There is a long and rich tradition of furries in fiction. From the classics of Aesop's Fables to the latest and greatest in sci-fi/fantasy novels, comics and movies, we've seen countless stories featuring anthropomorphic creatures. Many of those stories are fine for what they are—morality tales or pieces of fizzy entertainment that allow us to escape into a different world for a time. Some of them, however, touch us so deeply, that they become landmarks for our personal development. When we find ourselves in the company of like-minded individuals, we find that many of us share the same landmarks; entire communities have developed on the backs of this shared connection.
JM (editor horse-in-chief of [a][s]) and I were talking about Fred Patten's article "What The Well-Read Furry Should Read," which features what Fred considers to be the top ten classics of the fandom. It's not a bad list, but we had a number of questions. How on Earth did he manage to narrow down hundreds of years of furry fiction down to a ten best list? What was the criteria to make something truly great? How did Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Animal Farm make the list, but Maus and The Wind in the Willows did not?
I know how subjective terms like "greatest" can turn an innocuous list into a flashpoint of debate, and we here at [a][s] love our opinions and classifications as much as the next data-wonk. So we thought—why not create our own list of novels and stories that we believe serve as cultural touchstones for the furry community? If you wanted to give someone a list of four or five novels that explained the furry aesthetic and the community's fundamental love of anthropomorphic animals, what would you include?
Thus, the idea for "The Furry Canon" was born. We'd like to introduce an ongoing, occasional set of articles that digs into a book or set of stories, reviews them on their own merits and then determines whether they should be added to a list of stories we feel represent the "idea/aesthetic" of furry as a whole.
This is a delicate operation. Who the hell are we to determine what gets added and what doesn't? Well, we're enthusiastic readers, just like you. To hold ourselves to an objective (or at least transparent) standard, we thought we'd make a list of criteria that would help determine whether or not a work should be added to the list.
QUALITY. Obviously, we wouldn't add just any book or story to the Furry Canon. If we're going to suggest these works the curious or uninitiated, at the very least they should be excellent books to read. Is the work strong enough that, even without the elements we're most interested in, we'd be inclined to read it?
LONGEVITY. This is a little trickier, but there are a lot of stories that set the world on fire for a year or two, then mysteriously and suddenly fade away. Does the work still hold up, even across the gulf of time and the changes society has undergone since it was published? Is it a perfect encapsulation of a point in time of the furry community or the broader world? Is there something in the work that's still relevant and vital?
RELEVANCY. Does the story capture a central aesthetic, idea or emotion that's quintessentially furry? Does it serve as a cultural signpost for the community, something that we can know and understand? What is it about the work that serves as an excellent representation for our fandom?
Obviously, our decisions on what gets included and what does not won't work for everyone—but we're hoping that over time, we can cultivate a list of our own that works well as a literary representation of our community.
So, what do you think, [a][s] readers? What novels or collections would you put forward as candidates?