Furry Writers' Guild Forum

The Cóyotls and the Ursa Majors

Hi everyone

I have an article recently published on [adjective][species], looking at the Ursa Major Awards and thinking about the value that they provide to the furry community:


The Ursa Majors have one big strength and weakness, and that is the reliance on popular vote. Participation rates are pretty good, but arguably they reward the most popular works rather than the best works.

I guess that’s the motivation behind the Cóyotl Awards, geared as they are to “recognizing excellence”. I can see that the voting process among FWG members is a good idea, but I wonder how many members have read a large range of furry books in any given year, enough to make a genuinely informed judgement?

I’m curious as to your thoughts on whether the Cóyotls do a better job of rewarding merit than the Ursa Majors in the realm of furry literature? Any times the Ursa Majors have obviously got it wrong?

Finally, what about the value of the Cóyotl Awards in general? They don’t have much in the way of name recognition amongst furries in my experience, and I’m guessing that press releases and awards ceremonies don’t get much interest from the community as a whole. Are they a bit too niche?


I don’t think either the Ursas or the Cóyotls have much name recognition. To the degree the Ursas have more it’s in no small part to the fact that they’ve been around a lot longer. But several of the questions you’re asking apply to both equally. How many people voting for the Ursas have read all the nominated works (or seen all the nominated artwork, read all the nominated comics, seen all the nominated movies)? My suspicion is that in all those cases the answer is “a small number.”

After watching the FWG grow fairly rapidly over the last ~18 months I’m going to make the possibly foolhardy prediction that more nominees will be read by the average 2014 Cóyotl voter than by the average 2014 Ursa voter, however: we’re invested a bit more in the furry writing community than the median furry is, after all. The Ursas occasionally have nominees – and sometimes even winners – who seem pretty left-field, and I think that’s because it’s relatively easy to get on the ballot by saying “Hey, if you like my stuff go nominate/vote for [story x].” While that could certainly happen with the Cóyotls, too, they’re a bit more resistant to “single story pile-ons” by virtue of being drawn from a smaller pool of people who are more committed to writing (and reading)

Asking for times “the Ursa Majors have obviously got it wrong” is asking to pick fights, particularly if you’re talking about works originating from within the fandom. While I may think coyotish catty comments I try to have the sense to keep them to myself. :-X

I will make a meta comment, though: the Ursa’s lumping of all under-novel-length stories into a single “short fiction” category is something they get wrong. I’d actually like to see the categories as a whole rejiggered a bit.

So true. A 1,500-word story has no business is the same category as a 40,000-word novella.

I ask for examples of where the Ursas got it wrong only because I’m not well-read enough when it comes to furry fiction. I note for example, the omission of Ryan Campbell’s God of Clay from the Ursas - I’ve had it recommended to me by several people as an example of top-notch furry fiction, and it won a Cóyotl - perhaps that might be one? I don’t know.

I do think that you can disagree in a respectful way. That is certainly the way that I meant it, and hopefully my comments in the [adjective][species] article (about what I feel are examples where the Ursas obviously got it wrong) come across in such a fashion.

  • edited to fix a formatting error that occurs if you abbreviate [adjective][species]

Honestly, I’m not well read enough in the genre as I once was. I feel as if there would be some benefit to both a “Popular Choice” and “Judges Choice” within the fandom.

Unless a great deal of books start popping into my inbox to be read and reviewed, I’m unlikely to be well-read enough within the genre to do more than vote or nominate a very small handful of works, alas. :\

The divergence between the 2013 Cóyotls and the 2013 Ursas with respect to writing are certainly interesting. I’ve never seen a copy of nor heard much about The Cat’s Eye Pub, The Thin Line or Corr Syl the Warrior and none of those authors are FWG members; it certainly seems plausible that they got on the ballot due to the “single story pile-on” I speculated on (i.e., people there to vote for one and only one thing). Of course, that doesn’t imply stories that get nominations that way are bad – but it may have a skewing effect on nominations beyond just pushing those particular books, since those voters may not be voting on anything else at all.

I’d be delighted to see something like “Fred’s Pick of the Year”, since he reads more furry stuff than the rest of us put together!

Another feature of the 2013 Ursa Majors - there were only four nominees for “short fiction”. If I have read the rules correctly, this means that only four works received the requisite minimum two nominations.

I’m sure this is a combination of factors: the challenges with getting sufficient participation during the first stage of voting, plus the dearth of widely-read consumers in any given year. Like Bahamut and Chipotle (and I suspect most of us), there is a lot of new furry writing available each year. The 2013 Ursa Major recommendations, for example, lists 28 full-length novels.

