Review: 'ROAR' vol. 4, edited by Buck C. Turner (by Fred Patten)
Here is the fourth approximately-annual anthology of “literary” (non-erotic) anthropomorphic fiction from Bad Dog Books. There are practically no magazines of anthropomorphic fiction published today, leaving ROAR as one of the few remaining markets for anthropomorphic short stories.
This fourth volume has the theme of “fame”:
Fame—that siren song Celebrity has many stories. Perhaps it is nothing more than an incredible tale. What amazing lengths people will go to in order to find it—or escape from it. In this volume of ROAR, twelve authors explore what celebrity means and how its impact is felt. New stories from celebrated anthropomorphic authors such as Tim Susman, Mary E. Lowd, and Whyte Yoté share these pages with talented newcomers.
Editor's note: This is the first of two reviews of ROAR 4; the second, by Roz Gibson, is here.
Bad Dog Books/FurPlanet Productions, June 2012, trade paperback $19.95 (iii + 297 pages).
The “Magnificent Dogs” by Huskyteer are dog equivalents of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (illustrated on the cover by ConfusedOO). The setting is a British aeroplane race in 1913, the eve of World War I. The contest is between four planes and their pilots, representing America, Britain, France, and Germany. The British public idolizes the charismatic British pilot, Mick Millson, a German Shepherd, and his Mayfly biplane. But the story’s protagonist is Gus Whipple, the crippled, overweight black Labrador retriever who is the inventor of the Mayfly.
Whipple has devoted his every waking moment to working on and improving the Mayfly, to the point of endangering his marriage. He and Mick are close friends, but he cannot help being disappointed seeing all the credit go to the pilot and the plane, and none to its inventor.
Whipple couldn’t blame them [his children]. Naturally a handsome German Shepherd made a better role model than a fat, crippled Lab. He blamed the picture papers and the newsreels that made his boy and girl, and all the other boys and girls, value looks over genius. (p. 5)
Whipple learns to accept his background role, and that he is not as ignored as he feared.
In “Phantom” by Benjamin “eSca” Reed, SEAL Mark Richter, a German Shepherd, is the member of the famous yet highly secretive Alpha Pack team who assassinated hated and feared vulture terrorist leader Khad Pakem after seven years of searching for his hideout. Yet by the nature of his team’s secrecy, Mark cannot claim any public credit for his heroism. Mark likens himself to a comic-book costumed hero; idolized for his public secret identity but a nonentity in his real identity. He broods over this to the point of resigning from the team, despite his CO, Lieutenant Eric Callahan, a cougar, urging him to get psychiatric help for his depression. But when a follower of Pakem’s terrorists prepares to bomb a crowded Louisville mall in revenge, Mark performs a highly publicized act of personal heroism that brings him the public credit that he craves.
In “St. Kalwain and the Lady Uta” by Mary E. Lowd, St. Kalwain, a famous medieval human knight, has been cursed by a faerie queen into the form of a wolflike beast-man. He becomes a hermit living alone in the forest. When human Lady Uta travels to ask him to kill the dragon menacing a village, despite his beastliness, and the faerie queen promises to lift his curse after this last assignment, he accepts because isn’t this what he wants? He is confused when Lady Uta tells him that this isn’t her village; that she is spending her life going about rescuing one village after another from sorcerous plagues.
“Chasing the Spotlight” by Tim Susman is narrated by Alex Roberts, the one-man reporter/editor/producer of the WhispOWorld computer news feed, one of the top 50 North American online news sites. Alex gets a tip to a guy who has apparently had himself surgically made into a furry – faint fur all over, pointed ears, a drooping tail. The guy, “Lon”, talks vaguely about it being part of a plan for a career as a horror movie actor, but Alex senses that Lon is just saying what he’s been ordered to say. The group who performed Lon’s surgery are being too secretive, and Lon seems frightened of saying too much because he isn’t the first artificial furry but the others have “disappeared”. What if there are more furry fans willing to undergo surgical modification than anyone suspects?
