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How has Furry Fandom Changed? Reactions to the Early Fandom? 
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With the permission of my gracious admin hosts, I would like to hear the reactions from younger Furry Fans concerning the very early Furry Fandom. While I am not a furry fan, I discovered furry fandom around the late eighties and early nineties and began observing it. Furry fandom had left its infancy of hosting room parties at science fiction conventions (late 1970's and early 1980's) and was beginning to hold its own conventions. Furry fans were beginning to see themselves as independent from the Sci-fi/fantasy and cartoon/ anime communities they were once a part of. Furry fans were also starting to form an identity independent and distinguishable from the Anthropomorphic fans they once intermingled with (not every Anthro fan attended Mark Merlino's "Furry Parties" or the early furry conventions).

The very first Furry conventions were Confurence 0 and 1, and for the most part they were not yet as controversial. The fandom had not really defined itself as it does at present. Disney corporation and animators attended along with several mainstream studios, artists, and writers. For the most part, Confurence appeared to be no less then an extension of the science fiction/fantasy/comic book/ anime convention scene (what the Sci-fi community called media fans). You will see below that Confurence 4 was featured on the Sci-fy channel. The costumes were still very sci-fi and fantasy based with very little fur suiting (think star trek and D&D meets renaissance fair). The costumes were also less elaborate then those found at the major science fiction conventions like Worldcon. What fursuits that existed were mostly based on what was found at major theme parks. Shawn Kellar, who worked for Disney, had several fursuits that were built by Disney costume designers. The internet furry community was just coming into blossom through text based forums and games known as Mudds and Mucks.

Below are a few links that might give a sense of what furry fandom was like at its genesis. Let me know what you think of the differences between then and now.

Highlights from Confurence 4:

Code:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8frWD_yF_QQ


The Confurence Archive:

Code:
https://confurence.com/


Early Furry Art Galleries looked somewhat like this (sort of):

Code:
http://yerf.metafur.org/


Most furry art and stories were originally circulated in APA publications like this (although some were more amateur than this):

Code:
https://confurence.com/1978/12/vootie-13/


Sometimes the furry fandom mixed with the early Cartoon/Anime and science fiction fandom:

Code:
https://confurence.com/1981/06/5000-fans-of-dr-t-0/


At this time, Furry was no yet the cultural phenomena or social movement we know on the internet today, but it was an emerging movement nonetheless.

What do you think of the differences? Has furry become different from what those who started it envisioned it? Or, do you think its still very much the same?

If you could change the present furry fandom, what aspects would you change about it today?

I eagerly await your reactions.

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Sun Aug 13, 2017 9:58 pm
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I think one of the biggest things differentiating the early fandom from the current fandom is how much more emphasis it had on works from outside the fandom. Nowadays there's still a lot of stuff about Zootopia, and Pokémon, and My Little Pony, or whatever, but a big deal of the furry fandom is everyone's own characters, art, etc. It seems like that was less common earlier on.

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Mon Aug 14, 2017 2:17 pm
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Sleet wrote:
I think one of the biggest things differentiating the early fandom from the current fandom is how much more emphasis it had on works from outside the fandom. Nowadays there's still a lot of stuff about Zootopia, and Pokémon, and My Little Pony, or whatever, but a big deal of the furry fandom is everyone's own characters, art, etc. It seems like that was less common earlier on.


It's still an interesting phenomena that Furry fandom is still guided by mainstream or outside works. About every 5 to 7 years, some new mainstream work debuts and becomes popular. This inspires a new generation of furry fans who then enter the fandom drawing and writing works based on their particular interests. We saw this with the Lion King fans who were followed by the Balto fans, the Sonic the Hedgehog fans, Pokemon fans, Digimon fans, etc. They seem to bring in their energy along with something new. The same happened when Zootopia came out. Older fans pick up on this energy and begin growing again. Look at Steve Gallaci, he's now drawing Zootopia based fan art, and he might be considered one of the most successful and creative founders of furry fandom.

Code:
http://www.furaffinity.net/user/stevegallacci/


Code:
http://stevegallacci.com/


As we all know, nature abhors a vacuum and plants seek water and sustenance from the soil. The same seems to be true for furry fandom, which appears to have a symbiotic relationship (some might argue parasitic) with works created outside the fandom . On the other hand, one might say that learning to play golf from an amateur golfer will inevitably lead to you picking up their bad habits. Furry fans tend to socialize so closely with each other, that inevitably their work and themes start to echo each other. Throw the emphasis on "fandom" and "yiff", combined with instant positive feedback from other fans into the mix, and you see far less growth and motivation to get better. As an outsider looking in, I've seen this over the past twenty years. Furry based art and writing (as created by fans) sometimes goes through periods of intense stagnation.

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Mon Aug 14, 2017 2:56 pm
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I can't help but notice that the art tends to be a lot less anime-inspired as well. Like, a lot of it feels more like the Mirage TMNT comics or the 90s Speilberg cartoons, which makes perfect sense considering that those are the sorts of works that would have inspired the early fandom.

