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The state of furry zines

coyote, furry

A few months ago, I mused on reviving Claw & Quill and later on furry writing in general. At the end of that article I threatened to do a follow-up. It’s been a moderately long time coming, but it’s also—well—moderately long. This is a talk about “zines” both online and off, what’s good and bad about them; a survey of what exists in furry fandom specifically now (at least, what I’m aware of); and finally, a few thoughts about the future.

What it doesn’t have is a description of just what I’m thinking of for C&Q’s potential revival. In part this is to see what other people’s comments are on this, and what suggestions they might have. In part it’s also not to tip my hand openly, either—after all, I don’t have anything built yet, and I neither want to give people great new ideas for features to implement on their sites, nor to make promises for things I discover I can’t deliver. (A few of the ideas in the back of my mind are, as programmers would say, non-trivial problems.)

The State of the Furry Zine, 2006

Before I get going, let’s define what furry zine means in this context, anyway. In fact, none of this first part is furry-specific, so I’ll use the more generic term “genre-specific.”

Genre-specific zines

Canonically, zine is short for magazine, but in practice it’s used almost exclusively by fan publishers. Fans call professional magazines “prozines,” but prozine publishers don’t. I’m using the term as a catch-all, though, so for our purposes, it applies equally to Yarf! and Fantasy & Science Fiction. By genre-specific, I mean what you’d expect: a zine whose focus is on a specific genre, like science fiction, fantasy, or furries. I’m also using fandom in a fairly broad sense, considering someone to be part of “science fiction fandom” if they read science fiction fairly regularly. Being involved with fannish activities, like conventions and clubs, isn’t necessarily implied.

Benefits

There are two primary things a genre-specific zine can do for a fandom.

  • Collecting material for fans. First, and most obviously, it collects stuff that fans would like in one place. Science fiction fandom was virtually defined by Galaxy and Amazing Stories and the like in its early days; furry fandom was arguably created by the cartoonists’ APAs Vootie and Rowrbrazzle, and as it became a nascent fandom, FurVersion was its de facto house organ.

  • Bringing in new fans. For the most part, zines don’t do this on their own, but they are (or were) likely to be the first thing that someone in the fandom is going to show a “newbie” to define what the fandom’s actually about.

It’s possible for a zine alone to introduce people to a fandom, and with the rise of the internet and online publications it’s easier for this to happen: someone couldn’t walk into their local bookstore and find a copy of Yarf!, but it’s not impossible to find FurRag through a search engine. However, to be a good introduction, the zine has to be something that someone who isn’t already a member of the fandom to find interesting.

Problems

While there could be a whole list of problems critics would make relating to content quality for any genre-specific zine, I’m thinking of two broader categories of problems which, paradoxically, relate to a fandom’s relative success in attracting new members.

  • Ghettoization. Once a fandom is past a sufficient population point, there will be publications—particularly fannish ones, but even some more professional ones—that simply aren’t interested in targeting people outside the interest group. This isn’t, in and of itself, bad, but it can eventually prevent people outside the interest group from even giving it a second glance. Before science fiction was a separate genre with its own audience, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe and Edgar Rice Burroughs were writing, simply, fiction. By the 1950s, though, science fiction had become its own category. Works that were clearly science fiction in terms of setting and technique—the elements that define the genre—were not considered science fiction if deemed sufficiently “important,” like 1984 and Gravity’s Rainbow, whereas authors with considerable literary merit like Philip K. Dick and Alfred Bester were ignored for decades by most serious critics.

  • Inbreeding. The flip side of ghettoization is that the best source of new ideas for any genre is the larger world. The Lord of the Rings drew on thousands of years of British Isles mythology; a generation later, many fantasy novels simply drew on Tolkien and a handful of his contemporaries. A generation past that and fantasy role-playing games whose worlds were largely pastiches of the Tolkien-derived novels became direct influences.

    What gets lost through this approach, of course, is that the later generations of stories are new twists not on the original sources, but on the previous interpretations. I encountered this when doing research for an article on kitsune a few years back. The fannish idea of a kitsune has become a magical fox who gets extra tails as a sign of age (or power or rank), serving the god Inari in a complex bureaucratic hierarchy—but these ideas have little or no basis in the original Japanese folk tales.

Solutions

Since ghettoization and inbreeding are related concerns, when it comes to zines, the same remedies might help for both.

  • Don’t solicit only from the fandom. People who may not be familiar with the tropes and clichés of the “in group” may sometimes repeat those clichés, but they may also look at them in ways people steeped in the subculture won’t. This lets fresh air into the fandom, and may also give people who’ve taken a passing glance before and not liked what they saw a better perspective.

  • Don’t “advertise” only to the fandom. Strive to draw the eye, and hopefully hold the attention, of people outside your presumed target audience. While fans are always going to be best at finding new fans, if the work you’re producing can serve as “ambassador,” so much the better.

Web publications

Whether we like it or not, print periodicals are in decline, and this trend isn’t likely to reverse. This is true even for professional magazines. Fan and “semi-prozine” publications have even more motivation to move online: production cost. A 48-page photocopied fanzine with tape or comb binding runs close to $1.50 a copy just for toner and paper alone. A typical fan-level print run of 100 copies would cost more than a year’s worth of web hosting. When I did Zoomorphica, the one issue I produced ran close to $800 for 1000 copies—far more than I paid for a lifetime web hosting contract with TextDrive.

Zine or archive?

Besides lower cost of production, web sites also have other advantages over print magazines: the “back issues” can be a permanent part of the web site. And, they’re interactive: users can not only (theoretically) give feedback immediately, they can be given tools to create and manage their own content, from FTP archives to weblogs and forums. This has led to a new kind of publication that can only really exist on the web, the “archive.”

Zines and Archives Compared
Characteristic Zine Archive
Publishing schedule Fixed None
Submission management Editors Users
Editorial control High Low to none
Administrative maintenance High Low
Front page stories Set by editors Arbitrary

The distinctions I’ve drawn are a little subjective. To explain a couple points: by “administrative maintenance,” I mean that zines, by virtue of having a publishing schedule, editorial control, and so on, require more hands-on administration. Archive operators might vigorously dispute my “low maintenance” characterization, but once the users have the ability to manage their own content, the administrator’s job no longer includes content management. And, by “front page stories,” I mean the ability to highlight content on the index page of the web site. Most archives either don’t do this at all, or just do it algorithmically: the last 10 files uploaded, the five most popular files that week.

Focus

When we get past the implementation details, there’s an implicit philosophical difference between zines and archives, which boils down to focus.

A zine is a showcase, a collection of items chosen to be representative of a theme. These items are deemed by the zine editors to be the best samples from among a larger set. The focus is on quality, however loosely one might define quality. The greater the ratio of submitted items to accepted items is, the higher quality the zine will be (allowing, of course, for the subjective definition of quality used by the editors). The focus is on quality.