And the more I thought about that, the more I thought maybe there was an industry out there dedicated to giving these people what they wanted for exorbitant amounts of money […] Maybe there was a lot of money in that market. (p. 95)
What if this “industry” is ruthless enough to make its mistakes “disappear”? If Alex breaks the story, he’ll be famous.
In “Second Chance” by Sean Silva, auto stock car racing has gotten so deadly that humans have left it to biomodified animal racers. Kasi was one of the tops – as a cheetah, he was built for speed anyway – but he’s gotten too old for the top championship circuits and dropped out. Rick Walker, Kasi’s human former manager, talks him into coming back for one last major race, against his better judgment. Because Kasi isn’t really afraid that he’s gotten too old. He’s afraid that in the tension of a major race, his predator’s instincts take over and he cannot restrain himself from trying to kill the other drivers. How badly does Kasi want the fame of winning one last major race?
“The Savior of Dragondom” by Sarina Dorie is Sephra the dragoness, the winged mount of human knight Erador. Dragons and their human riders are supposed to be equal partners, but the arrogant Erador increasingly treats his dragon as a dumb steed. Sephra teaches him and everyone else the difference between false fame and deserved fame.
“Almost Famous” by Eric Kern is about Kevin Hale, a young bull college office worker. When Kevin slips and gets a faceful of mud, and Jeff, his gazelle friend, gets a cell phone video of it and uploads it onto the Internet where it becomes viral, Kevin is deeply embarrassed. Fame like that, he doesn’t need. But viral fame is transitory, and Kevin takes the advice of Amy, a zebra girl, that the way to help squelch it is to learn how to laugh at himself.
“Best Interests” by Whyte Yoté are what lion President-elect David Kibber, the first Morphic president, has when he plans his administration. But David has a secret; he had a brief homosexual affair with a human lover. David has moved on, but Alex can expose everything. The country may be ready for a Morphic president, but it is not ready for a gay president yet. How badly does Alex want fame? How far will David go to keep quiet a politically embarrassing past?
In “The Gentleman and the Gypsy” by NightEyes DaySpring, the British Gentleman is the red fox Thomas Prenton, son of Lord Prenton, aristocrat, magnate, and politician in the House of Lords. Tsura, also a red fox, is the gypsy fortuneteller, a childhood friend of Thomas before his mother died and his father forbade him to associate with low-class gypsies. When a worker at a factory that Lord Prenton is threatening to close tries to kill Thomas, Tsura emerges from his past to save him and offer him a choice of futures: as his father’s heir, a guided, pampered, but boring life; or with the gypsies, poor but making his own way. Anonymity now but with a chance of future fame if he can earn it, or never more than the inherited fame of being a Lord’s son?
“Inheritance Is What You Leave Behind” by Jesse “Tango” Stringer begins when the morphic seniors of Two Counties High School in Winthrop, Maine, on the verge of graduation, are all agog when major news media representatives descend upon them. Rumor has it that Marcus Irvine, “Descended mostly from wolves, with a bit of husky mixed in” (p. 216), who had graduated from the school eighteen years earlier and who had become a mega-popular film star since then, was cutting a movie shoot in Japan short to make an unplanned visit to his alma mater.
Speculation is that Irvine has just learned that he had a child by a childhood sweetheart eighteen years ago, and wants to meet that child. All eyes turn to Linkin Miranda, who as a taller-than-usual husky is the only student who could be Irvine’s son. Linkin is already preparing to be his class’ Valedictorian; now he is faced with the reflected fame of being a famous actor’s son in addition to the fame that he has earned for himself.
The “Seeing Eye Dog” by Kandrel is not who you’d expect. In a world of both morphic and non-morphic animals, blind writer Chris Parker (a Dalmatian) has just lost his guide dog Cleo to old age. Chris, a hermit since his blindness, is sure that he can get around his house fine for the few weeks until his new guide dog arrives, but his doctor arranges for Malcolm, a caregiver (German Shepherd) to move in with him in the interim. Chris, unused to company, is a surly host, but after several weeks, Malcolm persuades him to come out of his solitary existence and embrace the fame of the best-selling author that he can be.
