An interesting aspect of being a writer that I happen to enjoy a lot is discussing and comparing stories and ideas that I have with those of my friends who are also writers and creators of characters. The idea behind these conversations isn’t to see who has the better ideas, but rather just to see what others had concocted for the sake of curiosity. Often I will also discuss any issues or problems I am having with my own writings or ideas with these other writers to try to find a solution. And this, being a furry, I was led to the Yahoo! Group known simply as “The Furry Writer’s Workshop”. Since the furry fandom is not the main topic in this post, I won’t go too much into detail about it, but for those who don’t know what furs are I offer a basic description: Furries, or Furs, are simply people who are who are big fans of anthropomorphic animals. It’s not some sort of fandom that’s purely devoted to obscure or taboo fetishes, despite whatever you’ve heard or seen.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, the Yahoo! Group. Well, this was quite a few years ago when I found this group, back when I was a junior in high school. At this time I didn’t have any of the technical gadgets that I do now, save for a cell phone. It was back before I had one of those now standard issue touch screen/MP3 player phones. On this phone I had a generic instant-messaging app called Mobile IM that I used to talk to my internet friends with. So, using the family computer, I would browse groups on Yahoo! and add people to talk to and try to make new friends with. All but a very small handful of these people are even still on my friends list, one of them being an older fur going by the name of Perri Rhoades (or “Perri Prinz” in some instances). Perri offered and shared with me handfuls of interesting ideas, thoughts, and takes on many different things throughout all these years. And to those who actually pay attention to what types of music I am interested in, yes, Perri is the one who’s solely responsible for me discovering the Progressive/Art Rock era of music that I tend to think so highly of. Well, the inevitable happened, and she shared with me a story, no, a serial, she was (and still is) putting considerable work into. It’s a serial by the name of Spectral Shadows. At the time when it was introduced to me, I think I read perhaps one or two chapters and then I all but forgot about the story. Perri, if you are reading this, I am terribly sorry that I took so long in reading something that means so much to you. But recently I began to read it again about three months back and then…stopped reading it again. And then the story became more of a casual read. And then, something happened: after bringing up Spectral Shadows with a friend, he ventured to read it, and consequently became amazed by it. I decided to do some catching up and again resumed to read the story. And then I became absorbed by this awesome serial.
So some of you are probably wondering by now what makes Spectral Shadows such a great serial. I’ll get to that later. But for now, I’d like to offer up a little background information.
Spectral Shadows initially started off as a rock opera predominately featuring music from the “progressive/art rock” movement, so it would have music by groups like Rush, Queen, Styx, Kansas, Yes, The Moody Blues, 10cc, and the like. However, instead of the actors signing the songs that would be playing, they would act, in costume and usually to some kind of colored background, usually without any spoken dialogue, if I remember correctly. Eventually Perri realized that the saga would be way too long for a stage production, and she considered the idea of moving to novelized book format, but again the conceived saga proved that it would be too long for even novelized books. When the internet became more widespread, she finally settled on the idea of publishing the serial online – especially since there’s usually no length or page limits on the internet, and no one has to worry about things like publishing fees for a book. With the serial now going online, Perri came up with the idea of Spectral Shadows being an Old Time Radio Program that was supposedly lost to the sands of time, but despite that, new bits and pieces resurface every now and again, with the new serials and episodes being the ones found. The idea of this is kept alive by how the serials are put online – for example, Serial 1 is completed, but Serial 2 is incomplete, while Serial 11 is the one currently being worked on. There’s even a fictional timeline article of Spectral Shadows that can be read to gain even more information and background on the idea of a long lost Old Time Radio Serial.
Okay, now that the background information has been laid down, I’ll get back on track with talking about why I like Spectral Shadows so much and hold it in such high regard.
