An Anthropomorphic Century To Launch at RainFurrest

An Anthropomorphic Century COMP

Fred Patten’s sf anthology An Anthropomorphic Century will be published on September 24 and released at the RainFurrest 2015 convention, in Seattle on September 24-27. The book can be ordered from FurPlanet.

Patten has selected 20 short stories and novelettes published from 1909 to 2008.

  • Tobermory, by Saki (1909).
  • Dr. Lu-mie, by Clifton B. Kruse (1934).
  • The Blue Giraffe, by L. Sprague de Camp (1939).
  • Barney, by Will Stanton (1951).
  • Expendable, by Philip K. Dick (1953).
  • The Conspirators, by James White (1954).
  • Sic Transit…?  A Shaggy Hairless-Dog Story, by Steven Utley & Howard Waldrop (1976).
  • Crow’s Curse, by Michael H. Payne (1991).
  • Nine Lives to Live, by Sharyn McCrumb (1992).
  • Vole, by John Gregory Betancourt (1994).
  • Choice Cuts, by Edd Vick (1997).
  • Transmutational Transcontinental, by Phil Geusz (1997).
  • Daylight Fading, by Chris Hoekstra (2000) – illustrated by Dark Natasha.
  • The Good Sport, by Bill Kieffer (2001).
  • The Dog Said Bow-Wow, by Michael Swanwick (2001).
  • Cat ‘n’ Mouse, by Steven Millhauser (2004).
  • Pig Paradise, by Scott Bradfield (2004).
  • Sergeant Chip, by Bradley Denton (2004).
  • Gordon, the Self-Made Cat, by Peter S. Beagle (2005).
  • The Wishing Tree, by Renee Carter Hall (2008).

The price is $19.95.  321 pages.  Cover by Mark Brill.

2015 Anthropomorphics Recommended Reading List

Image by EosFoxx

Image by EosFoxx

The Anthropomorphics Literature and Arts Association (ALAA), which administers the annual Ursa Major Awards, has updated the 2015 Anthropomorphics Recommended Reading List to include the titles recommended by furry fans through August 8. The list is used by fans to nominate in the next year’s Awards.

All fans are invited to recommend worthwhile anthropomorphic works in eleven categories (motion pictures, dramatic short films or broadcasts, novels, short fiction, other literary works, graphic stories, comic strips, magazines, published illustrations, websites, and games) first published during 2015 that are not already on the list.

Send your recommendations to recommended@ursamajorawards.org, and read the List to see what other fans have recommended.

Nominations for the 2015 Ursa Major Awards, in the same eleven categories, will open on January 14, 2016 (the first day of Further Confusion 2016) and will be accepted until February 28. Don’t miss this opportunity to nominate. And don’t forget to vote when the polls open on March 15.

[Thanks to Fred Patten for the story.]

Ursa Major Awards Voting Closes

The 2014 Ursa Major Awards voting has concluded. Fred Patten reports 2,851 votes were cast this year as participation rebounded after several years in decline — sinking from 1,782 votes in 2012 to 1,113 votes in 2013, and 856 votes in 2014.

The results will be announced during an awards ceremony at Morphicon 2015 in Columbus, Ohio on April 30 – May 3.

For Further Consideration…

The Furry Future cover COMPThe Furry Future: 19 Possible Prognostications; Edited by Fred Patten, Fur Planet Productions, January 2015; trade paperback $19.95 (445 pages). Retails on Amazon for $17.56, but the Kindle edition is $8 even.

Review by Taral Wayne: What is a book?  That question seems either too elementary or too profound to be answered by me.  Nevertheless, the question cannot be evaded while trying to review this particular book.

Its editor, Fred Patten, sent it to me for a review.  Fred has about as many oars in the water as the average trireme, and furry fandom is only one of those small ponds into which Fred puts his greatest effort.  He has edited and published five or six books along the same lines as The Furry Future, as well as on other subjects.