In “Crooked Pictures” by Alflor Aalto, Doctor Robin Walters (raccoon) is a Transplanter. He is a specialist in recording people’s memories so they can be played back to others; a very lucrative business when discs of a media star’s memories can be sold to millions of fans. Walters is proud and humble to be chosen to Transplant memories of his favorite Hollywood actress, Miss Aleesa (vixen). But when Walters plays her unedited memories for himself, he is devastated to learn how shallow and self-centered she really is. Walters is under contract to edit the memories into a commercial form that will not harm Aleesa’s fame, which, disillusioned, he does.
ROAR vol. 4 presents twelve anthropomorphic stories of the theme of “fame”. All are competently written; “Magnificent Dogs” is my personal favorite. Ten are set in modern worlds; two are fantasies in a magical past. In four of the twelve stories, the presence of anthropomorphic animals is important; they feature both anthropomorphic animals and humans. In seven, all set in Furry worlds, it is only window dressing; the characters could be humans just as easily. One story does not feature any anthropomorphic characters, but human Furry fans. ROAR vol. 4 is a pleasing sampler of the variety that anthropomorphic literature can present.
About the authorFred Patten — read stories — contact (login required)
a retired former librarian from North Hollywood, California, interested in general anthropomorphics
With all respect due to your site and the lovely articles you usually post here, this hardly qualifies as a review. This is little more than a press release or advertisement. All you say in regards to the various works is that they are 'competently written' and you tell us which is your favorite. Reviews by their nature are opinion and analysis pieces, not drawn out synopses of the stories with little else besides.
I read and understand that you'll be posting a second review in the future. If that is where you intend on doing in depth analysis and/or critique, then I eagerly await it. However, why post this one and call it a review? Why not combine the two into one larger article, or else call this what it is: a 'first look' or something of that nature?
The second review is by a different contributor, Roz Gibson. As we credit authors individually for their pieces, I felt it inappropriate to combine it with this one.
That makes good sense. I'd certainly hate to see an article I wrote mashed with someone else's.
My other point, that this isn't truly a review, still holds, though. I do think it would be less confusing if labelled differently
Okay, the nitty-gritty: ROAR vol. 4 is mediocre. The stories are 'competently written'; they are not bad, but none of them are above average. There is a preponderance of 'animal-headed human' stories; in seven of the twelve, the characters could be humans instead of anthro animals and it would not make any difference -- in fact, you have to assume that all the anthro animals are the same size, share the same human omnivorous diet, usually have only a human sense of smell, and so on. This bugs me, but a lot of Furry fans -- maybe even most Furry fans -- are not bothered by this at all. Does accentuating the negative make this a better review?
I hate to say it, but...sort of?
However, even adding what you just wrote to the article, the article would still be 98% synopsis. A review discusses positives, negatives, and just why certain things are so.
You have a great point there about furry as 'window dressing', I believe you termed it earlier.
So you've discussed some negatives, in a very general sense. My next questions would be: Are there positives? What are they? What about each specific story?
I wouldn't say you needed to go super-in-depth into each story, given that there are so many, but a few comments in the vein of positives or negatives wouldn't be amiss. And a vast expansion of your discussion about what rubbed you the wrong way about the book as a whole would be very welcome. It widens the discussion about furry literature as a whole to have someone with a platform and a recognizable name such as yourself to actually dig into some issues. Not saying you have to dwell exclusively on the negative, there's always a way to put a positive light on things. It's called constructive criticism. If we as a fandom want our literature to grow to a higher standard (or even if just some of us do), then discussions like that are important and we can't shy away from them or think they aren't worth having.
The only caution I ever have when reviewing any furry book is that I try to make sure I'm noting positive with the negative. I've seen at least one book, that I liked very much, absolutely destroyed by a review that was nothing but one giant arson job. In reading the review, I agreed with some of the reviewer's points but he neglected to mention any redeeming qualities to the book, of which there were many, and it was clear he was eviscerating it for "teh lulz".
So, with all of the above in mind, I hope you're taking my remarks in the spirit in which they're intended, which is constructive criticism. I intend no offense and I am not questioning your abilities in any way.
