Lots of fandom folks (anime, furry, science fiction and otherwise) got excited this fall with the news that the team behind Cowboy BeBop had created a new, openly-silly science fiction anime called Space Dandy. The teaser trailer started making the rounds on YouTube. Well now comes even better news: Thanks to the efforts of Funimation, Space Dandy will be the first ever anime to premier in Japan and dubbed on American TV, simultaneously. It’ll be part of Adult Swim’s Toonami collection. Here’s what the producers say: “Space Dandy is a dandy in space! This dreamy adventurer with a to-die-for pompadour travels across the galaxy in search of aliens no one has ever laid eyes on. Each new species he discovers earns him a hefty reward, but this dandy has to be quick on his feet because it’s first come – first served!
Check out the plot summary for Ryan North’s new comic book series The Midas Flesh: “Fatima and her space crew have decided to return to Earth—a planet completely sectioned off, abandoned, and covered in gold—to find out exactly what happened to this once thriving planet and see if they can use that knowledge against the evil empire that’s tracking them down. As luck would have it, they just landed the most powerful weapon in the universe: Some ancient dead guy’s body.” Why should we care? Well, one of Fatima’s “space crew” appears to be a talking dinosaur with horn-rim glasses. That, and the fact that Ryan North is one of the creative minds behind the Adventure Time comic book series. He talks about this new full-color series at Comic Book Resources. The Midas Flesh is illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, and the first issue is coming later this month from Boom! Studios.
Otters in Space: The Search for Cat Havana by Mary E. Lowd is a short novel that received a 2010 Ursa Major Award nomination. It's a work of light science-fiction that I think might appeal to young adult readers. It's available from FurPlanet and Amazon, and in electronic format - see the author's website for details and links. I read the FurPlanet 2012 edition, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-61450-043-8.
See also: Fred Patten's earlier summary and review. (Contains spoilers.)
Mary Lowd's name really first stood out to me in the 2012 Ursa Recommended Anthropomorphics List, which included six of her short stories. It's not unusual to see authors with multiple recommendations on the list, although when they all appear at the same time, it feels like overkill. Anyway, of those six, I definitely enjoyed St. Kalwain and the Lady Uta, appearing in ROAR volume 4, so I was curious what she would do in a longer format.
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.
Does anyone besides me care about this bureaucratic trivia? This is a good read, in a handy trade paperback edition for those who don’t want to read it on their computer. Get it in one format or the other.
But this is a direct sequel to Lowd’s Ursa-Major-nominated Otters in Space: The Search for Cat Havana. If there is any flaw with Otters in Space II, it is that you need to have read the first book to really understand it. Or at least read the review of it, in Flayrah on February 6, 2012.
To jump ahead to the bottom line; Lab Rat is mysterious and full of action, and you will like it if you turn off your brain.
The narrator, Zack, is a lab rat, grown artificially in a vat. The first few pages of this novel are stream-of-consciousness; his first disjointed thoughts. Two beings look into his tank; Father and Golem.
Father was complaining recently about the limitations of Golem’s tactile sensors, which makes no sense at all to me. But I could tell that he was talking about the flat-voiced speaker.
Golem is mostly black and silver in color.
He checks on me regularly for Father, but doesn’t talk to me like Father does. (page 14)
Zack knows that he is a rat:
My fur is white and does not have any glowing symbols, just a pattern of jagged stripes of a very dark blue. [See E. T. Willoughby's cover.]
I’m not sure, but I do not think Golem has a hairless tail like I do either. Golem is definitely not a rat like me. (page 15)
Treecat Wars is the third novel in the Star Kingdom series of annual Young Adult s-f novels by David Weber and Jane Lindskold, following A Beautiful Friendship (reviewed here on October 10, 2011) and Fire Season (review October 26, 2012). These are the prequels to Weber’s immensely popular Honor Harrington series of military science-fiction, set about 350 years earlier, when the planet Sphinx is just being settled by humans. In A Beautiful Friendship, Honor’s ancestor Stephanie Harrington, then an 11-year-old precocious tomboy, discovers Sphinx’s six-legged empathetic treecats, and bonds with the one she names Lionheart, but whose own name is Climbs Quickly. In Fire Season, Stephanie and Climbs Quickly are hard-pressed to keep the secret of the treecats’ intelligence during Sphinx’s dry season, when raging forest fires threaten to wipe out whole treecat clans.
