Archantael: Story of My Fursona

I’m trying to be better at filling this blog with things that are relevant to my writing, but I realise in my previous extended absence from it I completely missed two things: the ENTIRE RELEASE OF MY SECOND DAMN NOVEL and the development of my fursona. One of these is arguably far more important to my career, so I’m going to ignore that one and talk about something much more personal. This stems from a conversation I was having with someone on twitter recently – TheYogurtThief.

For people who aren’t in the know (which I’m assuming is approximately 0% of this blog’s regular visitors), a fursona is an original character someone creates, based of an anthropomorphic animal, mythical creature, sometimes plants (although there may be a more technical name for this), or combination of any of these things. It may or may not be a representation of that person’s emotional facets, spiritual self, inner desires, or sometimes is just a funky creature they have a strong attachment to. People can have just one, or many, or cycle through them using only one main at a time depending on their mood or life cycle.

For me, my journey into furry was a little protracted because even though the characters I was most inspired by, and ones I imagined, were always anthropomorphic animals, I spent ages dancing around the edges of the fandom and refusing to call myself furry because I was afraid of the preconceptions that arrived with that particular label. Even if you look back a few blog posts ago to my TRUKK NOT MUNKY Part 1: Furries ramble (it’s old enough that I really don’t remember when I wrote it) I was struggling to come to terms with the fact that my FURRY NOVEL might at some point have to subject itself to ACTUAL FURRIES.

Needless to say, I feel kind of dumb now. I can alternately point and laugh or cringe at myself for it, but at the time joining a group that I knew inherently little about despite looking up in awe at it for such a long time was a very intimidating process. I think, in hindsight, one of the biggest things that was holding me back was my lack of a fursona, because it seemed so much easier for people to find their place when they knew what they were supposed to be. I did not. And I needed to. I wanted to, more importantly, even if I wasn’t fully aware of it.

Ancient History

So my love of foxes goes way back.

robinhood

Thanks to this guy. I also took up fencing and archery because of him.

I remember conversations and elements all throughout my childhood where I’d pick foxes over anything else. My favourite Visionaries character was Ectar, who could turn into a fox; I insisted on Mum making me a fox mask for Book Week at school because something something foxes I was into at the time. I embarrassingly declared that I wanted my nickname to be ‘Fox’ at a summer camp I went to, before ceremoniously knocking a saucepan of beans out of the hands of a lunch lady with a wild flail of enthusiastic clumsiness. (Spoiler, the nickname did not stick). In French class I’d make any excuse to pick ‘renard’ as an animal, and I can’t remember if I mentioned my dissociative episode during high school when being severely bullied and depressed where I actually believed I was Fox McCloud stuck in some alternate coma world just waiting to wake up and escape my puny pubescent flesh cage.

But, as much as I loved foxes, I never believed I could live up to them. They were clever and svelte and colourful, and I was a pudgy kid with typically transient friend groups who became more distinctly average in school grades as time went on. I’d be a terrible fox, I decided, subconsciously. I thought, and eventually wrote, about them the whole time, but knew it would be some unachieveable ambition to actually be one, or even consider myself one.

Then along comes this other creature…

pangolin-ARTICLE-PAGE

LOOK AT IT LOOK AT IT LOOK AT IT AAAAAAAH SO FREAKING GORGEOUS

What the heck is that thing?

It’s a pangolin. If you haven’t heard of it by now, then be prepared for my wildest eyes and a slew of almost unintelligible ramblings about how awesome they are and how you should TOTALLY GO AND SAVE THEM RIGHT NOW because they’re supremely endangered. And beautiful. If I ever got the chance to meet one of these in person, I would break down into uncontrollable sobs. And I’m not kidding; I think of this pretty much every day and it hits me the same way every time.

I don’t remember where I first saw these guys. I spent a lot of my time out of school due to illness, hospital trips, and through breaking various limbs, so I would sit for hours reading through the DK reference books we had on the bookshelf at the end of the landing. It was a nice spot were I could hide behind the laundry rack and bask in the sunlight while examining science and nature books. It was probably in there, but their relevance didn’t hit till much later.

(As I type the next paragraph, I remember my inspiration)

armadillomon

Grossly underused, Armadillomon will always be one of my top Digimon. I’m sorry I ever let you slip from my consciousness.