Humans in fursuits is a term that's often been used in the past for the phenomenon you describe. I'm of the mind that in order for a story to be truly "furry" it should at least to a minimal degree incorporate some of the animal characters of the species into the characters of that species, but for my tastes it's not a requirement for me to enjoy the story. I personally find it more fun and enjoyable to see the characters as animals in my mind, even if there's not really any reason they couldn't just be humans.
To address some of the other points that have come up here, when critiquing a story I approach it as if no story is so good that I can't find anything that could be improved, nor so bad that I can't find anything about it that's well done and deserves praise. Any 100% negative review that's done for 'teh lulz' is going to get dismissed out of hand.
I'm writing a piece on this, actually, and plan on posting it next week.
For now, I'm agin' it in prose stories; in visual mediums, it is not a problem because funny animals provide visual interest, which is something prose can't use. Yes, readers should "use their imagination," but their is no reason they will if you give them no reason to.
I look forward to reading that - it's bugged me for a long time that 'funny animals' in comic books are accepted in or out of the fandom, for adults and children, with no explanation or justification for their world being the way it is, but it doesn't work the same way in prose. (I'm fer it in prose, obvs!)
To be honest, I have never understood the annoyance some people take with the whole "animal-headed human" thing. Isn't it simply demonstrating a high extent of anthropomorphism? I don't see how that could possibly be a bad thing. After all, my argument is "well, why do they have to be human?" It just seems like an awfully fictitious attribute by which to judge a story -- especially when the reviewer clings to that one thing and fades everything else into the background. Pacing, narrative, etc. seem like far more universal criteria.
But to each his own.
Yes, why wouldn't a reviewer talk about pacing, narrative and stuff when the entire premise of the story is flawed?
It is a mystery.
First off, nice sarcasm. Entirely required.
Hold on a sec... what premise? Last I checked, the definition of anthropomorphic fiction is pretty liberal. There are animal-like characters present, and so the stories fit the premise perfectly. If you are going to tighten up that definition, better contact Oxford, Webster, etc. because otherwise you are kind of going out on a limb there. You are creating, as I said, an entirely artificial attribute, the boundaries of which you define, and then focus on that instead of actual story elements. It'd say that IS a pretty big mystery.
Oh, thank you!
Sarcasm is kind of my thing, so glad you noticed.
Oh, wait, this is coming off as sarcastic, isn't it?
Well, crap, that backfired.
For the record, the entire premise of "let's make talking animals the main characters and leave that completely unexplained in way that offers nothing to the story" is a flawed premise, and also makes people wonder why you'd do that (we suspect the writer has some sort of freaky weird animal people fetish, and, you know what, we'd probably right in this case).
If you're a fantasy writer and you can't come up with some sort of symbolic or thematic elements to the animal thing, or maybe some cool little sci-fi or fantasy explanation, or have the characters do something they could only do as anthropomorphic animals, or just freaking something to justify your decision, you should maybe not be a fantasy writer. It shouldn't be hard at all, but apparently it is.
Anthropomorphic animals characters are interesting because they open up so many possibilities; by not using any of these possibilities, and telling a story that does abso-fricking-lutely nothing with these characters' interesting attributes, is just boring and weird and stupid.
A) Says who? You make a lot of bold and potentially insulting claims with nothing but your godlike authority behind them. Gonna have to do a bit better than that.
B) Who was talking about fantasy? You keep bringing this up and up and up, and where from? You let the presence of anthropomorphic animals define a genre, which finally shows me where your reasoning and mine diverge.
To me, an anthropomorphic story about an otter detective is a mystery. I, just like many, many others in there's Fandom, would not see such a story as a fantasy in the slightest. The character is an otter "because he is."
And saying such a reasoning is "wrong" is not terribly open-minded.
A story about an otter detective wouldn't be considered fantasy? So you know otter detectives running around out there in the real world?
Until animal-people actually exist, stories centered around animal-people reasonably fall into the speculative genres. A book about a vampire detective is probably going to get shelved in the fantasy/sf section, not mystery. Why should furry fiction be treated differently?