What makes Spectral Shadows such a good series? I guess it lies mainly in its allegorical nature and its different takes on things. It’s not unusual for this series to make some kind of commentary on something or offer some kind of insight into things, be it religion, society, equality, or even the Furry Fandom (or fandoms in general; I’d imagine any or at least most fandoms go through the kinds of things the Unfurry Fandom did). In fact, at one point young Christy the fox is asked what she thinks magic is while attending The Aslander School of Magic. She ends up answering that magic is a science, to which the rest of the class laughs at, with one student voicing the idea that magic and science are opposed to each other. However the teacher, Mr. Stopheles, points out that magic is a science while at the same time teaching the idea that “Science” and “Magic” do not have to be opposed to each other – as most people would seem to think, just like that student. Another interesting idea that the series plays with is over in Serial 11, on the planet Cygnus, which is pretty much ruled by females. Much like men on our Earth, the women furs on Cygnus have all the power, and males have only gotten some rights in the past 100 years. Maleizing is something that’s accepted in society, and at one point it’s even given that males would be better off staying at home than working – making characters that do work, like Dr. Reinhart, somewhat of a rarity (especially one in that sort of position). Some towns, like the feline-ruled Webberton, treat males as nothing more than tools and second class citizens. And this gender flipped situation has little to no change on politics; the afore mentioned Webberton has an imperialist constitution that supports the ideas of their princes and princesses marrying royalty of other towns so Webberton can have control of that town, and militaristic Camelot’s constitution has it written that they will start an imperialist empire. Still staying in Serial 11 we see Kacey the squirrel go online, doing things such as posting and commentating on blogs, getting into arguments with fans, and playing a 3D game called Another Life; one episode is even spent on the idea of “Fandom Politics”. And of course the Christian religion gets its fair share of commentary as well, though this is done via a religion known as the “Elysian Religion”. It’s not exactly a copy of Christianity, but it’s close enough to get the job done. Things like the hypocrisy of some of the followers and the act of terrorizing people with the threats of hell. And being a Christian myself, I find a lot of the critizing that Spectral Shadows does of the Christian religion’s members to be justified. These sort of things are often discussed by the characters, and very seldom do I find myself disagreeing with the things that Perry (not to be confused with Perri), Christine, or anyone else come up to be reasonable. When it’s unreasonable, or I disagree with it, at the very least how they reached that conclusion makes sense and is still interesting in and of itself. But I could write an entire article on its own talking about the ideas Spectral Shadows touches base on. At the very least, these ideas have inspired and encouraged me, and I’m sure that other readers have found their own inspiration from this series in their own way as well.
As of this article, Spectral Shadows has three serials: Serial 1, Children of the Ommadawn, is complete with 19 episodes; Serial 2, The Aslanders, has only 6 episodes up for now, left to be finished at a later time; And finally, Serial 11, The Planet of Generic Misadventure, is still being written, with 127 episodes completed, some of them being two part episodes. I have finally reached the end of this long journey, and never did I imagine that the story would become what it was when I first read about Jon and Raelian Ommandeer. Never did I imagine it would take the twists and turns that it did.
What kinds of twists and turns you ask? Well, I won’t spoil anything, but I’ll at least give thoughts and the like on the three serials that are available to read, starting with the first serial.
Serial 1, Children of the Ommadawn, begins with Praline Ommandeer, the priestess of a religion known as the Omman Religion (or Omman Faith) as she gives birth to two fawns that she names Jonathan and Raelian. From that moment on, the story follows the adventures of Jon and Rael as they learn about the different tribes of animals in the forest and all of the wonders and dangers – such as the fox tribe who hunt and kill others under what’s known as The Predatory Prerogative, and idea that claims that since The Fox Tribe (and any other Tribe who claims this idea) has lived in the role of predator for so many generations that it would be simply impossible to live any other way. However, not all of the Fox Tribe are comfortable with this idea, such as the fox Kitsune; during the serial, he begins to fight against this idea, and eventually changes his fate forever, be it a better or worse fate. This serial of course has the fantasy and science fiction in it still; in the beginning we see Shane the Time Captain emerging from his ship The Sound Chaser. Though we get a glimpse of him early on, we won’t see him until later in Serial 1. We also see and read about the Omman Faith and the Omman Lords – powerful creatures who serve the God of the Omman Faith, Ra. The Dream Weaver is the first one seen, who helps baby Jon and Rael when evil thoughts in the universe try to impress themselves on the fawns’ innocent minds, and Lord Death is seen when Kitsune kills a rabbit in the second episode.
All in all, it’s a good serial, and an excellent starting point that explains things vital to the series, such as who Ra is, what the Omman Faith is, and why the Ommandeer family are…different from the other deer. It also introduces some really great ideas, one of them being the idea that if you commit some sort of wrong, you must forgive yourself. Even if you are forgiven by someone, even God, you need to essentially absolve yourself and move on, or else the guilt from what you had done will haunt you.
The next serial is Serial 2, The Aslanders. Jon and Rael have been taken on as Omman Knight apprentices under the Time Captain Shane aboard his Sound Chaser, a ship capable of traveling time and space. While training aboard the Sound Chaser they are introduced to InterGalNet, which is basically internet across the galaxy and even time. They meet a human girl Christy, and find out about The Aslanders School of Magic. This is an online, virtual place where any and all creatures from across the galaxy access to learn how to use magic and become warriors, but as imagined it’s not all fun and games; not unlike The Matrix, anything felt and any pain received while in The Aslanders is felt in reality, including death. However, dying in The Aslanders won’t kill the person in reality, but they will lose a life. Losing all lives will result in being expelled from the school as failing, and the only way to gain another life is to kill someone else. This all happens in a Role Playing Game-like fashion, with each person having stats and gaining experience points and gaining levels and growing stronger.
