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Articles & Interviews about the Awards


Interview with Huskyteer - Winner UMA 2015 Best Short Story

We had the chance to speak with the winner of the 2015 Ursa Major Award for Best Anthropomorphic Short Story, Huskyteer and her story ďThe Analogue Cat

      1.   For people who have not read your work yet, what would you say to describe "The Analogue Cat"? What do you think made it award-winning?

I can't do better than fellow Ursa winner Mary E. Lowd's summary on Goodreads:

"The entire life story of a genetically uplifted cat who becomes a cyborg and falls in love with a robot."

The story is told in second person point of view, which makes it stand out. It's a little quirky, and it's also on the sentimental side. If there's one thing I've noticed about furry readers, it's that everyone loves a love story.

Click here to read The Analogue Cat.

      2.   Your work won the Ursa Major Award for best Anthropomorphic Short Story last year. Congratulations again on that! What has been your own personal connection to anthorpomorphic literature and what made you decide to add your own work to that vast copia of works?

Thank you!

I found furry in 2002, but it took me a few years to discover the literary side of the fandom. I had written fanfic in the past; now here was a chance to create original characters and come up with adventures for them. Who could resist that?

The most wonderful thing about joining the furry writing community has been meeting and talking to writers whose works I admire. It's also an incredibly friendly place that offers lots of help to people just starting out, as well as established writers. Check out the Furry Writers' Guild forum if you're writing, or interested in writing, anthropomorphic fiction.

      3.   How did you feel when you found out you had won the award?

I had a bad case of imposter syndrome! The short story category of the Ursas allows works up to 40,000 words, so I was amazed that something so short (my story clocks in around 2,000 words) had managed to catch hold of readers' imaginations and hearts.

I was overwhelmed by the congratulations and compliments I received from both friends and strangers. The news broke just before ConFuzzled, a furry convention in the UK, and helped make it an especially enjoyable con for me.

It was a wonderful boost to my self-confidence; it made me feel that I was doing something right, and people were paying attention to what I have to say.

      4.   What other projects do you have in the works? Any other potential award material in the future?

I'm working on a novel, a novella and a short story collection. Maybe one day I'll finish one of them...

Several of my short stories have been selected for publication in upcoming anthologies, including Symbol of a Nation from FurPlanet and New Fables from Sofawolf Press, so you should be seeing some more from me in 2017.

      5.   What are some works you have recommended / plan to recommend for the Ursa Majors of 2016?

Malcolm F. Cross's Dog Country, a very strong military sci-fi novel with genetically engineered dogs. And for something light and fun, Robert Baird's adult short story collection, Bodies in Motion.

2016 saw the release of some excellent anthologies. I'm going to single out Claw the Way to Victory from Jaffa Books and Gods with Fur from FurPlanet (disclaimer: I have stories in both of those).

      Thank you again so much for your time to talk with us. And we thank you for contributing such evocative works to the fandom.

Interview with Alexander Shaw - Winner UMA 2015 Best Novel

We had the chance to speak with the winner of the 2015 Ursa Major Award for Best Anthropomorphic Novel, Alexander Shaw and his novel Tigerís Eye.

      1.   I'm sure this is a question you get often, but what inspired you to write Tiger's Eye?

So many stories start with a boy or a girl who goes on an adventure and then meets an animal companion who helps them through. I wanted to reverse that and start with the animal, and explore what would happen if they found a strange human, how that would upset the balance of their world, how their family would react.

But rather than both creatures from completely different worlds conveniently speaking English so they can start arguing straight away I had these two speak completely different languages, so that communication becomes part of their survival.

It also grew from a bothersome quote from Wittgenstein ďIf a lion could talk, we could not understand himĒ. That got me thinking, about the points of connection that go beyond language and points of cultural reference. We all have families, we are all aware of the sun and the moon and water and fire, they may mean different things to a lion, with fire representing danger rather than potential life-sustaining comfort and cooked food, but they know OF fire.

So one of the themes of the book is this boy and this enormous tiger finding these commonalities, these connections, and slowly starting to grow close as a result. Each new sign they add to their language feels like a step forward and you want to know how rich and complex this friendship can be, and how the right person can help you become a better version of yourself.

Also, I love tigers.

      2.   Your book won the Ursa Major Award for best Anthropomorphic Novel last year. Congratulations again on that! What has been your own personal connection to anthorpomorphic literature and what made you decide to add your own work to that vast copia of works?

Like so many of you guys, some of the first books with anthropomorphic animals in them that had a major, lasting effect on me were The Chronicles of Narnia. Half the books you get read as a kid, or use to learn to read, concern a dog or a cat or a mouse, but Narnia treats the animals in a serious fashion. Lewis wasnít trying only to amuse children. The beavers in particular stuck in my head. For the first time, a non-human animal felt like a real person with a history and a home and fears of their own.

His Dark Materials was the one in my early adulthood that really had a huge impact. You can see its influence throughout my work. All of these enormous, world-changing events are taking place but nearly all the focus is on Lyra and Iorek and then Lyra and Will, but so much of it is externalised through the daemon animal companions. Pullman contextualises the enormity by how it impacts on the children. The endearing qualities about Lyra, Will and Iorek could be seen as quite negative in the eyes of many civilised people Ė they are fierce and solitary, but they use that fierceness in a way that even the smallest child can see is an attempt to help people. Children understand justice better than adults. It had such an effect on us that my wife and I named our daughter Lyra.