Is The Furry Future a book?  Well, it was published …

But what is a book?  To my knowledge, Fred’s books are either very-small-press publications, or printed “on demand” through Amazon or Lulu, and as such, I suspect, only reach a microscopic niche audience.  Modern desktop publishing has been hailed as a democratic revolution in literature … but it has also been condemned as a breakdown in a well-tested system that judged material on its merits before it was made available to the public.  Now anyone can publish a book.  Anyone can be an author.  Having a book in print may now not mean a heck of a lot.

On the whole, though, I found the stories more professional than I expected.  There were one or two dogs … and in one case I mean that literally.  That particular story said much about the author that I had already suspected, and was not at all pleased to see confirmed in print.  Other stories were mere wish-fulfillment fantasies.  As well, human intolerance toward “furries” appeared repeatedly, rendering it a mere cliché.  But three or four of the stories actually seemed to have reached a professional level.

There are 19 stories, written by 19 different authors.  It is not very clear where the stories are from – I presume they are collected from a variety of sources of fan fiction, but perhaps some were written especially for this anthology. They have at least one thing in common: some or all of the characters in these stories are anthropomorphic.  They run the gamut from talking cartoons to genetically spliced hybrids.  Technically, The Furry Future is a theme anthology, no different from collections on the theme of exploring the planet Jupiter, or if the Confederacy had won the American Civil War.  But where other theme anthologies explore different facets of science fiction or fantasy, The Furry Future is not aimed at the average science fiction or fantasy reader, but at a tiny niche audience called “furry fandom.”

I don’t think it has much purpose beyond preaching to the choir.

Each story dwells on one rationale or another for why the future must contain talking animal-people, without much benefit of logic.  Why are animal hybrids always better than ordinary humans, for instance?  Does not the superior olfactory sense of a dog also come with impaired colour vision, for instance?  And why do dog people not sniff their environment – and each other – in a manner we mere Hominins would find distracting … if not downright revolting?  Would it not make more sense to simply graft the gene for better hearing and smell into the human genome, without also cursing the offspring with tails, fur and muzzles?  Or, if it is cheap labour that is the justification for engineering animal-people, why would it be necessary to breed so many different species of them, and not just one?

Most of these stories were, in fact, constructed around the anthropomorphic idea … anthropomorphism is a given, not to be questioned and does not develop naturally from the story.   This is so much the case that one or two of the stories reduce to little more than big expository lumps, arguing the inevitability of “furries.”

“A Bedsheet for a Cape,” by Nathanael Gass, for instance, took a very unusual angle on the subject that I would spoil if I revealed too much about it.

“Trinka and the Robot,” by Ocean Tigrox also stood out, I thought, as did “Lunar Cavity,” by Mary E. Lowd.   Curiously, both were very much like any SF story I might have found in Amazing or Fantastic in the late 1950s or early ‘60s.  “Lunar Cavity,” in fact, was about an extraterrestrial race … and as such, I would argue falls outside the bounds of this anthology!

“The Darkness of Dead Stars,” by Dwale also would not have seemed out of place in a 1961 issue of Galaxy.

“Field Research,” by M.C.A. Hogarth, began well but seemed to lose its way, and came to a weaker ending than I thought it deserved.

“The Curators,” by T.S. McNally, also might have been a fine story but for a weak ending.

I did, in fact, make notes on each story as I read it.  But nineteen is a lot of stories to recall in detail, even with notes, so I was sure from the start that I was not going to review every story individually.  Instead, I would meditate on larger ideas.

One of those ideas is about the nature of published fiction.

Why is it that stories that would have been perfectly at home in a professional SF magazine in 1962 probably could not be sold to a prozine today?  Make no mistake about it … although some of the stories in The Furry Future were written well enough for publication by the standards of 1962, I doubt very much they would find a home in any of 2015’s limited number of paying markets.

I wondered long about why this should be – was it a mere prejudice against “furry” stories?  No doubt the signal from The Furry Future is geeky enough to deter almost any slush-pile reader.  But, as I noted, some of the stories entirely lack the obsessive quality of most anthropomorphic fan fiction, so they must be noncommercial for some other reason.  Far more likely, it is precisely because the stories would be so at home in a 1962 prozine.