An archive, by contrast, strives to include as many items that relate to the archive’s theme as possible. The idea is to be a “one-stop” collection, where users have a good chance of finding whatever meets their personal definition of quality without relying on editors. The focus is on completeness.

There are archives which try to meld the two, but they usually take the tack that the Yerf archive did (and presumably still does in its resurrection), which could be thought of as the “gatekeeper” approach: the archive’s moderators decide whether a given creator will be given an account there, but the tools for uploading remain in the hands of the creator. The moderators may delete items they deem not to be within the archive’s theme or quality level.

Surveying the furry field

For the second part of this article, it’s time to bring things from the theoretical “genre-specific zine” to the state of furry-focused publications today. While I’ll be looking with an eye toward fiction, it’s worth noting that many of these zines accept illustrations, sometimes for over half of their content.

Offline publications

Yarf!

Yarf! started in 1990 and was arguably the “number one with a bullet” furry zine throughout the following decade. Before the commercial internet took off, they largely defined the fandom, and some of the most influential artwork and writing was published there.

However, as the fandom’s locus moved onto the internet, Yarf! failed to follow. Their web site hasn’t been updated since mid-2003 and is currently full of broken links, including their back issue and index searches. A series of difficulties with the staff caused them to abandon their aggressive (and usually rigorously met) publishing schedule of eight issues a year, and actually drop back in practice to something closer to an annual, even though they’re nominally now a quarterly.

The table they’ve had at Further Confusion for many years was conspicuously absent in 2006, and it’s unclear whether they intend to continue publication at all.

Anthrolations, Heat, Historimorphs

I’m lumping all of Sofawolf’s publications together for the purposes of this survey, although they’re thematically quite disparate. Anthrolations is the most general of the three publications, although it has a focus on “relationship” stories (not necessarily romantic). Historimorphs is about alternate history, with funny animals. And Heat is the erotica zine.

These are unique publications in furrydom both for their high production quality and for being paying markets. They’re not high-paying, to be sure, but any compensation tends to attract a higher number and quality level of submissions. Sofawolf has an attractive web site that does a good job of promoting their products, and they’re highly visible on the convention circuit.

The publication schedule of Sofawolf’s periodicals was never frequent, and they’ve been annuals the last few years as the publishers have focused on books and graphic novels. In the future they hope to return to 2-3 times a year publication.

Furnation Magazine

This magazine has a high name recognition due to their association with the Furnation Art Archive, and sports a high production quality, particularly of their covers. They’re primarily an art showcase and comics magazine; while they’re apparently unthemed (beyond anthropomorphics), judging by content they have a bias toward gay erotica.

Despite the association with one of furry’s best known web sites, there’s surprisingly little online about the magazine. You can find several outlets to buy copies at, but there’s nothing I’ve been able to find with respect to publication schedule, submission guidelines, compensation, or, well, any real information at all. (A conversation with a contributor revealed he was as in the dark about these topics as I was.)

Tai-Pan

This zine functions like an APA, in that it has contributing members, but unlike most APAs, the issues are also available for sale to general readers. (This approach has been dubbed an “APAzine” by some, a word which may have been minted by Rich Chandler with Gallery.) It’s maintained a consistent publication schedule and quality level since 1988, making it older than Yarf! by two years.

Unlike Yarf! and most other furry zines, Tai-Pan is tightly themed, a science fiction shared world universe. And it’s not exclusively furry. The editor (typographer) told me that there are members who don’t think of it as a furry zine at all, just a science fiction setting where some of the aliens happen to be anthropomorphic animals.

Everybody else

There are actually a lot of print fanzines still left out there, with different slants and approaches. Fauxpaw Publications—Karl Maurer, whose FurVersion was arguably the original furry fanzine—produces Fur Visions and Fur Plus; the former is more general focus, while the latter is an erotica fanzine moving more from “furversion” to xenophilia. Fang, Claw & Steel is focused on “positive portrayals” of lycanthropes. (The title story to my collection Why Coyotes Howl was originally intended for FC&S, although I never actually sent it to them!) South Fur Lands is a general furry zine (possibly an apazine?) based in Australia. Anthropomorphine is yet another general furry zine from England which may or may not still be in production. (While there is an Anthropomorphine web site it looks to be quite behind their actual output.) And, Silverfox Publications produces no less than three publications, Fürst, New Furrottica, and Alfurnatives. As you can probably deduce from the names, the last two are “adults only” zines.

All of the “everybody else” group can be summed up with the following key points:

  • Small production runs
  • Irregular schedule
  • Relatively unknown

There may well be other fanzines I’ve missed; I think it’s safe to say, though, that if they’re flying that completely under my radar, they’re not too well-known in the fandom. There are also a few publishers who’ve produced furry novels but not periodicals that accept fiction, like United Publications (publishers of Paul Kidd novels and comic books, but not zines).

Online

Considering how important the internet has been to the growth and promotion of furry fandom, for better and worse, it’s surprising how little of the zine concept has been translated to online. Part of this may be an aversion among a subset of the zine contributors and creators to online publication, whether from fears of piracy or a dislike of the medium and associated subculture. Part of it may also be a belief that when anyone can put up their own web site, the idea of a zine is superfluous—the author can just put things on his or her own web site. An appeal of the internet for (some) content creators is its lack of mediation: there’s nothing between you, the creators, and the viewers. (This plays on the antipathy many amateur, and even some professional, creators have toward editors.)

Nonetheless, there’s been a few attempts out there. Some I know or have gleaned a fair amount about; some are still rather mysterious to me. For the purposes of this survey, I’m leaving out any single-author web sites—which ironically means I’m leaving out what I think was the first attempt at a web furry story archive, the Belfry Archive, as revar never added any stories by anyone other than me!

Mia’s Story Index

This is the oldest and—at least until recently—the most well-known story index on the web for furry stories. Mia’s is, as the name suggests, neither a zine nor an archive, but literally an index: it’s a collection of links to stories hosted on other sites, making it something like a browseable search engine. The stories are described and to some degree rated by Mia, giving it a certain level of editorial control.

However, Mia’s index has been updated on an ever-slower basis past the turn of the century, and in fact doesn’t seem to have been updated at all since 2003. While it could theoretically still be a valuable resource in finding all those stories you’d never be able to find otherwise, in practice, many links don’t have an infinite lifespan. Sites at schools, offices, ISPs and free web hosts may radically change structure, be moved by administrators, move to new homes when their owners move, or even disappear entirely. Given that many of Mia’s links have not been checked for the better part of a decade, the site is increasingly less a map to furry fiction across the web than a map to Ancient Pompeii. You can wander around all you want, but you’re likely to find little more than ash. (Many of the story links point to mirrors for the Avatar FTP Archive, the very first furry archive on the net. Unfortunately, there aren’t any working mirrors of Avatar anymore, and the art and stories there are lost to the mists of time.)

Yiffstar

I’m not sure who runs Yiffstar, nor even how long it’s been up (the domain name’s been registered since 2002). The administrators and most, if not all, of the contributors use pseudonyms. Even so, it’s staggeringly large: it claims over 7500 stories—yes, 7500—hosted on its site.

