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art by Justine McGreevy

Brief Interviews With Therianthropes

Alec Austin and Marissa Lingen met 10 years ago in a writer's group. Marissa is the author of over 80 published stories, while Alec is a professional video game designer and a published poet. Both of them have previously published work in Daily Science Fiction, and have been known to crack jokes about nuclear physics, Finnish history, and Renaissance statesmen.

University of Washington Supernatural Philosophy Dept., Therianthrope Research Team field notes. Principal Investigators: Dr. Yue and Dr. Bjornson.
Interview #1 - Werewolf
"Hey, babe, no problem. I don't mind talking about my special talents. The ladies dig that stuff, know what I mean? What? Well, I'm just saying, I've never known a werewolf who had a hard time getting chicks. And not just at that time of the month, either.
"Why? Huh. I could feed you a lot of crap about our connection to the land and like that, and sometimes it works on chicks, but really, what it boils down to is animal magnetism. How we move, how we smell. Girls want to be with the alpha, not with some runty loser.
"Drawbacks? What drawbacks? No, I don't think the smell's a drawback. Like I said, animal magnetism. All those sissies spraying their balls with deodorant don't know what they're missing."
Interview #2 - Were-ermine
"I'm so glad this project is taking a broad view of the therianthrope community. People focus on the popular ones, and the rest of us get neglected.
"Bitter? Oh, no. I'm not bitter. But you always hear about everyone's werewolf boyfriend, yeah? And there are were-bears in Tolkien. But there are a ton of us out there who just don't show up on anyone's radar....
"Look, I'm not saying I'm friends with all the other Therianthropes. You might not have noticed, but I'm kind of small in my animal form, and some of those guys are scary. Do you know what they call me? Vermine! That's mean! And that damn puma's always threatening to make me into a coat.
"Could it be worse? Sure. At least I'm not a were-weasel. Seriously, those guys always smell. Of piss, if you must know."
Interview #3 - Were-rat (purported)
[Subject refused to transform into human shape or converse in anything other than chitters. Could not confirm Therianthropic status.]
Interview #4 - Were-bear
"No, I never planned to be a Thery-whatsit. But you roll with what life gives you, right? It could be a lot worse. I always felt at home out in the woods anyway, and now I don't even need to pitch a tent. Up at dawn, jump into the river, fresh trout for breakfast--yeah, I'm happy with the cards I got dealt.
"And man, can I ever sleep in. Noon on a Sunday? Try four months of winter. It's awesome. Esti-what? Dude, I don't know, I'm just saying, it's great stuff, you should try it.
"Drawbacks? I guess so. I mean, not from being a bear. But there's some scary stuff out there. I take one of my bros now when I go fishing. Not that we couldn't take whatever's out there on our own, but you know, better safe than sorry. You're kinda off-guard when you're all bent over the river grabbing salmon."
Interview #5 - Were-eagle
"Life changes? My girlfriend dumped me, you think that counts? I used to have hair like Fabio, but that's all gone since the damn bird bit me, and she just couldn't deal. Left me for the drummer in a punk band.
"No, I wasn't done. Every time I think of her, I feel like her drummer represents everything that's wrong with this country. And that's not even me. I've listened to Bad Religion and Anti-Flag since I was ten, and suddenly I'm Captain Patriotic. That shit ain't right.
"Yeah, the flying is pretty cool, I guess. But you know what sucks? Having to heave up a pellet of bones and matted squirrel hair. Come to think of it, that might've turned off my girlfriend too...."
Interview #6 - Were-orca
"I'm sure you guys have heard a lot of nasty rumors about me. What? You haven't? Who've you been talking to, anyway?
"Oh, those losers. So here's the real story: some of these guys like to pretend they're vegetarians or something. They eat meat, I eat meat. They just don't like it when they know the meat I eat.
"I get hungry, man. It's nature's way. Plus, a lot of those guys are assholes. Total. Assholes. Like this were-seal I ran into at a party, who wouldn't leave my girlfriend alone. I mean, she can take care of herself, don't get me wrong, but you just want that stuff weeded out of the gene pool.
"Plus, you don't want to fall over a shapeshifter every few seconds, do you? It's population control, pure and simple.
"No, of course it's not cannibalism! God, I'd never eat another were-orca! That's awful! What kind of person do you think I am?
"Seriously, only prey species. You've gotta have rules in life, man."
Interview #7 - Were-badger
"Hmm? Eh."
[Interviewer asked subject if he could elaborate on his feelings about becoming a Therianthrope.]
[Interviewer requested more information about badger vs. human lifestyles.]
"I dig more now."
[Interviewer asked what subject "digs" now.]
"Holes. Sometimes tunnels."
[All further questions were met with shrugs or grunts.]
Interview #8 - Selkie
[Subject failed to appear for interview.]
Interview #9 - Were-skunk
"Oh, no, I've been like this all my life. My family all transform into Mustelids. I think you talked to my cousin last week-- if you can say he talked, that is.
"I'm not going to say that the musk doesn't bother people. You wouldn't believe how much I have to spend on deodorant. That smug Lycanthropic bastard can go on about animal magnetism all he wants, but some of us can't get by on a good set of teeth and a few hoary pick-up lines. Seriously, if you're studying Therianthropes you should dump him from your study.
"Other than the deodorant, you mean? Well, I kind of... spray a little when I get nervous, so I don't go to the woods much any more. There's something bad out there, and when I get a whiff of it on the wind, I just can't help myself.