To generalize, these are stories of asteroid miners, holstered blasters, sub-space and starships.  Even when there is up-to-date computer science involved, they just feel old-fashioned.  But the science fiction genre has moved on in the last 50 years, and not just stylistically.  The genre has left those ideas behind and occupies a more nuanced space.  For the printed word, a different vision of what the future might bring is in fashion.  There’s no going back.

Unless, of course, you resort to Lulu or Amazon to print it for you.  In this brave new world of democratic literature, anyone can be a publisher or writer.  That is no guarantee that anyone else will ever read your words, however.

Should you take The Furry Future seriously enough to buy and read it?  In good conscience, I can’t really say, “yes” … but not altogether “no,” either.  If you are a furry fan, you will find much to enjoy in the collection … much that even deserves to be enjoyed.  I hope that all such readers give serious thought to buying a copy.  But if you are like most readers of modern science fiction and fantasy, you will quickly grow tired of stories about talking-animal people who have so little original to say about anything but their own anthropomorphism.  These modern readers can find an almost infinite number of more suitable books to read, and shouldn’t waste their time on The Furry Future. 

Perhaps they should re-read a Cordwainer Smith collection containing “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell” instead.  For that matter, it would be a good idea if furry readers also did just that.

2014 Ursa Major Awards Voting Opens

Image by EosFoxx

Image by EosFoxx

Voting for the 2014 Ursa Major Awards has commenced. Everyone is invited to vote on the Best Anthropomorphic Literature and Art of the past calendar year at the Ursa Major Awards website. Just click on “Voting for 2014.”

The final ballot is composed of the eligible works that received the most nominations.

The award’s 11 categories are:

  • Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
  • Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short or Series
  • Best Anthropomorphic Novel
  • Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction
  • Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work
  • Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story
  • Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip
  • Best Anthropomorphic Magazine
  • Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration
  • Best Anthropomorphic Game
  • Best Anthropomorphic Website

“You do not have to vote in every category,” reminds Fred Patten, Secretary of the Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Association (ALAA). And he asks, “Please vote in only those categories in which you feel knowledgeable.”

Voting ends April 15. The winners will be announced in Columbus, Ohio at Morphicon 2015 over the April 30-May 3 weekend.

Patten’s History of Furry Publishing

Genre historian Fred Patten has posted two fine articles about furry fandom and today’s top furry art and fiction publishers at Dogpatch Press.

rowrbrazzle090x

“The History of Furry Publishing, Part One: Beginnings” dates the creation of furry fandom to the mid-1970s:

This is to some extent a “define your terms” question. Furry fandom got started, depending upon whom you ask, with the amateur press associations (APAs) Vootie and Rowrbrazzle. Vootie, “The Fanzine of the Funny Animal Liberation Front”, run by Reed Waller & Ken Fletcher of Minneapolis s-f fandom, lasted from April 1976 to February 1983; 39 bi-monthly issues. Vootie self-destructed when its Official Editors, Waller & Fletcher, grew too disinterested to continue it any longer. A member, Marc Schirmeister of Los Angeles, tried to keep it going, failed, and started its replacement, the quarterly Rowrbrazzle, beginning in February 1984. Rowrbrazzle was designed so that, when the Official Editor steps down or is unable to continue, another member is selected to replace him. Rowrbrazzle is still going after thirty years; the current O.E. is William Earl Haskell of Houston, Texas. So it’s technically a current furry publication.

I’ve been fortunate to publish art by Schirmeister, Waller and Fletcher in my own fanzines over the years.

“The History of Furry Publishing, Part Two: Current Publishers” lists eight publishers producing work of interest to furry fans, such as Sofawolf Press.

Sofawolf Press, founded by Tim Susman and Jeff Eddy and currently run by Jeff Eddy, originally from his homes in East Falmouth, Massachusetts and later St. Paul, Minnesota, and now from a warehouse in the latter, was the first really successful furry publishing company in the U.S. Sofawolf became official in October 1999 as a sole proprietorship, with its first publication, the furry general fiction magazine Anthrolations #1, in January 2000…

Both articles are richly illustrated with zine and book covers.

Furry Future Arrives This Month

The Furry Future cover COMPThe Furry Future; 19 Possible Prognostications, edited by Fred Patten, is launching at Further Confusion 2015 in San Jose over the January 15-19 weekend, 2015.  The book can be pre-ordered online from FurPlanet.

