Animals – both fictional and real

It’s been a while since I posted here. I better correct that by adding a short review of the last two books I read for my 2019 Book List.

Dissident Signals (2018) edited by NightEyes DaySpring and Slip Wolf

COVER1This is not a single novel but a collection of short stories; all set in a post-apocalyptic world and involving anthropomorphic (or furry) characters. Altogether, there are sixteen stories by various authors who approach the subject matter in wildly different ways. This makes it difficult to say anything which applies to the collection as a whole.

I can say that I enjoyed very many of the stories and the quality is extremely high. It’s also worth reading them to see how various scenarios could play out. While some stories are fantastical or only deal with the world after society collapses, others describe what happened to cause the dystopias. Some occurred because of all-powerful AIs, others due to environmental collapse and still others reflect what happens when our politics becomes callous and uncaring. These are all fears which society has today and potential worst-case scenarios which we want to avoid.

One of the nice things about fiction is while the worlds are not real, they often can say something about our current situation. There are stories which address very pressing and real concerns in our current societies but without the judgement that comes from talking about specific people or groups. It would be good for more people to read collections like this, take the lessons to heart and then think about the way in which they conduct themselves and how they would be portrayed in a novel.

A Plea For The Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, And Evolutionary Imperative To Treat All Beings With Compassion (2014, translation 2016) by Matthieu Ricard

COVER2This book is by a French author who studied molecular genetics but later became a Buddhist monk. I picked it up when I was visiting Paris with my sister. One of my aunts had already been in Paris for a few weeks and took us to an English book store near Notre Dame. This book turned out to be a great choice; not only does it address the topic of human-animal relationships well but it does so mainly referencing French authors and with a slightly Buddhist approach, both of which are fairly alien to me. In some senses it is similar to Dominion, which was written from a Christian perspective and led to my becoming a vegetarian, but I would say that this is the superior book.

Ricard examines the treatment of animals from a wide range of perspectives and over a long period of human history. He talks about the Romans and Greeks as well as Seaworld and Zoos and discusses the religious, philosophical and scientific aspects of various arguments for and against the use of animals. While there are some areas that I was curious about but couldn’t easily find references for, most of the book is well referenced and supported by extensive quotations. Particularly refreshing is that Ricard speaks and lives his convictions. He says how things are and how it deviates from an ideal world, even if some people do not want to hear that.

I loved the book and think it is perhaps the best on the topic that I have read. I prefer Ricard’s conviction to the watered down conclusion at the end of Dominion and A Plea For The Animals is more recent and up-to-date than Animal Liberation. I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in animals to read it but, more importantly, those that do not generally think of animals should read it and consider how their lives affect other living beings.

Furry fiction additions to my reading list

It has been a couple of weeks since I finished reading my most recent two books. I figured I had better add them to my 2019 Book List before I couldn’t remember enough to properly describe them.

In A Dog’s World (2015) by Mary E. Lowd

COVER1This is a pretty simple romance story. If you’ve ever seen any young romance story where the main character is just arriving at college and has her eyes on an older student, then you probably know how this is going to go. It follows the basic idea without doing anything drastic but it really works for the story because it is just so enjoyable to go along with everything.

The book itself is not quite as simple. While the main story follows a fairly predictably plot, there are enough diversions to keep everything interesting. For one, it’s a world where humans have disappeared and now cats and dogs are the main inhabitants. The dynamics between the two species allow the story to explore issues such as racism and sexism in a gentle manner.

Simple and easy to read, it’s just a light-hearted romance with hidden depths. It makes a great palate cleanser of a book and I found it quite enjoyable.

The Time He Desires (2016) by Kyell Gold

COVER2This one is interesting because it’s a furry book that I first heard about through the mainstream media. There was an article on Slate which touted it as a way to resist the hatred of the Trump era. The book, as with many of Gold’s works, deals with homosexuality but the big difference here is that the story is from the perspective of a Muslim. While the book presents a more moderate form of Islam, I did see some irony in that I started reading it just days apart from Brunei enacting a form of Sharia law that punishes homosexuality with death.

The main character, a cheetah named Aziz, is having trouble with his marriage. He has grown apart from his wife and, a few years back, disowned his son for being gay. At the same time, property developers are trying to buy his and the neighbouring shops, to expand their shopping centre and apartment complex. Added to all of this, he becomes intrigued by a honeymoon tape of a gay couple, which one of the partner’s pawned but which the other is now searching for, and starts to consider other paths his life could have taken.

It’s a short, character-driven book as we see how Aziz handles the changes in his life and how they, in turn, change him. It’s interesting to see the motivations of a character from a religion that I have not experienced and in a situation which many people have to deal with in modern time. Although Gold is not Muslim himself, he was advised by a Muslim friend on the content of the book. As he describes it, he wanted to write about those who face problems with both Islamophobia and homophobia. It is certainly a good book to read to learn a bit about the two and to broaden one’s horizons.

2019 Book List

A new year means a new set of books. As in 2017 and 2018, I am recording the books that I read; partly for my own record and partly that it might help someone else find a book that sounds interesting.

24/03/2019 Added Black Leopard Red Wolf and The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Started An Atheist Revolution.

06/05/2019 Added In A Dog’s World and The Time He Desires.

