TT: Furry Fandom!

ALAN: Last week, I suggested that a logical extension of our on-going discussion of both fandom and costuming would be to take a look at furry fandom – a fandom that most people first become aware of because of the highly visible “fursuit” costumes that these people wear. I must say that personally I find these costumes extremely attractive, both aesthetically and emotionally, and I’d like to know more.

Jane and Furry

You said you’ve actually been to a furry con?

JANE: That’s right. Some years ago, I had the great pleasure of being one of the Guests of Honor at Further Confusion. I’ll say right off that it was a great experience, and I learned that there’s a lot more to furry fandom than fursuits.

But one con doesn’t make me an expert, so I’d like your permission to make this Tangent a “trialogue” and include my friend Brent Edwards – aka Chip Unicorn – to supply expert knowledge on the intricacies of furrydom.

ALAN: That sounds like a great idea.

JANE: Okay! Brent, meet Alan. Alan meet Brent.

BRENT: Pleased to meet you!

ALAN: Hi, Brent!

JANE: Brent, it occurred to me that most of us encounter furry fandom without a sense of the roots. I believe you told me that it is a fandom deeply rooted in art.

BRENT: Yeah — furry fandom has created an astonishing amount of artwork!

JANE: One thing I really enjoyed about Further Confusion was how much the art extended out of the show. I loved the individualized badges (people often wore several) that depicted what I’ll term the wearer’s “furry identity” character. This meant that even those people who weren’t wearing fur suits showed who they were.

However, there were also a lot of graphic novels available as well.

BRENT: Graphic novels and comic books are a central part of furry fandom.  Many people date furry fandom’s start to amateur press associations (APA’s) like Vootie, which ran from 1976 – 1983. APAs were small magazines created by and only for its members. Every quarter, artists would create some pages, Xerox enough copies for the membership list, and send those Xeroxes to the publisher. The publisher would staple everything together, and send the ‘magazine’ with all of the artists’ work back.

Soon, people from those APAs created fanzines: magazines for sale to the general public. The most important of these was possibly YARF! — but I’m rather biased, as I’ve worked with its editor for more than a decade.

ALAN: I’ve never been involved with an APA, but when I first moved to New Zealand there was a flourishing APA here called Aoteorapa, which is a very clever pun on Aoteoroa, the Maori name for New Zealand. I never took part in it, but several of my friends did, so I’m familiar with the mechanism. It’s a very clever and, in pre-internet days anyway, a very successful method of disseminating material.

I wasn’t aware that there were cons devoted to furries, though based on how popular furry costumes are, I shouldn’t really be surprised. Have they been going on for a long time?

BRENT: There is one origin con, Confurence, an event that happened annually from 1989-2003 in southern California. It was the first convention exclusively for furries.

Soon after Confurence happened, other conventions started – Furtasticon created by Trish Ny in 1994, and the first international furry convention, Eurofurence, started in 1995.

The number of conventions has exploded in the last 23 years. At this moment, there are at least 62 different conventions in places as diverse as Australia, Brazil, the Philippines, Russia , South Africa, and Thailand.

The biggest furry convention now is Midwest Furfest, with about 8,700 members.

ALAN: That’s an awful lot of furries!

I don’t really remember when I first began hearing rumours about salacious goings-on between consenting furries and, not being a furry myself, I don’t know any details. So can you satisfy my prurient curiosity? How much truth is there in the nudge, nudge, wink, wink gossip that is so often associated with furries?

JANE: Uh… I’d like to add to Alan’s question. If fursuit sex does go on, what percentage of the furries are into this? That is, is it a majority interest or not?

BRENT: I’ve been married since 2001, so I haven’t been to those kinds of parties for a long while. But the most sexual thing that I’ve ever seen that also involves fursuits was one fellow rolling around naked in a pile of fursuiters.

I don’t think many fursuiters would appreciate ejacule on their fursuits. Remember that if you don’t create them yourself, fursuits cost between $500 and $3,700. Fake fur is heat-sensitive, so it’s harder to clean than throwing it into a washing machine.