0Also, you're absolutely right. Many people, including myself, DO have an animal-people fetish... I am very surprised and perplexed by the way you mention it, as if you are entirely unfamiliar with that part of the Fandom. Makes me wonder if we're talking about the same Fandom to begin with. In the furry Fandom I refer to, many do fetishize animal-people, and most novels are written with such characters without immediately becoming labeled "fantasy."
This sounds similar in a way to the Bronies who protest, "How can 'My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic' qualify for an Ursa Major Award? There's nothing anthropomorphic about 'MLP:FIM'! These are real ponies!"
Changing the definition of anthropomorphism to suit their own needs? Nope, doesn't sound like my argument... does sound familiar, though...
That was just a little joke. We all obviously have some sort of animal people fetish if we're arguing about furry at ... oh, Jesus Christ, four in the morning.
I'm not interested in being open-minded; I'm interested in being interesting. A story that is only interesting because its primary story-telling device tells more about the author's various personal peccadillos than it does about the actual story is not very interesting.
OK, let's flip that. "The Picture of Dorian Gray." Great novel, right? What part of this novel's appeal is generated from having human characters? None. The humans are simply human "because." And that's just it. I tell my stories with animal-people because I don't feel like using humans. The appeal of these stories come from the plot, the characters who drive it, the conflict. I simply don't understand why any appeal of my story must come from the anthropomorphism of its characters. It's a choice. Why must I use humans to tell my story?
Novels are written by humans and read by humans, and as a result of that, the reader's default expectation is of human characters. The reader doesn't expect an explanation or justification for the default, but they do usually expect one if you diverge from it. It's the same with setting, for example. If you tell a story on an alien planet in 2459 or in a fantasy world or in medieval London, readers are going to expect that there's some kind of reason you're telling the story in that place and time instead of in, say, present-day Manhattan.
And this affects me... how? Again, I turn to your apparent failure to understand art as a free medium. If I want to tell my story using anthropomorphic vegetables with absolutely no explanation of why -- Which has been done in the Gianni Rodari classic "Chipolino." -- that is an entirely viable option. If as a reader, you can't open your mind enough to accept something like that, there is nothing I can do. Fortunately, there are more than enough readers who DO accept this -- otherwise, I wouldn't have nearly the readership I do. Other Fandom writers (like Whyte Yote or KM Hirosaki) would similarly be without a reader base.
Anyway, pointless argument. There is really no need to continue it. (So, please don't... or do. Whatever suits you.)
This reminds me of Nikita Mandryka's 1970s comic strip 'Les aventures potagères du Concombre masque'. There may have been a reason for The Masked Cucumber to be a vegetable superhero in a human world, but if there was, I don’t remember it. He just was.
And then there is 'Fruitless Efforts: Fruit of the Womb', a 2009 short film by Aaron Quist and Andrew Chesworth of the MAKE visual design studio of Minneapolis about an apple, ““an average fruit guy trying to hold a job, have friends and just live his life in peace like a normal apple,” and how he is pursued by the banana and the grapes who WANT TO EAT HIM! Cannibalistic fruit! Is it cannibalism if a banana eats an apple? Again, there is no explanation of why the fruit are determined to eat the apple. They just do. http://www.makevisual.com/fruitlessefforts/
But you can get away with a lack of an explanation in a funny-animal comic book/strip or a short animated film. If the author is writing a serious story for adults, most readers are going to want a reason for the characters to be anthropomorphized animals or fruits or vegetables instead of humans.
Alright, this argument looks like it's about done. Neither side is getting convinced of much. I have seen more than enough great furry writing and have written more than enough myself to be entirely happy and self-assured. You have your ideas to which you hold fast.
All I have to say is this: Writing's an art. Live a little, man! Explore! All this rigidity and strange, self-imposed rules; whom do they help? All they do is turn writing into a formula, and that's just dull. You said you're "interested in being interesting" as opposed to open-minded (not being open-minded and being an artist at the same time boggles me, but OK). Fine; do it. Write a story, write a novel. Put your money where your mouth is and prove how interesting you really are. Talking writing furry fiction is great and all, but actually writing it is another matter entirely.
