Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Seeking tips on handling controversial subjects

I’m currently working on a project where conflicting cultures from different species causes internal conflict to various characters which they must overcome to fit into the new community. For example, I have one character who refers to humans as skin bags or fur challenged. He makes statements such as they(fur challenged, humoniod, reptile, or otherwise) should keep to their own kind while another character struggles with those who can’t fly. My goal is to eventually bring them together against a common foe. However, the story will cover several volumes(currently at two books) before the obvious racism comes to a resolution of all those involve… well except for the common enemy. How do you guys suggest handling this and other similar taboo subjects? Write disclaimers for the subject matter? Announce the issue will be resolved once the series is complete? Any ideas would be helpful.


It wouldn’t be the first time this has been attempted. It’s a slippery slope with a lot of potential for disaster. This task would require the utmost delicacy, with attention to nuance to be sure you’re not saying things you don’t mean to say. I would also suggest getting multiple POC readers to look at it.

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I have a few who I test my material on as well as pay a few editors for feed back before I publish(I don’t know what a POC reader is), but that " be sure you’re not saying things you don’t mean to say" is what worries me. I feel there are times when things need to be said to set up the story. That is why I specifically chose the words ‘stay with their own kind’ despite the character not keeping his own advice just paragraphs later. It isn’t because I believe it or the reader should believe it, but because the character believes because it was his thought. It is his culture whether we agree or not, but his reality of his new community is in conflict with everything he has ever known. It is his character that will change the more he deals with the ‘skin bag’ human who has his own problems to over come. My fear is exactly what you pointed out as the danger. It isn’t what I’m saying as much as to which someone may choose to take an issue, which they should. It is how some handle the fact that they take an issue controversial subjects which I wish to avoid which is why I added a short note from the author to my last book in an attempt to appease any who didn’t quite follow the underlying message which I could do again I suppose. However, that case was the final book in that series. I’d hate to put a spoiler in the first volume of a series of novels.

I don’t suppose anyone wants to volunteer giving it a look in a year or so before I start editing for publication. lol

POC stands for “person (or people) of color.”

lol I don’t know the ethnicity of my readers. I’ve never asked and a fursona isn’t a tell either. lol

In that case you would say, “I’m looking for POC for a sensitivity read” or similar.

Well, then is there any POC here willing to read extreme fetish pornography for a sensitivity read?

I want to say that, in the end, it comes down to gravity and respect, both for the subject itself and the people it affects. This goes for every sensitive topic, but in this case, for example, if you’ve never experienced racial discrimination yourself, it’s super easy to fall into just using mainstream tropes, some of which may have real worrisome baggage if you think you’re writing a redemption/reconciliation story. If you haven’t researched the subject heavily (real history, current events, racism in media and literature, the perspectives of real people affected by racism—in all its forms—theorized psychological underpinnings of racism, what even constitutes/constituted the term “racism”, and so forth), you won’t be able to give it the realistic treatment necessary to impart that gravity or respect. And I suspect that if you can’t give it that, any amount of disclaimers will probably be for naught because there will be legitimate problems with the work and any backlash will be therefore merited.

I suppose the other option is to just barrel forth and accept the backlash. Maybe use it as a learning opportunity for next time. But, of course, this is a bit different than, say, getting a fact wrong about perturbation theory in planetary orbits or some other benign thing because in this case you could accidentally hurt someone.

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There might be. You are likely to have to do some digging to find them, however.

I may be concerned over nothing too. While I am trying to slide an anti-racism statement into the story, I have been disappointed in the past about people missing the point for all the porn, but does porn sell. The other thing while I’m trying to use what would be considered a bigoted language or thoughts for each of the characters they are not about race as much as species which in this case represents race as we would know it. Would people make the connection of prejudice against those who can’t fly as a racist bigot? The guy who is disgusted by species lacking fur is a Koala character, I have used cats and dogs rivalries in the past but it seemed to cliche. I wanted to come up with things that would or could be a ‘well, of course he feels that way’ until statements like ‘his own kind’ strike that ‘hell that’s just wrong’ nerve. Fur vs skin and flyer vs ‘mud crawler’ seemed like a couple of good ones. I wish I could come up with more to tie into the eventual strike force to fight together, but I guess three characters will be enough.

Oh, and while I have a couple of you in discussion. Are you aware of anyone trying to tie in religion to furry literature? I would love to read how they handled it too. (Yeah, I’m full of crazy)

Depends on what you mean.

