Tag Archives: Animals
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I have been thinking about evolution and change a lot lately. That may have to do slightly with the shapeshifting lizard people I have created for the Comyenti Series. They are on my mind as I’m about to embark writing the sci-fi prequel to the series. It crossed my mind how some creatures here on Earth have, more or less, stayed the same over a hundred million years (as they had no cause to change) and others had to adapt quicker and change drastically to fit in with their new environment.
We are unmistakably still subject to evolution ourselves in appearance and intellect.
Scientists have confirmed humans have not escaped nature’s clutches and put a halt on natural selection. Of course. A halt in evolution simply wouldn’t be possible. As long as people have offspring natural selection continues to happen. For example, over time, Dutch people have grown taller because of a natural preference for tall partners who then have taller children and so on. Our intestines can digest baby food (milk) better than we could four thousand years ago when people first started to make cow’s cheese, although it is still unnatural and hostile to our adult bodies and most people are therefore lactose intolerant (not to mention the fact it’s cruel to those mammals such as cows and goats as the dairy industry is a nightmare on earth). Our teeth and jaws have stopped growing to become more powerful because we started to cook our food so it’s softer and easier to chew. And my personal favourite: our eyes apparently are still changing slowly since we emerged out of the water millions of years ago! Our vision is not as clear as it should be! That explains a lot!
Evolution can in some cases take a long time, in other cases more rapidly.
We, as a species I believe, still have a long way to go. In body and spirit. Imagine if we could do what some other mammals or birds can such as dolphins, elephants, geese or bats for example. Communicate over great distances with no device other than their own bodies, have an inbuilt magnet to always find your way home, have x-ray eyes to spot diseases etc. Instead, we rely heavily on machines for these things. It is clever we have invented devices to do so, but it is only through mimicking what other animals already naturally did. The sad part is that we people tend to rely on these devices ever since. So much so, I believe, it stands true evolution in the way. Computers, GPS, mobile phones have a dark side with the radiation they emit. Oh, but I digress.
Evolution. Change. I sometimes get confronted, as we all do, how some people seem so stuck in their ways and thinking they have stopped using their brain and their own judgement. Evolution does not only happen to bodies over thousands of years, it also happens within. Other than non-human animals who had to change due to their ever evolving environment and have certainly bypassed us in many ways, most humans seem simply unwilling to if given a chance. If given the choice, and they are every day, people rather stick to what they know, what they have been taught, despite the consequences and thus continue to act like it. Even if it means the destruction of our planet for example to name just one light subject . . . Or is it something more than that? Perhaps it’s more due to old habits, pride and tradition than reluctance. Remember, humans only need a push sometimes, especially if others are “doing it” and if something is popular (even if it’s wrong, tests have shown people are followers and feel safer in groups rather than think for themselves). Trends are an example of this and how most people feel they need to have whatever other people have.
By reading fiction one gets exposed to other ways of thinking, of change in a different way, especially speculative fiction. It can be educational and refreshing to read what comes from other minds in the form of fantastic stories. Stories we can relate to, open our eyes, and which protagonist say what we think or want to say, or sometimes we are surprised how a story can change our way of thinking. It can even contribute to our growth. One of my readers even admitted how after reading ‘Quarterling’ had made him think more about his food choices from now on. That is good enough for me. Authors can certainly change people’s way of thinking, how hard it initially may seem. But not unless the reader is already willing and on a certain path.
One other way is through movies or series. Since Netflix came into my life a whole new world has opened up to me. I am pleasantly surprised of what it has to offer. Apart from some great movies there are some brilliant series on there that are worth watching. My tendency goes towards the speculative so series and documentaries such as Black Mirror, 12 Monkeys, Touch, Sense8, Star Trek Discovery, Travelers, Dark, Erased, Innsaei, Cosmos, Saimdang, Secret Healer and Anne with an E just to name a few are among my top 20. I would definitely recommended those series.
To stay with the theme of change especially two series come to mind straight away and what they had to say about change.
One of my favourite series is Anne with an E by Emmy-winning writer-producer Moira Walley-Becket. With themes such as search for identity, bullying, prejudice, diversity, being an outsider, to belong and to be accepted, every episode has much to offer a wide audience. The Canadian drama is loosely based on the 1908 novel “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M Montgomery, featuring a young, complex orphan with deep passions for life and people. With her fresh view of the world and eagerness to share it in fanciful language at every opportunity, she affects the hearts and minds of everyone she meets. In the small village of Avonlea, unmarried, aging siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, expected a boy who could help them on their farm, but what they got instead was Anne Shirley. Their lonely lives from then on are forever changed. A world where anything is possible, calamities are most likely, and the biggest adventure is being yourself.
Some quotes from the last episode:
“Change is uncomfortable because the future is unknown. Yet, the future is riding in fast, like a train.”