That's pretty much it. I never really meant for this to spin out into an argument, but people with that awful mindset of "your opinion (a thing which by its definition can't be wrong) is invalid, and I'm right" just really tend to make me cringe. It's art. There is no right answer; and people who think they have it are just full of hot air.
I agree with some of the most prolific writers in our fandom when I say that we have moved on past that need. This is furry fiction as a meta genre unto itself. Every story does not need an explanation of where furries came from or why they exist. If it is germane to the story being told, sure, it can be revealed in the narrative, but usually it is trite or feels wedged in. As an example, while Alflor and I disagree on the 'furry' nature of Redwall, mr. Jacques does not offer us a reason why the world is populated only by animals, how they use swords and knives, how they wear clothes....the story carries itself and the world around it.
That we don't explain where the furries came from is not a flaw in a story. It is simply not relevant to the story at hand. Unless it is critical for the reader to understand that backstory, the reader will, or should, be able to accept the characters for what they are as presented. Now I will agree that I prefer to see animal characteristics at play, wolves and foxes with stronger sense of smell, tigers having to work to keep their claws retracted, etc., but those are sauce for the goose.
I'm not saying that there's no place for that sort of information either. If it is necessary and done well, it can be fine. I'm only saying that it isn't always necessary.
I've been catching up on a long backlog of anthro fiction, and of all the published works I've read, only Common and Precious offers an explanation for furries, and even then it's about the same length as the preface to the Star Wars novel, explaining the rise of the empire. And it matters because we're set on a distant world very different from Earth and the reader needed that information to parse everything else in the proper context.
In a short story, you don't have that kind of luxury or time. And it would get very tedious to see a snippet of text in EVERY short story that would tell us "okay, these furries are made by science.". "these furries are aliens." "these furries are magic" or "these furries are millions of years down the evolutionary train tracks". Those are pretty much the four furry origin stories and there isn't so much in them that we need to be told about it in every story or every novel. There are so many things in every genre that are just accepted. Sci Fi has FTL travel, fantasy has magic, and anthropomorphic fiction, as a meta genre, adds to that mix anthropomorphic animals.
Judge the story based on plot, character development, pacing, and all the criteria that you'd judge any other story by. If you can't look past the 'no origin story', well, it just seems like a very narrow viewpoint for someone reviewing furry literature, when, as I have repeatedly said, not every story requires it.
I think there's starting to be some confusion here of two different arguments -- the first argument being, "the anthro element should serve the story in some way," and the second, "there needs to be an explanation of how the furry characters came about." Those are two different concerns. The first is a "why" sort of question ("why are there animal characters being used in this story?") and the second one is more of a "how" ("how did there come to be animal characters in this story world?"). The two concerns may be related sometimes, but the "how" is not always important. The "why" often is, even if it's not directly addressed in the story text itself.
OK, let's flip that. "The Picture of Dorian Gray." Great novel, right? What part of this novel's appeal is generated from having human characters? None. The humans are simply human "because." And that's just it.
I tell my stories with animal-people because I don't feel like using humans. The appeal of these stories come from the plot, the characters who drive it, the conflict. I simply don't understand why any appeal of my story must come from the anthropomorphism of its characters. It's a choice. Why must I use humans to tell my story?
I don't think that argument holds up. Humans are going to be your default option if writing about anything. Why? Because the author is human, everyone he knows is human, every sentient thinking being who will read his story is human. If there were talking dolphins or monkeys that we shared the planet with, you might need to justify using people specifically, but that's not the case. Humans are the author, subject and audience. That's the only justification you need.
If you're going to use furries as your characters, I do think that there should be more than merely as a cosmetic aspect to it. Different species are imbued with different personality traits and mythological significance, they have different diets, different physical strengths. Not finding a way to use that to enrich the story is a missed opportunity.
Good writing uses all the tools at your disposal. Everything you put into a story is there for a reason, is there to drive the characters, the plot, or the point you're trying to make. If you can't think of anything interesting to do with furries (especially if neither the author or the audience is actually an anthropomorphic animal), then why use them?
