Sunday Special: From the Alley to the Big CityPosted: January 18, 2015
Title: From the Alley to the Big City
Author: Shane Rufus and Pac
Media: Shared RP Universe (considered canon)
Topic: Furry Basketball Association
Genre: Um… Slice Of Life/Drama?
URL: FAtBC Index
Critiqued by Herr Wozzeck
Hey guys! Holy shit, it’s been ages since we’ve done a Sunday Special.
So, you guys remember when I brought up the Furry Basketball Association midway through the Jasmine cumslut snarking? (*shudder*) Yeah, I thought I’d talk a bit more about that, but not in relation to a crap fanfic. No: in this case, I’m talking about a specific spin-off of the FBA.
And you know the fun part? This leads to the first time I’ve ever done a Sunday Special for something that isn’t technically a fanfic. That’s right, ladies and gents: the piece on the pedestal today is actually considered canon within the RP universe it’s set in. So because of that, I’m sure you’re all wondering “wait, Herr, if it ain’t fanfiction, why are you bringing it to the Library, and for a Sunday Special no less”? Well, I’m bringing it in for three reasons:
- I dearly, dearly love this story.
- It was the spin-off that ultimately brought me into the Furry Basketball Association.
- Even if it hadn’t been for all that, it’s a case study on how to approach a premise that could very, very easily have lead to total shit and on how to bring out the best in the material.
And also, I just want an opportunity to gush about it. ‘Cause why not?
Anyway, let’s get to it, yeah?
So yeah, what’s FAtBC about, you might ask? Well… to explain that, I’d have to explain a thing or two first.
So first things first. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Alphonse Norwich IV:
He’s a forward for the Hawaii Kahunas, who drafted him as a first-round pick in the FBA’s 2013 draft. As of the time of this writing, he’s also on the team’s starting line-up. Now, one thing important to note about the FBA is that it’s very, very multinational (to the point that two of the FBA’s teams are actually in Canada); that’s important to remember, ’cause Alfie is British.
In fact… that’s sort of where the premise starts to get a bit strange. ‘Cause he’s not the prestigious kind of British that everyone in America likes to think of when they think of the UK, ooooooooh no. He couldn’t be further from that at all, as evidenced by this:
He let out a burly laugh. “Oh bollocks, mates, he ain’t just a squeaka, he’s a yankee!” The gap between us was quickly closing, which did nothing to calm my nerves. The sun was starting to set and I was alone with a half dozen punker rats bearing down on me. “Thought it was bad enough ya’s a wannabe rat, but yer a traita to th’ crown too?” He snorted. “That’s two strikes against ya, mate. One more and yer out on yer arse. State ya biz and make it quick, eh?”
Swallowing hard, I continued. “Alphonse Norwich IV, am I right?”
He shrugged once, absent-mindedly clapping the ball from hand to hand. “That all depends, Minnie. Who’s lookin’ for ‘im?”
Murina was interrupted by Alphonse’s suddenly barking at an oriole couple who had been walking the other way. It seemed the male had brushed against the rat’s shoulder, prompting an outburst from the rodent. It took Murina all she had to keep him from following the two avians, shoving him toward the front door of the restaurant. If he’d put his full strength into charging at them, Alphonse could have certainly shoved right past her, but he allowed himself to be “held back”, taunting the pair as they made their way.
“Oi, thas right! You KEEP walkin’, ya fuckin’ beakas! Flap back to ya nest!!”
“ALPHONSE!!” Murina squeaked, which caught her charge’s attention.
Yup. If you couldn’t tell from the actually very well-done phonetic writing, he’s kind of the furry world’s equivalent of a racist skinhead. Even worse, he started off as part of a gang that might’ve contributed to some violence in his neck of the woods.
And that’s kind of why the premise would’ve fallen apart in lesser hands: the story is essentially “Alfie gets picked up from the streets of Toxteth by a scout within the FBA, he’s a specist skinhead, now let’s throw him into a massive multi-species sports association and shine a limelight on him and see what happens”. I think you guys here have seen enough protagonists with unlikable qualities around here that you know just how badly this kind premise can be handled. After all, all the unlikable qualities are played down by those authors and it becomes tough to sympathize with ’em when the narrative says “he’s a good guy”.
So it’s a good thing that FAtBC actually affirms a little adage the teacher of my Opera Directing Seminar at school has told us once: “a good narrative shouldn’t judge the characters: it just tells the story”.
