Review by Ivic Wulfe
What the Fox?! is a light-hearted romp by a variety of writers. Some well-versed in the comedic writing style and others more well-known for their dramatic pieces, all come together to create this interesting look into some of the "funnies" that we sometimes miss while picking up a good book. Think of it as a very well-rounded compilation of furry-inspired literature. From a Zootopia/Rogue Cop inspired romp through the city to a classical Brothers Grimm inspired world full of all the fairytale characters. For those interested in the raunchier side of things, it seems the compiler, Fred Patten, had found it pertinent to allow a couple of “TBAGS” to creep in, which are good for a laugh with friends as you try desperately to maintain a reputation while reading them aloud.
I felt the stories themselves were written competently for what they set to put out, although the ordering could have been a little better since it seemed like being tossed from world to world like a ragdoll which gave me pause at times. I had to re-read some stories because I'd still be in different mindsets because of one or two previous ones, and I felt thrown from one perspective to the other. As a collection, however, it paid off because it added to the feeling of the madcap nature of what satire is all about. As a whole, the anthology has some amazing stories in it that, while reading, had me take little excerpts and tidbits from it and read them to friends over Discord to share a little bit of the reason why I was quietly chuckling to myself. Every story has a stylised picture as its accompaniment which helps add flavour to it.
FAPD - Sofox As an opening story, it makes light of many situations where police may be a bit heavy-handed in their approach to active duty and being completely unapologetic about these incidents. It really sets the pace as to what to expect. If one looks at the ending, one can really draw a comparison to Furaffinity admins and some connection with police brutality. I, however, felt that some of the connections could have been a bit more subtle.
Perfect Harmony – Jaleta Clegg A short story about a barbershop quartet of llamas who desperately need help in order to win a singing competition. The characters' general development was very in-depth. Who'd have thought that an al-packa of llamas would be what I needed to read about. This was a good piece overall and had a very interesting premise.
Counter Curlture – Televassi
Sometimes, the idea of being a wolf may seem taxing when your best friends are huskies. This story, about a teen wolf who finds herself trying to deal with overly 'traditional' parents and what seems to be the wolf version of 'Sunday School', finds a unique way to get out of it for good. Well-written and with just the right amount of snark, this story is one that many of us can relate to. “A good wolf always has a plan."
The Carrot is Mightier than the Sword – Nidhi Singh
Clever imagery and very beautifully put forward, this story has a fair amount of clout to it., revolving around a more antiquated lore in respect to our fables. Armies of bunnies, dragons and humans duke it out against one another for power. Hares outnumber the lot of them. Reminds me of Redwall in some senses. But maybe that's my own nostalgia.
A Web of Truth – James Hudson
What would you do if you found out your kid was dating a massive spider? If your answer is attempt to burn the house down, I think I'd agree very much. It has a lot of good characterization to it, and the parents somehow remind me of the Dursleys from Harry Potter when they encounter magic for the first time. At the same time, it also reminded me of a Courage the Cowardly Dog episode. I'm sure what the artist drew with the accompanying picture ensured that my mind go in that direction. A different take on some interspecies relationships, and the character interactions were excellent: they had spark, and there was a genuine connection with them. I felt the writer did a fantastic job.
Suddenly, Chihuahua – Madison Keller
This story is a quaint romp into our psyche when faced with a mundane job, that of a postal officer and the day-to-day issues one might face en-route. Including the fear of all postal officers, being bested by the tiniest canine of all the rat – chihuahua and the subsequent lessons learned from the entire experience.
This story was interesting: it had the makings of the old RL Stine books I used to read as a kid, although not nearly as terrifying. This story has a fair premise and is well-written with a few amusing asides. This has the kind of spunk that a story about chihuahuas should most probably have: punchy and entertaining.