(And yes, I know he’s an armadillo, but when I was writing my post-apocalyptic Digimon fanfiction, I imagined an upgraded version called MetalArmadillomon, who I have YET TO COMMISSION ART OF HOLY CRAP I SHOULD DO THAT, and in my research for armadillos, rediscovered pangolins because people always get them confused)

I have body confidence issues, still, after being bullied. In my head I’m still a dumpy, inactive fourteen year-old, except now I have a receding hairline. It’s weird how easy it can be to add together all of the negative things you see in yourself while ignoring the good work you’ve done or the positive changes you’ve been through. Objectively, I know I’m not fat. I’m not athletic. I don’t even have a problem with others being fat and always, always encourage people to love themselves no matter what stage of their personal journey they’re on. But the stigma I have with my personal progress means I can rarely find satisfaction with how I look regardless of how much I believe in body positivity for everyone. It probably sounds very contrarian and hypocritical, and I have no answer for that. I love others more than I love myself.

But anyway, this amazing scaly creature, the pangolin, is hugely defensible. It can curl into a lion-proof ball, is incredible at jumping, can climb trees with minimal effort, and looks like the badassiest artichoke you ever didn’t eat. It embodied so much of what I felt I actually was- awkward, beautifully inelegant in a weird way, protective, defensible, unable to attack, and above all else, unique. I knew I didn’t fit in anywhere else and this was a symbol of that to me. But even for smothering myself in pangolin search results and incorporating a major character into my book series, my own identity still didn’t quite mesh with it.

Fracture Front Cover

You know what this naturally heavily-armoured and virtually impenetrable creature needs? MORE ARMOUR (Art by Katie Hofgard)

You know, what a lot of furries do is-

Yes, I realise that now. But the thing is, it wasn’t as simple as putting the two animals together- I needed to know who I was and what I wanted before I could make any decision of what I felt would be a fairly permanent iconography of myself. Biting the bullet, I finally decided that, yes, I was actually a furry, and began going to meets and connecting with people in the Furry Writers’ Guild on Twitter. And what seems like a simple step was actually a huge, huge one for me, because immediately I found people to talk with who understood how I felt about having an animal self, social anxieties, the weirdest things you need to research online to develop furry worlds, the fears that every time you meet someone new, you’re going to be told ‘so you, want to fuck animals, right’ and losing the respect of all your friends as soon as you try to share anything close to you. Having that outlet, those connections, and having encouragement from amazing friends I met in person through my wife, principally CatScratch and the owner of Mr. Freeze Pony. All of that encouragement and acceptance gave me a much stronger idea of who i was, who I wanted to be, and how I could help others do the same.

So with that in mind, it took me almost TWO YEARS to discover that, if I were defining myself as ME, and not as a single thing that I would have second thoughts over every time I looked at another kind of creature, that I could make a hybrid. It’s not that hard. I EVEN HAVE ONE IN MY OWN FRICKING BOOKS. When that revelation hit I was in equal parts amazed and cursing myself for not having that penny drop sooner.

But I like what I ended up with, in a very big way.

foxpan

It me. Art is by WitchZilla

This is Archantael, my spiritual self, in effect. His name is one I looked into before I started writing Legacy, although I worry now it looks like I’m trying to be self-insertive (people who’ve read the books will know why) so I’m considering permanently shortening it to Arc, but I’m not sure yet. I misread or took the name meaning from an incorrectly-listed site, because where I thought Arc’hantael meant ‘man born of fire’, it actually means ‘silver’ and is pronounced completely differently than I expected (proper phonetics is Ar-XHAN-tel instead of my presumed Ark-an-TAY-el), so I’m not sure what to do with that at the moment.

Anyway, I am a pangolin-fox, or fangolin, or pangofox, or whatever else you’d like to call it- I have no copyright claim to hybrids so it doesn’t really make a difference to me. I’m just incredibly happy to have something that incorporates both elements of myself- the part of me that I accept, and have grown to love more than I used to, and the part of me that I want to always be, that drives me forward and improves the me that I am right now. I’m even accepting the idea that I can be seen as physically attractive, which I would have always dismissed before. But If I can see something in me that’s desirable, or cute, or elegant, and know it’s connected to something so intrinsically important to me, I can start to make that change in myself too.

The Denouement 

I was still worried it’d be seen as weird or trying too hard to be different. When making my reference I asked the artist (Folfelit) what she thought about having black sclera, and she said it’d make him hard to draw and would likely inhibit the visibility of his eyes. I very much appreciated that input, and I haven’t regretted it. And I’ve been very lucky that people have seen him as unique and well-designed; I’m pretty sure that comes from Folfelit’s gorgeous work more than my concept to be honest. But it made me consider how other people saw new furries’ fursonas. I’m going to get blunt.