27/05/2019 Added And Yet… and The Communist Manifesto.

27/09/2019 Added Dissident Signals and A Plea For The Animals

28/12/2019 Added On Anarchism and Anarchism: A Beginner’s Guide

21 Lessons For The 21st Century (2018) by Yuval Noah Harari

Book1I got this one for Christmas. It’s a collection of essays, written by an Israeli historian, covering various topics, including truth, religion, terrorism, equality, war and education. Nearly all of the essays are interesting and raise many questions worth pondering. It’s a lot shorter on answers than questions but it certainly stimulates the mind.

One of the major topics that bothers him is what will happen when big data/AI and biotech combine. He sees the merger of the fields as likely creating an inequality that can’t easily be overcome. He fears that the wealth concentrated in the hands of a few will allow them to modify their biology to be superior while AI and robots will mean that workers are unnecessary making the masses functionally and politically irrelevant. Aside from that there are many other great essays on important topics, such as how the current rise of nationalism is fundamentally incapable of tackling issues like climate change which affect many and require a widespread, co-ordinated response. Continue reading

Another one-and-a-half books to the list

To the list of books I’ve read in 2018.

proxy.duckduckgo.comThe Adventures of Peter Gray (2018) by Nathan Hopp

This book tells us about a year in the life of Peter Gray, an anthropomorphic, orphaned wolf cub living in New York City in 1899. It’s an alternate history, obviously, where furry characters and humans co-exist with many events and people from 1899 being included. I didn’t find that to work so well though and think it would’ve been better off using a fictional world based on 1899 New York.

Almost each chapter forms its own complete story, although they do fit together to create an overall story arc and eventually a large change in Peter Gray’s life. The stories are all rather charming, mixing childhood innocence and freedom with the Oliver Twist like issue of living on the streets. There are also many other themes that are dealt with quite well and make it worthwhile reading.

Given the way each chapter forms its own story and the anthropomorphic aesthetic that would accompany it, I can’t help thinking it would make a really nice children’s TV show. I mean, it’d be a fairly gloomy one perhaps in some areas but just look at some of the old children’s movies. Watership Down, The Secret of NIMH, An American Tale, All Dogs go to Heaven. (Yes, I realise three of those are by Don Bluth.) It would fit right in. Continue reading

2018 Book List

One reason I can be glad of the two weeks I spent with my family in South Africa is because it gave me some time to catch up on some reading. It was also hot, so I didn’t actually write anything but we’ll forget that. Let’s start the 2018 book list!

12/05/2018 Added The Conquest of Bread

26/05/2018 Added A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

7/07/2018 Added one-and-a-half books

29/07/2018 Added The Fact of Evolution

22/09/2018 Added A Wasteful Death and Straight Men

28/12/2018 Added reWritten and Just For Fun

Thank you, Jeeves (1934) by PG Wodehouse

51xuergtiil-_sx322_bo1204203200_I remember my interest in reading the Jeeves and Wooster stories came from a small extract in one of the English comprehension pieces we did at school. There wasn’t much there but there was something about it that made me curious and I was disappointed when I couldn’t find any copies of the books at the time. Continue reading

Last book read in 2017

This post is a bit late but I can finally finish up the list of books I read in 2017.

Intimate Little Secrets (2017) by Rechan

rechan06This one’s a little different from the others as it is a collection of short stories. I guess in that way it’s similar to Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which was also a short story in a collection but in that case I only read the eponymous story. Another difference is that this one is not quite as mainstream and is instead published by FurPlanet, one of several furry publishing houses.

All the stories revolve around sex in one or another fashion although the role it plays varies from pure erotica to merely being mentioned in the context of a fur needing her ex’s sperm because her current partner is incompatible for producing children. That is due to the furry nature of the stories which includes anthropomorphic characters of a variety of species, all of which are given individual traits.

With sex as a central facet of life and one with many personal and societal implications it is used here to provide the drama that the characters need to react to. And their reactions are always interesting and unique. The strongest part of the stories is the excellent characterisation of all the participants even in a very short space of time and even for minor characters. While my own interest in each story did vary, in all of them I found the characters to be well formed and I was always eager to see what would happen next.

 

Book list 2017

I was thinking it might be nice to have a record of the books that I have read over the year. It could help me to make sure that I am at least reading something. I do plenty of reading online but those are usually shorter pieces and not complete novels and such. It also might be of interest to friends and family or for anyone wondering what to read. I will try to keep this list updated as the year progresses.

21/06/2017 Added two books to the list.

16/07/2017 Added two books to the list and included covers for finished books.

24/09/2017 Added two books to the list.

07/01/2018 Added the final book to the list.
Continue reading

My interview about the furry fandom

Some time ago, a friend of mine said that his girlfriend was interested in doing a short documentary on the furry fandom for a class of hers. I expressed interest but it didn’t go anywhere. Then, earlier this year, I was contacted again that there was another opportunity and the project was back on!

The documentary aired on 12 April 2017 on the Viennese non-commercial TV channel Okto (as well as repeats almost twice daily till the 19th) marking my first TV appearance! Marlene said it was okay for me to share after the broadcast which I will do here and add some further discussion. The documentary is very short, and in German, although I am sharing the version where my part only has German subtitles but the original audio.

Continue reading