As before, Treecat Wars is primarily Sphinx’s human settlers’ story, centered around now 15½-year-old Stephanie Harrington and her family and teenage friends. But there are enough scenes with Climbs Quickly and the treecats to satisfy Flayrah’s readers.
Space Dandy is cuming (pun deliberate) in January 2014 – but not to America.
The news is spreading that it was announced at guest Shinichirō Watanabe’s panel at Otakon 2013, August 9-11 in Baltimore, that he is directing Studio Bones’ new TV anime space comedy, Space Dandy, scheduled for broadcast next January in Japan.
This is exciting news because Watanabe is the brilliant director of Cowboy Bebop, and two of the sequences in The Animatrix, among others. Though Dandy may be human, there are plenty of anthropomorphic aliens in it, starting with Meow, his partner.
Watanabe said that this will be "not an anime to be taken seriously." Oh, you think!?
It is unfair to compare Hogarth’s novel set at a university in her Paradox universe with Pixar’s recently-released Monsters University, but the superficial parallels are obvious. Instead of the no-two-are-the-same monsters, there are the seeming-dozens of different species of the Pelted, and some humans, wandering about prestigious Seersana University. Instead of a big green eyeball and a blue-lavender furry monster as main characters, there are a pale, tall humanoid Eldritch and a short, furry centauroid winged Glaseah.
The big difference is that in Monsters University, the cast all look different but are all from the same culture. In Mindtouch, the different species are from different societies. The students may know intellectually that they are in for some “different” experiences at S.U., but it is still a shock when they happen.
Orientation began, as he had half expected, with a speech by the associate dean of the College of Medicine, of which the xenopsychology school was a part. He was one of the Seersa, the foxine Pelted who’d given the world its name, a lean and grizzled elder with salt-and-pepper fur and the intensity of a medic. Jahir listened to his monologue while marveling that he was actually here … sitting in a chair in an auditorium filled with aliens. The woman in front of him had silk-furred ears that were trembling from the effort of catching every word. The ends of the rows had spaces for centauroids to recline, or the more avian aliens to perch. He was, very definitely, no longer home, and if the stress of his danger at being so crowded was giving him a headache, well … it was worth it, for the newness of it. (pgs. 28-29)
It was hard to believe that a man could see twenty-three winters before he began to live. It is harder even to believe that his life began all at once, on one night, with the occurring of three obscure and apparently random things; the death of a bird, the flash of golden eyes and the first of One Hundred Steps. But for Kirin Wynegarde-Grey, it did happen, just this way. His life began, as all great and terrible things do, in the Year of the Tiger. (p. 1)
And that, boys and girls, is how to begin a novel!
It is the reader’s option whether to take Dickson’s Tails from the Upper Kingdom series, of which these are Books 1 and 2, as science-fiction, set about 5,000 years in the future, or as high fantasy.
This is a powerful, post-apocalyptic story of lions and tigers, wolves and dragons, embracing and blending the cultures of Dynastic China, Ancient India and Feudal Japan. Half feline, half human, this genetically altered world has evolved in the wake of the fall of human civilization. (blurb)
Kirin Wynegarde-Grey is a genetic lion-man, and there are plenty of other half-feline men and women – leopards, tigers, ocelots, cheetahs, jaguars, lynx -- in these two books to please the reader.