“Dreamers change the world. Curious minds propel us forward.”
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
“Different isn’t bad. It’s just not the same.”
“There is always another way to look at things.”
“Change is the only way to grow and learn.”
Another great series is Sense8 which is full of diversity and food for thought. It’s an American sci-fi/lgbt drama created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski. Though I skip through the violent parts, I love the dialogues and how these eight people in different parts of the world are mentally and emotionally linked which can lead to intense situations.
Some quotes on change and diversity from the last episode:
“No one thing is one thing only. How people endow what is familiar with new, ever evolving meaning and by doing so, release us from the unexpected, the familiar, into something unforeseeable. It is in this unfamiliar realm, we find new possibilities. It is in the unknown we find hope.”
“For all the differences between us and all the forces that try to divide us they will never exceed the power of love to unite us.”
“I’m afraid of things permanent because nothing is permanent. Things change, people change.”
“We live in a world that distrusts feelings. Over and over we are reminded that feelings are not as important as reason. That feelings are childish, irresponsible, dangerous. We are taught to ignore them, control them, or deny them. We barely understand what they are, where they come from or how they seem to understand us better than we understand ourselves. But I know that feelings matter. Sometimes they’re little and sometimes they’re huge. However, if you’re lucky a feeling comes along that will change everything.”
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Natasja Hellenthal, author of Lesfic Fantasy novels
When you are vegan for compassionate reasons like I am and enjoy reading it’s often a question when buying a book whether it is going to be animal friendly, or not.
I more than often start a book, only to be disappointed how non-human animals are being portrayed and treated.
A book description doesn’t always prepare or warn us and I have come across too many, especially fantasy books, whereby violence against other creatures is accepted and tolerated. Even riding on horses, or how they are used for war, can bug me. And don’t get me started on the subject of dragons! When is someone ever going to save a dragon instead of treating them like monsters and slaying the poor mythical creatures in the fantasy genre? I think I might devote an entire article on that, or better yet, write my own dragon story!
Also, the story line may be good enough in many a book, but what if our characters gorge on the flesh of other animals or have hunting and fishing as their hobbies? Can, or should we, see past this? After all, we pick up a book to be entertained, to escape, or to even fight the good cause with the main character, not to be exposed like we already are in real life to the cruelties of human kind.
How then and where can we find vegan friendly fiction books?
When doing a search on Amazon for ‘Vegan Fiction’ you’ll get over a 10.000 results. That’s great you think, right? Wrong. Most of these are vegan cook books. . . That’s not fiction. Don’t get me wrong, it’s positive there are so many vegan cook books at the moment, but those books should really fall under non-fiction to make it easier for the reader to find. Sadly it’s all been thrown in one pile. You can, of course, also find vegan fiction books there. I know, as I have gone through most of the list.
I have also typed in Vegan Fiction in Google and found a vegan publisher: Ashland Creek Press. Their Website has tons of eco-friendly and vegan fiction books (VegLit).
And if you’re patient enough I’ll give you even more books! The list is at the bottom of the article.
First, let’s try to break vegan fiction down into two types: the entertainment side and the educational side. Vegan fiction can cover both types of fiction, but that is easily enough to determine from the book blurb.
- Entertainment and escapism. To not be confronted with the habits of the meat-eating and animal abusing world. To simply relax and enjoy a good story. To be entertained, and to forget. These books in any genre have a normal plotline with main characters that just happen to be vegan.
- Education and activism. The author has a clear vegan or eco-message wrapped up in the story with vegan or non-human characters. The author’s intention is to speak up for the animals, for the planet, and ultimately, for us all. For the reader to find a connection with the characters whom we as a vegan can easier relate to. To be faced with the current problems, future ones, or possible struggles. To help us think about our own situation, and what we could, or would do, to solve them. These novels can be dark, but they can also give us hope. They are often speculative and written to challenge us, vegan or not, to make us think hard about our values and questions our unquestioned morals. These books can even be life-changers for those who are not vegan yet.
So, I have created a list of vegan fiction books that are currently available for all ages and covers most genres (although I do favour fantasy and lesfic for obvious reasons). It is not a complete list of course and I haven’t read all of them, but it gives a good idea of what is out there. I have also created a Top10 list of my favourite vegan books with short reviews which will be published on The Vegan Society’s website soon. I’ll post the link once it’s life.
On Amazon you can also read the blurbs of every book and samples by clicking on the “Look Inside” feature.
Also, if you have read a vegan fiction book that is not yet included in the list below, let me know: CONTACT ME as my aim is to compile a complete list to share with the vegan and literary communities world-wide!
