[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]
Hello All, Melanie here!
First things first, we have received an email from furry fantasy writer, Silverfox. It’s great to know that he’s safe for now, but I can’t believe that he’s about to do…what he’s about to do.
I love being a writer. It’s the hardest and best thing in the world, but I don’t think I could ever make the kind of decision he’s making.
When last Silverfox wrote us, he was off to rendezvous with a band of dangerous fox warriors with his enemy the Neutral Ninja. He had asked that Gladys (which is us, apparently) tell the others, in case of his demise, to complete his unfinished work of fantasy called The Wile of Herindor which is about “a tribe of foxes searching for a mythic fox hero lost to time.” I don’t know about you but I’m kinda upset that he hasn’t finished it because I kind of want to take a look at that story.
A lot of things can change in two weeks, or two days, as it seems that a day in the world our friends are currently lost in is a week in our own world.
I’ve taken the liberty of adding links to his email for your convenience, should you need them.
Without further ado…
From: Silverfox Firepaw
Subject: A Goodbye
Several days ago, when X asked me to join her and investigate a world she discovered in her closet, I knew that if I said yes, something about my life would change. I thought maybe we would get a little closer as friends or maybe we would stop being friends altogether. I had no way of knowing that I would be writing what I am about to write, but please know that I have never felt so hopeful and so sure over a decision.
Shortly, I shall detail the events that have led to my decision. First, I must begin with saying goodbye.
I am not returning to our world. I will stay here with the ones I have met. Know that this decision is a permanent one. When last I wrote you, I detailed that I had been rescued from the cages of the Dark Armies’ wagon train by a person who could shape-shift into a rock. That person was M I L F R E D—it’s not his real name, but it is what is now scratched on his forehead thanks to Writer X writing it on him with her signature pink pencils while he was in rock form. Painful, no doubt, but everyone calls him that now.
Milfred is the Neutral Ninja, the very soul our Fellowship has sworn to stop. It is he who has been slipping into the homes of Cradensburg residents and stealing autographed first printings of masterworks of fantasy. He has stolen an autographed copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Elfstones of Shannara, A Wizard of Earthsea, Song of Ice and Fire, The Name of the Wind, The Lord of the Rings, Interview With A Vampire, Titus Groan—so many diverse volumes of the Fantastic! He has even stolen a copy of Watership Down. I swore that I would do everything in my power to stop him and return those stolen books back to their rightful owners.
Instead, I am going to assist him.
The Unexpected Portals
You see, the Fellowship had previously believed that the Neutral Ninja was stealing these seminal works to unlock something called MAP—a device that would reveal the hidden locations of the Relics of Writing—which X calls the Anti-Horcruxes. We had also erroneously believed that the Neutral Ninja was from our world.
We were wrong on both counts.
Milfred, the Neutral Ninja, is from whatever world this is inside X’s closet. And I’m no longer sure this world is actually in X’s closet. Rather, I believe that X’s closet has a portal in it that leads to this world which X named Writeria.
In fact, it is one of many portals that have opened to this world. The snow, the Dark Armies, and the Snow Pants Wars have all come from other worlds through rifts torn in the fabric of reality. It is destroying their world. Milfred aims to take his stolen trunk of books to a place called The Grove of Dreams beyond The Waterfalls of Chasing. The books—which are portals themselves, will be used to divert the portal flows away from this world and send all foreigners and foriegn things back to their origins.
This would include me.
But, soon, it will not.
Rendezvous with the Foxes
Gladys, up until this point I have revealed to you my decision to stay in this world forever, but I have no yet revealed to you why I have come to this decision.
When I last wrote you, I mentioned that Milfred and I were to rendezvous with a scout party of Fox Warriors who flanked us from above and below our mountain path. I had also relayed to you in confidence some days ago that I thought we were being followed by a creature that had fox ears. I had not mentioned this to the others, in part because I did not want to frighten them, but also because I did not trust myself.
You see, a part of me has wanted this place to be Narnia. It’s so close in all the grandest ways: it’s covered in snow as Narnia once had been. It is accessed through a Wardrobe—or, at least Writer X’s walk-in closet. And I had hope that we would meet talking animals or at least Mr. Tumnus.
Gladys, may I confess a little more? I’ve always been mad at other fantasy readers and even more angry at fantasy writers. Why is it that Furry Fiction is treated like it belongs in some juvenile age of interests? Why, when we fantasize and imagine worlds, do we fail to extend that imagination to the living things we share our world with? Why do we call that “growing up”?
