It began, as I suppose many things do these days, with an e-mail.
An acquaintance sent me a link to a website called "The Foolish Site of the Day." The e-mail directed me to a particular link on the site, but after I'd checked that out, I went exploring. One of the other links on the site was to an "on-line comic" called FreeFall. Since I've always felt the comic pages were the most worthwhile part of any newspaper, I checked it out. I don't remember what I was expecting, but I was delighted by what I found. The comic strip was quite appealing; funny and different than anything else I'd seen before. I was strangely drawn to the bold style of it's drawings and zen-like simplicity of its story. After I'd finished reading through the archive, I checked out the links section of the FreeFall site.
Looking back, I liken this experience to seeing something shiny glinting in the mouth of a giant rabbit hole. Of course, I leaned over to look into the hole to see what other baubles might be sparkling in there. I thought the picture next to "Sabrina Online" was cute, so I clicked it. Leaning even farther into the hole, I reached out...
I guess I should have known better. No doubt the work of Eric Schwartz has been the bait that has lured many people into the Wonderland of the furry universe. I still don't know what it is about Sabrina Online I like so much - it's just so darn cool! Cute, but with a certain edge to it, sexy yet innocent, funny and real at the same time. And the craftsmanship behind it all is amazing; the drawings are as funny as anything put out by Warner Bros. in their heyday. Those of you who know the strip (and that's probably just about everybody reading this) know what I mean. (I've since taking to trolling eBay for used Amigas. I've always wanted one, and many of Eric's animations just won't play on a PC. Alas, the money in my toy budget and the space in my home office are both in short supply, so I've yet to bite the hook on that one. Any donations would be cheerfully accepted, though!)
It's hard to remember exactly the order things happened in next. I quickly came across Sabrina The Story, a true labor of love by Chris "Foxx" Yost dedicated to Eric Schwartz's skunk heroine. Chris's medium is words rather than pictures, and his story about the exploits of Sabrina became, for me, an integral part of the experience of exploring the new world I'd found. His prose is simple and touching, with a sense of fun that I felt perfectly complemented that expressed in the comic strip. Chris really captured the personality of each character as it was expressed in the strip, and helped bring each little part of the Sabrina universe into a fuller and more colorful life for me. What's more, his Foxx's Den website showed me that the world of furry expression was not the sole province of visual artists.
Sabrina the Story taught me another valuable lesson - that you don't have to be William Faulkner to write something and have people enjoy what you've written. (Later, another story appeared with many of the same attributes - Zig Zag the Story by James Bruner, based on a character developed by Max Blackrabbit. I was already familiar with the enviable Ms. Zig Zag as Max had portrayed her, and I became a fan of James' story as well.)
At about the same time, I uncovered another synergy of pictures and words that had a profound effect on me. While browsing through the many sites on FurNation, I was always on the lookout for artists who showed maturity and skill in their work. I came across the Brigade site of artist Steve Carter and was again bedazzled. (Steve's site is no longer on FurNation; in fact, he recently retired from doing furry art.) His detailed and carefully composed illustrations were a delight to behold, and they hinted at a rich landscape of undiscovered stories and relationships that stretched out before me. Steve's illustrations weren't comics. They were something else entirely - images from narratives of the imagination more numerous and intricate than I could possibly fathom.
Although most of Steve's pictures seemed to be drawn from histories I was destined never to uncover, some of them were tied to a story that was there for the taking only a hyperlink away - the story of the space freighter Blue Horizon, by Ted and Eileen Blasingame and Steve Carter. These folks, like Chris, wrote for the love of the tale, and this furry universe was complete in a very holistic way. Whereas the Sabrina universe seemed to cover just a small portion of Ohio and western Pennsylvania, Ted, Eileen and Steve's universe embraced a good swath of the Milky Way galaxy, providing an ample playground for their anthropomorphic crew of intrepid and industrious spacefarers.
The Blue Horizon stories were longer and more detailed than the others I'd read, and they introduced me to the idea of a crossover genre - furry plus sci-fi. Right away I thought this combination was a natural mix. (Where do these half-animal/half-human creatures come from? Why, they're aliens of course!) While I was still unsure about how much of a furry fan I was (call it denial, I guess) there was no doubt that I loved science fiction. And I sunk my teeth into the Blue Horizon stories with much relish.
I'd heard about communities on the internet, and had even perused a couple. Like a ship skirting the coastline of a foreign land, I'd always passed by, admiring the scenery perhaps, but suspicious of the natives and not wanting to take the time out from my journey to pull in to port and learn my way around. But the furry world was like nothing I'd ever imagined could exist. I had derived so much joy from the websites I'd found, and I was so amazed at the time, money, diligence and love that fans had put into the genre, that I was moved to respond in some way. I wanted to be more than a "lurker," I wanted to contribute to the furry community and hopefully give back some of what I'd received.
So I began to look around for a small corner of furrydom to stake out as my own. I'm not much of an artist, so I thought I'd try writing (which I actually do for a living, although it's technical rather than creative writing.) I didn't want to do another Sci-Fi story, and the fantasy genre seemed to be pretty saturated as well (another natural cross over, I guess.) I also felt that I didn't have the dedication to do a fan story about an existing character - that would mean having to choose one I liked best! At the same time, I wanted to do something that would be enjoyable, and not too tough to write (like I said, I'm not going for Faulkner here.) So what was left? Mystery/detective fiction, of course. I thought it would be fun to write a story using the language and settings of those old Film Noir detective movies. I liked the challenge of coming up with a mystery worth solving. And I thought it was a genre that other furry fans might appreciate. I hadn't seen any works of this genre in the existing furry literature. (Although, as I worked on the story, this changed. James Bruner has gone into this territory now with a Zig Zag-based series similar in tone to FurNoir. But I must say in my defense that I started this endeavor long before his story appeared; I just procrastinated on finishing the story and putting up the web site.)
I should state right up front that I chose this genre for the above reasons, and not because I'm a rabid fan of it myself. Hammet, Chandler, Spillane - haven't read 'em. And The black and white films I'm most familiar with tend towards either Chaplin or Bergman, rather than Bogart. Also, the site name grew out of the tone of the story, not because the story itself follows the guidelines of the Film Noir genre all that well. To use a sweeping generalization, the tone of the furry stories I've read has been primarily optimistic. Film Noir tends to be pessimistic. I've tried to keep the fur on top of the noir in this story. So for the purists looking for a truly gritty, cynical, brutal, Noir-style tale (about talking animals) sorry but this isn't it.
Finally, I'd like to say that I've also followed the other furry works of my acquaintance in terms of handling adult themes. There are a few words and situations in this story that might offend those with an extremely delicate disposition, but generally it's pretty tame. A PG-13 rating is probably just about right. There's certainly nothing in the story that you wouldn't find on network television (though that's hardly the barometer it used to be.)
So that's all! Enjoy, have fun, and leave me a message if you like what you see.
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