As the name would suggest to anyone familiar with furry fandom, it’s about porn. In your face, unabashed porn. Stories are categorized by the genders of the leads and tagged with keywords for fetishes for easy searching.

I’m not against stories that explore all manner of kinks, but candidly, the vast majority of these would have been bounced by all but the most desperate fanzine. There’s little editorial control, even for basic proofing. At risk of standing on a soapbox momentarily: Yiffstar is the #1 hit on Google for furry stories. Don’t blame the mainstream media for exaggerating the “furry is all about fetish” image; they’re not getting it from Vanity Fair, they’re getting it from us.

Anthro

Anthro is the only furry-specific web site that I know of that’s strictly using the magazine model. They’re bimonthly, and currently at issue #5 (May/June 2006). It was started by Quentin Long, editor of TSAT, the Transformation Story Archive’s webzine. I suspect, although I haven’t confirmed, that it started in part as a response to Claw & Quill’s derailing—Fred Patten’s review column happily moved there, after he wryly and correctly noted that furry ‘zines he contributed to kept going on unannounced hiatuses. (Mea culpa, at least in C&Q’s case.) Given TSAT’s apparently stellar reliability, Fred shouldn’t have that problem again.

As you’d expect, it has the usual hallmarks of magazine publishing, including editorial control. As far as I know, it is not a paying market. The regular contributors have a fairly high crossover with the TSAT crew, including Phil Geusz, Michæl W. Bard and Kris Schnee. Likewise, the austere design and layout is nearly identical to TSAT’s.

It’d be a good introduction to furry stories for a newcomer—definitely better than anything else out there save possibly Mia’s index—although the editorials suggest an expectation that the audience is exclusively from the fandom. Bard makes a curious point of saying, in effect, “I’m not a furry, but…” with each editorial.

Claws and Paws

This is the story section of a more general furry information site run by giza. I confess I don’t know a lot about it, although it ranks fairly high in a Google search. The stories are good quality with a selection by fairly well-known names in the fandom including Will Sanborn, Allen Kitchen and Gre7g Luterman. (One presumes the 7 is silent.) A fair number of the stories are “Lion King” fan fiction.

FurRag

FurRag is one of the newer, if not the newest, attempts I’ve seen at a big furry story central site, and it’s nothing if not ambitious. From their front page:

FurRag, currently in an early beta stage of its development, has the lofty goal of being the definitive furry fiction archive. FurRag is dedicated to catering to all tastes and all genres of furry fiction. Rather than having a different archive for every set of preferences, there ought to be one single collection which can easily be filtered down to the stories that interest any particular user. As FurRag’s technologies are rolled out, it will come ever closer to achieving that goal, allowing all stories a place in one massive archive while allowing readers to easily filter away what doesn’t interest them to get at what does.

From what I can tell, there’s going to be a “reviewer role,” and readers will also create “reader series,” similar in concept to Amazon and iTunes lists. It certainly has the potential to be a great resource for furry fans. Stories are rated like movies, from G to X. (Actually, there’s NC-17, X and XXX ratings.)

A recent visit showed three stories in the “Most Recent” sidebar, one “NC-17” and two “XXX”; a subsequent visit showed one G, one NC-17 and one XXX. These likely aren’t anomalous snapshots, as an informal survey I did of the story database toward the end of February showed about 60% of the stories in the adults-only rating categories.

Fan fiction—in the canonical sense of works using other copyrighted characters, like Loonatics slash fiction (an example I am not making up)—isn’t uncommon. Like most archives, there’s no proofing and no editorial control. FurRag’s design suggests a belief that filtering will allow readers to be their own quality control department, or allow other readers/reviewers to act as editors for them.

Everybody else

There are other webzines and web archives out there. One I found and then lost again, which signifies one problem: these things are hard to find through casual web-surfing. If you hop around from site to site you’ll find most of them in the link sections. Maybe. Many stories exist only on their own islands—the personal home pages of their authors. (I have a couple of stories out there like that myself.)

Conclusions

So after this survey, what conclusions are there?

  1. There are still more offline fanzines than online. Despite the fact that the fandom’s locus has pretty firmly moved online, it hasn’t brought the fanzine with it. There are a few major “art archives” which serve as some measure of replacement, but there’s nothing comparable for writers.

  2. Offline zines are dying. Despite the previous observation, most offline zines maintain little, or even no, online presence, which makes them all but invisible to the fandom as it exists now. I suspect many fans haven’t heard of most of the print publications. While there are exceptions, it seems a lot of fanzines are tacitly or explicitly embracing irrelevance.

  3. Quantity or quality: pick one. There’s nothing wrong with a goal of being “the biggest $genre collection on the net.” If someone asks you for the best furry stories out there, though, you’re much better off handing them a copy of Sofawolf’s Best in Show anthology than handing them a crate of fanzines and saying, “Dig around, they’re all in there!” Most archives are, ultimately, big crates.

    (3a) Chipotle’s Corollary: Quantity begets porn. I’m not talking solely about Yiffstar here (although the argument that the “furry = sex” meme is solely, or even mostly, the fault of non-fans gets a blow to the kneecaps from Yiffstar’s existence). While FurRag is ostensibly “all audiences,” it’s clear where the weight lies there, too. Why? Simply, most amateur “erotic stories” aren’t stories, they’re sex scenes. Stories are difficult to write, but a scene can be tossed off in a night, particularly if the only criteria for success is titillating its own author.

While I’ve been trying to avoid (too) much opinion, using filters and search strategies to “sift through the crate” is valuable, but it’s not the same as having an editor. Picking a random story at an archive is all discovery and no consistency. While a filter isn’t the diametric opposite, it still places higher emphasis on consistency than discovery: you’re searching for explicit-defined criteria, and thus the possibility of finding something cool outside those parameters is greatly reduced. Neither of those approaches changes the nature of what’s in the crate to start with, which is what an editor does. (And even in writing and art, quality is not an entirely subjective measure: it may be subjective to say Hemingway is a better writer than Faulkner, but anyone honest will admit it is not subjective that Hemingway is better than L. Ron Hubbard.)

So where from here?

Good question. What I have right now is a survey of the land, but not a road map. I do have ideas, of course—but I’m curious what other people might think.

One interesting thing I’ve noted is that while online fiction zines in other genres have largely kept the standard offline model of editorial control and discrete issues, furry zines largely haven’t. In fact, every furry fiction site except Anthro that I can think of has been an archive. I don’t have a definitive answer as to why that is, other than the likelihood that art archives are being used as a mental model for “the right way” to put things online (which in turn, I suspect, largely share a mental model with software archives: data is just data).

There are a couple last points that others have made previously to me.

  • Artists have an advantage in online fora that writers don’t: the posted version of an illustration can act as an advertisement for the real product, garnering art sales; the posted version of a story is the product, and once it’s published—and “free on the web” counts—it’s hard to sell it anywhere else. What are the benefits, both tangible and intangible?

