by Michæl W. Bard
©2009 Michæl W. Bard

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   This month I bring you a description, and then commentary and thoughts, for Furry Convention North (FCN), a con attended at the end of April in Ann Arbor (just south of Detroit).

Herewith, the original and genuine Morgan’s FCN Diary (accept no substitutes!):

   Thursday: After much panic and last minute adjustments, I was finally on my way. Items were packed without difficulty; the convoy met at Denny’s (we do have them in Canada); and persons and cargo adjusted appropriately. There was no trouble at the border and we arrived at 5pm. Check-in was fine. Then we went out for a sushi supper and I found out two things: First, one restaurant had all-you-can-eat sushi Thursday night. And second, a caterpiller is selected as one piece, but is really one long roll cut into slices (or about 10 pieces). Well-padded and all sushied out, I waddled back to the hotel; ran into some friends; and took care of pre-registration. Then a bit of fursuiting, some talking at the bar, and sleep.
   Friday: Had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Explored the site fully. ’Suited in the afternoon. Went to my one panel of the con. Rested through the evening. Later I ordered a pizza from the hotel bar—a $10 3-topping large pizza that was quite good. More talking, and then sleep.
   Saturday: Fursuit pictures and parade in the afternoon. Then a writers’ dinner that was pre-arranged, but only one person who I’d invited earlier showed up. A person who travelled with me showed up near the end. And then furious rainstorms and lack of cars made everybody run for the hotel and end supper early. Oh, and Big Boy hamburgers, even swiss mushroom ones, suck.
   Sunday: Packed everything up in the morning, checked out at noon, left about 1pm and got everybody back to various homes by 7pm.

Thoughts and commentary:

   First, drinking. One of the con’s big selling points was that sponsors and super-sponsors got free booze the whole weekend. Turned out there was limited times of availability, and it was still a huge cost for the con. Drinking seemed most excessive Thursday night. For a lot of people. One of my friends had to escorted to his room about 8pm; another who was picking something up from me had to be politely handled, with lots of repetition of anything said, and eventually escorted to his room; and a third had to have help to walk it off.
   Personally, I don’t like alcohol, and I have this thing about remaining in control. But normally, I don’t have anything against those who do. I’ve joked about bringing back prohibition… but it was just joking.
   Guys, you don’t need to get blasted to have a good time! There is a thing known as moderation. Note that the examples above were either people I came with, or friends. In an attendance of close to a thousand, I don’t even want to know how many people went nuts Thursday night. I know I have a small sample, but I doubt my friends were the only ones. I was almost embarrassed to be at the damn con!
   In fact, I am fairly close to seriously wanting to bring back prohibition. Think about it.
   Second, small con events. The prior cons I’ve gone to have been larger ones (MFF/AC) with 2,000 (or almost in the case of MFF) or more attendees. Lots of panels, lots to do. At FCN there was one panel on fursuiting, and one panel on writing: That’s it. That is, there were a maximum of 2 (two) panels I had any interest in going to. I don’t know if they can have more panels; there were certainly rooms available, and space on the schedule. Maybe they needed volunteers—I chose to take the con off from running panels as MFF really wore me out. Did they not get enough people volunteering? At least the panel I did go to was well attended. The others, I don’t know. The point is, if you’re going to a smaller con, you’d best be prepared to not have a huge selection in panels.
   Third, fursuiting and the fandom. I’m starting to worry that fursuiting is getting out of hand. Now, I have fun doing it, or at least I try to; I’m still too shy to really get as much out of it as I could. But with an attendance going on to a thousand, there were almost 200 fursuits in the parade. That’s almost a quarter of the whole convention! More: The dances all now have special fursuiter times, and the elevators all have fursuiters first policies. To be sure, the special rules make sense—when you’re melting in a bulky, dexterity-crippling costume which grossly restricts your sight and hearing, you need some special consideration. But, it seems that everybody has to have a fursuit now! The main makers have year-plus backlogs.
   I don’t know… Fursuiting is a wondrous activity, yes, but Furrydom isn’t really supposed to revolve around fursuiting, is it? And fursuiting doesn’t instantly make you important. If you have a really, really good ’suit, a lot of furs will take your picture at the first con you wear it for; you’ll get a smaller number of pictures taken at the second con; and then that’s it. A shiny new fursuit is not going to get you continuous popularity. But since novelty is such an important part of the whole thing, it’s almost become an arms race.
   Now, I admit that since only two non-local friends went to FCN, my only real choices were to fursuit or be bored. There simply weren’t enough panels, and not enough people to talk with that I don’t regularly. I’d have been bored out of my skull except for the fursuiting; this is what I get for not drinking, and not really being intersted in dancing, though I do want to try it with people in ’suit. Thursday night when I went out in ’suit, I somehow missed the crowd and the con was empty. I changed, went back downstairs, and there were lots of people. And fursuiting largely kept me sane on Friday and Saturday. But even so… I just don’t know.
   There really needs to be more information available on performing in suit—which really is what you’re doing whenever you put one on. People need to get fursuits for their own enjoyment, even if nobody else cares. But there’s a sad trend: More and more, most fursuits are becoming basically indistinguishable from each other. More and more, people walk around in their cookie-cutter clone-suit, think they’re famous, and then go home. Yes, I’m guilty of the walking-around thing, but at least I know I am, and I’m trying to find ways out. Lack of desire and/or ability to perform is a problem for which there’s no easy answer.

Conclusions and Observations:

   When you’re at a smaller con, make absolutely sure you have a good pool of people to meet and spend time with. If not, you will be bored and isolated. As mentioned elsewhere, there’s no easy way to meet new people at cons, other than panels, which smaller cons lack, and some talking with other fursuiters in the headless lounge (though very few I talked to in this way I had contact with later). It still boils down to the fact that the best way to meet people for a newcomer is either MUCKs or IRC chats. Cons are most useful after MUCKs/IRCs have opened the door.
   And as I’ve said before, don’t leave until Monday! I didn’t have much choice in the matter, as various people I was travelling with had to be back Monday. That’s life. It did mean I pretty well missed all of Sunday, which was a shame. But, what can you do? Sometimes crap happens.
   Anyway: With all the above said and acknowledged, I did enjoy FCN—just not as much as I do larger cons. Why? Not enough going on, not enough people to meet (this is probably an isolated case, not a general example, so take this with a grain of salt). It was worthwhile, and overall I did enjoy myself, and will likely go again next year.
   Good luck with the smaller cons!

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