The Furry Future contains 19 short stories and novelettes by authors from six countries (Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Singapore, and the U.S.) depicting various ways in which mankind may bioengineer one or more furry species in the future.  To be mankind’s partners?  Servants?  Or superiors?  Read The Furry Future and see.

The table of contents follows the jump.

Continue reading

The Planet: One Last Landing

The delightfully inconclusive debate here on the topic of whether the Scienceers or the Eastbay Science Correspondence Club was the first sf club led to a discovery I am happy to share with you.

From Guy H. Lillian’s The Zine Dump I learned Ned Brooks had scanned a photocopy of first issue of The Planet, published by the Scienceers in July 1930. Ned kindly sent the images to me and I have uploaded them here.

A squib on page 3 says the Scienceers published meeting notices every Friday in the New York Evening World, confirming Allan Glasser’s memory about the weekly meeting schedule. Unfortunately, I was denied the minor pleasure of locating one of those ads because the paper has only been digitized through 1922.

As for Aubrey MacDermott and the Eastbay Science Correspondence Club, Fred Patten wrote in comments about his conversation with Cliff Amsbury, one of the other members: “He said that, yeah, MacDermott and other S.F.-area teenage s-f fans often got together in 1928, so they were first. But those were all one-shot social meetings. They did not hold club meetings.”

MacDermott only claimed they met, not that they met on a regular schedule. Bill Higgins’ jibe, “Which is more fannish?” hits the nail on the head.

The Scienceers had more traits of the prototype sf club. Yet the Eastbay group identified itself as a club and met socially in 1928 more than once. Depending on your preferred criteria, either club could claim to be first. And since 99% of you are already picking the Scienceers, there is your official wisdom-of-crowds answer…

P.S. Read The Planet’s science fiction quiz on page 2. I used to consider myself a trivia master but I scored zero out of 10…

Planet1p1Planet1p2Planet1p3

Furry Footnote In Flaunt

Flaunt COVER-471x614Fred Patten and furry fandom got a mention in the November issue of Flaunt, a high-end glossy fashion magazine that sells for $15.95 a copy.

Blogger “Patch O’Furr” at Dogpatch Press paged through their special Nine Lives issue that profiles cats and the Haute Monde, including furless sphinx cats and trendy Cat Cafés around the world, to find —

…Amidst all the cats, mentions in tiny type on page 81 of Mary E. Lowd as a furry fiction writer specializing in “cats in space”; “furry fandom founder” Fred Patten about what furry fandom is really like – Anthrocon, and furry conventions and other meetings around the world like Zillercon, an annual winter furry skiing event at a lodge in the Austrian or Swiss Alps (Patten says that most furry fans prefer to identify with feral animals, but they have cats as pets); and a profile of Dennis Avner (“Stalking Cat”), who had himself transformed surgically into a big cat (tiger).

Apparently the coverage passed muster with Patch, who has a long memory for any slighting description of furry fandom by mainstream media and demonstrates it by reciting half a dozen examples, like the one from Vanity Fair that reported furry cons are about “fans in fursuits having nonstop sex together.”

Just a suggestion, but people who want their corner of fandom treated with more respect don’t help themselves by giving a signal boost to ancient material. The whiff of resentment encourages the idea there’s some reason not to ignore the report.

Call For Anthropomorphic Listings

Image by EosFoxx

Image by EosFoxx

By Fred Patten: There are less than two months left to recommend titles for the Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Association’s 2014 Recommended Anthropomorphics List. See the Ursa Major Awards website for the current 2014 Recommended List. The next update will be on November 30. If you have read, seen, or played anything furry-fantasy related that you liked, that was first published or released during 2014, and it is not already on the Recommended List, please recommend it yourself before the end of the year.

Nominations for the 2014 Ursa Major Awards will open on January 15, 2015 (the first day of Further Confusion 2015), and will remain open until February 28, 2015. Fans often use the previous year’s Recommended Anthropomorphics List as a guide to what is worth nominating. If there is anything that you consider worth recommending, don’t wait for someone else to recommend it. Speak up!