  • What would foster a sense of community in the disparate groups involved: writer to writer, writer to reader, and reader to reader?

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Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
ladyperegrine
May. 16th, 2006 03:44 am (UTC)
I'm still absorbing a lot of the information here. It's good information, and I may have more to say after I process it all.

I find myself going back to the question of audience and who's reading. This seems to be central to a lot of points you've raised.

I think that that's the question that leads to a couple of a dichotomies you've mentioned (in addition to quality vs. quantity): the reader who's looking for depth in plot/characterization vs. the one who wants her own fetish buttons pushed as quickly as possible by reading pwp, or the reader looking for 'literary' fiction vs. the reader who really wants to, say, read all the stories they can find about dragons.

Avoiding the whole cliché and jargon issues for the moment, I would argue that these distinctions aren't really about who is 'in' or 'out' of the fandom (which is a murky boundary anyway, imo) but about why people read stories. The dragon-hunter and the person with the large breast fetish may or may not be within the furry fandom: they're still looking for something very specific. Or, staying with traditional genres...there may be something in a 'furry' ezine for the Mystery reader and the Romance reader in addition to the SF&F reader.

For someone like me, who isn't really genre-specific, what I look for generally is good story. I definitely would prize quality (by my own admittedly biased interpretation of the word) over quantity, avoiding the archives unless a friend points me to his work and it happens to be housed there. Still, editorial control has to be based upon someone's definition of quality (which you mention above), and my 10% in Sturgeon's Revelation will certainly be different from yours, even if we do have some common ground. I say this because there also has to be a sort of trust between editor and reader in the selection process. Either this happens through actually reading stories on the site and thinking, 'hey, these are pretty good!' or through name recognition. Sofawolf's Best in Show presupposes a certain amount of respect for them as a publishing company upon the part of any reader that's going to buy the anthology.

So, while I generally tend to avoid archives because I have no idea of the quality of writing...I'd also need to have something else that would draw me to an ezine with high editorial control. While a compelling theme, as you've mentioned, might do it, I think there'd also have to be a sense of reputation preceding it.

And, in that case, I think it comes down to...what sort of reputation do you want to cultivate? Which kinds of stories do you want to present? And I think that the answer 'good ones,' while somewhat accurate, probably isn't enough. Anthro probably isn't enough. Knowing what you want to put out there, having some sort of vision, is important. And I think that each person's take on what that vision is or should be is going to be unique, just as our stories are.

What will people read? Which people? I keep coming back to that, and I don't really know.



sofawolf
May. 16th, 2006 01:30 pm (UTC)
I say this because there also has to be a sort of trust between editor and reader in the selection process. Either this happens through actually reading stories on the site and thinking, 'hey, these are pretty good!' or through name recognition. Sofawolf's Best in Show presupposes a certain amount of respect for them as a publishing company upon the part of any reader that's going to buy the anthology.

[Jeff] This is an excellent statement, too. The size of the fandom is actually helpful in allowing us to garner the kind of trust in our selection process that allows us to do things like novels. I'd be the last to say that our pricing is favorable to the casual purchaser. You don't get something the size of a novel printed for a reasonable price point unless you buy a LOT of them, which we can't manage. So, we have to go with charging a LOT instead -- and rely on the fact that (now) people trust our judgement that it is worth it.

That being said, I picked up a DAW SF paperback a month or so ago at the Border's called "Sirius: The Dog Star" -- a collection of non-anthro talking-canine stories. It was... Well, a couple of the stories were actually pretty good. They were mostly clustered to the beginning. The rest ranged from uninteresting to jaw-droppingly "writer's guide to never-do-this" terrible. Quite obviously (to me) submissions were down and they needed to make page count on a product that had alredy been pitched to a big imprint.

The fandom (even the second-tier writers) could definitely write circles around all but the best two or three stories in it. Most of those had the same flavor as the mainstream ones we end up running -- a one-off story by a talented author that sat on their hard drive until they heard about this anthology. Not everyone here may be talented, but a lot of the writers have at least had a lot of practice and critique at doing what they do, which actually helps a lot.
sofawolf
May. 16th, 2006 01:14 pm (UTC)
[Jeff] I'll chime in with a few observations on "Don't solicit only from the fandom", since Anthrolations has had a fair amount of experience with that.

In soliciting submissions on the mainstream writer's market sites we have definitely gotten some gems, especially early on when lots of writers heard about that "semi-pro magazine taking talking-animal fiction". We got a lot of people saying (in essence) "I've been trying to sell this for a while with no luck, thanks for providing the niche for my story to fit." (Not surprisingly most of these have been children's story writers who were happy to have found a market for their talking-animal, but not-quite-safe-for-kids story.)

On the other hand we have also gotten a lot of... not gems. SO not gems in some cases; but more often than not, just yawn-inspiring.

- 10,385 variations of the "clever cat story"
- Dragons, dragons, dragons
- The "clever POV"... Ah, it was a caged canary all along! Go figure.
- The agonizing parable of the person who is bad to animals and then gets his (always a him) just desserts later somehow
- Some anthro-alien stuff (sometimes good, but usually not)
- The "werewolf with a twist" story

We also somehow got on a Horror Writers' List that I have never been able to track down, so we get a lot of totally off-spec "weird tales of the supernatural" et al. But that is another topic.

Ultimately I have come to a few conclusions:

1) The fandom is, on balance, pretty good at what we do. I think the mainstream can come up with a good talking-animal story, but it seems that most writers have only one of these in them. Not being steeped in the 'culture' they tend to view them as oddities and one offs and never write another. I think, by striving to constantly work the talking-animal angle into whatever interests us, we challenge the concept (often with bad results, but hey...)

2) The fandom is also pretty selective. At least the part of the fandom willing to drop money on a non-adult title. Since the furry market is also your main source of income (ours anyway) you have to keep that in mind. Any attempt to forge out into the mainstream has to be launched from a position of strength... As such, I found myself turning down stories on the basis of "This is pretty well done and is probably very innovative to mainstream markets, but here in the talking-animal fandom it is cliché.

So while we ultimately love to find those mainstream gems we can publish and get a little cross-pollination going, it has been tougher than one might expect. 90% of our material comes from the fandom, and even that is not so easy to find, edit, secure, and publish -- a fact reflected in the sad state of our magazine Anthrolations.

The time it takes to pull together and produce a single issue of a short-story magazine is greatly more than what it takes to do novels (surprisingly) and graphic novels (not so surprisingly). Couple this with slumping sales and the relatively low cover-price you can get for six short stories (even good ones with really good art), it becomes untenable. I love the short story market and don't want to abandon it, but at the same time I have yet to figure out how to keep it going in its current form (given that I have so much else to do with the Press these days).

