by Phil Geusz
©2005 Phil Geusz
What is it about Furry, anyway?
I mean, the furry fandom is a pretty silly thing on the face of it. Its made up of grown men, mostly, fascinated enough with the stories and images of various half-animals to travel long distances to meet with fellow-fans, and spend large amounts of money on toys, art, puppets, and even costumes of their often self-created characters. Sure, you might expect to find a few off-kilter individuals out there who might carry a fixation with a cartoon character or two into adulthood, or a handful of sad, lonely individuals who would, for lack of any other outlet, willingly devote much of their waking life to perfecting the art of drawing dog-people. Its a big world, after all, full of the strange and weird and marginal. Youd expect to come across a few of anything.
But Furry has grown far, far beyond being just a marginal handful. When I attended my first furcon, Mephit FurMeet in I believe 1999, there were maybe a hundred or so furry fans present, capering about in costumes, attending a handful of panels, and filling maybe a third of the hotel. As I write this, less than a week before Mephit 2005 begins, the hotel is sold out and an overworked desk staff is frantically relocating non-con visitors to make room for yet more furries. And its not just Mephit, either. This Tennessee con, while my personal favorite, is small-time compared to the big annual events on both coasts of the USA and, increasingly, in Europe as well. Some of these events draw several thousand attendees, these days, and there seems to be no limit to the growth. A good friend who spends a lot of time around cons tells me that insiders estimate the fandom has been doubling in size every three years, based on total US con attendance and estimates of chatroom usage. Were not too terribly far from hitting a point where a furry fan can attend a convention every single weekend of the year, if he has the time and money. Furcons are springing up like weeds! The science-fiction people wish they had it so good!
And behind it all lies an esteem for human-animal characters, an esteem possessed of as many variations as there are fans. Which leads us right back to where we came in: What is it about Furry, anyway? What is it about the blend of human and animal that is so compelling that its setting off what amounts to a minor cultural earthquake? What is so magical and wonderful about a tiger-girl, or a bunny-boy that can exist only in an artists drawing or a writers mind?
If youre already a furry fan, then you dont probably need that question answered. To fans, furries provide an alternate window on the universe, another way to experience reality, an escape from the prison of the hominid mindset and mundane daily life. To the non-furry fan, anthropomorphic animals are probably going to appear juvenile and probably even just a little bit silly, no matter how much effort is put into trying to understand. Its all a matter of idioms and symbol-sets, I believe; some of us, exposed to large numbers of stuffed animals and cartoons in our childhood, incorporated these images into our personal dreamworlds and universe-scapes, where they remain today as operative gates into our senses of wonder and creativity. Others, however, chose alternate symbols, or (what a tragedy!) in many cases none at all. For those of us sensitized to such images, no further explanation is needed. For those of us who are not, no explanation is possible. Still, I find it interesting that as time goes on, it seems that a higher and higher percentage of Americas youth are becoming furry fans. Theres a doctorate degree out there waiting, I think, for the undergrad willing to cross-reference the growth of the furry fandom with the average number of hours of childhood TV watched, say, fifteen years previously. Then, youd just take that relationship and cross-reference it with stuffed-animal sales figures during that same crucial preschool period
Me, Im just glad to be living in a world filled with humans and furries. Im even gladder that my own personal universe is enriched by furry symbol-sets, which certainly in my own case act as gateways to my personal reserves of creativity and merry-making. And, Im gladdest of all to have lived long enough to see a whole thriving and growing fandom arise in support of a passion that I once believed I had all to myself, and could talk to no one about. It is my sincere hope, in this column, to make up for these lost years by talk, talk, talking my readers ears off about Furries and Humans, and the rich and infinite variety of ways in which they mingle.
Furry Fandom Forever!