My current project is where ‘Furs’ or ‘aliens of populated space’ are interacting with humans who have recently been accepted to trade federation. This allows a contrast of cultures to be invented. I have one alien assigned to help mitigate some of these issues wants to study human religion to for research. My intention is to link common threads from from human religions to made up alien religions.(I had ideas for a related series if I can pull it off)

Anyway, I’ve been doing some research of bible stories I could modify to be recognizable but different. I don’t plan on getting preachy it is pornographic after all, but the ‘do for others’ and ‘self sacrifice’ theme could be something that the intergalactic company may want to utilize to exploit workers. As I have it now, no religion is recognized by the company to avoid conflict with company interests. The company doesn’t want divided loyalties after all. However, due to the new leadership of the company, these rigid standards may become more lax. I haven’t gotten it all worked out in my head yet, but I think this could have as much potential to cause division among the company populous as species variance to overcome, just as it is in the real world. I just don’t think I recall reading any furry material where they attend church. Hell, I was thinking a walking talking painted turtle gay couple in a southern baptist church would nearly shut it down. A small enough church, may even abandon a sermon just to have a ‘bible study’ to interact with the strangers.(maybe I shouldn’t use southern baptists with all that fire and brimstone but you get the picture)

This is fairly common. Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick both wrote some meaty discussions about religion in their day. The film “Enemy Mine” deal specifically with the similarities between human and alien religious beliefs.

I think so long as one is careful and respectful with their portrayal of believers and beliefs, it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. As always, I would encourage getting reads from members of the groups portrayed so as not to cause undue offense.

Sound advice but not too sure how practical the search would be to find a southern baptist to read material containing gay furry porn. lol The biggest problem I have with discussing division due to religion(may be what draws me to it) is the religions that shun swine or canines. I’m not sure I can give them one of those a fair shake. I think it may be best to be avoided. I was considering having my fur company avoid them at all costs due to the large populous of swine and canines. It could work but that would in fact be the heart of predudice. Of course, my goal isn’t to paint the mega-conglomerate as much of a utopia as it may appear on the surface.(They do have rather brutal business practices.) I do have time. I’ll keep plugging away and rewriting until it gets better. It isn’t as if I haven’t written stuff I decided I couldn’t publish before right. lol

I write science fiction. Are you saying I should not consult with scientists when writing about science I’m not familiar with? Or historians when writing a historical time travel piece? Or soldiers when writing a war story? This kind of advice can inform me, so that knowledgeable people don’t read my story, roll their eyes and decide I’m just another hack who can’t research science, and never pick up my work again.

How is utilizing sensitivity reader who can inform my narrative and avoid offense where I didn’t intend it hurting the entertainment value of my work? Wouldn’t letting me know where I’ve written something offensive and helping me make it better improve the entertainment value of my work across the board? Those who don’t know more than I did likely won’t notice, and those who it affects can enjoy my story, too, instead of thinking I’m just another jerk misrepresenting them–just as with science, history, and military operations.

[Edited: meant using sensitivity readers, not shunning]

I used sensitivity readers for my latest story and their input improved my story immensely.

When you’re writing from a perspective you don’t know, there’s a good chance your audience isn’t well informed either. This presents an opportunity to break out of stereotypes and show something interesting.

If some of your audience is well-informed and you’re not, they are going to know you don’t know what you’re doing.

Sensitivity readers aren’t sensitivity editors or sensitivity censors. They’re advisors. The author can reject their advice, as with any other expert, and run the risk of looking like a jerk or hack.

I’ve found that consulting with experts teaches me something, and by learning those things, my happiness with my writing increases.

We also lived without electricity, space travel, vaccines, modern hygiene, or, indeed, agriculture and civilisation for thousands of years. There are of course people who reject those things, but by and large, they’ve improved life considerably.

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A pro tip: any person in any discussion is more likely to be helpful, as opposed to offended, if you are willing to listen to what they have to say, as opposed to supposing out the gate that they’re only going to screw up your work.

Imagine if I went to an astrophysicist and said, “I’m writing about space travel, but don’t give me any BS about relativity, because my story don’t need that.”

“If you’re not well informed on the subject, then you shouldn’t be writing about it. That’s why they say ‘write what you know’.”

I think this is the argument folks are making? ‘Sensitivity readers’ are experts on lived experiences (e.g., being gay, being autistic, being a Tuvan throat-singing champion, whatever), so making use of their expertise is a way of becoming informed on the lived experience. That’s all.

I guess, if in your experience sensitivity readers are only there to become offended and start telling other people to avoid your works at all cost, well I don’t know. Could be either you’ve found the worst sensitivity readers in the world, or you handed them something truly reprehensible, or some other thing. I know there is a school of thought that one should NEVER attempt to write outside one’s own personal experience, but it seems illogical to me that the majority of people promoting themselves as sensitivity readers would adhere to that school. It defeats the entire purpose.