But that is a different story. I've hijacked your thread long enough. ;)
shockwave77598
May. 16th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Wait until you see what I'm working on now - you guys will be the first to see it :)
chipotle
May. 16th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
That's a good observation, and one I experienced with Claw & Quill in its first incarnation for, I imagine, much the same reason. Mythagoras didn't have the same problem, but it aimed for "magic realism and urban fantasy with a preference for animal mythology" (which is unfortunately hard to sum up in fewer words than that). I don't know if that was a better or worse approach: it opened things up by not being exclusively furry!

It really isn't surprising that getting together a magazine is harder work than getting together a novel, from the production/publishing side of things. And, that's something that moving the magazine online doesn't help that much with, although it at least reduces your overhead considerably. This may be another reason that we see more attempts at indexes and archives online, of course: they move a portion of the grunt work onto the creator.
haikujaguar
May. 17th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
Speaking of thread-jacking... *gnaw* I sent you guys an email a while back. Did you receive it? :)
foxcutter
Jul. 19th, 2006 02:56 am (UTC)
I'm working on a new Anthropomorphic magazine, named Renard's Menagerie (http://www.renardsmenagerie.com/). Were are a professional magazine with all that implies: regular schedule, printed issues, editorial control, and paying contributors. The first issue is set for January of next year.

We don't quite focus on just furry, we look for any kind of anthropomorphic story. Including things like talking cat stories, and others. Judging by the submissions we're getting there's quite a few stories out there, most of which aren't written by furry authors.
shockwave77598
May. 16th, 2006 03:06 pm (UTC)
What I want to see:

Something like Anthrozine with a few additions:
- book reviews.
- pointers to other furry stories; Mia Lite
- a single PDF of the zine for reading on a PDA.
- interviews with sf/furry creators in fandom, not the pros.
- HairBalls, a farcical faux-newspaper about fandom and the cons within.

Make the PDF file for Subscribers Only, and you have a website that supports itself and is very useful. You can read it on the web for free, or pay and have the ability to print it out or download it into your laptop/pda for portable use.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 19th, 2006 01:45 am (UTC)
Anthro
I'm not an editor of Anthro, but starting it was as much my idea as anyone's. I can therefore state with some authority that book reviews, suggested pointers to other furry stories, and the rest are suggestions that would probably be welcomed there. Plus, more submissions from talented writers like Shockwave would be welcomed as well. (A co-editor of Anthro pointed me here; I'm sure you have their full attention.)

What _I'd_ really like to see, speaking entirely for myself, is a sort of all-star regularly-appearing furry-mag featuring the very best anthro stories available anywhere. A quality publication makes everyone associated with it look good, and the higher the quality the better. Such a publication, however formatted, could with the talent available in Furdom easily acheive as high a level of literary quality as "Analog" or "Fantasy and Science Fiction"; indeed, judging by what I've seen in recent years from these publications, we could _easily_ better them in terms of overall reader enjoyment. When I helped dream up "Anthro", it was (for me, at least) with the specific intention of becoming Furry's "Analog", and trying to help bring about an equivelant "golden age" of furry tales. (Sorry. No one ever taught me how to dream small, I fear.)

Anyway, there's a lot of talent both internal to the fandom and outside of it that can and will contribute to quality furry publications. I know that Cubist/Bard have proven that they know how to keep a publishing schedule, and as a writer I'm personally quite fond of their editorial style. My experiences with Sofawolf have also been nothing but positive; their on-paper work is equally outstanding, and they've convincingly cracked the "commercially successful" barrier with "Best of Show" if not some of their offerings as well. "Fang, Claw and Steel" has treated me well in the past, too.

We've got the writing/publishing talent among us to acheive great things. With the fandom growing like it is, I see opportunity in the air all around me for making full use of this talent. It's my fondest hope that, working together or seperately, we furry literary types can make something truly wonderful happen.

But, most of all, I'd like to see us coordinate our various publications and work together. We have talent, yes. But spreading it too thin taints us all with mediocrity, and that's the one thing that we _cannot_ afford. After all, readers can find mediocrity anywhere.

Just my .02

Phil G.
shaterri
May. 16th, 2006 05:18 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's a lot of meat. Well-written, top to bottom, and plenty to digest there. A few haphazardly scattered thoughts on the whole mass:
  • As far as the notion of content, and art vs. writing: I'd argue that the correct answer here may be to revive the long-running tradition of the excerpt. There aren't many people out there writing novellas that can be stripped down to shorts, to be sure, but I'd argue that most short stories have one or two scenes that could be profitably extracted to 'teasers' of one or two pages for an online 'zine; not necessarily with cliffhangers, but certainly leaving enough unsaid that the reader will be interested in seeing more.

  • The natural extention of the APA into the online space seems to be as a blog collection (and indeed, there are infinitely many examples out there), and I'd argue that the natural extension of something like Tai-Pan is a shared-world blog, the rough equivalent of the old BBS storyboards. That starts veering quickly into the terrain of role-playing, admittedly, and may lend itself more to scenes than stories again... but a well-rounded mini-portal that was 'your guide to all things Shunivish' (or whatever you might want to call your shared universe) featuring proper short stories, IC blogs, artwork, etc. would be (a) incredibly hard to pull off, but (b) a fine update to the tradition of works like Ursula LeGuin's Always Coming Home where the focus is less on character specifically than setting in the broad. I know that aprivatefox has some notions along these lines, which I should probably let him speak on. :-)

  • While I think there's plenty to be done within the furry community itself, I have to agree with you that the highest-quality work seems most likely to be found at the edges of the fandom, where it starts shading into more general SF/fantasy/modern mythology. It's no secret that I was a big fan of Mythagoras and urban fantasy in general, and I'd love to see more work, possibly even some shared-world stuff, in that sort of 'slightly off-reality' setting.

  • As has been pointed out, editing is hard. Not only is it hard work, but it requires two disparate skills that don't often go together; the technical writing skills needed to be able to edit someone's work, and the personal skills needed to be able to successfully manage writers and their egos. While groups like the Sofawolf folks are starting to make a dent in this, the overall level of editing talent in the furry world seems depressingly bad; consider that many of the most prominent furry comics (still our most visible face to the outside world, IMHO) go out with an average of one or two glaring spelling and/or grammatical errors per issue, and in some cases overall work quality that wouldn't pass muster in the average amateur 'zine -- and these are our 'professional' works! I could rant about this at length, but I really do find it rather distressing.

That level of editorial quality control, more than anything else, is what I think I'd most like to see out of any new 'zine or online equivalent. Just additional food for thought...
greenreaper
May. 16th, 2006 06:16 pm (UTC)
Random thoughts
According to WikiFur's article on Gallery (which happens to be our featured article this week), Matt High of Antarctic Press was the originator of the term "APA/'zine", rather than Richard himself. Also, Toumal runs Yiffstar, which was founded on 19 September 2002.

