Editor: This appeared in the Confurence 10 Conbook.
Growing Pains Mark “Sylys Sable” Merlino 3-5-99
Welcome to ConFurence 10! This year ConFurence moved. We changed our dates, to Easter weekend, and re-located 100 miles south of Orange County to The Town and Country Resort in San Diego. This move was made because we simply had outgrown all other options for facilities and dates. Many other organizations compete with us for space, and often they have a much higher budget. With hotels and convention facilities, money talks. It is no coincidence that there are more SF/F conventions on the Easter weekend then any other time of the year. We are not trying to compete with these established cons. They cater to a different interest group then we do, as we have seen over the years. The Town and Country is a much larger facility then we have used before. Hopefully we will not need to re-locate after one or two years due to growth, as we have in the past. It takes time to properly “train” a facility, and thanks to many years of SF/F conventions, the Town and Country should be ready for us. Also, for Furry History buffs, the very first Furry Party (to actually be called a “Furry Party”) happened at the Town and Country in 1985 at the Western regional Science Fiction Convention, Westercon.
I don’t believe my partner Rodney, nor anyone else involved in CF from the beginning ever expected us to last this long, or grow as large as we have. Since CF 0, in 1989, I have written articles for our Collection Book dealing with different aspects of Furry Fandom. To me, being Furry has always been a positive experience, from my earliest personal fantasies that kept me from being bored with everyday life, to the wonderful family that I have been a part of for over 10 years. Many people have tried to define just what this Furry “thing” is, and why we share these common interests. Some of these attempts have been successful, to a point, but none have been accepted as a concise definition by the Furry community at large. A friend suggested to me that we might be able to avoid disagreements, and controversy, if we could only agree on what we Furry people ARE, and what we aren’t. Then we could easily spot the “pretenders” and the curious observers who so often misjudge us and avoid them. An interesting concept, but I wondered just WHO was going to create this Furry template by which we would judge others? Some sort of international Furry committee, like the UN? No one person could do it alone. We would have to have representatives from all over the world, from all the diverse special- interest groups. Everyone who is Furry and wants to be one would want their own personal interests represented. How long would such a project take? Would it really solve anything?
One concept that most Furry people seem to agree on is that by combining the human and animal species traits, we arrive at an improved being. Mark Twain is credited with saying that if a human was crossed with a cat, it would greatly improve the human, but sadly degrade the cat. Humans are a confusing species. We have a great deal of brain, much of which we do not seem to know how to use. Our imagination and ability to reason are a mixed blessing, as it often allows us to fool ourselves, and we see the animals that share this world with us being free from the burdens of our confusing society. Even if the combined beings we imagine are similar to us, and have many of the same problems, like prejudice and war, they are still different from us in some exotic way. It may be just esthetics, but our furry, feathered, and scaled creations seem to have an almost universal attraction; we Furry people just seem to notice it more then others.
The most important thing to remember is that we, no matter how much we dream and design, are still human. Humans will react in a similar fashion to various situations individually and in groups of various sizes. We want very much to be individuals, to stand out and be recognized and respected. We want to be a part of something, have comrades who share our ideals, to belong to something greater and not be alone and outcast. These contradictions often lead to misunderstandings that in turn cause the social and political problems that we are all too familiar with. We hear about it daily, thanks to the News media.
As the Furry community has grown, we find ourselves challenged in many ways. Ten years ago people in the established Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom remarked on the unity and friendliness of Furry Fans. Of course, their flavor of fandom was considerably larger and had been around for over 60 years. I was involved in SF/F Fandom for ten years before Furry Fandom emerged from the den ( and blinking, stepped into the sun…). There were a lot of good people working very hard, organizing, publishing, creating, all for the good of Fandom. There were also problems, disagreements, rumors, infighting, prejudice and hate. Some of us in Furry Fandom are well aware that we are not immune to the same kind of trouble. It’s what happens when any human community grows.
Furry Fandom has grown, and so has ConFurence. There are now other Furry conventions happening on a regular basis in the US and Europe, and our larger family is attracting more attention. This can be a mixed blessing, but we must remember that publicity helps us find more of our Furry kin. Do you remember the feeling you had when you first discovered Furry Fandom, that there were others who shared your interests and passion? I believe it is worth the controversy caused by any negative publicity if it means that more Furry people can find their way “home”. Some say that because of misinformation and the resulting bad stereotypes, they must adopt a “don’t ask-don’t tell” attitude about their Furriness. Some are bitter and lash out at other Furries, blaming them for the problems. There will always be close-minded or reactionary responses to anything that is “different”. Prejudice is not going to go away anytime soon. That Furry Definition concept cuts both ways, just like any label. I believe that we can overcome many of the misunderstandings easier by sticking together than by fighting amongst ourselves. If we don’t want to be judged unfairly by outsiders who are important, why should we turn on others in our community and judge them? Pogo possum’s loyal friend, Porkypine, once stated: “we have met the enemy, and he is us”. It takes time to overcome prejudice and gain understanding, and some people will never be reached. That is a part of what humans are, and perhaps why we desire to move away from the negative aspects of our species. We’re Furry, but we are still only human, but remember… just because you’re human, it doesn’t mean you have to act like one!