"What? No, I'm not superstitious. Your sense of smell just stinks. Tell me--why are all the darn wolves in the city if there's nothing out there, huh?"
Interview #10 - Were-dolphin
[Subject failed to appear for interview.]
Interview #11 - Werewolf (purported)
"I was bitten at the dark of the moon by a beautiful werewolf maiden who took me back to her pack. Ever since then, we've been alphas together, and we run side by side through the sacred moonlight.
"Well, you know, Therianthropes vary a lot. So it's not surprising that I don't smell like your previous werewolf interviewee. We're almost certainly with different packs. None of my subordinates told me they were coming in to see you, and I insist on that. It's all part of maintaining my alpha status. You have to make sure they know whose claws and fangs are the biggest.
"I resent that implication extremely. You think your academic jargon can define the primal experience of being a werewolf? You think you can limit my people? You know what? I don't need this. I'm going back to the woods, where my soul can run free."
Interview #12 - Were-unicorn
"I was out camping, and I couldn't sleep. So I went for a walk. And there was this unicorn, and we walked towards each other in the moonlight. It was this beautiful moment... until the fucking thing bit me.
"I turn into a unicorn now. So that sucks. Those things are big, and the hooves are hell on your apartment floors until you figure out the moon phase bullshit.
"Down side? It is nothing but down side, lady. I used to think of myself as a really enlightened guy, and now I can't stop obsessing about virgins. Seriously. I can smell the difference. You do not want to know who is and is not a virgin, I promise-- though it's kind of funny to know which of your buddies is full of crap in the locker room.
"And the jokes about being horny? Stop. Just stop. You like running around in starlight obsessing about virgins? Because that's pretty much the whole gig. Man, if I could find the unicorn who bit me, just once, he'd have my horn through his throat. Though I don't know if that'd be enough to kill him. God, I hate this shit.
"I don't suppose you know where to get silver bullets? You know, in your line of work and all? That's great, man. I appreciate that a lot."
Interview #13 - Were-puma
[Subject failed to appear for interview.]
Interview #14 - Were-raccoon
"So I was dumpster-diving behind Roxy's Diner, when this big fucking raccoon shows up and starts tucking into a half-eaten Reuben like I'm not even there. I said, 'Hey, man, step off!' and he just kept on eating, so I went over and spread my arms real big to try and scare him off.
"You know how the rest of that story goes. He bit me, and finished off the rest of the Reuben while I was bleeding and moaning. The next full moon, I'm in the dumpster, and someone's waving their arms at me like an idiot instead of telling me to get off their property. Seriously, that guy did me a favor. I'm so much closer to nature now, and people don't make as big of a fuss when I keep their dinner from going to waste.
"Drawbacks? Well, I don't go out to the suburbs to eat any more. There's this great Chinese place out near Renton that always had good stuff out back, and I was getting my scrounge on when this giant hairy bigfoot-looking dude shambles out of the trees, smelling like week-old roadkill, and rakes through the next dumpster over with his long nasty fingers. All it took was one whiff of that guy, and I didn't stop until I was back in the U District. I wanna help save the earth, not become a part of it."
Interview #15 - Were-pig
[Subject failed to appear for interview.]
Interview #16 - Were-tiger
[Subject could not be contacted for interview. Repeated voicemail contacts unsuccessful.]
Interview #17 - Were-orca (interview 2)
"So what's the deal? I thought you guys were done with me after that lecture you gave me about the morality of my people's dietary practices.
"Look, dude, I don't eat land animals, all right? Unless they get in the water. Once you're up to your neck, you're fair game. But I don't know a thing about this stupid pig of yours, and I don't think I've even heard of a were-puma. What the hell is a were-puma?"
"Of course I haven't admitted anything about the damn dolphin. What are you, cops? Aren't you supposed to read me my rights? I want my lawyer."
Interview #18 - Were-yeti (purported)
[We have extensive notes about the late Dr. Yue and Dr. Bjornson's excitement about their discovery of their eighteenth interview subject, the shy and gentle were-yeti. This discovery would have been only the third interview on record with a were-yeti, including the controversial work of Dr. MacBride in the Yukon Territory.
[However, while Drs. Yue and Bjornson were at the forefront of Therianthropic research, their own notes suggest that their identification of Therianthropes was not always accurate. From the evidence in the remains of their lab, we fear that their purported 'were-yeti' was in fact a wendigo. If this is the case, the fears expressed by their prior research subjects are well-founded, as the wendigo's ravenous hunger is well-documented in papers such as Nguyen and Smith's "Depopulation and Local Extinction: The Metabolism of the Northwestern Wendigo."
[In the aftermath of the Yue and Bjornson tragedy, the supernatural philosophy department has not lost its commitment to the advancement of the field. Even now, the Therianthrope research community looks forward to Hernandez & Lee's groundbreaking paper on the were-vole of the high plains.]
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Author Comments

We've wanted to work on a story together for quite some time, but since we live half a continent apart, that was harder than it sounded. We would say that our love of mocking the current set of overdone urban fantasy boyfriend tropes won the day, but it actually took sitting down in the same room together after a really good brunch to get the story down. We won't say who wrote which sections--we'll let the readers guess.

- Marissa Lingen & Alec Austin
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