I was talking to a Black writer some years ago about her experience as a lover of the genre and as a fantasy writer. She once said to me that it confounded and eventually hurt her when, as a child, she read glorious adventures in wondrous lands but that—of all the wonders the writers could imagine, they could never seem to imagine a hero that looked like her. She felt omitted from reality. And as the industry bit by bit published the occasional fantasy with a Black main character, she noticed that non-Black lovers of fantasy wouldn’t read it. She could read white main characters or other magical races with white features, but the favor was never returned.
This has shifted some and, hopefully, will continue to shift as we learn to live up to the visions and human ideals our genre celebrates. But—and it was not appropriate to say this to her at the time and, even if it had been appropriate, I would not have had the courage to say this out loud, this is how I feel about other animals. Stories about birds, princes trapped as frogs, lion Kings, and Animal Farms are relegated to the realm of fiction for children. It’s not serious fantasy.
If you write characters that are animals, anthropomorphic or not—and it’s not for middle grade readers, you are SOL. I’ve attended critique circles in which other fantasy writers won’t read a piece of fantasy if it’s “furry.” I won’t begin to mention some of the comments I’ve received—or the accusations. I know I’m failing to mention the furry community which boasts some of the most creative and diligent writers, but I suppose I have long been jaded by the relegation of furry fiction—fiction which imagines the very creatures with which we share our planet—off to the margins.
Why I’m Staying
Milfred and the Fox People share this world with a number of other talking species that I have just learned of but never beheld. I wish to meet and learn every one!
But what about my writing? Does leaving my old world also mean leaving behind my identity as a fantasy writer? No! It furthers it!
You see, the Fox Warriors which we have met have welcomed me. At first they were not sure what I am but now conclude that, however I present in my fur suit, I must be what fox people look like in my world. And, in so many ways, that is a correct assumption, albeit figuratively. They have called me, not so much one of their own, but one like them. It feels astonishing to be among the kinds of people I have written about— who welcome me and see me how I wish to be seen.
Yes, there is some dilemma regarding my fur suit. Namely, it’s getting quite dingy and I do not have the ability or desire to clean it with my tongue. I will have to find some way to step away from my new tribe for a day or two to clean and dry my fur suit. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to be amongst my own and maybe, by and by, they can come to accept me without my fur suit.
But before I say more, I should tell you how this decision will help my writing. The fox people are a tall, agile, and courageous race. They are true renaissance beings—fighters and bowmen, magic users (magic, Gladys!), and strategists and—though I have only met about thirty or so of their people, each and every one of them are writers.
Writers of ALL sorts of fantasy—including that fantasy which calls itself Science Fiction! At night, when the quiet feasting is done, each fox retires to their pages to add lines to their latest fantasy work. I was among the group who gathered water and do you know what we discussed while at this most banal of camp tasks? Characterization! More specifically, how to characterize species in ways that do not rob them of personhood.
My heart is singing! And beneath that I do have sadness because I will miss X and Tryxy, wise #bestkitten and Tod Boadkins and my furry critique group at home. I’ll miss my old job as a technical writer and I’ll miss my old life, but this new one will be a life of dreams.
Before I help Milfred close the rifts at the Grove of Dreams, I will visit the Waterfall of Chasing which citizens say is actually called Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls (a complicated dynamic—apparently sound bytes from streaming radio and TV in our world penetrate their reality and rob people and places of their original names. It masks the individual or place with snatches of song and phrases like Ohhhhh, Snap! and Give it To Me Baby and her consort Uh Huh, Uh Huh. After a time, no one is able to remember the original name. Yet another reason the portals must be closed lest we all end up being lyrics to a Backstreet Boys song.)
At the Waterfall of Chasing, one can pass through the magical waters and leave behind their old destiny to embrace a new one. I will pass through them to leave behind my destiny in our world and begin my destiny in this one as a Fox person. I may even discover that my fur suit is replaced by the real thing—which would be good and be quite a relief for I truly fear that they will lose trust for me if they discover what is underneath.
Gladys, it is truly wonderful to be accepted for what you really are. Tomorrow at dawn we travel with the Fox Warriors back to the hidden stash of snow pants, and then, on to Destiny!
Please send my love to the others. Perhaps it is better that they don’t know of my decision. I don’t want them to worry. And do not tell them about my WIP, the Wile of Herindor, I will finish it myself.
Now, I must go. It is writing time in the camp and I’ve agreed to give feedback on about thirty manuscripts before dawn. Know that I do treasure the others and I believe all their writing dreams will come true if they persist. This is mine.
“writing is weaving real worlds from invisible threads”