Archive for February, 2018

FF: Saints and Elephants

February 2, 2018

Jim’s been home sick all week with the flu, and I’ve been doing my best not to catch it.  That’s limited my reading time – especially for audio – more than usual.

Book Chat!

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater.  Very different from other work by her that I’ve read.  If you like magical realism, you may like this, but if you only want the same as The Scorpio Races or “The Raven Cycle” you could be disappointed.

In Progress:

Evil Chasing Way by Gerald Hausman.

Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen.  Audiobook.  The only drawback of reading this one in audio is some of the species names aren’t clear to the ear as I am sure they would be to the eye.

Also:

The Dragon of Despair by Jane Lindskold.  I should finish today.

TT: Furry Fandom!

February 1, 2018

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!