Art Spot: Steamcycle by Leo Magna

Steamcycle by Leo Magna
Steamcycle by Leo Magna

Originally a $10 sketch, this piece has a lot of personal meaning for me, as it inspired Fagin from Arclight Adventures, which led me to write Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, a novel which I love and am still determined to see published, dammit! 😉

-The Gneech

The PTBAF Art Spot highlights some of the best in furry art, selected more-or-less at random by our staff. PTBAF supports the rights of artists and creators and our policy is to only post items by permission or otherwise consistent with applicable copyright laws. If your work has been used erroneously or you have any concerns, please contact us immediately.

Furry Event Calendar Taking Submissions Now!

Anthrocon 2017 Fursuit Parade Photo, courtesy AnthroCon.org
Anthrocon 2017 Fursuit Parade Photo, courtesy AnthroCon.org

Starting this month, ProudToBeAFurry.org will be hosting a calendar of upcoming events in the furry community, and we would like your input! Conventions, local meets, registration or submission deadlines, whatever it may be, we’re interested! Drop us a line via submissions@proudtobeafurry.org with the event, date, location (if applicable), and any other pertinent information. We’ll also post summaries of upcoming events periodically, to help everyone keep on track.

Let’s have some fun!

-The Gneech

Roar 9 Furry Literature Anthology Submissions Due

Roar Volume 7 Cover, Courtesy of FurPlanet
Roar Volume 7 Cover, Courtesy of FurPlanet

FurPlanet’s ROAR anthology series of general audience furry stories will soon be closing submissions for Volume Nine, with the theme of “Resistance.” As editor Mary Lowd states in the submission call post:

We can be generous in how we interpret “resistance,” but all stories must be furry. That means an anthropomorphic animal figure should be significantly featured in your story — it could be anthropomorphic in body or only intelligence. We’ll consider any type of furry fiction from secret life of animals to fox in Starbucks — as long as it’s excellent. Though, the editor does have a preference for stories where the animal nature of the characters matters — if the reader can’t even remember the species of the characters by the end of the story, then that’s not a good sign.

We are interested in underrepresented voices. If you have personal experience relevant to your story, feel free to mention it in your cover letter. For instance, if your story is about a space unicorn and you are a space unicorn (or a research biologist who studies space unicorns), let us know. We are not interested in stories that involve rape in any way.

Details on the submission process and payment rates can be found at MaryLowd.com.

-The Gneech

Art Spot: Echo the Bat, by Myke Greywolf

Echo the Bat, by Myke Greywolf
Echo the Bat, by Myke Greywolf

Always love seeing the ways furry artists (including fursuit creators) solve anatomical “problems” in art, and bat wings are always a challenge. Clearly Echo here has it well in… hand?

-The Gneech

The PTBAF Art Spot highlights some of the best in furry art, selected more-or-less at random by our staff. PTBAF supports the rights of artists and creators and our policy is to only post items by permission or otherwise consistent with applicable copyright laws. If your work has been used erroneously or you have any concerns, please contact us immediately.

“My Furry Identity” by Kyell Gold

Kyell Gold banner
Via KyellGold.com

This article was written by Kyell Gold for his blog. He has been kind enough to let us reprint it. Thanks, fox! ;D

One of my college friends transitioned from male to female a couple years ago. One of the things she told me as she was in the midst of her transition was that when someone called her “she,” it gave her a good feeling, a little thrill. Among the many small and large details she shared of her transition, this one stood out to me, and through it I got a much better feeling of what she was going through.

Transition is a process (loosely speaking, and with the disclaimer that this is my understanding from the words of others) of asserting your external identity to match your internal one. But our external identity is not only defined by us; it’s confirmed and reinforced by the people around us, in intentional and unintentional interactions. We have only a limited amount of control over those interactions, and that feels really untenable. We can tell people what pronouns to use, how to affirm our identity, and so on, but ultimately (as we have seen in countless examples over the last few years), it’s up to those people whether to follow our wishes or not. So any example of someone affirming your new identity, especially unsolicited, feels very good.

The reason this detail stuck out to me is that I could identify with it. I’m not transgender, but that same feeling of having an internal identity somewhat at odds with what is presented to the world, is at the core of many in the furry community.

Let me hasten to say that I don’t mean to compare the experience of coming out as transgender to that of being furry. Transgender people face a great many more challenges; gender identity is so ingrained in our culture that it’s difficult just to get people to consider that someone’s gender identity might be different from the gender they were assigned at birth, and gender plays a role in so many parts of our culture that it’s impossible to avoid. The reason I used this example is that people who are aware of the struggle of being transgender understand the idea and the feeling of someone’s gender identity being affirmed by outside society, and I wanted to use that particular aspect of being trans to highlight something that most outsiders don’t understand about furries.

