Review: 'Dissident Signals' edited by NightEyes DaySpring and Slip-Wolf
Dissident Signals is a compilation of post-apocalyptic furry fiction published by FurPlanet and edited by NightEyes DaySpring and Slip-Wolf. The individual stories are (very) loosely linked by short paragraphs, written by Slip-Wolf, that relate all the stories as broadcasts intended for any survivors of the ruined world to use to understand what went wrong and how to rebuild. It's an idea which would've been more effective had all the stories been set in the same universe but which does serve as a nice bookending device.
There is a lot of variety in the stories themselves: while most go with a science fiction premise, others include aspects of magic or worlds that barely differ from our own. There are stories where humans and furries coexist (to a certain extent), worlds which are completely furred, and even one story where all the characters are human and the furry aspect comes in a very unique way. Despite all the variety in settings, ideas and originality, nearly all of them are excellently written, though most are quite bleak.
There are a few stories which really stood out to me and which I would like to highlight for various reasons. I will present them in the order in which they appear in the compilation.
Losing Yourself by George Squares
This is a fascinating story that is completely furry but without any actual furries. I will let you discover what that means. Apart from one of the most original takes on the idea, it also offered a very good critique of politics, how we see (or don't see) others and the importance of what metrics we use in society.
A Road of Dust and Honey by Searska GreyRaven
This is unique in the compilation in that it includes a touch of magic in the world. While I wouldn't say it offers too much in the way of political commentary, it is a very cute and touching story which I really enjoyed reading.
The Preacherman by Stephen M. Coghlan
As the title implies, this story is heavy on the religious content; particularly a mix of religion and justice as our main character is in jail and waiting for his judgement. If you are interested in theology and the idea that we are all flawed then there will be plenty here for you. I was more interested in the way that justice was served in the world both in terms of selecting a neutral jury and how god's will was manifested in the spin of a revolver's chamber.
Photographs by Televassi
Photographs is a story about the power of symbols, of iconic leaders, of mistakes, compromises and love. I think perhaps this story resonates with me because I have seen some of what it describes in my own home country. Our main character is kept apart from the one he loves because of their differences, helped lead part of the struggle against the government, was the subject of an iconic photograph and eventually compromised with his opponents. Did he make the right decision? Did some of his followers feel betrayed? Did he sell out? These are the questions that "Photographs" explores.
Not All Dogs by Mary E. Lowd
Much like In a Dog's World, her previous novel which I reviewed, this is set in a world after humans have vanished and cats and dogs have become anthropomorphic but which feels contemporaneous. The main character here is a dog; married to a cat and father of a litter of kittens. He sees dogs as good, but when a dog cop pulls a gun on his kittens, he begins to see the world a bit more clearly. This is an obvious metaphor for the police violence in the US that falls disproportionately on black citizens and, because of the strong connection to the present, is, despite the relatively mild content compared to some stories, probably the hardest to actually read.
Aside from these five stories which I consider to be the best in the collection, there are a further eleven stories which should not be dismissed. They are almost all of excellent quality and examine many pressing issues such as the rise of AI, environmental degradation and how we should treat those who think differently from the rest of society. These ideas all matter and, unless we want to live a dystopian future, we should give them some thought. I would highly recommend Dissident Signals as a starting point.