Image

I particularly like this piece from the gallery. The shadows almost give me a 90s Batman vibe. It's great stuff.

Also, it's really weird to me that the Sci-Fi Channel actually attended these. It goes to show how much less..."stigmatized" the furry fandom was at this point in its development. Like, the "weirder" stuff was probably there (I did notice some more suggestive stuff among the artwork in that Confurence 4 video although it wasn't anything too bad) but I get the impression it was just sort of taken for granted at the time or otherwise ignored. Guess I wish things were more like that now, honestly, haha.


Mon Aug 14, 2017 3:06 pm
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Stuff./Tim wrote:
I can't help but notice that the art tends to be a lot less anime-inspired as well. Like, a lot of it feels more like the Mirage TMNT comics or the 90s Speilberg cartoons, which makes perfect sense considering that those are the sorts of works that would have inspired the early fandom.

I particularly like this piece from the gallery. The shadows almost give me a 90s Batman vibe. It's great stuff.

Also, it's really weird to me that the Sci-Fi Channel actually attended these. It goes to show how much less..."stigmatized" the furry fandom was at this point in its development. Like, the "weirder" stuff was probably there (I did notice some more suggestive stuff among the artwork in that Confurence 4 video although it wasn't anything too bad) but I get the impression it was just sort of taken for granted at the time or otherwise ignored. Guess I wish things were more like that now, honestly, haha.


Very good points, Stuff./Tim. :)

Btw, you can still view Odis's work here:

Code:
http://www.raccoonarts.com/


You are right! The "weirder" stuff was around as you can see in the Confurence 2 footage. You'll also notice that the age demographic of the fandom was originally 25 and up. At the present, the fandom's age demographic is around 15 to 30. If you consider this fact, then you'll notice that many early Furs grew up in the 1960's and 1970's. Since they were mostly adults, adult work at a convention wasn't seen as that big a deal (especially back in the nineties).

Many furs (not all) were heavily influenced by the underground comic movement and the seventies counter culture (which heavily rejected comics code censorship and mainstream culture). Hence, there were a lot of artists and writers who thought drawing porn and violence was really edgy and cool (not just the furry artists). By the late eighties and nineties, that sort of thing was on the downswing of popularity except in certain circles (particularly the comic book industry). Hence we see many early furry artists admiring counter-culture illustrators such as Reed Waller and R. Crumb. The underground comic movement was born from three sources: 1) the comic censorship controversy prior to the 1960's, 2) the animation guild strike against Disney in 1941, and 3) the seventies hippie movement. A little dirty secret of the comic book industry was that it often had mafia connections. These connections are well known and documented in Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics:

Code:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxnwfJfGzY8


Later, the comic book industry would become heavily political as the older artists of the golden and silver age were replaced by more politically active younger artists who often "dug the new hippie scene, man!" Most of these artists were left leaning, and their influence can still be seen in the comic industry today.

Bob Adelman, the author of the book Tijuana Bibles (a book that is NSFW), documented the history of small illegal pornographic books known as Tijuana Bibles. These pornographic comic books were illicitly drawn by artists and sold on the sly. It was quite a lucrative racket for mobsters, and they took full advantage of it. After all, the only people that ever got arrested were the distributors. The FBI could never catch the artists, and rarely the printers. These books were often very small and featured popular comic strip characters of the day: including Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. In fact, an artist's strip wasn't considered popular unless someone had produced at least one of these books base on their characters. Unfortunately, some mainstream artists were sometimes blackmailed by the mob to produce these books, which were printed up by the dozens in back room print houses. These pornographic comics are the real predecessors to all the yiff art out there. I guess Mobsters had to do something to while away the hours between counterfeiting jobs.

On the mainstream level, many comic book publishers kept pushing the boundaries of what was and was not acceptable to the public. Often, they explained this away by saying they were producing what the public wanted to buy. This produced a backlash from the public. World War 2 postponed this backlash, and comic producers quieted their critics by producing patriotic stories along with bible and children's stories (aka. Funny animals). The comic book industry also agreed to self-censor itself, but the public would later find out there were no inspections or actual regulations to govern this. Many comic producers simply made up censorship labels for their cover art.

After the war, the publisher of EC comics (an avowed atheist) caused another outrage by deliberately provoking church groups by producing stories and art these groups had publicly denounced. Eventually, there was a congressional investigation into the comics industry, and this time regulations and censorship was put into place. Hence, the birth of the infamous Comics Code. Comics that were produced outside of mainstream censorship regulations became known as underground comics. These Underground comics would later become a vehicle of protest for the seventies counter culture movement: promoting themes like sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The infamous Tijuana Bibles of the past became and influence on these works. After all, if your high, protesting mainstream society and trying to stick it to the man, then why wouldn't you also imbibe in a little smut?