An outsider’s view of furries, as presented by the media, often focuses on people who dress up in costumes, or the activities in the fandom–artwork, writing, charity. By so doing, they miss the point of what the furry community is about for many of its members. When I was asked to describe the furry fandom to someone outside of it who was curious about it, their first question was, “Why is your avatar that of the animal?” (referring to my Twitter icon, one of many illustrations of my red fox fursona).

I hadn’t thought before that what we consider a basic cornerstone of our fandom could be so mysterious to an outsider. Of *course* we use our fursonas as avatars. That’s how we represent ourselves to others in our community. But it’s deeper than that: that’s how we represent ourselves to ourselves.

For some people, I think, choosing an avatar upon entering the fandom is a little like picking teams in laser tag: you run for whatever color your friends are. But for many of us, the species of our fursona matters deeply. Animals are imbued with a good deal of meaning through our culture, from Aesop’s Fables through Le Roman de Renard and countless Disney movies, and most people know a few basic facts about a lot of animals. It’s not hard to find an animal you identify with; even people outside the fandom can come up with an answer if asked, “What kind of animal would you be?” (Try it. You’ll get some amusing answers.)

In fact, I use that question to explain the furry fandom to outsiders sometimes. I’ll ask them, wait for the answer, and then tell them, “Furries are just people who have thought about that question a lot.”

We think about that and we share those thoughts with each other. And here maybe you’ll see what we have in common with my friend from the beginning of this post. I think that if I were an animal, I’d be a fox. There are a number of reasons for that: as a kid, I was never physically adept, but I got by on my wits–these are cultural stereotypes of foxes. I’ve been uprooted and uprooted myself a bunch of times, and always adapted to new surroundings–and the red fox is the most adaptable of carnivores, successful on multiple continents. Foxes in mythology are crafty but often not malicious, an ethos I identify with.

I'm a fox!

So this image of myself as a fox isn’t just picking a mascot for my life. It’s tied up in how I view myself as a person and how I want to be viewed by others. And when my friends and other furries say, “Hey, fox,” to me, I get that little thrill of affirmation that other people recognize the identity I’ve chosen and acknowledge it.

Several of my friends have told me privately that they feel the same way. I once made an impression on a friend who is a husky by telling her, “You *are* a husky,” so much so that she wrote about that small moment in her recap of the convention. And this, I think, is the part of the furry fandom that so many in the media miss, that so many outsiders don’t see. We don’t pick our animal avatars just for fun; we don’t wear expensive costumes because we like dressing up. We wear badges at conventions with illustrations of our fursonas or characters we relate to; we get costumes made of them; all of this is so that we can represent to the world this internal identity that is so important to us. Why it’s important is a whole other matter, maybe as impenetrable to outsiders as an unfamiliar gender identity or cultural identity. But the why shouldn’t matter as much as the fact that it *is* important.

Happy Holiday Season from ProudToBeAFurry.org!

[MD] Winter by Wildering on DeviantArt
[MD] Winter by Wildering on DeviantArt

Alas, your ever-loving blue-eyed Editor-in-Chief (that’s me) got pummeled by life changes this month– new house, new job, and of course Midwest Furfest, so posts have been a bit sparse here.

But let’s talk about Furfest 2017, shall we? It was huge this year! From Kodi’s summary post:

In 2017 we had a little over 7,000 attendees on-site, and we were incredibly humbled to see over 8,700 folks attend this year’s event from the United States, Canada and all over the world to help make this year’s event very special.

For those at the closing ceremonies, it was pretty obvious that our executive team on stage (myself included) had a hard time keeping ourselves composed. With so many additional investments in new things like the convention center, and in building a solid ‘back-office’ foundation for the organization, we weren’t sure how much we would be able to donate to our charity.

But that didn’t matter, because our community shined very bright, and demonstrated again to the world that while we may be silly and creative, we are also spectacularly generous.

During closing ceremonies alone, the audience rushed up to donate over $12,500 – providing a total donation of $85,000 to C.R.I.S.P. The funds will be used by the charity to help people all over the Chicagoland area help keep their animals; offsetting financial challenges due to illness, injury or other situations that could otherwise cause an animal to be sent to a shelter or euthanized.