As to the archive/magazine selectivity/quality topic - I think ultimately it's a matter of cost as much as anything. To take an example I actually know about, it costs very little to have lots of articles in WikiFur, so we don't care if people want to make articles about themselves or their friends. After all, some of them might actually turn out to be good! We rely on our editors to highlight those that are (unlike most of the archives you mention, the only "automatic" content on our front page is the new bar - even that is currently done by user review, so really useless articles won't make it on there if there's anything better). Some archives have similar rating systems, so it's not just pot-luck - you can search for the highest rated stories.

Another factor might be that the feeling of inclusiveness in the fandom makes people more likely to avoid making sites that would result in people's works getting rejected. Such sites can still be popular with consumers, but often have criticism from the creators who don't make it in (graphics example that you noted yourself: Yerf).

Offline zines are different in another way - they can only publish so much. They have to set limits because if they published just anything they'd run out of money; people won't just pay more for more pages if most of it is uninteresting to them. Online, that's not the case, and indeed people tend to be more likely to come to a site that advertises large amounts of content because there's a bigger chance it has the particular sort of content they're looking for.

I think you're right that there needs to be an appeal to those outside the fandom in order for a periodical to prosper - the focussed markets within the fandom are just too small right now, even with the growth in recent years (most of whom are in the younger generation who are more likely to rely on the net for entertainment anyway).

Oh, and one thing about the difference between art/writing - while what you said about publication is true, art is also an advertisement because artists aren't just selling that work, they take commissions for custom work. People are willing to pay (sometimes quite significantly) for art featuring their own characters. I don't recall seeing many writers taking commissions to write a story for other people about their characters. Maybe that would be something worth trying.
typographer
May. 16th, 2006 07:44 pm (UTC)
Terminology quibble
An APA is generally understood to be a publication in which the editor/publisher functions generally as an assembler only. A contributor may be accepted or not, but once accepted whatever is sent in is published.

Tai-Pan does not work that way. No matter who the contributor is (and we have several pros in our mix), when a story comes in, it is put in the editing queue, and is invariably sent back with requests for re-write. The story isn't published until rewrites are done and at least two editors sign off on it. If the author happens to be an editor, the two editors who sign off on it can't include the author.

Not only that, we accept unsolicited contributions. In other words, you don't have to be a member "up front" to get published.

I realize that means we don't fall into an easy category. That's why the founding editor used to always refer to it as an artist/writer's cooperative.

North American Fur would be a better example of an actual APAzine.
haikujaguar
May. 17th, 2006 03:02 pm (UTC)
While not a specifically helpful observation, I'll say that I would contribute to a furry version of Strange Horizons. It would have to have the same pay schedule.

Just to offset the inevitable "well, a free archive would work" and the "we should lock all the content until they pay!" responses. :)
kris_schnee
Jul. 18th, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting all that; it's informative.

As a writer, what I'm looking for at this point are paying markets and editors who will help me improve my work. Posting on mailing lists like TSA-Talk/TFWF (something you didn't mention) is occasionally good for light critiquing, but not for serious editing. Posting on a big archive doesn't interest me because it offers only recognition, and automatically disqualifies stories from being published elsewhere. So, I'm left looking at "zines" as the best place to submit to, and there aren't many of those.
chipotle
Jul. 18th, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
I'm aware of TFWF (I'm a lurker there, actually), but I've always considered mailing lists to be the rough analogue of APAs rather than 'zines, so I didn't consider listing them. In retrospect that's probably a rather arbitrary decision, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

It's worth noting that out of all the furry 'zines that are or have been, I can only think of a handful that actually attempted to pay for fiction. Of those only Sofawolf's are still extant, and while Sofawolf's going pretty strong as a company their magazines strike me as having something of a murkier future. (Presuming I get C&Q going again, I do hope it will have some payment mechanism, but I'm leaning toward a form for it which isn't quite either archive or zine.)
(Anonymous)
Jul. 19th, 2006 12:11 pm (UTC)
Quentin 'Big Kahuna of ANTHRO (http://www.anthrozine.com)' Long here with a few comments that might be relevant, or at least interesting/amusing...

Your thoughts re: the long-term viability of paper-only publications strike me as valid. I don't think paper publications will ever go extinct... but the ones which continue to exist will have a non-trivial online presence. As a medium for presenting text, paper has some unique and distinctive benefits which no website can match -- go ahead, just try to read your favorite online story while you're waiting for PG&E to take that fallen tree off of your house's powerline -- but at the same time, the online world has its own unique and distinctive benefits which can't be matched by paper. I think the word "symbiosis" is appropriate here...

Your thoughts re: "ghettoization" and "inbreeding" are also valid. In large part, I'm betting that Google will prevent ANTHRO from degenerating into a "non-furries will be violated" No Mundanes Zone; if you do a Google search for 'anthro' -- just that single word, by itself -- my zine comes up in the #5 slot of the list of results. Since "anthro" is also associated with an entire field of science (i.e., anthropology), it seems pretty likely that ANTHRO will pop up in a lot of otherwise-unrelated searches, which should greatly enhance the possibility of new readers stumbling across the zine by accident (yay!).

Mia's Story Index: This was never a good idea. By its very nature, an index flatly requires a shitload more attention and effort of its 'keeper' than does an index, if only due to the continuing need to check and re-check the bloody links in order to determine which of the damn linked-to items still exist. Since any such project is going to be (almost by definition) a labor of love, saddling its maintainer(s) with gratuitous extra hassle (and, therefore, making it that much easier for the maintainer(s) to say "fuck it, who needs this grief?") is a Stupid Mistake.

Yiffstar: I am pleased to know virtually nothing of this site. ANTHRO was created, in part, as a direct response to the (far too) many spoogefests on the net, of which Yiffstar is apparently one. I described ANTHRO as a "no-spooge" furzine to an otherwise-sane person I know, and he seriously asked what I thought I could possinly use in the zine; he felt I wouldn't have any material at all, on the grounds that all furry stories had to include spooge!
Yeah, porn exists. Yeah, it's part of furry. But when it gets to the point where people start to believe that "furry" is porn, end of discussion... at that point, I think it would be fair to say that furdom contains too bleeding much of the damn stuff.
This is not good, because after a certain critical mass is reached, it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy; the more furporn exists, the more likely it is that someone who's not interested in furporn will get out of furdom (or perhaps just never get into it at all). The more furries who are primarily interested in furporn, the more likely it is that creators who aren't porn-focused themselves will slow down, or stop, their production of furry works. The more furporn exists, the more likely it is... Can you say "vicious circle"? Sure you can!
Fortunately, there is a relatively simple way out of this circle: Create and publicize venues that don't use any furporn. Such as, to pick a not-entirely-random example out of the air, ANTHRO. Let people know that there is a choice -- and make it worth their while to explore that choice.

[continued in a second comment, since I've blown the 4300-character limit...]
(Anonymous)
Jul. 19th, 2006 12:14 pm (UTC)
Moving right along with the rest of my comment...