See, FAtBC doesn’t shy away at all from showing Alfie’s faults. (In fact, in the author’s opinion, there was one point where he went overboard with showing that.) Neither does it shy away from showing his good qualities. Alfie has a massive family with a whopping seventeen siblings, plus his mom and a niece, and he generally does his best to abide by them:
Colin, he explained, was the runt of the family. At ten he was hardly bigger than the six year old triplets Muri had met when she first arrived. Around the neighborhood, the other pups picked on him whenever he tried to play with them, and eventually he just stayed in the house rather than venturing outside. The only exception came whenever he could go with Alphonse. Two years ago, the eldest Norwich brother had taken a few of them out to the park, where Colin was again a victim of a number of bullying rat boys. Deciding to put a stop to it once and for all, Alphonse stormed up and barked at them to leave Colin alone “or else”. It worked like a charm, and from that point on, Colin stayed as close to Alfie as he could whenever they went outside or had guests in the house.
Murina’s heart went out to the small rat, watching him while Alphonse spoke. His muzzle stayed just barely peeked around his brother’s chest, watching her right back. She reached into her bag and rooted around in it, finally producing a small bag of candied nuts she’d purchased at the airport that morning, the bag Colin’s younger brother had nearly swiped from her earlier. She held it out toward him, the top of it opened, smiling warmly. Colin’s tiny nose picked up the scent immediatly, twitching curiously. He looked at Muri, unsure. After a moment, Alphonse gave his brother a small nudge toward the open bag, and a small, reluctant hand reached in to pluck out a few He immediately retreated to his older sibling’s side, nibbling.
“Y’ oughta feel honored,” Alphonse chuckled. “Yer the first he’s actually told ‘is name to.”
The small rat tugged on Alphonse’s vest again, prompting him to lean down and listen to another round of whispering. “Y’know, I agree, mate!” he said to Colin with a nod, then looked to Muri. “‘e says you should stay for dinner.”
So he sort of prides himself on being a man where the family is the center of his attention. At the same time, though, he’s also kind of hypocritical about that:
Alfie laughed and stretched his arms out, lacing his hands behind his head. “Yeh, an’? Y’ say that like it’d be me first time.”
Zack was dumbfounded. “Whoa, wait a sec dude! You got KIDS??”
The rat looked back at his friend like he’d just been asked the dumbest question he’d ever heard. “Wouldn’t be much a rat if I ‘adn’t put these t’ use, would I?” he said with a snicker, grabbing at his crotch and giving it a shake.
What started off as a casual chat was turning much more serious. Zack was suddenly on the literal edge of his seat. “Why didn’t you tell me! Dude, how old are they? Boys or girls? What are their names? Is there an Alfie five??”
Alphonse grunted and rubbed at his eyes tiredly. “I don’t fuckin’ know, mate. Not my issue, is it?”
Zack’s face went slack, both halves. “Wh… what do you mean it’s not your issue?”
“I mean I ain’t th’ one stuck with th’ li’l bastards, so why should I know they’re names, eh?”
And actually, that bit right there? Yup, Shane Rufus takes advantage of it, such that Alfie actually does face consequences for it:
“Dude…” Zack said, in the gravest fashion he’d ever delivered that word. “You’re just… you’re leavin’ your kids without their dad? You got, like, little Alfies back home and you’re just bailing on them?”
Alfie turned to look at Zack, a small, vaguely perplexed sneer on his face. “What’s got int’ you, Big Z?” he asked, putting a nice edge of sarcasm on the nickname.
Zack shook his head. “I mean, Alphonse,” the zorilla said back with just as much acid on the real name, “for a guy who’s always talking about how important family is, it’s startin’ to seem like you just care about yourself.” He sighed and shook his head. “Look dude, it’s morning, and I gotta start cleaning up. You go ahead and just chill out up here, I guess. I don’t really need any help.”
All the humor gone from his face, Zack Tate left the bedroom and went back downstairs to tidy up, leaving Alphonse alone to stew. The rat sat up and looked at his boot-clad feet, shoulders slumped. He’d had a wild night with everyone, showed up the nonnies in the drinking games, and even gotten laid, but Alphonse Norwich IV was unable to feel any pride in himself. All he could feel was shame.
Yeah. That’s the critical part of how FAtBC actually works: it takes Alfie’s faults, and actually works to not only to wring them through some pretty intense character development, but it also lets us judge him by his actions and how he feels, instead of making the judgement for us. Alfie as a person isn’t exactly the best man in the world, but Alfie as a character is very compelling. It just goes to show that when handled right, you can actually make something great out of a premise that is fraught with as many dangers as that of FAtBC.
There’s actually a lot more I could talk about in FAtBC, but there’s so damn much of it to talk about. I could talk about Alfie’s brother Terrence, who comes out of the closet as a gay man as the story progresses. I could talk about all the stuff that leads to. I could talk about all the development that goes around with his hen-pecked agent Murina Beaubonique, and how her professional (and personal) relationship with Alfie develops over all of it. But I’ll let you read it for yourself.
(Note: If there are any holes in the above link, there are actually a few chapters that are told in comic format rather than straight story format. IIRC, you might need a FurAffinity account with the NSFW filter turned off if you really want to check those out.)