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.

Art Spot: Scoria (Comm) by Vani

Scoria (Comm) by Vani
Scoria (Comm) by Vani

Love the shading, love the contrast, love the gaussian noise in the color to “soften” the effect. Well done all around!

-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.

Art Spot: Useless Stone Tools

Useless Stone Tools, by TigerKnight
Useless Stone Tools, by TigerKnight

Jan, a.k.a. TigerKnight, creates fluffy feel-good (but still witty and intelligent) comics that should appeal to any fans of Suburban Jungle or Class Menagerie. Kinda like if XKCD were drawn by Carl Barks.

-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.

Art Spot: Casablanca, by -Lofi

Casablanca, by -Lofi
Casablanca, by -Lofi

Casablanca is one of those classics that totally lives up to its hype, and this piece completely nails the look and atmosphere. Beautiful!

-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.

Fursonas: Bringing Out The Awesome

Example Fursona of Inkblitz on a base by http://www.furaffinity.net/user/chesta, edited by http://www.furaffinity.net/user/firestoem

If you’ve spent any period of time in the furry fandom, you’ve probably heard people talk about their fursona… or show off the art of their fursona, or pictures of the fursuit of their fursona, or plushies, or posters or… You get the idea. Fursonas are kind of a big deal.

But what are they about, and how do you get one? Do you even need one? And more importantly, what might yours be?

Pay attention, because there may be a quiz at the end!

Continue reading “Fursonas: Bringing Out The Awesome”

Editorial: The Elephant in the Fandom

NOTE: This post is going to talk about politics. Even if we like to talk about fictional animals, furries are still human beings, and politics is at its heart how humans relate. “I don’t care/want to talk about politics!” is itself a statement of privilege– because that means you are in a position where you don’t need to care– and therefore paradoxical as it may sound that is still a political stance.

It has taken me a long time to write this post, for a variety of reasons, but more than anything else, it has been this post that caused proudtobeafurry.org to go quiet for so long after AnthroCon. As Editor-In-Chief I didn’t feel like I could in good conscience just keep putting up fluffy posts without addressing the issue, but I also had to work out just what it was I wanted to say.

2016 and 2017 have been a rough year in the United States. Our elections were manipulated, all the worst elements of our society were empowered or even exalted, and it has been a near-daily deluge of horribleness ever since. The “alt-right,” which is an over-polite term for a massive knot of fascists, racists, homophobes, and misogynists, have come out from under their rocks and are now waving flags and running people down in the street.

Not going to lie. The situation is bad. Vocal chunks of America are trying their hardest to recreate 1930s Germany, for reasons that range from misguided to downright delusional. The good news is that even larger chunks of America are fighting back– and we have the historical example to realize what we’re up against. The alt-right will go down and go down hard, eventually: the inevitable end for the whole mentality is self-destruction. But the rest of us are still going to have a big mess to clean up by the time it’s all over.

Where does furry fit in to all of this? Well, furry is a geek-heavy subculture, and geek-heavy subcultures are being deliberately targeted for infiltration and subversion. The phenomenon has been widely reported, and Dogpatch Press has done a very good job of breaking it down in particular reference to the furry fandom.

So now we have these people calling themselves “alt-furry.” FFS.

These people have been around, of course. Back in the ’90s when I was hanging out in alt.fan.furry/alt.lifestyle.furry they were around. They were generally spurned or at least ignored, for reasons ranging from The Geek Social Fallacies to a more basic “Ain’t got time for your crap.” But in 2016 and 2017, just as the alt-right was crapping all over American society, these people started crapping all over the furry fandom.

The avowed policy of proudtobeafurry.org is that we celebrate what we like, instead of complaining about what we don’t. But as much as we wish to highlight that which is good, it would be hypocritical to ignore that this conflict is going on around us. We are here to talk about what is awesome in the furry fandom, and that includes Inclusion, Creativity, Positivity, Tolerance, and Love– but that also means we stand in direct opposition to “alt-furry” and everything associated with it.

“It’s just a joke!” and similar rationalizations also get no pass from us. “Pretending to be a jerk” is inherently a jerkish thing to do. Pretending to advocate genocide “for the lulz” is no better than actually advocating genocide. Trolling by its nature makes people unhappy and is a mean-spirited behavior.

We are proud to be furries, and we oppose anyone who would bring the fandom down. Fascists and bigots of any variety are not welcome here until you discard those poisonous views and behaviors– and even then you will have to work to regain the fandom’s trust.

-The Gneech

Art Spot: Commission for Kuro the Panther, by NotGlacier

Commission for Kuro the Panther by NotGlacier
Commission for Kuro the Panther by NotGlacier

If Charity and Langley from The Suburban Jungle had a love child? ;P

-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.

Art Spot: Commission No. 168 by Charlie Nax

Commission 168 by Charlie Nax
Commission 168 by Charlie Nax

As much as I love the classic toony “Disney/WB Animation Style” school of furry art, I am always blown away by well-done painterly style work such as this one. I can see this cat standing beside– or against– Mark E. Rogers’ Samurai Cat among a shower of cherry blossoms as a wooden block ticks in the distance…

-The Gneech

PS: Yeah, the site hasn’t updated in way too long. >.> No explanation, no excuses, and nobody’s fault by own. Fixing it now!

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.