What is "Anthropomorphic" Anyway?

An·thro·po·mor·phic \ ˌan(t)-thrə-pə-ˈmȯr-fik \ adj [Late Latin anthropomorphus of human form, from Greek anthrOpomorphos, from anthrOp- + -morphos -morphous] (1827) 1 : described or thought of as having a human form or human attributes 2 : ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman things . (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary [Springfield: Merriam-Webster Inc, 1988] 90.)

So, we publish stories about talking toasters and dust mites, right? Well, not toasters, but we'd happily consider any talking dust mite stories sent our way. Our use of the term anthropomorphic is specific to talking animals. (For those fellow biologists out there, specifically the kingdom Metazoa in the grouping of Eukaryotic organisms.) This includes a diverse assortment of critters, but are most often represented in fiction by insects, reptiles, avians, and the ever-popular mammals. (Also mythological things like werewolves, dragons, griffons, and such...)

While the first thing to spring to mind is probably children's literature, which is loaded with anthropomorphic stories and illustration, there are plentiful examples of the same devices at use in adult fiction. The most recognizable examples include: Watership Down by Richard Adams, and Animal Farm by George Orwell. Many SF&F genre writers often employ anthropomorphic characters in their novels for purposes ranging from serious human allegory to the simple addition of color and texture into the character base. Anthropomorphic characters can be goofy and farcical, violent and primal, noble and loyal, or petty and self-serving. They express the range of human emotion (often magnified or twisted by their animal natures) and can be either the focus of the story, a supporting character in the story's development, an obstacle to the hero's journey, or a traveling companion and source of wisdom.

In recent years, anthropomorphic comics (which, with the addition of comic strips, account for a large percentage of the total material in active publication) such as Albedo and Xanadu have gained a strong and creative following of fans who not only follow the stories but contribute works of their own. The support for anthropomorphics in general has been steadily growing over the last fifteen years and now supports not only many thriving amateur publications, but also a dozen conventions a year worldwide.