If you think about it, and come to the conclusion of "just because", that's fine for you and your fans. But a lot of folks who want tightly-written fiction won't accept that as a reason. And I don't think it's unreasonable to want a stronger reason for furry inclusion...especially because it's not that hard to incorporate non-cosmetic/aesthetic aspects of anthro-animals in fiction.
Even if it is "just because," though... why not? Just because you have the tools, doesn't mean you should use them if that isn't what the story calls for. As an example, chase scenes are great, but if you have a car scene in your somber melodrama, it probably wouldn't have a crazy chase scene -- you have the tools and the opportunity, but you don't need to use them. That's the hallmark of great storytelling. It's all about keeping an open mind. Because what directs liking a story? As with any piece of art, these things don't follow a formula. The role of the artist is to play around and figure out what's right. All this rigidity is an ugly thing that has no place in art.
Hmm. I'm not sure I understand your example, but I get your point.
I guess the thing I'm trying to get at here is that we're a mature-enough fandom that we should start striving to make high-quality genre fiction, especially in magazines and periodicals that offer to showcase our work to a wider audience. And in good genre fiction, the setting is generally used to enrich the story, provide flavor for the characters and highlight a certain aspect of our natures or some deeper truth. In science-fiction and fantasy, people aren't astronauts "just because". You don't have magic "just because". There aren't aliens "just because". And you shouldn't use furries "just because".
This isn't being rigid. No one's saying that you have to use anthropomorphic animals in one specific way. But it should mean something, even if it just influences character or changes the way your protagonist interacts with the world around him. You don't even have to have a character's "furriness" be the main point of the story. It just has to be something more than "He's just a regular guy, only he has ears and a tail."
I would even venture to say that people like stories better when a character's anthropomorphism is called out in a deeper way. It's actually fun to think about how a world with furries would be different from our own. Little touches that show the author has thought about that goes a long way towards establishing a well-rounded setting, and makes the story feel more real. It deepens and enriches your writing in a way that we should be striving towards.
If you're a genre writer who wants to improve his craft, then this is the kind of thing you should be thinking about. A craftsman never uses a tool mindlessly, or just because. There's a reason.
To be fair, I DO make a character's anthropomorphism matter -- each species has their own unique build, their unique sense of sight, smell, etc. Mine just don't do it to the extremes that many people seem to require.
Also, and this is what I'm mostly battling against, my characters are furry because I chose to make them so. With doing this, as I said, I play on different species traits, but this isn't done because I feel a need to use those traits. I'm a furry; anthropomorphic characters appeal to me, and so I use them.
So in a nutshell, I have story turns (like smelling a particular scent) happen because the characters are anthro, as opposed to putting anthro characters into a story because I need a specific plot point to happen. Everything is character-driven -- which is how any story should be, in my opinion.
I'm essentially playing Devil's advocate, or rather making my case more extreme to defend those who DO only use furry characters for cosmetic reasons. It's always up to the writer. And my hugest problem is when people see the whole anthro issue and entirely miss the actual story and all of its positive features.
Yes - I think. I point out in my reviews whether there is a point for the characters being anthropomorphized animals, not so much because I think that this is 'wrong', but because this does matter to some readers, and to let readers know so they can consider this in deciding whether or not to read the story.
I consider that there is a difference between stories in which all of the characters are human sized, share a human omnivorous diet, have only a human sense of smell, etc., and those that do factor the different sizes, diets, etc. into account, whether they "explain why the characters are anthro animals" or not. And I do consider it "wrong" when some aspect of a character's animal nature would make the anthropomorphism "not work", such as a unicorn with a long horn wearing T-shirts or other clothing that are pulled over the head, or anthro birds with big wings wearing upper-body clothing that ignores this, or lying on their backs.
I hate Crossie
In a totally irrational way
Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that he's a self-righteous, obnoxious gasbag
Or maybe not, I can't say
Yeah, I noticed that.
You should maybe see a doctor for that, maybe he can subscribe a pill. In the meantime you should probably avoid areas of high crossaffliction activity, to avoid flareups.
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