Quoth the Chipotle: [Anthro] was started by Quentin Long, editor of TSAT, the Transformation Story Archive’s webzine.
Historical note: I'm not entirely sure about how TSAT and the TS Archive were related back when Jeff Mahr started the zine back in 1998... but the zine and Archive were unrelated/independent entities by the time me and Michael Bard took over in 2001. Since that meant TSAT was blithely unaffected when updates to the TS Archive stopped, it's probably just as well.

I suspect, although I haven’t confirmed, that it started in part as a response to Claw & Quill’s derailing...
Nope; ANTHRO exists because of a conversation between me and Phil Geusz at the 2005 TSA-Bash. Phil noted that furry fandom was steadily growing at a rate of 10-20 percent per year; that there was an awful bloody lot of furstuff on the net, the vast majority of which was on the wrong side of Sturgeon's law; and that there was a crying need for somebody to create/provide an online venue that actually gives a tenth of a tinker's damn about quality over... shall we say... ability to assist a reader in achieving biological discharge (2006 addendum: AFAIK, all of these points are still accurate today). Bluntly: We both figured the time was right for a furry venue that showcased honest-to-God stories, as opposed to being Yet Another Goddamn Lake Of Spooge, and that I was a pretty good candidate for making it happen. And for me, there was also the possibility of making a bit of money from something I enjoy and am pretty good at, if I do say so myself.

As far as I know, [Anthro] is not a paying market.
True, damnit -- but not for lack of effort on my part! I want to pay ANTHRO's contributors, but given my heinous financial status, that just ain't gonna happen unless ANTHRO manages to generate a semi-decent revenue stream. I've got ANTHRO set up for subscriptions (nothing yet), donations (ditto), paid advertisements (a minor degree of success here), Amazon Associate links (i.e., Amazon.com pays ANTHRO a "finder's fee" for purchases made by people we send their way -- a non-zero degree of success here), and sales of posters and T-shirts (again, a non-zero degree of success). I've paid four authors at this point, and if the revenue is there, I'd love to be able to write more checks.
My next trick, for whatever it's going to be worth, is a paperback anthology made up of the contents of ANTHRO's first six issues. How can I do this if I can't afford to pay anybody? Print-on-demand (http://www.lulu.com) and profit-sharing, that's how. The price will be higher than I'd prefer, but where Sofawolf's products typically work out to around 6-8 cents a page, I'm aiming for 4-5 cents a page. Will this work? Hell if I know. It's worth a shot, is all I can say at this point.
Why am I insane enough to think that people will be willing to spend money on something they can get for free on the net? The Baen Free Library (http://www.baen.com/library/), that's why. And apart from that empirical evidence that paid-for copies can peaceably co-exist? Face it: Low-resolution computer screens are a lousy way to present text. In a power outage, or even if you're just not sufficiently close to a plug, you can still read a book. And a printed-on-paper hardcopy cannot be lost to a computer virus, an ill-aimed magnet, a hard drive crash, a...
Still, ANTHRO's revenue stream is non-zero even now. And its readership (as deduced from the web traffic stats) has been consistently growing by more than 10% per issue. I'm betting that things will get increasingly better, monetary-wise -- but don't ask me to predict if/when the damn thing ever becomes self-sustaining. If it happens, it happens; if not, not.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 19th, 2006 12:17 pm (UTC)
Third and final installment of The Comment That Ate LiveJournal...

I suspect that a lot of what makes ANTHRO different from other furry venues is the fact that neither myself nor Bard are furries, or at least we've never really been involved with the fandom; to the extent that we fail to cleave unto any "standard furry protocols", it may well be because we don't know what those protocols are. (shrug) On the whole, I suspect that my outsider status is an asset, because it means I'm that much more likely to discourage authors from (over)using all the standard furry cliches ("morph", and so on) that make little/no sense to 'gentiles'.

Since some people are prolly going to wonder: No, I don't think that ANTHRO is in any way threatened by the existence of RENARD'S MENAGERIE or CLAW & QUILL. I think there's room enough for all three zines to find their own niches; no "zero-sum game" here, thank you kindly!

Hmmm... I see that the Chili Person lives somewhere tolerably close to my meatspace location. Perhaps a face-to-face meeting might be in order?
toumal
Jan. 22nd, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)
Hi, I'm Toumal, the founder and admin of yiffstar.com and I'd like to debunk some of the myths you've established about yiffstar.com

First of all, Yiffstar never was, nor never will be, a furry fanzine. Yiffstar is a "story archive". Like a library, where you can find a staggering amount of books both good and bad, Yiffstar hosts a huge amount of furry stories (and since recently, also furry art)

Second of all, each and every single story is checked by a member of the reviewing staff. It may well be true that there's sloppiness at times, but the only stories we reject are those which are way too short to be considered a story, or stories with extremely bad formatting. The vast majority of the reviewing job consists of making sure stories are in the right category, that the keywords are correct, etc.
We don't "edit" the stories themselves, as we think that this is well outside our rights to do so.


As for the whole "clean vs. dirty"-thing: Furry porn is a fact. No matter whether that's a good thing or not, furry porn is there. Also, sex sells (or at least, is very popular among readers)

I don't see the value in complaining about sites like Yiffstar, or FChan or any other site focusing on the adult arts. Go into a museum, and you'll find depictions and renditions of sex, homosexuality, and even "deviant" sexual practices like bestiality, incest and so forth. It would be a stretch to say that this was the majority of art back then, but the truth is that if you count the suggestive works in, the numbers don't look that much in favor of "clean art" anymore.
Yiffstar is about adult stories and art. We have a lot of very amateurish submissions, but also a good number of real gems. Those may well be adult gems, but excellent stories and pictures nevertheless. Several stories on yiffstar.com have also been published already.

If Yiffstar is too much of a "big crate" for you, then I invite you to take a gander at our Recommended Reading category. Suggestions and additions thereto are always welcome of course, but this should be a good starting point if you have absolutely no idea where to look for a good reading.


We're past 10.000 stories now. If you say that this is all too much, then I ask you to look at the situation before Yiffstar: Miavir's index-grave had not been updated for over a year back in 2002. Gotfox.com was dead. "Anthro" did not exist. There was no furry story archive where you could just browse for all stories involving a particular species or setting, and not be greeted with a pile of dead links or result lists that weren't already several years old.


That's why I started yiffstar.com in September 2002. Given the chance to go back, I'd repeat that mistake anytime ;)
chipotle
Jan. 23rd, 2007 12:31 am (UTC)
Hi, Toumal. Well:

I described Yiffstar repeatedly as an "archive," as I was very explicitly drawing that distinction; there's a fair amount in the article which talks about the two different approaches. If you're referring to the article's title, well, okay, but "The state of the furry fanzine plus story archives which are not the same thing" is rather unwieldy. In a lot of ways, archives (both writing and art) are descendants of the fanzine, even if the mechanics are different.