Vegan Fiction (A-Z) with vegan characters or an animal rights’ plot:
A Report to the Academy – Franz Kafka (literary)
Amanda the Teen Activist – Feathers & Freedom (children’s fiction)
Among Animals 1 & 2 (a collection of stories) – several authors
Among Animals (Tiergeschichten) – Manfred Kyber
Animals: A Novel – Don LePan (sci-fi)
Animal Lex talionis – Sunny Augustine
Balance of Fragile Things – Olivia Chadha
Beasts – Ana Levley (dystopian, lesfic)
Beef – Mat Blackwell (dystopian, humor)
Best Vegan Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016
Best Vegan Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017
Bestiary: Three Weird Tales – Nicholas P. Oakley
Chained Freedom – Natasja Hellenthal (fantasy, lesfic)
Diary of a Dieting Madhouse – Paige Singleton
Don’t Bang the Barista! – Leigh Matthews
Escape (Diamond Song Book 1) – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)
Elizabeth Costello – J.M. Coetzee
Falling into Green: An Eco-Mystery – Cher Fisher
Fire Bringer – David Clement Davies (fantasy)
Float – JoeAnn Hart eco/romance
Forgetting English – Midge Raymond
Hackenfeller’s Ape – Brigid Brophy
Holy Cow – Ruth Hawe
Kings of the Jungle – Daniel S. Fletcher
Love & Ordinary Creatures – Gwyn Hyman Rubio
Lithia Trilogy: Out of Breath (1), The Ghost Runner (2), The Last Mile (3) – Blair Richmond (YA)
Memoirs of a Fighting Dog – Kaida Ashia
Mort (e) (War with No Name #1) – Robert Repino
Mother Nature’s Secret – Marian Hailey-Moss (children’s fiction)
My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki
My Last Continent – Midge Raymond
Minny’s Dream – Clare Druce
Outside Inside – Anne Grange
Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood (sci-fi)
Off the Reservation – Glen Merzer
Persimmon Takes on Humanity (The Enlightment Adventures: Book 1) – Christopher Locke (YA)
Popco – Scarlett Thomas (contemporary, adventure, science)
Quarterling – Natasja Hellenthal (YA lesfic fantasy)
Salazar – Seth Lynch (noir mystery)
Something in the Water – Ben Starling
Spireseeker – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)
Survival Skills – Jean Ryan
Strays – Jennifer Caloyeras (contemporary, YA)
Skinny Bitch in Love – Kim Barnouin
SkyWhisperers – Natasja Hellenthal (YA lesfic fantasy)
The Soul Thief – Beth Lyons (lesfic fantasy)
The Adventures of Vivian Sharpe, Vegan Superhero – Marla Rose (children’s fiction)
The Awareness – Gene Stone
The Banished Craft – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)
The Bees – Laline Paull
The BFG – Roald Dahl (children’s fiction)
The Boy from Tomorrow – Camille DeAngelis historical/timetravel/paranormal/children’s fiction
The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way – Frances Metzman
The Trap and the Chain (The Kinship Series) – Robin Lamont
The Comyenti Series (Call Off The Search (1), Children of The Sun (2) – Natasja Hellenthal (Supernatural Fantasy)
The Crows of Beara – Julie Christine Johnson
The Dragon Keeper – Mindy Mejia (thriller)
The Earthling Rebellions – Andi Hayes
The Echo of Others – S.D. Rowell
The Exile of Elindel – Carol Browne (fantasy)
The Fettered Flame – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)
The Green and the Red – Armand Chauvel (romance, eco)
The Gift that Time forgot – T.M. Dewfall (children’s fiction)
The Humans – Matt Haig (sci-fi, eco)
The Plague Dogs – Richard Adams (YA)
The Promised Land – Manfred Kyber
The Stone Gods – Jeanette Winterson – (sci-fi lesfic)
The Three Candles of Little Veronika – Manfred Kyber
The Tourist Trail – John Yunker
The Names of Things – John Colman Wood
The Lives of Animals – J.M. Coetzee
The Longing – Bridget Essex (lesfic)
The Ugly Princess: The Legend of the Winnowwood – Henderson Smith
The World of Wickham Mossrite – J.L. Morse
The Year of the Flood, (MaddAddam #2), MaddAddam (#3) – Margaret Atwood
Thornfruit – Felicia Davin (lesfic fantasy)
Vincent and the Dissidents (The Enlightment Adventures Book 2) – Christopher Locke (YA)
Watership Down – Richard Adams (YA)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves -Karen Joy Fowler (contemporary)
You may or may not know that The Comyenti Series, from which ‘Quarterling’ is a part of being a spin-off novel, is a fantasy series that as a whole is really close to my heart. It always has been, more so than all my other books. Being a huge animal lover, vegan, and empath myself writing about an alien humanoid species, who are all mind-speaking empaths, and have all these amazing animal abilities, but with their own weaknesses comes almost natural to me. That probably shouldn’t come as a surprise for those that know me. Especially since most of my life I have almost felt like an alien on this world myself! Being sensitive to noise, bright lights, strong smells, fainting in crowds, wanting different things in life than others my age, reading different books, being vegan, and lesbian! I am also quite a private person, so I guess not many people know much about me at all, hence why I started this newsletter in the first place.