When I first edged into the furry community on Tumblr I took part in a survey someone was doing for their thesis, and at the end of it we all entered into a big Skype conversation. One of the final group questions was about abuse. Over fifty percent had suffered abuse, sexual or physical.

Over. Fifty. Percent.

I went very quiet. I knew people understood my anxiety, but I had no idea furries in particular suffered so extensively from trauma like that. It’s not necessarily an indication of the entire fandom, but for a sample, even just for Tumblr users, it was staggering. And it put the emotional projection of fursonas in a very new light for me. They may not always be representative of a product of hurt and anguish, but I never make assumptions about fursonas any more and what they mean.

That character you ‘cringe’ at could literally save someone’s life.

So fuck you for calling someone’s fursona ‘basic’. You don’t know what they’re going through. You don’t know what they need to see in themselves when they create a character. You don’t know why they need six fursonas. Some parts of themselves, or the things they draw/write/etc, may be too fragile to hurt, but they need a new avatar for their frustrations because they have no other way of surviving. The ability to personify an ideal version of myself has been such a safety net for my confidence and means of working through anxiety, and I don’t even draw; I can’t even imagine what others may have to go through every day. There are times I see Arc with wings, or having the power to manipulate gravity using purple energy, or transforming into an enormous black-shaded demon version of himself. It’s what I need at that time to find a way forward, a catharsis for feelings that I can’t otherwise escape. For some people, the ability to focus on these characters may be the only thing that keeps them surviving, gives them the strength to pull themselves up. “I need wings tonight. I’m going to be a purple cat with wings and six tails and work on this till I fall asleep because I can’t bear to think about anything else right now and maybe, if I can just get to the point of falling asleep without something else terrible happening, tomorrow can be better”.

I would hope I’m wrong about the actual statistic, but I’m not going to pretend that everyone I know must be okay just because I am, self-reflection aside. And given the much higher proportion of LGBTQ representation in the community, it wouldn’t surprise me if the abuse and anxiety levels actually were disproportionately high as a population sample goes.

A fursona can change your life. Mine has had a profound effect on me. I have something incredibly precious to me that I can call completely and totally mine, that gives me the freedom to express what I want when I need to. Consider everyone’s the same as yours, or at least with the same respect that they treat you. And despite what everyone else might try to tell you, it’s okay to be yourself, unapologetically.

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Talk of Fame – The Problem with Furry Populism

Furry is an odd fandom. Aside from recent blockbuster animations like Zootopia and the Kung Fu Panda series, franchises like Starfox, and one-shot-shows and token characters in various other media, it is almost completely self-reliant for the content on which it feeds and grows. It all comes from within. Books, artwork, animation, even music (which arguably must be one of the hardest things to advertise as being specifically furry given that music itself doesn’t have a visual aspect and doesn’t always have words to denote the stylistic distinction). So it’s no surprise that, in an online community much like any other, there are also YouTubers, and, more recently, video game developers. Sometimes both at once.

L never wrong

So if you’re inclined to subscribe to any, prepare to hear this… a lot.

The whole fandom is kind of a franchising anomaly; you’d think that a community with a very finite pool of mainstream media content would have difficulty remaining cohesive and finding new things to do with itself, but I’m not sure anyone estimates the sheer creativity of this particular group. Aside from Steampunk, which has a far greater outside influence given its back-and-forth in literature, fashion, and media, furry is one of the few places where someone can be an entirely original creation and not be scoffed at. Anime or video game OCs don’t have that distinction, because the expectation is that you are always defined by the characters that already exist, and anything that diverts from the canon is pretty poorly considered, often dismissed as inferior. In furry fandom, everyone literally IS their own fanfiction creation, complete with everything that would guarantee a failing grade on any given Mary-Sue test. Furry is a living, breathing community of people’s uninhibited feelings and desires.

And that can be a real problem.

HOW DARE! DON’T TOUCH MY FAVES!

When I say ‘problem’, it’s less in the sense of ‘people shouldn’t be allowed to do that’ and more that ‘when there are no limits to the content we create for ourselves, we see the truest extent of people’s capabilities and psyche’. As anyone who’s looked through a YouTube comments section knows, the internet is a scary place, and it can get even scarier when you have a giant glittery wolf face grinning seductively at you from the other side of the screen with a million equally sparkly minions barking to the same tune. Or, if you don’t like canines, there are a few other figureheads you could grapple with, some without nearly as much head hair or moral scruples.