It *isn't* a myth that Yiffstar is predominantly filled with sex (that's rather clearly a fact, right?). I don't think it's a myth that archives are harder to use as "best of" showcases than editorially-controlled sites (or zines or what have you), either; it's an opinion, but that's the case I was making, and I think it's a pretty solid one. A 'Recommended Reading' list ameliorates that to an extent, certainly.

Yes, I think an awful lot of what's on Yiffstar is low quality (which has to do with the lack of editorial control, not the adult focus), and no, I don't think it's a particularly good way to introduce someone to the best of furry fandom. Neither of these observations are complaints in the sense of "things somebody needs to fix." The first I'd argue is a necessary feature of any archive with no editorial control and open submissions--that doesn't mean that I think choosing to have no editorial control and open submissions is "wrong," just that I'm noting those choices lead to no quality control. (Editorial standards and tight submission policies don't automatically lead to high quality, of course, either.) The second... well, that's my opinion. It's also my opinion that Harry Potter slash fiction probably isn't the best introduction to J.K. Rowling, and for much the same reason.

As for your passionate defense of porn's place throughout history, with all due respect, I think you're extrapolating an "anti-porn" argument I didn't actually make from a few sentences in a much larger article which was largely about a different subject. (If you're sufficiently bored, I might gently point you at an essay of mine from last year that really *is* about furry's porn reputation, as I suspect what you think I think and what I really think aren't identical. :) )
toumal
Jan. 23rd, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
Frankly, I disagree with your opinion that archives like Yiffstar are descendants of Zines. There is simply little in terms of a connection other than both being a media for stories and/or art. Yiffstar in particular didn't start out as a zine, nor was it inspired by one. It's apples and oranges IMHO.

If you read my previous posting carefully, you'll see that one of my points was that Yiffstar was never meant to be a "best of" showcase platform. What you and every visitor of the site can do, however, is rate stories according to his/her tastes.

Is Yiffstar a good place to start one's journey into furry fandom? Unlikely. I agree with you that my site caters to a subset of the fandom, which is further emphasized by the repeated statements of individual furs who state that Yiffstar's allowance of "cub" fiction is what makes them avoid the site. (Strangely though, I never got the same complaints about death or murder in stories, but that is another issue...)
I alienate a good number of potential writers from posting there by stating that it's an adult archive first, and an "everything-else-furry"-one second. There's a good chance that a casual surfer will be highly offended by the site itself. That's why we have a disclaimer.

My extrapolation of your posting being "anti-porn" indeed stemmed from interpretation of a few sentences. Maybe that was the wrong one to make of it, but as Pilate said so eloquently, I wrote what I wrote ;)

Yiffstar is very much a community site for authors, artists and readers/viewers. Someone posts a story, saying "Look, this is my latest work. What do you think?" - and the readers respond, sometimes positively, sometimes with criticism.
That's very much unlike a Zine where the feedback ends at the usual "Letters from the readers".

Lastly, even if 8000 of the over 10.000 stories are not good, that still means that there are 2000 good ones on Yiffstar. Maybe that's a stretch, and your definition of "good" stretches to only 1000 or even 500. Or just 100.

When was the last time you saw 100 really good adult furry stories in one place, and had the possibility to instantly comment on individual parts of that story? People point to the load of crap on VCL, but they forget that there's a staggering amount of great art on there as well. Such sites have a purpose and they build confidence in future artists. People like Complication5 or Dragoneer didn't start out being great artists. They had places to showcase their developing skills at, and new talents hone their skills on VCL or Yiffstar as I write this.

I know that you never intended your criticism to sound like Yiffstar is a problem that warrants "fixing". Still, you did question the value of the site, and I beg to differ. You don't have to look at the stories you don't like. I think it's much more valuable to give people the freedom to read and see what they like, instead of imposing my own views on perfection upon others. Because no matter how you put it, if you want to play devil's advocate you could say that being an editor for a publication is exactly what this position entails. ;)

khakidoggy
Apr. 17th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
Hi there! I came across this article as part of my attempts to optimize FurRag.com's web search performance, following up on my long-overdue overhaul of the site.

One comment I'd like to make is specifically an omission: FANG, the Little Black Book of Furry Fiction, is absent from your list of publications. I founded this in 2005, with two very rapidly produced volumes, and unfortunately had to take a long hiatus from early 2006 to the summer of that year due to health reasons, after which I've spent a lot of time setting up reselling deals and only recently have I been able to finish up the third volume -- ironically, my editor Ben Goodridge has already completed work on the fourth.

FANG's concept was carefully chosen. Not only was the business plan set up so as to require almst no up-front investment (thus securing the publication's survival), the emphais towad the reader is not just the quality of the content, but the material as well.

It's very well possible you could find better stories for free on-line than you could find in one of the $19.95 volumes of FANG. But this is a *book*, a pocket-sized sleek black volume with pages and ink. Books have a material value, especially since they're quite rare in the furry-specific community.

This has proven to be quite a successful distinction, which largely follows your separation of 'zine' (although I prefer 'anthology' for FANG) and 'archive'. FurRag has no up-front editorial control; any registered user can start any story, and unlike Yiffstar, there's no review process to check for profanity or relevance.

All that is done after the fact. Any user can 'report' a story which is patently out of place. FurRag also leverages communal filtering by the use of 'collections', a feature I'll be more heavily promoting. Anyone can make a collection which can contain any story on the entire site, regardless of who the author is.

So someone who's into sci-fi comedy with foxes, PG-13, who has spent the time scouring the archive for just such stories, can build a collection with all his results -- and anyone of like mind can benefit from that, saving themselves the work of manually searching simply by looking at the stories in his collection. If he's made an 'open' collection, they can add stories they've found, too, making it a community filtering system.

I think it's important for publications and fiction archives to retain this separation. Books have a material allure that persuades authors to put up wih inconvenient editorial review and possibly rejection, and persuades readers to pay money -- while fiction archives should be as after-the-fact as possible. Allow anything to be put on there, and provide the users with tools to easily sort the con from the chaff as they see fit.
chipotle
Apr. 17th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
I've known about FANG for some time, but as you can guess, didn't know about it when I wrote this essay. It's possible I might go back and do an annual update sometime soon, as there's been several ostensible changes. In addition to FANG, there's also now Reynard's Menagerie; Faux Paws has ceased publishing its two fanzines; and Sofawolf's Anthrolations has officially been mothballed, but New Fables will be starting very shortly. And, of course, FurRag has added the collection/review functionality you described above, which wasn't available when I wrote about it here.
mauser
Jul. 11th, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
Found this by egosurfing. Tiny correction. Matt High coined the term APA'zine and applied it to Gallery before publishing his own version, briefly.
chipotle
Jul. 11th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
If I ever do the updated version of this I've been thinking of doing the last, uh, three years, I'll make a note of that, along with a couple other corrections people made in the comments. :)
mauser
Jul. 11th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)
Considering how dead zines are... it'll probably never happen. Oh, and Matt's 'zine was "Wild Life Apa'zine". He might have used a slash instead of an apostrophe.
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