Of course, AnthroCon will probably leap-frog over MFF in attendance this coming summer– that’s how these things go– but either way it’s amazing to see furry fans coming out in such numbers to do such amazing things at a time when so many people are stressed and doing their best to cope. I was at the closing ceremonies myself, and I can report first hand that there was a lot of love and the best of humanity in that room.

Rock on, furries. 2018 is going to be amazing!

-The Gneech

Seeya Next Year, Orange by Kenket

'Seeya next year, orange.' by Kenket
‘Seeya next year, orange.’ by Kenket

What is there to say here that isn’t obvious just from looking at the picture?

-The Gneech

The PTBAF Art Spot highlights some of the best in furry art, selected more-or-less at random by our staff. PTBAF supports the rights of artists and creators and our policy is to only post items by permission or otherwise consistent with applicable copyright laws. If your work has been used erroneously or you have any concerns, please contact us immediately.

Interview with Kyell Gold, by LadyRowyn

Kyell Gold banner
Via KyellGold.com

This article was written by Lady Rowyn for her blog. She has been kind enough to let us reprint it. Thank you, Lady Rowyn!

Kyell Gold is one of my fellow authors in the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle. He kindly agreed to let me interview him, which I was very excited to do because I’d just read and greatly enjoyed his book, Black Angel. I had many questions for him!

You’ve had a long career as both author and editor! Please share some of the highlights.

I feel like my career is full of highlights. I’ve been invited to a number of conventions as a guest in places like Dallas, Minneapolis, Seattle, Toronto, Berlin, and Melbourne and Gold Coast, Australia. I’ve met some truly remarkable people, and conducted a number of panels. I’ve gotten countless letters from people whose lives have been touched by my books, and each one of those is special. Making the decision to move to writing full-time was a highlight, and teaching at the first residential writing workshop for the furry fandom was another.

There’s something of a spectrum in furry fiction, from “these characters could have been human but are furry for aesthetic purposes” (like Disney’s Robin Hood) to “this story would make no sense if the characters were human” (such as Richard Adam’s Watership Down). Where do you feel your work fits in? Is furriness more plot-critical in some of your books than others?

I’m probably more on the Robin Hood end of the scale, but I always try to work some aspect of the furriness into the plot of the books. Meg’s story, because she’s an otter, incorporates a lot of water imagery. Green Fairy, the first book in the series, starts with a wolf telling his family that he doesn’t want to eat meat anymore.

Two real-world religions figure significantly in Black Angel: vodou and Christianity. What led you to choose those religions in this story? What research did you do to help you portray them?

Christianity is what I’m familiar with, having grown up in it. Like any dominant religion, it is vulnerable to having its principles twisted to create an inequal society. In this case, I was taking the example of some small groups who use Christian texts to justify restricting women’s rights. Vodou I chose for the opposite reason: it’s a misunderstood religion that puts women in positions of power– the most famous practitioner is Marie Laveau.

To research fundamentalist Christianity, I looked through contemporary news articles (sadly). For vodou, I walked through a traveling museum exhibit, read two books on late 1800s New Orleans, and visited modern day New Orleans to see a voodoo temple and talk to a voodoo priestess (as part of a tour of haunted New Orleans, so I had to take that with a grain of salt, but it was valuable).

One of the characters in Black Angel self-medicates her depression with alcohol and pot, neither of which she can acquire legally. These are fraught subjects, and I am curious to hear more of your thought process on making both self-medication and depression part of the story, and the way you chose to present them.

Depression is something that over the last decade I’ve become more educated about and aware of. I believe in the power of demystifying through fiction– part of why I like writing about gay relationships is that many people don’t have an established idea of what those relationships are like, and many gay people don’t have a lot of representation in fiction. I wrote a short story about depression a while back that won an Ursa Major Award (“How To Get Through The Day”), and I thought it would be good to revisit the subject with more education and feel for the complexity of it. I’d like people suffering from depression to feel that they’re not alone, even if their company is a fictional character.

As for the alcohol and pot use, well, that’s something that teens do. I don’t advocate it, but neither does it feel right to completely ignore it. I tried to present their use in a balanced light. Ultimately, neither is really a good solution to the character’s problem.

I love your use of mixed first and third-person, and past and present tense in Black Angel. One doesn’t see those mixed often, and seldom to such good effect. How did you come up with it?