Kakashi

You know who I mean.

The hierarchy of infamy in Furry is typically dominated at the top level by fursuiters and artists/animators, because, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a hugely visual fandom. Writers, prominent Twitter users/bloggers, musicians, and most others tend to fall into an undulating mass underneath, with con organisers and web admins the free radicals that can be absolutely anywhere in that they do a heck of a lot and everyone seems to know who they are, but they generally maintain low visibility in photos or art. Except Dragoneer.

So when you have a fandom that essentially creates its own characters, when one starts to become more well-known and popular than others, usually via YouTube videos, memes, or insanely prolific social media accounts, they start to don the mantle of ‘popufur’, whether they want it or not. (You would assume, if they’re a YouTuber, that they do.) They become their own product to sell to the community.

And thanks to YouTube’s ad revenue, that’s totally a thing you can do now: market yourself. Whether it’s advice, goofing around, playing games, making ridiculously offensive remarks under the guise of comedy, commentary on current events in or out of fandom, or just a furry twist on anything else that hasn’t yet been ‘ruined’ enough, you can Do That Thing.

IMG_20170706_195423

And look, there they Do Those Things! (Image made by RhyeRhythm on Twitter)

Now, any celebrity, YouTuber or not, will know the double edged sword of popularity; your mere presence can be hugely polarising, and the more you do, the more intense the polarisation can become. Sticking to the thing you’re good or comfortable at is usually a safe bet, but there’s always a push to get more views, subscriptions, and money by extension. I get that. I consider every Tweet I make to be some kind of investment to selling my own books. You have to start thinking that way when your social media becomes your major marketing tool, and even moreso if it’s actually a source of income. There will likely come points where the character and person inside it become inseparable; anyone who is giving their very presence or personality as a selling point needs to have a sustainable way of doing so. When a person becomes the product they’re selling and their own means of production, unless they’re incredibly resilient, focused, open-minded, flexible, or determined, they will come up against conflict. And not everyone handles that well.

People need to remember that fame and success are very different things, and that both of these terms have very different interpretations depending on your perspective. Sadly most of this article so far is kind of a preamble to my main story, a personal case study of how a fandom with a community network that’s very intrinsic to its own sustainability starts to fall down when populism doesn’t reciprocate.

EdCB

Yep, sorry. Please take a break if you need it, it gets a little hot from here.

“Fame has only the span of a day, they say. But to live in the hearts of people- that is worth something.” – Ouida.

LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME

There’s no denying that, if you have a fursuit, it’s nice to be both noticed and appreciated. If you have a creation that you’re proud of, be it a book or piece of art, or video game, or music, it feels great to have it shared. And if you make a YouTube video or write a long post, having people laugh or console or engage with you (where appropriate) is great. There’s no reason you shouldn’t feel good for being able to engage with your passion in a constructive way. But you also have to understand that every path comes with obstacles, that you can never be all things to all people, and there will come times when your work will be criticised. I wrote a long post about my first bad review.

But…

Okay, here’s the context. This is not intended to be a hit piece, I promise. But it is a sincere attempt at an objective assessment of character and judgements as part of the furry fandom. And to be honest, it’s not unique to furries. There are Facebook pages you likely see every day that do exactly the same thing.

There’s a popufur who began his furry journey on Second Life, by the name of Klace Vakarian. As I’m sure most of the people who will be drawn to my blog will recognise, Vakarian is the last name of a character from Mass Effect.

me3_garrus_vakarian_3_by_chicksaw2002-d57v12b

AND HE IS BEAUTIFUL

I can’t really criticise here too harshly, because my fursona’s surname is Clow, a la CardCaptor Sakura. But Vakarian is a very obvious name to choose given the franchise’s popularity. It shows, on the surface, a potential for appropriation. And it’s not necessarily an unfounded observation when we see what happens later.

Klace Kickstarted a furry video game on Steam, called Major/Minor, presumably a reference to music given the prominent self-insertion of Klace’s popstar fursona and not a lift from a 2013 acoustic punk rock band from Ontario of the same name. Cool, furry video game! It was made with RPG Maker, so in the end it becomes more like a choose-your-own-adventure game, or slightly branching visual novel. I’ve never made a video game, but from what I hear this engine is pretty simple to get to grips with.

