GOAL was originally published as a quarterly digest. The impression I got, now reading it for the first time, is that it was not intended to be an anthology in the traditional sense. Rather, it was to be a kind of showcase. (Or perhaps an introduction to the world of furry literature.)
This is clear from the fact that it contains not only short pieces of fiction, but also reviews, an essay and an interview. There is even a tiny stick-figure fox proclaiming “Hurray for furry writing!” in there, assumed to be courtesy of the editor.
As for the non-fiction sections, I thoroughly enjoyed “Re-Reading a Classic: Bambi for the Furry Writer” by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt. The reviews are all useful and it has inspired me to check out “In a Dog’s World” by Mary E. Lowd (reviewed here by Huskyteer.)
The problem with printed reviews, however, are they tend to age quickly. Because of its inherent immediacy, the WEB is a better platform for reviews.
The tales in this publication are of a consistent high standard.
My three top picks are :
“Catching the Thief” by Amy Fontaine. A bitter-sweet tale of an old farm dog and a friendly cow that hunt down a chicken-thieving fox.
“The Mouse Who was born a Bear” by Mary E. Lowd is a quasi-futuristic tale of a trans-species bear who undergoes a procedure to have her conscience transferred to a new mouse body. It is clearly an allegory to the plight of transsexual persons; it presents a modern world where changing one’s body is medically possible, but still mired with resistance from society.
“Sheeperfly’s Lullaby” (also by Mary E. Lowd) is a fanciful and tender tale about a sheep who mothers a child with a butterfly. Such flights of fantasy are generally not my cup of tea, but this is so heart-warming I simply had to include it in my top picks.
“Rhinoirceros” by Daniel Lowd, and “The Charitable Pact of a Soft-hearted Fool” by Slip Wolf are the mind-benders in this compilation. The former blends the hard reality of Rhino poaching with the cheesy stereotypes of the Noire genre. The latter is a cleverly written take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood - with the roles of villain and hero completely warped.
“The System” by Simmer the Lizard and “If all your friends” by T. C. Powell, though both short, lend a welcome darker, existential flavour to the compilation.
“Beast” by Frances Pauli, “Promises to keep” by Renee Carter Hall and “Carnivore Studies 101” by Inkblitz deal with more contemporary furry themes. It explores how would our world and society operate if anthropomorphic animals were the dominant species (ala Zootopia.)
“His Dog” by Frances Pauli is a heart-warming tale of the relationship between a laboratory dog and his keeper.
“Sheets and Covers” by Ocean Tigrox, “Mr. Larouze” by Coinsettia and “Power” by Arian Mabe, though well written, were my bottom picks for this anthology. I felt these three pieces were not true furry pieces - They would have worked just as well with human characters. Power was
indeed powerful, but I found it melodramatic. (Individual taste and personal experiences may dictate otherwise.)
Overall, if you like the “Enlightened / Talking Animal” type furry novels, this anthology is a real gem. If you prefer your furries in a more contemporary setting, you might find the collection a bit on the thin side. For the price, I still think it is still a good value proposition.
Furthermore, as the furry literature scene grows, you might find this becoming a bit of a classic. Between the stories, the reviews and the article, many of today’s big names are mentioned, if not represented.