Claws and Starships: A Collection of Pelted Short Fiction by M.C.A. Hogarth is a selection of six short stories that I enjoyed reading just recently. Set in her Paradox universe, the Pelted consist of many races of anthros created by humans in the distant past through bio-engineering. (Read more about them.) Since then, they've grown, diversified, colonized worlds and reconciled with their creators. This particular collection shows a cross-section of several different Pelted cultures, ranging from the technologically advanced to more primitive societies.
Originally published in electronic format in December 2011 (at US$4.99), online sales proved so successful that in June 2013, paperback and Kindle versions became available. That's a good sign! The whole thing is just shy of 50,000 words and over 200 pages long. (ISBN: 9781466035553, 1490427228 and 9781490427225.)
Maggie Hogarth sent me a review copy of Earthrise (she sends me review copies of all her books; hint! hint!) with a note that I might not want to review it for Flayrah since the main characters are a human and a Space Elf Prince, not Furries.
But there are plenty of bioengineered Pelted, and at least one genuine alien, as major supporting characters in this adventure set in her 25th century interstellar civilization. Hogarth has a lot of fans who read Flayrah, and who will not want to miss one of her Pelted Paradox novels. Earthrise is prominently labeled Book 1 of the “Her Instruments” trilogy, so expect it to end with more to come. Rose Point, Book 2, will be published late this year.
Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton, 1912-2005), “the Grand Dame of science-fiction”, was one of the first authors of Young Adult s-f, and of anthro s-f. At a time when most s-f featured teenage or adult human heroes fighting alien adversaries, her novels often starred humans working with sympathetic anthro aliens against human villains, anthro protagonists, or humans transformed into anthro aliens.
Today, Baen Books is reprinting many of her out-of-print s-f titles, two novels in each book. The Iron Breed reprints two of her anthro classics together for the first time: Iron Cage (Viking Press, September 1974; original cover by Bruce Waldman) and Breed to Come (Viking Press, June 1972; original cover by László Gál). If you have not read them before, read them now.
Fred Patten, the editor of Best in Show: Fifteen Years of Outstanding Furry Fiction (Sofawolf Press, July 2003; republished as Furry!); Already Among Us: An Anthropomorphic Anthology (Legion Printing, June 2012); and The Ursa Major Awards Anthology: A Tenth Anniversary Celebration (FurPlanet Productions, June 2012), will have a new anthology published by FurPlanet go on sale at Anthrocon 2013.
What Happens Next: An Anthology of Sequels presents eleven new stories by fan-favorite Furry authors featuring their popular characters:
- M. C. A. Hogarth and her Alysha Forrest
- Brock Hoagland and his Perissa and Maelith
- Kevin Frane (Rikoshi) and his Iolite League
- Kristin Fontaine and the crew of the interstellar freighter Tai-Pan
- Michael Payne and Cluny, the sorceress squirrel with Crocker, her human familiar
- Jenner and Dr. Benjamin Rat, M.B., B.S. D.R.A.N.Z.C.O.G. F.R.A.C.G.P.
- Kyell Gold and a new tale of Argaea
- Elizabeth McCoy and her feline centauroid Kintarans
- Chas. P. A. Melville and his Felicia, the Vixen Sorceress
- Ken Pick and his Brigit Bunny on the planet of the foxlike Thalendri
- and Roz Gibson and her Jack Salem
Freak's Amour, by Tom De Haven, is simply a masterpiece. This is some of the best weird literature that few seem to have heard of or remember. It's been out of print for 27 years. I started it once, long ago when I was just getting into science fiction and weird genre stuff. It was a bit arty and demanding for a teenage reader, and my interest wasn't up to the challenge at the time. Now, I have to give it very high recommendation after finding it again.
I suggest that anyone into classy lit as well as furries and pulp/pop culture go get it now, even if it takes your last two bucks. It's one of those obscurities that could be worth quite a lot if it was less available – and I say that as a professional book dealer – but it earned enough acclaim to get several printings, so it's cheap and easy to get secondhand. (In fact, I've just noticed a comic/graphic novel forthcoming: info below.)