Much like Serial 1, Serial 2 contains interesting ideas. The only one that’s fresh in my memory and recallable at the moment is the aforementioned moment where the students learn that Magic is a science, and ideas like Science and Magic don’t have to be universally opposed like so many people think. As imagined, this serial is also more action-packed. In fact, there’s a huge battle between two rival clubs that’s quite literally a blood bath – Perri didn’t make this into some light hearted battle where people disintegrate or fade out when killed – heads are blown up, a body gets eaten, and creatures get riddled with holes from a machine gun. Sir Jon and Rael also learn a valuable lesson about “Charm Magic”. Unfortunately, Serial 2 is incomplete, mainly due to Perri not having much knowledge on how RPGs work, and she wants to be able to do The Aslanders some justice and make a good story. So let’s all hope that one day she can get her information and write a good adventure.
Lastly, there’s Serial 11, The Planet of Genetic Misadventure. Like Serial 2, this one is incomplete; however, this one is still in the process of being written. This one, as the site warns, is far ahead in the series, but fortunately the start of Serial 11 has a short recap that goes over what happened at the end of Serial 10. Though it doesn’t explain everything that’s happened up to this point, it’s still fun to read through serial 11 and gradually have events that happened revealed to you and the impact of the events. Now…Serial 11…where to begin? This is one massive serial, as mentioned before it’s 127 episodes, so I suppose a simple summary will work.
Christine James, who we knew earlier as Christy, had run away from a fight between an evil vampire, Luscious Rhoades, and The Iron Man, her father that is cursed and trapped in an iron body. She ends up falling in a strange new area of the mansion she lives in and goes out cold. When she wakes up, she’s in the mansion, but something’s different. The evil spirits are gone; the general feeling of the house is different, and there’s these anthro animals’ portraits hanging instead of the usual ones. She ends up finding out that this house belongs to Sir Jon, who we knew as Jon Ommandeer. It seems he’s settled down with a wife, Sonny, and has two children: Perry Rhoades and Lorri Rhoades. It’s explained to her that she is on an alien planet, Cygnus, which is ruled by half human, half animal creatures that resulted from the Elder Race’s use of Genetic Weapons that nearly killed all life (and at one point, via a dream, you do see what this weapon does. Can you say Nightmare Fuel?). The interesting thing about Cygnus is that each town has its “religion”: a set of ideals taken from the Elder Race, usually based on some non-religious idea or literature. So for example, the town Sir Jon lives in, Suburbia, takes its religion from the Post Second Great War sit-coms and shows that were in black and white, which results in the buildings all being in black and white as well. The town of Noir has a never ending war of The Criminal Element against the Law and Order Side, taking place in a city-setting not unlike the film noire genre, with Jazz as a popular genre of song and a very short life expectancy. Christine eventually is able to be transformed into an adult red fox based off of a drawing she made of Christy to show Perry and one of his romantic interests, the blue fox Vicki. Once this happens, Christine goes through another transformation, this time to her personality and who she is: she goes from being this human whose lost their innocence and even in some circumstances being a complete jerkass to this energetic, fun loving, but serious and philosophical red fox. And that’s when things get a little crazy, but in a good way. All sorts of things happen, from a “Who started the fire” conspiracy, to Princesses wanting to marry Perry to gain control of Suburbia, military conspiracies with the town of Camelot, and one red fox who’s regaining her memories and her magic powers (wait until you read Miracles Out of Nowhere parts 1 and 2). It’s quite the read.
Serial 11 also has the honor of being the more philosophical of the three serials. As I mentioned before, Spectral Shadows as a whole is a very philosophical series, commentating on a wide variety of subjects. I feel that I have gone over a decent amount of the type of commentary Serial 11 offers, so I won’t go too far into that again. But after finishing what’s been written of Serial 11, I can safely say I was glad to read it. I learned a lot of ideas from this serial, and while I can’t regurgitate or remember everything, you can bet I’ll be rereading this serial soon in the future to absorb even more things from it. Besides, I kind of need to if my new writing project has any hope of going along well.
In the aftermath of finishing this series I have been left heavily inspired in more ways than one. Inspired to believe in people, my religion, and the power of ideas, music, and what have you. And probably most importantly, I’ve been inspired to write again. I had been suffering a terrible writer’s block that had been keeping my want to write suppressed since before the end of 2011, and now it has finally been overcome. It’s as if an evil, oppressive force has left and I am free to write and create and play with my ideas all I want, and it’s mainly due to the power of this story. And to show my gratitude, as well as to show my support to such a grand project as this, I pledge my official support and dedication to Spectral Shadows and Symphonic Rock Productions. For the time being, I’m sort of an acting E-Publishing agent for SRP, taking Perri’s story and arranging and compiling it to be sold across all sorts of platforms so we can hopefully reach and introduce more people to this great and powerful series. I have reached the end of the road that has been laid down in this great journey, and once more road has been written and built I will gladly pick up my pack, fluff up my tail, and gladly travel down that road – perhaps even stopping by some of the earlier destinations on the way back to revisit some great places and memories.
Perri Rhoades, here’s to Spectral Shadows, the success of it, and the further enchanting of countless more creatures.