The gaming community is very particular about certain things; firstly, the presence of furries; secondly, quality of the game; thirdly, evidence of changes and information manipulation. The sheer mention of furries meant that it stuck out like a sore thumb (for both furries and its critics) in an indie market which had not yet been sufficiently tapped outside of flash games and Dust: An Elysian Tale. Trolls aside, at the time, furries were eager to take more or less anything they could consume.

But it wasn’t without its faults. It (and Klace) received a good amount of criticism for the game, which, for a first-time attempt, isn’t unexpected. I used to browse Kotaku and IGN a lot and I’ve seen even just from those brief minefield excursions that criticism often blurs the lines between creator and project; sometimes subconsciously, sometimes not. “What the hell was the writer/dev smoking?” would be one example of a sideways criticism that isn’t necessarily a direct attack, but definitely isn’t a great thing to read. But open criticism should be a fair process and any creator needs to take this into account. Even I grudgingly admit in the dissection of the negative review of Legacy that I should at least pay attention to the review’s points, even if they could be invalidated or dismissed later. I did not request the review to be removed, though. It’s not fair.

Klace did, however. He did it a lot. The biggest conspiracy around this game (oh, aside from the weird DMCA claim) was his continual flagging of negative reviews, much to the concern of many users and community members, and the bizarre decision to re-release the exact same game as a ‘complete’ version in order to create a completely new review standard, despite his assertions that people should ‘carry their reviews over’. If it’s not a different version of the game, why bother?

And that was even ignoring the content of the more constructive reviews, that foretold of similarities between his story and the Persona series, a hugely popular Japanese RPG series which has dialogue in a very similar format. Given the similarity of the language used between the two, I’m actually surprised there hasn’t been some kind of eye cast this way by Atlus.

We all want our work to succeed effortlessly, but criticism, if given properly, is not a personal attack. It can be embarrassing to know something you did has a flaw, or needs improvement, or has a plot hole, or whatever, but these are aimed at making These Things You Do better. Removing any form of negative remarks to try and instill an air of perfection is misleading and arrogant. And lots of people do this, not just Klace.

I’m not going to pass judgement on his game because I haven’t played it. I don’t intend to. There were rumours floating about that his version of RPG Maker was bootlegged, which may create some weird legal ramifications if  true, but I don’t know if they’re substantiated.

Persona 3

To be fair, the same thing happens to me when I see furry media almost anywhere.

But anyway, when I first discovered Klace it was on Facebook. Klace is a person who constructed his social media platform and spread word about his game by making memes of himself and sharing them ad infinitum, and adding literally anyone with a furry avatar that he could find. I was one of them. I figured with his enormous friends list (of FIVE THOUSAND, literally the maximum Facebook will allow) that he must be super popular or super important. For some emotional background, this was at a sensitive time for me when I was trying to become a sort-of-semi-professional cosplayer but had run into fairly debilitating drama.

This next part is my personal experience/beef with Klace that he likely has no idea about, but affected me in a pretty big way. I apologise that this will be a less objective section of the article. But I hope it will at least appear relevant as a demonstration of poor community interaction.

It’s here that I may have to admit to being the one who inspired him to make a Facebook page for his game, possibly. I glanced through his gargantuan friend list and his feed, to see everything on it was basically direct from him. Not necessarily unusual in and of itself. Or there was stuff from others, about him. Or fanart of him. Fan memes. Or the same thing of his I just saw, shared again two days later for more hits. It’s like he ate a Facebook ad service and was slowly puking it out in the form of selfies.

But anyway, I thought he at least seemed active and had a lot of people willing to interact with him and who took his approval very seriously. Feeling disheartened about my own lack of success in both cosplay and my dwindling book sales, I thought I’d try appealing to him for a share of my stuff. I’d already accepted his friend request by this point, and I was pretty new to the community so I perhaps pre-emptively expected too much from any interaction that wasn’t solely about him. I had my own facebook page for my books (you can see it here) and I thought, wow, if he has a reach of 5000 and a good load of engagement, maybe he’d be willing to share my page and give me a hand. And fuck, I needed the boost then. Over a year later, I still haven’t broken 200 likes.

I sent him an invite to my page before going to sleep, eagerly anticipating what interactions I might wake up to.

The next morning I log on to see no new likes on my page, no response to my invite, but my own invite to a BRAND NEW MAJOR/MINOR PAGE which already had over 500 likes. In a matter of HOURS.