Kenyak's Saga – Mikasiwolf
A look into the worlds of the Vikings and their travels. Written like the epics of old, with a little more of an honest depiction of encountering certain tribes of the old days, Kenyak is the most innocuous 'alpha' of his pack. His travels lead him to many lands and some of the stranger stories that many of the epics of old seem to pave over...such as repopulating an entire island and teaching a group of otters to fight. Oddly, minus the re-population which was quite well-written to be subtle, I felt like I was reading about an episode of Samurai Jack.
Rapscallions – Mary E. Lowd
An engaging piece that plays on the Star Trek themes where some hilarious episodes have been created, much like 'Trouble with Tribbles' and some of the more interesting tropes. It plays on the whole, “what if they were made younger by some stroke of sciency thing.” It really transported me back to some of the books and animated series I used to consume in my younger years. This story is quite the stand-out.
I really hope to pick up more of her full length novels at some point: sci-fi and furries is a little interest of mine, and she knows how to make a light-hearted romp out of her writing.
Dazzle Joins the Screenwriters Guild – Scott Bradford
Dazzle, our protagonist, goes through a long waiting period for the creation of a film based on him and the seemingly endless 'meetings about meetings' that happen in the film industry. Well-written and almost striking painfully close to home on the front of what really happens in Hollywoo, I was quite starkly reminded of similar concepts while watching Bojack Horseman.
However, I felt like I was missing context at times in respect to the story.
A Late Lunch – BanWynn Oakshadow
Where to even start? Our protagonist, a fairytale dragon, sets out to find himself a bite to eat and the various hi-jinx that would go along with it. This story had some interesting twists on the entire fairy-tale ending and even has a gloriously long-awaited punchline.
Riddles in the Road – Searska GreyRaven
Reynard the mischievous fox, King of Trickery, finds himself in a new land with new customs and meets a sphinx where he duels with her in a battle of wits and, more importantly, food. I actually quite enjoyed this story: the attention to the characterisation of our protagonists really fleshed out this piece. The pacing was nice, and the premise interesting. The ending left me wanting to hear much more of Reynard and his travels!
The Lost Unicorn – Shawn Frazier
Miracles, unicorns and the 'saviour' of a small family on a small plot. We follow a rather convoluted story about a unicorn and a farmer's household. Oddly, reminded me of The Last Unicorn in some senses in the manner of writing. Very 1980s fantasy orientated. I felt like I'd been transported to watching the Sunday Afternoon kids movies like Never Ending Story and the Pagemaster. Sadly, I tilted my head a lot at this story and at times found it to be confusing.
Boomsday – Jenny Brass Plots to take over the world, more chihuahuas and some really pyromaniacal tendencies allow this story to take some interesting spins. Protagonists Enfuego the chihuahua and the pine marten Alsadair have the means to make many explosives...for science of course. These elements make for some very 'Pinky and the Brain'-esque scenes except our 'Pinky' is far more fleshed out in her love for explosives than anything else. Almost reminds me of Jinx from League of Legends...
Fun interactions, but I felt like I was dropped into the middle of a story; characters were well-fleshed out though.
Oh What a Night – Tyson West A charming lakeside retreat with an equally charming homme fatale in our vulpes vulpes (it's always foxes isn't it), John H. Truehart finds himself attempting to make a few 'business deals' that would benefit himself, and he has a mark in mind but may find it more trouble than it's worth. Written with noir-esque stylings as well as charmingly dark humour, the premise of this story fared well amongst some of the sillier notions that have been offered. (Chihuahuas? Really?)
Moral for Dogs – Maggie Venesee
A love triangle of the strangest nature. A dog, a fish and a snake. Because why not? Short, titular and a stark reminder of the tribulations we have with relationships of all shapes and sizes. This was fun, if somewhat short.
Broadstripe, Virginia Smells like Skunk – Skunkbomb
A cautionary tale as to what happens to those older conspiracy theorists amongst us that just can't let go for their own good. Our protagonist, a bloodhound, Grand Uncle Hubert has a problem with skunks. They're taking over the town, and it seems like no one else is much too worried about it. I felt the story to be fun, maybe a little on the nose (pun most definitely intended) but an honest look at some of the issues we may have with those pesky, stick-in-the-muds that we seem to exclusively find in smaller towns.