But, I digress. All of the main characters certainly feel like different parts of me I wanted to explore. Especially Sula Comyenti who started it all in book 1: ‘Call Off the Search’ which was originally called ‘Small Sacrifice’, and who has been with me from the start shaping the story and series with me, always insisted in getting heard. For a writer it is almost impossible not to listen to those voices in your head! They won’t leave you alone until you write their stories down. No, you are not insane, you are a writer. That is our excuse, at least.
Still, I just love writing every book that is either part of the series or a spin-off story such as Quarterling is, so I really don’t mind. Besides, Sula is always great company.It became clear to me though that after writing the first two books the characters had much more to say and to do before I started writing book three. I knew I just couldn’t fit it all in without losing the main thread of the book and for the readers to lose the plot. These characters, once an adult, deserved each their own story, their own novel. And that is what I am doing. That is the plan at least. Sula has five children so they all get their own book, some even more than one. There are three so far and a fourth is in the making!
Fay started to tell me her story from the time she left home. It was easy to let her live some of my own experiences and see what she would have done, with or without her super powers. And how I would wish I had those powers often! But then again, she is restricted in some ways. How? Well, you will just have to read the story.
Speaking of superpowers though, especially a female superhero, saving animals, not people this time, was needed, desperately I felt. I have researched but only found one or two other books with a vegan superhero, but they were all for children… Why, I wonder are animals always associated with children or children’s stories? Don’t adults love animals? Do we outgrow them and their cuteness? Don’t we want to read about their happy ending? Adults love their pets, but often can’t extend it to other animals. Most don’t want to think about the suffering, the exploited animals, at least not enough to want to save them. Vegans do. Luckily. Thus a story was born. Fay was going to be a superhero for the animals with an older audience, okay young adults more precisely as she herself is only seventeen when the story starts, but still, it’s a start. I do hope to reach a broad audience with Fay’s story. That is why there are many more subjects thrown in: coming of age, parents, adventure, romance and a touch of magic.
Well, I won’t ramble on too much as this should just be a little post about what made me want to write ‘Quarterling’. Whilst writing I did try to have an audience in mind. I can imagine other vegans want a hero they can relate to or look up to, so it is for them to have a story to feel at home in without too much violence or visual content. But is still is a story about animal activism and what we can all do, or can’t and about hoping to change people, but how? And if we can, should we and to what ends? There are many questions of a deeper nature. Of right and wrong, of grey areas, and that even if we have certain powers there are even more powerful forces at work we cannot always control, and we find ourselves powerless. It’s a story of wanting to save the world, of change both in and outside of us, of being different and finding our way in the world, of acceptance, of having responsibilities and what it means to be an adult. And I also hope to reach those hearts that haven’t quite made compassionate choices yet. For those who say they love animals. Who knows what changes they will make? One can always hope.
Read more about my inspiration and need for wanting to write this story in the Afterword in ‘Quarterling’, now ready for pre-order here:
‘Fay, there is no need to lie to me, you know. I have observed you and seen what you can do. You are clearly not from Bhan. If you were, your kind would have surely taken over from the humans.’
‘Why would you say that and what exactly have you see me doing? Wait, it’s from around the time of the market day I have sensed your presence, isn’t it? What did you see me do?’
‘Enough to know that you act as if these animals are your responsibility, but they are not.’
Fay’s eyes widened and she was numb for a moment as if shocked to hear that. ‘Then whose? If it wasn’t for me they would all still be suffering or dead by now!’
‘It’s not for you to decide, to interfere.’
‘What? So, you’re saying that if you see an injustice done to another soul, or an injured creature, you walk away from it? What if it had been members of your own kind caged in that market?’
‘We’ve never been captured,’ Zemandu answered calmly, unaffected.
‘Perhaps you should be so you know what it’s like.’
‘And you do?’
‘Even if I didn’t I would still care. It’s called having a heart. Besides, all of us carry the painful memories of our ancestors in us. It’s enough for us to feel empathy for other species, because we were treated not too dissimilarly. My kind were trapped, not for food, but as curiosities, and when humans couldn’t get what they wanted from us, killed. We were seen as a threat and menace to humanity, not allowed to live side by side with them like you are.’
‘You can fly, you are immensely strong, you can make fires like I can, and you can communicate with all these anima—’ ‘Argh,’ Fay grunted. She had seen all that? How had she let this happen?
‘No need to be shy or worried. I won’t tell anybody. There is always one dominant species on any planet. What, you didn’t think this was the only habitable planet in the entire universe, did you?’
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