People have sex at furry conventions. People have sex at science fiction conventions. But I haven’t seen or heard about anything wildly different in the amount or kind of sex. In short, it’s no more exciting (or less exciting) than any other fandom

Dang if I know what percentage of the fandom is into it. I haven’t asked!

JANE: Wasn’t there a TV show that used furries in an episode and slanted the representation? I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard people refer to some show as their source for “This is what furries are really like.”

BRENT: The television show was probably “Fur and Loathing” on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, from October 2003.

ALAN: I love the pun in that title! Judging by what you said, you’ve been involved in furry fandom for quite a while. What’s the appeal for you personally? Are you an artist? Fursuiter? Writer? Something else?

BRENT: The appeal for me? In the late 1980s, I discovered that I like running conventions. I enjoy all the planning that goes into it. And Watts Martin introduced me to furry fandom, when he created a ‘zine named Mythagoras.

Also, furry fandom reminds me of the early days of science fiction fandom. It combines creativity and fun.  Most large SF/F conventions are now “media” conventions: about what happens in movies, television, or books. They’re rarely about how to create new media. Furry fandom is often about teaching how to create. There’re always panels for how to improve artwork, writing, costuming, music, and photography – even dance.

There are many excellent science fiction conventions that focus on teaching. But many focus only on professional development. Furry fandom is fun: it has loud, wild parties at the end of the day and lively dances.

JANE: I very much felt the creative vibe at Further Confusion.  The talent show was brilliant.  Jim and I were sitting in the middle of the audience.  During a scene break, two fellows behind us were having an animated discussion on sources for material to make fursuits.  It was enlightening to realize that the people wearing the costumes often had made them as well.

But we’re definitely risking the TL/DR zone, so sadly, I’ll draw this discussion to a close.

ALAN: Thanks, Brent. I learned a lot from this discussion.

BRENT: It was an honor to meet you, Alan.

JANE:  As we were chatting, it occurred to me that I met both of you through fandom. The chance we would have met and become friends without that link seems pretty slim. If there’s any way to sum up the larger value of fandom , the chance to make friends who not only share common interests but can expand those interests as both of you have done for me, must be the best part.

Thank you both so much!

 

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9 Responses to “TT: Furry Fandom!”

  1. James Mendur Says:

    I never knew much about furries. I’ve always seen a few here and there at conventions but, being introverted, never introduced myself to one. Thank you for sharing.

    As an aside, there was this chart which has been making the rounds, in various forms, for decades, which disparages furries quite a bit. I’d be curious for any comments you have about the chart and about fandom’s apparent need to create its own hierarchies, when it started out in many ways as a place for those who did not fit into normal hierarchies.

  2. janelindskold Says:

    I can’t read the chart but as for the other… As for the other, if you can tell me of any group larger than one that doesn’t end up with trying to form hierarchies, I’d be interested. I’d make an exception for a good marriage but even in mine, I acknowledge that Jim’s better than me at some things and he me in others.

  3. James Mendur Says:

    Fair enough. And the chart-maker reveals their own biases by making the chart, even if others are blissfully ignoring it.

    p.s. When I click on the chart, it opens in a larger, readable form.

  4. John C Says:

    Were your descriptions of the New Kelvin’s residents in Chapter 26 of Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart (when our heroes arrived at Dragon’s Breath) at all influenced by your encounters with furry fandom? Like Firekeeper, I was especially taken by the man dressed, convincingly, as a bipedal bull.

    It was a wonderful way of reminding this reader that New Kelvinese culture was truly foreign. =)

    • janelindskold Says:

      No… Those WH/WH was published in 2002 and written well before that. If I have my date right, we went to Further Confusion in 2006. I simply appreciate the power of elegant, elaborate costuming.

      Thanks for asking!

  5. CBI Says:

    I wonder if the Xerox magazines were more-or-less representative of the technology and the times. In the academic linguistics community in the 1970s, a similar method of distributing papers and such (in the absence of what today would be called scholarly journals) was called “The Underground”. I recollect going to the Linguistics Library at the University of Texas in the mid-seventies–a room with cabinets and Xerox copies–to read articles.
    Of course, this is also very much like the /samizdat/ press common in the Soviet Union and other communist/socialist societies where freedom of speech is discouraged.

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