A Legend in his own Time – Fred Patten
As far as stories about the future of mankind go, this one is actually the most likely that I've seen. An otter-like alien goes in to a human settlement planet for trading goods. He instead meets a lost girl and befriends her.
Truly a feel-good story: although as humans we seem rather secessionist by nature, our kids will always be the people to bring us to an understanding that's far beyond our own comprehension. Well paced, and the accompanying art reminds me of Elmyra which is a massive plus point.
The Cat’s Meow (Le Miaulent du Chat) – Lisa Pais
A French tabby cat, named Kitty Pierre, and two dogs aptly named Scruffy and Pug are house pets in this story that revolves around the introduction of a very strange new object to their lives. This story takes some ingenious twists and turns in their attempts to find out what the object of attraction is. It highlights the tenacity of cats, the helpful nature of dogs and the obliviousness that we humans so often have. Fun, light-hearted and a fair read.
Super – Billy Leigh Chock-full of the kind of antics you would expect from a super heroes league where some powers seem to be better than others, we find our unwilling son-of-a-hero Spike, who deals with the trials and tribulations of having to live up to his father when all he really wants to do is get high and play video games (ah the life of a student). However, there's trouble afoot, and it will be up to Spike to save the day!
A good story overall: some interesting superpowers in it, and the villain reminded me so much of Dr. Robotnik I couldn't help but mention the similarities.
Woolwertz Department Store Integrated Branch Employee Manual: Human-Furred Relations – Frances Pauli
As the title suggests, if there were Furries among us, this guide may well be the type we get to be able to handle a more animalistic bunch. The guide is well put together, gives some of the most practical suggestions as well as the kind of store 'HR' or in this case 'HFR' rules there would be. Most of them to avoid lawsuits.
The Dark End
And thus, we enter a point that needed its own paragraph breaker to warn us to 'take heed all ye who enter here' and with good reason. We've hit the wonderfully cringe-worthy world of TBAGS better known as “The Best and Greatest Story” coined by the ever-present Mog Moogle and now (unfortunately) trending as its own brand of erotic literature.
A List of Erotica Clichés You Should Avoid in Your HEAT Submission – Dark End
Ever wonder why some books never see the light of day beyond Deviantart and Wattpad? Yes, this list gives all the reasons why they wouldn't. Definitely worth a read-through if you're a budding novelist/erotica writer.
The Best and Greatest Story – Mog Moogle
The story revolves around a trio of protagonists, Mog Moogle, the obvious protagonist, and two characters with names that beg belief, Moonstar Packhowler and Twinky Yiffslut, and the variety of sexually deviant antics they get up to. Honestly when it comes to TBAGS, I'd almost say it's the best there is...it was like staying up until 4am in the morning and reading the stories on Deviantart that are ordered by least read first.
Self-Insertion – Jaden Drackus
Another take on the TBAGS theorem of things, comes this story about a writer who clones himself in an attempt to jog his writing speed and to come up with plots. Everything goes balls-up from there. Literally. Jack and Jason find the best way to write a story. Also, “Stud Mayo.” I found this to be rather coherent. It had a fair premise and showed promise in some senses. There's a lot of raw sexual emotion, and the characters are almost believable.
The Best and Greatest Sequel: Pron Harder Damnit! – Some Guy Who is Definitely Not the Main Character
I thought it couldn't get better (worse). I was wrong. Amethyst Twilight Tw'inkle has her fun with Professor Mog Moogle in this final (thank the gods) story. From wild sexual abandon to some of the stranger fetishes within the spectrum, we have the sequel of the original TBAGS and what a sequel it is. Forgive me father for I have sinned, I've looked upon this work and despairingly regret every moment of it.
Jokes and Recommended Reading
The final part of this anthology contain jokes/funny anecdotes from the writers featured here as well as a piece by Fred Patten in respect to where one can find more furry-themed novels and short stories.