Klace took a big, sparkly, pink-and-rainbow shit all over my face.

He and I are walking the same line, at different paces. We both want shares, financial stability, and appreciation for our work. But we’re worlds apart. Here’s me, an author who’s been pouring my soul into these books since 2006, desperate for even one more like or sale or share, trying to sell it on its own merits and not become someone who has to post about it every few minutes and irritate the community I’m trying to sell it to. Here’s him, using a crowd he’s built using suggestive artwork and cute selfies in a fursuit head by a very talented maker, whose video game endeavours may as well have already been funded for life.

How many people on your friends list right now use Patreons, or Ko-Fi, or have a pinned Tweet that says ‘commissions always open’? How many times a day on your feed do you see ‘If you can’t commission, please RT/share?’. When your platform literally has the ability to fund an entire video game’s worth of development in less than a week, imagine what you could do for the community.

So I can’t lie, I was pretty fucking crushed to see that kind of selfishness from a substantial bulwark of the community that I had only recently felt confident enough to open my heart to. It put me off trying to write or engage with people for quite a long time, and as you can tell, I’m still pretty bitter about it given he has over 30 times the amount of followers I do on Twitter and frequently boasts about how his haters can’t understand how he got $30,000 worth of funding in under a day. That’s over twice what I make in a damn year. And if you’re still here reading this, it’s got to sound like I’m sitting on and slowly absorbing, through one end or another, a huge bunch of sour grapes. You wouldn’t be wrong.

paper tear

So… yeah. I have felt like doing this to my books a few times over this.

Sorry, I said this wouldn’t be a hit piece. I got distracted. Because it fucking hurt. But you see the effect negligence can have if you’re deemed unimportant by someone. That’s a big problem when you’re part of a very inter-connected and generally insular community, and especially if you’re trying to make yourself a figurehead of it.

But that’s just you, right?

Well, yes, and no. Because this attitude isn’t a one-time opportunity snub. It happens a lot online, and especially in the cosplay/fursuit community. I see people frequently complain about fursuit and artist elitism. Klace isn’t unique in that regard, sadly. On the other hand, you can’t expect everyone to share everything just because they have reach. It would be legitimately overwhelming. So there has to be a balance. But using him as an example again, you can read between the lines in his feed that everything he shares is to do with him, or a meme that he’s taken from somewhere else instead of retweeting it from the source.  Because if you take it for yourself, you get all of the exposure for the share. You see where this appropriation habit sneaks in? There are entire bootleg empires on Facebook set up that do ONLY this, and are sickeningly effective at it. Klace didn’t take anything directly from me except the concept of owning a Facebook page for a project. But it’s simple common courtesy: if you ask people to like your page, you typically like theirs back. That’s how a community works and grows organically. Asking someone for a share without the offer of anything in return is a poor show, and, if you put it in the more tangible context of an art trade, which I see a lot on Facebook, damn inexcusable.

Maybe it was coincidence that he happened to make his page at the same instance that I sent him my invite. I’m sure he’ll say that’s what it was, but the timing was fucking shit, to be blunt.

The problem with an attitude like this in a community that is absolutely, fundamentally reliant on itself for the creation of its content is that your platform starts to become higher and thinner the further you climb, to a point where getting toppled is remarkably easy. The less you give, the less inclined people will be to support you when you absolutely need it, and the quicker you’ll fall into obscurity at the end of it. If all you have to fall back on is:
a) a suit someone else made for you
b) art someone else draws for you
c) memes of yourself

and you give nothing back except the SHEER GIFT THAT IS YOUR VERY PRESENCE BECAUSE OMG IT’S *INSERT FURSONA HERE* SQUEE, your magical shell of saleability starts to look mighty thin.

And more importantly, when you steal memes (or art, more drastically) and take credit away from the source, you’re actively damaging the community by shitting on the little guy and taking away their fair share of a voice. I have always felt that you should be judged by your own merits, and the content you create yourself in earnest, and the way you treat others, are a big part of that. Mara Wilson is great at calling out people who steal others’ Tweets, and she is fortunate enough to be in a position where she could choose not to care entirely. But that level of understanding breeds a better, stronger community at the base of it and encourages everyone to try for their own achievements. If they’re always being overshadowed by the popular guy who steals all their quotes and memes to try and further solidify their platform, they’ll very quickly get discouraged, and may leave the community entirely.