I used to devour books, working through the school library methodically, going for covers that looked appealing and sticking with authors I liked. But sometime in the mid-90s I got heavily into cinema and that has maintained to this day so actually some of my biggest inspiration were adaptations of anthropomorphic animal books. Disneyís output in particular resonates with me, and Iím continuously delighted at how they are growing in complexity whilst still keeping those big emotional strokes. If you boil it down, Tigerís Eye is a retelling of The Jungle Book from Bagheraís point of view, which then becomes Tarzan from Kalaís point of view.

And finally, one of the most delightful surprises of my life; by 2008 I was tired of Dreamworksí output. They were leaning way too heavily on Shrek and the trailer for this movie just looked like a string of fat jokes, but Kung Fu Panda turned out to be a magnificent martial arts fantasy, utilising animals. Itís breathtaking and funny and so perfectly, chaotically coordinated, like Jackie Chan stuck inside Crouching Tiger. It was again the serious drama in between, awe-inspiring aerial combat that made me want to describe a world where that was also possible.

      3.   How did you feel when you found out you had won the award?

Honestly, despite the exotic environment and spear-wielding jungle cats, this book deals with some serious, upsetting issues, including grieving, depression and feeling trapped in your own skin, so what I felt was best described as ďpotentially helpfulĒ. The book getting marked as noteworthy like this, and thus more widely read increases the chances that Tigerís Eye will fall into the hands of someone for whom these themes really resonate. If going on a journey with these lost characters, finding the way to live with scarring events in your past, and hopefully being excited and inspired by how it develops helps even one person, then all the work I put in was worth it.

      4.   What other projects do you have in the works? Any other potential award material in the future?

Currently Iím finishing off The Princess Thieves which mixes Robin Hood with the Arthur Legend and a little Princess Bride, itís kind of a love letter to Disney and high fantasy that still subverts a lot of the established tropes to deliver a unique cocktail. This oneís definitely the most fun of the stories Iíve put together. Thereís an extremely rude talking horse in there as well. If that sounds interesting you can download and listen to the weekly audio drama podcast for free up until the point when the story is finished, when it becomes a book and an audiobook.

After that Iím gearing up start in on the weekly episodic releases of SteamHeart, which unites the surviving heroes from the first four New Century books and sends them on an epic quest together. That includes the ones who live through the events of Tigerís Eye so if you want to see what happens next, thatís definitely a story to watch out for.

Iím going to add a special thank you here to my voice cast. Theyíve been working with me for years now and their continuous excitement for where the characters are going, their insight and personal flourishes that bring them to life and readiness to try new roles makes this the collaborative, creative journey Iíve always wanted to be on. Maureen Foley, who voiced Hrao, not only lent the character a dramatic gravity, but the amount of workshopping she and I did with how our tiger should behave and details of her past gave Hrao a depth that she wouldnít have had if Iíd just been writing this as a book alone. So it was wonderful to have the podcast and the amazing cover art of Antonio Torresan nominated in the Ursa Majors as well.

      5.   What are some works you have recommended / plan to recommend for the Ursa Majors of 2016?

Zootopia is a Disney movie thatís been long awaited by this community. There arenít many films at all where the animals donít feel the influence of humans as the dominant species. It takes the opportunity for social commentary in a way thatís multi-layered enough to be applicable to a multitude of real-world scenarios rather than just being an allegory for one. This is how you make a story timeless. Plus, itís beautiful and funny and doesnít pull its punches.

I loved The Jungle Book (for obvious reasons) and was really impressed by how they added to the í67 movie, developing Mowgli. There are moments with Shere Khan in them that if you switched the animals out for a domestic setting with humans would seriously traumatise children. And thatís a GOOD thing. The context of an anthropomorphic adventure allows whole families to absorb a stronger variety of themes and actions, simply because of that slight disconnect.

But of the movies I saw last year Kubo and the Two Strings was right at the top of my favourites list. This is nothing short of a masterpiece. Itís made by LAIKA (Coraline, ParaNorman and Boxtrolls) with meticulous stop-motion and itís a mythical heroís journey, which is an intoxicating combination for me. Monkey, played by Charlize Theron is a serious, passionate character and a strong, maternal warrior and this feels so much like a Japanese legend that I was fairly amazed to find afterwards that it is an original story. Some tales tap into that familiar place, and the precious few are able to illuminate the hero in a new way.

And in terms of literature Spirit Hunters: The Open Road features a mythical land of samurai and animal spirits, so I will be reading the hell out of that one. Sixes Wild: Echoes is all about a bunny gunslinger, which again is speaking my language. I may not have had these cross my path without finding them through the recommended reading list for these awards, which makes this site an invaluable resource for bringing together the best art and media for each year. Iím honoured to have been counted among the 2015 selection.

      Thank you again so much for your time to talk with us. And we thank you for contributing such evocative works to the fandom.