To go with the recent posts I’ve made about my long standing interest in all things furry, I tried writing a post about why I picked a raccoon as my fursona. It got too long when I hit probably the most significant part of it: it’s an animal I think of as American, even though it can be found in several other countries. I’ve heard it said many times that your ’sona animal is somehow reflective of who you are, or who you want to be. So why would an English guy with a well spoken accent pick a trash panda?

I’ve mentioned in a number of other posts that I have American family – my father’s side. Perhaps the family connection isn’t what’s important here. What matters is that I actually really like the USA. The recent writing I’ve done with Todd Aldrington, my furry protagonist who also doubles up as my author pen name, really brought it home to me how despite sometimes raging at the politics and making ‘Glad I live in England’ tweets, American culture both fascinates me and calls to me.

I get serious wanderlust whenever I think about the family holidays I’ve had to Arizona, where my late grandparents lived. The sheer size of the place was incredible, and not just the state and its mountains and the Sonoron desert, but the entire country. My parents drove for a good eight hours to show me the Grand Canyon. In England, that’ll pretty well take you from one end of the country to the other. The USA was a place where that only scratched the surface.

My grandparents lived in Tucson. My great uncle in Phoenix. I set Todd Aldrington’s story in the latter place, remembering the smell of orange trees, mesquite, hot sand, and the intense heat in the summer, and how badly I wanted to drive those stylish, powerful sports cars. And how badly I wish we had Gatorade over here. Not just the orange flavour that you can get in a few odd places – the entire range that takes up a whole supermarket aisle. Everything was just huge out there, from the food portions (and hell was the food good!) to the cars to the scale of the cities.

When I was 16, I told my grandmother I wanted to move out there when I was grown up. I think I actually meant it. I was hooked. She told me ‘But you’ve got the whole world, honey.’ True, but I wanted to start there. Back then I would have told you that I just wanted to escape from Britain forever. Just about everything I liked came from the USA, the music I listened to, the clothes I wore, the films I watched, the cars I wanted to drive as soon as I had a licence, and England had no deserts, no orange trees. Yeah, for the record forget apple trees; once you’ve had fresh orange juice straight off a tree you will never go back. Never mind Snowdonia either, because I’d seen mountains and the views in Arizona. The most amazing sight I think I’ve seen to date was the milky way one night on the way out of the Grand Canyon. That holiday was probably the trip of a lifetime that I shouldn’t try and beat.

Why I never ended up going out there permanently is another post, I think. Let’s just say I mostly think forgetting that idea was the right choice, but just occasionally I long for another trip back there. An online friend recently asked me when I’d come over again, and said ‘When you get a vaguely sane president again.’ In the meantime, I’ll just have to take those trips in writing.

Why write these stories with furs rather than humans? Because it’s fun. Its the part of me that wants to ignore all the stuff that makes me glad I stayed in England and embrace that slightly idealistic idea I had of the USA back when I was a teenager. (The school out there don’t have uniforms! Fuck school uniform, I still hate it despite not having worn one for twenty years now.) Doing this with furs also reminds me the USA really does feel a lot more diverse than Britain in its range of wildlife (controversial statement of the year from someone who grew up to be a ranger, I know). There are parts of the USA that feel more like English countryside, and then on the other hand you have places like Arizona. I always felt like there was more that I could see out there. Furry fiction with loads of different species is kind of a lampshade of that, and a diversity metaphor all in one.

Not to mention there’s more stuff out in the USA that can kill you. I once saw an article on the BBC about the perils of the British countryside, and I just laughed my ass off. We’ve got it cushy. Believe me.

There’s a certain thrill to walking through a place like Sabino Canyon and knowing you’ve got to watch out for them rattlers. Or you might see a mountain lion, or a coyote, and that spider tickling down your back? You’d better keep damn still until it moves on! If that cute prairie dog you’re feeding accidentally nips your finger, go get yourself a shot unless you wanna take foaming dog fever back to England with you. Forget how the entire world is armed to the teeth with guns out there, it’s the animals that’ll getcha!

I’m letting the train of thought get a little random in this post, and that’s fine. Let’s take a digression and deal with a little something that’s always bugged me. 21 to drink in the USA. Really? Seriously? 18 to go to war. 18 to have sex. 18 to buy a gun (I think), 18 for just about everything else, and in some states they’ll even let you drive a car at 15, for fuck’s sake. But uh-uh, you kids aint ready for the good ol’ sippin liquor yet.

I just don’t get it. Every time I google ‘Why’s the drinking age 21’ I get a different answer and I don’t think any of them are good ones. When I started writing Todd’s coming-of-age/coming-out story, I needed him to be able to drink, even if ironically I decided to start him off as a jock who didn’t like drinking, and wouldn’t make use of how in this world, America dropped its drinking age to 18. Go on, tell me it’s impossible and never gonna happen. So’s a world where animals are behaving like humans. And the humans are still there, because I need all the bands and music I’m going to reference. (Maiden, Sabbath, Zeppelin and all the great British musicians not withstanding, the USA really know how to rock. I can’t have a world without Dave Grohl, not even a fictional furry one. ‘Hey Dave, is that a raccoon ripping off your stuff over there?!’)

Okay, let’s wrap this up and have a bottom line before I go get some more coffee (and I do like my Starbucks, even though since reading Kyell Gold I keeping thinking of how one character called it ‘Warm Piss in an Overpriced Cup’ – it’s only that if you’re a latte sipping heathen. Go black and never go back!)

My long standing fascination with the USA has been a massive asset creatively. Even my mainstream books carry subtle hints of it. Or not so subtle ones (several readers have noticed how Sentago is really a four-level Las Vegas with an added beach, blown up to the size of a small country.) I get annoyed at British who take on an anti-American attitude when they’ve never been there. Sure, the politics are a bit nuts and despite speaking the same language as us the people have almost an entirely different culture and mentality, but don’t you think that’s actually interesting? I do.

I sometimes play the dream-game of ‘What would you do if one of your books made bestseller money?’ It’s simple: I’d finally get my ass back to the USA again. I think I’d start with New York this time. Hell, I’d probably do New York to San Francisco in a Ford Mustang.That’s if I didn’t get on a plane to Japan first. But that’s another post.

Click here for Part II, which is in list form, just random stuff from my travels that I sometimes think about.