This point is paramount: your popularity or success should never come at the sacrifice of others. Be honest, and if you support others, you’d be surprised what you would get in return.

I may begrudge my Twitter numbers by comparison to others, but damn if those I know and talk to on a regular basis aren’t some of the most supportive and encouraging people I’ve ever met. And I don’t have to keep mentioning myself and looking cute for them to talk to me, which is an absolute blessing. I feel proud to share art and creations by others; shock horror, even books that could potentially directly compete with mine! Because we’re in the same boat, ultimately. Their success becomes a gateway for mine, and vice versa. It makes sense to bring everyone up alongside you because that’s how a community becomes stronger and opens new pathways for wider success further down the line.

When all you have to sell is yourself, give nothing back, and show no support to your fellow creators, you’re not part of the community, you’re just a product. And products expire.

Major/Minor did not push any boundaries in my view. One of his major talking points and favourite self-memes is that Major/Minor is ‘clean’ furry material, i.e., no adult content, as if that was somehow a new concept. Legacy and Fracture are non-adult. Klace would have known that if he had bothered to take time to look at my book. I’m not even the only clean author/creator around, not by a long shot. And Klace will frame Tweets of his own clean-media praise with pictures of himself in underwear straddling another fursuiter, in obscenely tight underwear, or coyly tell people *giggle* “don’t search for me on this porn site, you’ll burn your eyes” as if he was some black-and-white movie harlot trying to seduce Clark Gable. It comes off as insincere and opportunistic when juxtaposed in this way.

For one final demonstration of this attitude of appropriation, we’ll look at the Furry YouTubers image I posted earlier. Klace took hold of it and announced that he’d be there as well, but he altered it.

 

See the difference? Top right. Instead of putting himself in, say, the black space in the lower-right center, he pastes himself directly over a user called ZennieTweets. That may denote a history I’m not aware of, but regardless, it’s blatantly tactless.

Oh, and no credit to the original user who likely spent a considerable amount of time and effort to put these guys into this image in the first place: RhyeRhythm. But at this point, did you expect anything different?

smileoptimism

Yeah. I’m going to bed.

ADDENDUM: Because I’m an anxious twerp, I want to stress this point: I believe ‘popufur’ is a state of mind or particular subset of behaviours, the idea that popularity is the end goal over success of creative content. YouTubers and fursuiters are not automatically popufurs. Any community member or creator could easily fall into these traps, and I almost did when I was trying to become a popular cosplayer. If you’re conscientious, kind, humble, and actually boost the community that supports you instead of seeing yourself as separate, above, or removed from it to take advantage of its generosity and excitability, then you’re already way out of danger.

So I got my first negative review of Legacy on GoodReads…

And I wanted to address it, because for one thing, despite only being posted last month, it refers to the very first version I self-published in 2010, so pre- Inspired Quill edits.

Kuzco knows the score.

Kuzco knows the score.

I’ll post the review, by user ‘Anila’ below:

Post-nuclear-apocalypse furries wielding magic crystals.

Honestly. I’m struggling to talk about this book without just… pointing to that sentence up there and raising my eyebrows. I should probably play nice because this was a Kindle freebie but really. Post-nuclear-apocalypse furries, I swear, what the actual hell.

Okay, okay. An attempt at a real review, in some form.

– Plot: Balanced between ‘completely transparent’ and ‘where the fuck did that come from and why didn’t you bother to foreshadow it’, with the former dominating the earlier portions of the book and the latter taking up much of the conclusion. Note that when I say ‘balanced’ I don’t mean that it all came out well, ’cause it didn’t: the stuff that was completely obvious was often ignored by the characters, which left them looking stupid, and the things that came out of left field were crucial to the plot, which meant pretty much the whole conclusion of the book just had to be swallowed whole. Also, the epilogue jumps two years and just roughly summarizes the interval, in which all kinds of interesting things and developments happened, in a few paragraphs. Really?

– Setting: Grandiose self-aware infodumps that really, honestly, read like a child’s history essay at points. Completely inconsistent technology/awareness thereof – no one is confused when ancient secrets about nuclear physics become a topic of discussion, yet they’re still predominantly wielding swords and bows. Is this supposed to be a medieval-tech society? Is it industrial? Is it electronic? I HAVE NO IDEA, and apparently neither did the author.

– Writing: Started off on a bad foot with countries being referred to as “sovereigns” (that means ruler, not nation) and carried on from there with words that were either incorrectly applied or just plain made up. “Malefically” remains my favorite of the ones that don’t actually exist.

