by guest writer Kris Schnee
©2008 Kris Schnee
- All I ask for is a pair of boots. Is that so hard?
- -A lizard-man in Morrowind: Bloodmoon, bemoaning a lack of digitigrade footwear
Its interesting speculation to ask questions like If anthros existed, what would furniture for them be like? If the situation ever does come up, then we really will have to answer those questions. But what about the questions that come after those? While a human world is busy trying to accommodate a new type of people, what else will be going on as a result? How will these changes affect us humans?
The most obvious observation to make is that if theres a need for new kinds of furniture, clothes, and other products, someone is going to design and build them. That means new business opportunities for architects, chefs, fashion designers, engineers, and other professions, with companies rising and falling as the world adapts. There would be a great deal of money to be made. It follows from this need for adaptation that education would change, having to prepare future workers for a wider range of customers.
On the other hand, not everyone agrees that the function of education is to prepare people for real-world work, and that fact points to the flipside of this need to adapt: Some people just dont want to do it. Yes, the stereotypical Evil Cult of Furry Haters seen in stories fits this mold, but there are other possible antagonists too. The existence of anthros presents a philosophical challenge to the world, bringing questions like what is human? even more into the public eye, and the discussion of those questions is going to cause a lot of hard feelings. Inspired by the anthros presence, people will earn Ph.Ds by writing about new theories of history, sociology and so onbut there will also be academic feuds about those theories, and a backlash against anyone who seems too focused on teaching students how to make shoes for cat-people. No matter how amazing the sudden appearance of a nonhuman race on the scene may be, humans will still make up most of the population, have the longest history, and represent almost all of the economic power, so any anthro group will seem a distraction for those dedicated to purely human matters.
People will have plenty of cause to grumble in the business world, too. For every market opportunity in designing television screens for deer-people, theres potential business lost for traditional designs and products. Designing a new product line costs money! If some anthro race appears, then, a company might be faced with the choice of whether to ignore it and risk being called racist, or spend millions on an item with a tiny set of potential buyers. The long tail business strategy of serving non-standard customer needs isnt necessarily profitable, and in some cases it will be more trouble than its worth.
Controversy and economic upheaval attract attention, and that fact will make media types smile. We can expect endless TV shows, interviews and other media: Lame sitcoms, daytime talk shows about cats and the rabbits who love them, exposes of discrimination, book deals, and so on. The media opportunities arent limited to discussing the problems of anthros, either. With their distinctive looks and abilities, some anthros will make natural movie stars, politicians, and other entertainers and fame-seekers.
However, controversy also means legal trouble. In the US and elsewhere, the law demands a large amount of interaction between people who cant necessarily stand the sight of each other. An employer must make reasonable accommodation, even at some expense, for an employee who cant perform a job with the standard equipment; a shopkeeper is forbidden to choose who to do business with when their motive is considered unfair; construction projects often require special handicapped-access facilities. Laws like these mean trouble when anthros show up! And in some cases, a business will have plenty to fear. How far does a businessman have to go to make sure that an eight-foot-tall, hooved centaur can use an ice-skating rink? What happens to a company that needs employees to wear hairnets when a family of squirrel-people apply for work? Can a company refuse to put a skunk in a perfume shop, or a bull in a china shop? No matter how these problems get resolved, it will only be after years of litigation, lobbying, hard feelings and expense. Lawyers will make their fortunes fighting for the rights of one side or another.
With furry politicians and lobbyists, and humans acting as their representatives, there would be political and cultural shifts as well. The arrival of waves of immigrants to America over the centuries (legal and not) has been a frequent source of rancor, with the newcomers getting suspected of mental inferiority, disease, criminal tendencies, and disloyalty. Depending on the scenario that puts anthros into the scene, some of the accusations against these newcomers might even be accurate! Its been hard enough for foreigners to adjust to a new culture; how much worse would it be for people who arent even human? As with past and present immigrant groups, theres the pressure for members of an anthro group to ghettoize themselves (possibly by choice), maintaining a separate language and set of traditions that put them at odds with the rest of society. And to the extent that an anthro group becomes accepted and influential, how will its voting power influence the set of topics that gets discussed and the solutions that get reached? How would a different species instincts translate into political tendencies?
So, the implications of having a race of animal-people around extend far beyond the usual questions of how they keep from getting their tails caught in doors. From a human perspective, theres plenty of potential for economic and cultural upheaval and other excitement, good and badand for some people an anthro emergence will be a threat to their livelihood. In thinking about a world with anthros in it, looking at a wider range of potential problems and opportunities will give us a different and interesting view of an already fascinating situation.