Perhaps part of the challenge is getting the nominations right in the first place? Perhaps the widely-read Ursa Major Committee - Fred especially - could reserve the right to unilaterally (but quietly) bestow nominations to works they consider to be especially worthy?

I wonder if that’s a ‘too much choice’ issue; I bet dozens of works got one nomination. Another argument for splitting the short fiction category further, as discusses above.

I think an unintentional side effect of the way furrydom has shifted over the years is that there’s more fragmentation into cliques and sub-interests than there used to be – or perhaps more accurately, there are fewer intersection points between those cliques. There are artists with thousands of followers on FA that you and I and anyone else reading this are entirely unaware of, and the same’s undoubtedly true for writers. (The other day on Reddit someone mentioned something like “the only furry writers who have any following are Kyell Gold, Foo and Bar,” and I had absolutely no frikkin’ idea who Foo and Bar were.) That’s going to create an awful lot of one-vote-only nominations.

One of the biggest challenges for the FWG – and furry writers in general – is getting the word out that there is such a thing as furry writing beyond the confines of FA, SoFurry and friends and that at least some of it’s genuinely worth your time and money. My genuine impression is that a lot of furries – the majority, more than likely – don’t have much idea who FurPlanet and Sofawolf are, for instance.

This is why awards are good. More awards are better. Thus, the furry fandom needs both the Ursa Majors and the Coyotls.

This is true, and also why we all need to push for more recognition and awareness at all conventions around the world, so people can know what stuff is good just from a glance at awards finalists/winners. I can pretty much guarantee that most furry readers in Australia won’t know about one or both awards, so that’s something I’ll try and change at FurDu in a few months.

God of Clay wasn’t even mentioned? That appalls but doesn’t surprise me. God of Clay was the only furry book I read last year, so I imagine there must be a lot of people out there voting for the one or two books they read the year before. I know there must be a lot of other good works I still haven’t heard of.

There’s an old saying: nothing succeeds like success. Because this is a popular vote, name-recognition is going to be the major deciding factor, and it’s easier for some people to rally their own little group of fans to vote for their work than others. ahem cough

I don’t think there is a solution to this problem. If we had a kind of “academy award” type of thing, then we’d have a situation where only the cronies chosen by the “academy” would win and people would cry foul, if anyone cared at all.

That’s the other problem. I don’t personally know of anybody who puts any stock in the Ursas or the Cóyotl awards. In theory it should be recognition from the fandom at large for a job well done, a work of excellence, but it seems to be a contest to see who can convince the most people from their little clique of fans to vote for their work.

I would like to see more impartiality. I would like to see some kind of standard for excellence to encourage people to strive to be better, instead of just doing what’s popular. But I don’t know how that could be pulled off. Thanks to the internet, recognition of any kind for good writing/art/music is nearly impossible because it’s so easy to be lost among the noise. I’m grateful for the Ursas and the Coyotls for trying to elevate some things above the noise, imperfect as the method is.

Humans are not impartial. Awards are given out by humans. Wait…

We need awards given out by robots!

I would like to see that!

So you’re saying we can automate Raffles? (that was the Coyotls mascot’s name right?)

Yeah, his name is Raffles, and he’s more of stuffed toy than a robot.

What we need is a room full of Roombas. We put all the books from the year on the floor and see which ones get vacuumed most. The Roomba Awards!

I feel like that would designate the worst title, since the Roomba is meant to vacuum up trash.

God of Clay wasn’t nominated in the 2013 Ursas, but The Cat’s Eye Pub was. I haven’t read either so I can’t directly comment. However I’ve heard nothing but praise for God of Clay, and a recent review of Fred Patten’s (at his new home on Dogpatch Press) directed me to his thoughts on The Cat’s Eye Pub, which includes:

...the apparent lack of any proofreading. I complained about this in my review of Bound to Play, but if anything, the errors are worse here. Punctuation is floating like "ceased ,and", or missing altogether. Dialogue is missing either the beginning or ending quotation mark. Words are missing or misused. "... a different was unfolding." (p. 9) A different what? "Immigration" in the blurb above should be "immigrated". Doove said in the comments to my Bound to Play review that the chakat word "chakker" should never be capitalized; it is capitalized here. There are common misspellings such as "to" for "too" and "use" for "used".

IMO, God of Clay, Summerhill and Heretic should all have been nominated. It’s a travesty they weren’t.