– Characters: Stock fantasy tropes, occasionally with a side of annoying (whatsisface the raccoon) or just plain dumb (the guy who, given the opportunity to kill his lifelong rival and one of the major antagonists, FAILED TO STAB THE DUDE AND NECESSITATED YET ANOTHER LONG DRAWN-OUT SWORDFIGHT WHICH ALMOST KILLED HIM). Relationships were predictable and uncomplicated, and I just generally don’t give a fuck.

Basically: If you want sword and sorcery with woodland creatures, read Redwall. If you want innovative epic fantasy, read any number of other series – if it’s the young female protagonist who must learn to master her powers that gets you, I suggest The Final Empire. But at the end of the day there isn’t enough originality in the concept nor quality in the execution to make this one worth your while.


Much review. So wow.

Much review. So wow.

Okay, so initially that wasn’t easy to read for me, as it’s not particularly polite, but whatever- I’m over it now. As soon as I hit the first sentence I figured it was going to be written by someone who thinks the idea of furry fiction as a whole is pretty laughable. If, on a profile, you write a big declaration that you get HONEST reviews (in big capital letters that MEAN SOMETHING, DUH), generally you’re assured that someone is going to be outspoken and phrase things combatively.

There’s a difference between being honest and being rude. For someone so particular about word definitions, I would suggest learning it.

The main points I take from this:
-Anila took almost as long to review this book as it has taken me to write my second.
-Criticism of the word ‘sovereign’ being used as a term for nation is fairly petty. It’s a fantasy novel, people use unique terms for things all the time, even ‘made up words’ that are apparently so abhorrently amusing. If you’re going to be a reviewer of fantasy books, best prepare for some disappointment if this particular trope bothers you.
– ‘Malefically’ (adverb: ‘in a malefic manner’) is so a word. Even if it isn’t listed by most dictionaries, it’s not a stretch to see that ‘malefic’ actually is, and that ‘ally; is normally added to words to create an adverb form. Getting pedantic over alternative definitions or extractions of words pisses me off. I was criticised at one point for using the word ‘decimated’ as a synonym for ‘ravaged’: I got a comment that read “what, they had 1/10 of the population killed?”. If that’s your favourite definition, then fine, good for you, but there’s another: ‘ kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of ‘. Congratulations on your short-sightedness.
-Foreshadowing is apparently meant to reveal the whole story before it happens. Someone who admits they ‘generally don’t give a fuck’ isn’t going to notice it.
-Reading the ‘in progress’ comments under the review, the reviewer shows more lack of attention to detail, probably brought on by my ‘rough’ writing and poor use of tropes. When Maaka (the surgeon, a falcon) operates, she criticises that BIRDS DON’T HAVE HANDS. Correct. Maaka uses tools strapped to his wings, and objects operated by his beak. He never has hands. Bravo for observation on that one.
-Old review is old.

Too many useful applications for this gif right now, I'm spoilt for choice.

Too many useful applications for this gif right now, I’m spoilt for choice.

Reading this has actually made me aware of some inconsistencies I need to address, like the disparities between the older technologies and Eeres’ current portrayal, and my tendency to infodump (which my editor already brought up with me during the edit for the new version ALMOST THREE YEARS AGO) but I’ll be going through with further revisions of Legacy fairly soon anyway as my publisher goes through its back catalogue.

And considering it’s still averaging a solid 4-star plus rating, I’m not too worried. You can’t please everyone. I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope for a greater response from a Fullmetal Alchemist and Sabriel fan, but never mind. It’s not like every anime/manga/book fan is going to be nice. I don’t even mind (object as much to) a bad review as such if it’s phrased intelligently. But, well…

Yep.

Yep.

Still, I got two stars. That’s more than her review of Game of Thrones, so screw those guys.

Good Luck My Way

(Post title is the name of L’Arc~en~Ciel’s upcoming single, by the way)

Time to populate this blog, I think. I’ve a lot to say about writing, and to chronicle my experiences in self-publishing and various forms of fandom. I’ll try not to get too personal for the most part, but I’ll always be happy to talk about the things that affect me most, and those that are closest to me.

Currently I have to make lunch for tomorrow though, so I’ll wrap some meat around the bones of this blog another day soon. In the meantime, please enjoy wandering the pages above.

Thank you for coming, and please consider me favourably ^__^