a panther that strayed into a South Delhi residential area on January second. Just another story in a rash of animal-related news this week, it seems.

A stolen slice of Pi?

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While (re)writing the review of _Life of Pi_ that I promised the kind readers of Flayrah, I was suprised to come across this news story. Martel's story of a hindu boy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger has been acused of blatently lifting from Brazilian Moacyr Scliar's _Max And the Cats_ which is about... Er... A jewish boy trapped on a lifeboat with a panther.

Martel's reply, "why put up with a brilliant premise ruined by a lesser writer?".

Feren is:

a bizzare poll option
27% (23 votes)
a panther
14% (12 votes)
a Camaro
8% (7 votes)
Feren
51% (44 votes)
Votes: 86

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