I’ve always liked playing around with points of view and ways to tell a story. When I wrote the first book in the series, I was trying to meet the challenge of melding a historical narrative with a modern-day one, and I wanted them to be stylistically distinct. The historical narrative– one of them– was supposed to be an autobiography of sorts, and so having it in first person made sense. I kept that theme going in the rest of the series– each of the books has multiple narratives with different points of view. For Black Angel, in fact, the main narrative was originally in third person, as the main ones were in the previous books, and I was struggling with which of the side narratives to put in first person, because neither felt right. It seems strange that it didn’t occur to me until I’d already written several chapters that Meg should be the one in first person, because it felt so natural when I switched it.

The book blurb on StoryBundle made me think that Meg’s sexuality would be something like “girl assumes she is straight and then later figures she’s either bi or lesbian.” I found the actual text is much more nuanced and interesting than that, and would like to invite you to elaborate on Meg’s theme of “really, I’m 19, I have done research, and I don’t actually know how I feel” and the way most of her friends push/encourage her to Make a Choice or at least Try Things. What drew you to this subject?

Any gay person over 30 has probably been told at least once in their life that they’re not really gay, it’s just a phase, they just need to meet the right man/woman, etc. Bisexual people are told that they’re just gay and in denial. Mainstream America’s repertoire of knowledge about sexual orientation is expanding, but there are still people who, when they encounter something outside of it, will try to slot it into an existing box. A trans friend of mine made a really important distinction between two behaviors from friends of hers. Some of them would tell her what she was going through; the others asked her and listened to her story. I think that’s really important, and all of us fall into that trap. Often it’s out of the best of intentions: we see someone confused and we want to help them. But we have to listen to them articulate the kind of help they actually want, the kind that will be of the most benefit to them.

Black Angel has several interior illustrations by your cover artist, Rukis. Do you regard the artwork as integral to the story, or a way to help readers visualize the characters/setting, or something else?

With furry fiction, illustrations really help readers visualize the characters. As you noted, there are a lot of different variations in the way people create their characters, and rather than awkward descriptions that rely on referents outside the world of the story, it’s nice to have an illustration to put the image into the reader’s mind.

What furry and/or fantasy authors have you found inspirational or formative in your work?

Madeleine L’Engle was the first fantasy author I read, and I read her work over and over again. Her feel for genuine characters and the way human challenges are at the core of any story have been inspirations my whole life. Andre Norton was another author whose works I devoured. Most recently, I’ve found David Mitchell an inspiration.

In the furry fandom, my friends and colleagues Watts Martin, Ryan Campbell, Malcolm Cross, and Kevin Frane have written some great stuff that’s inspired me to keep getting better.

Black Angel is a standalone novel, but it’s also part of the three-book Dangerous Spirits series. Tell us more about the other books in the series. Is there a recommended reading order? Will there be more books in the setting?

Green Fairy, the first one I wrote, follows Sol, a wolf, through his struggles to get through the last year of high school with a long-distance boyfriend. He finds some solace in a book written by a gay chamois in 1900s Paris, but then starts to dream that he’s one of the other characters in the book and gets a different perspective on the story. The dream starts creeping into his waking life, and things quickly get bad both in his life and in his dreams. This story is about confidence in yourself despite the views of the people around you.

Red Devil is Alexei’s story– Sol’s fox friend– and picks up after they’ve left high school. Alexei fled an abusive family in Russia, but his sister is still there and he’s trying to get her home. At the same time, he’s having issues of confidence with a guy he wants to date, so he decides to try summoning Sol’s ghost. But the summoning goes wrong and brings him an old Russian soldier who does not approve of his life. This book focuses a lot on issues of family, what it means to be family and who constitutes your family.

I’d recommend starting with Green Fairy and going on to Red Devil and then Black Angel, because that’s the chronological order of the story, and while they all stand alone, each of the later books contains a bit of spoiler for the previous ones. As for continuing the series… no plans right now. I’m not sure where I’d go with it. But I do have a new book coming out this year, Camouflage, that is kind of a spiritual cousin to this series. Except it has actual time travel in it.

Art Spot: Quiet Place and a Good Book by Demicoeur

Quiet Place and a Good Book, by Demicoeur
Quiet Place and a Good Book, by Demicoeur

I found this image, unattributed, on Pinterest, and went off in search of it. Tineye.com and Google Search By Image had no luck, so I tossed it out to Twitter, where @firefang9212 identified it. Thanks Firefang! 🙂

-The Gneech

The PTBAF Art Spot highlights some of the best in furry art, selected more-or-less at random by our staff. PTBAF supports the rights of artists and creators and our policy is to only post items by permission or otherwise consistent with applicable copyright laws. If your work has been used erroneously or you have any concerns, please contact us immediately.