To get back to the congressional investigation for a second, one comic book publisher would not side with the other comic book publishers. This was Dell publishing who would later produce Gold Key and Whitman comics. Dell was originally a publisher of children's books, and often companies like Disney and Hollywood studios entrusted them to produce their work. If you read Little Golden books as a kid, then you've read some of Dell publishers works. Dell produced a lot of mainstream "anthropomorphic" comics. Dell had refused to defend the other comic companies as being family friendly and wholesome, which earned the scorn of these publishers. This produced another avenue for protest that would eventually make it into the comics of the underground comics movement. The cute little fuzzy animal characters were now meat on the plate for anyone wanting to protest censorship.

The animation strike of 1941, placed Walt Disney under the scorn of many leftist organizations. His involvement in the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, along with his status as a special agent in the FBI, also brought down scorn. Disney corporation with its original strict ideals became a target for protest. All its characters were now fair game for the counter-culture movement.

In short, all of these conditions would later come together in the underground comic movement that heavily influenced early furry artists. If you've ever wondered why porn is so prevalent in the fandom, then now you know why. People have been drawing and buying "yiff" since the 1930's.

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Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:17 pm
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Dude, this is incredibly informative. I really had no idea about any of this.

You could probably write a whole documentary on all of this, haha. It's really interesting.

Actually, one thing I'm wondering about now: what eventually led to the furry fandom being stigmatized as "weird"?


Mon Aug 14, 2017 10:00 pm
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Wow, that's really interesting! :O

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Mon Aug 14, 2017 10:19 pm
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Stuff./Tim wrote:
Dude, this is incredibly informative. I really had no idea about any of this.

You could probably write a whole documentary on all of this, haha. It's really interesting.

Actually, one thing I'm wondering about now: what eventually led to the furry fandom being stigmatized as "weird"?


Thanks, I tried to document everything the best I could.

To answer your question, furry started being stigmatized as weird while it was still connected to the Sci-Fi and Fantasy scene. As I understand, sci-fi conventions got pretty wild and weird back in the day. Somewhere there is a convention panel on Youtube describing some of the racy incidents that occurred. So, furry fandom’s weirdness kind of already existed prior to it's conventions.
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Edit: Aha! I knew I had the link somewhere:

The Secret History of Science Fiction Panel, Chicago Worldcon, 2012
Code:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XciXWzGIbvo

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You could blame fan rivalry and politics, and that played a huge part. The entry of the media fandom began with the Star Trek fans. There was a huge surge of people who started attending that were more interested in movies, costumes, and comics than literature. These became known as Media fans. The old sci-fi fans began calling them "barbarians," because they were literally shaking up the old order. The Cartoon Fantasy Organization (C/FO) and comic book fandom was born from the media fandom. The Anime fandom and furry fandom evolved out of the old C/FO clubs.

Media Fandom:

Code:
http://fanlore.org/wiki/Media_Fandom


Media Fandom vs. Sci-fi fandom:

Code:
http://fanlore.org/wiki/Science_Fiction_Fandom_vs._Media_Fandom


Where the notion of the concept of "Fandom" arose:
Code:
http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/fandom


Some people attribute the problems to as early as 1984. I now submit two interesting logs from the old Alt.fan.furry Newsgroups.

Welcome to December 8-9 in 1997:

CalAnim8R post 12/8/97 - An animators reaction after going to one of the original “furry” parties:

Code:
https://groups.google.com/d/msg/alt.fan.furry/1IXGHY-bULI/0JudZUBnKnoJ


D.A. Graf post 12/9/97 (Events described from 1984 - there was no furry fandom at this time.):

Code:
https://groups.google.com/d/msg/alt.fan.furry/1IXGHY-bULI/EDDu_kMsds0J


Here's the entire topic if you want to go through all the postings:

Code:
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.fan.furry/1IXGHY-bULI%5B1-25%5D


Here is a sample of the news reporting that began at around 1997 (highlighting the furry strip show):

Code:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h2IkMXMJXs


Check out Aberguine’s excellent series entitled Furries in the Media for more old news reports.

Code:
 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyly7pcoKC-Nz2SC07NywKQ/videos


Here are some Furry Party flyers (4th flyer over) that were circulated at Sci-Fi conventions:

Code:
https://confurence.com/2017/04/furry-parties/


A little tongue and cheek humor from 1989? Who knows?

Code:
https://confurence.com/1989/01/skunk-fkers-rehab-poster/


Also check out this source:

25 years of Furry Conventions - by Mark Merlino and Rod O’Riley. Go to 19:50 and also 47:20 for the first fur suit at a convention (worn by Robert Hill) and the stripper show starring Omaha Sternberg (sp?) at 50:56:

Code:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adC7N2pcY2M


If you look closely, you will find both Robert Hill and Omaha Sternberg in the Confurence 4 highlight video.

More sources for those interested:

The History of Furry Fandom by Fred Patten - from 1998.
Code:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5snFU0xpXI

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Tue Aug 15, 2017 1:01 am
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I wonder when and why the "fursonas" thing started? It seems like most people in the old days just went by their real names. Also, I seem to recall a Steve Gallacci journal post on FA about the fandom's growing lack of tact/weirdness. http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/5836824/ (Not exactly as I remember it, but he talks about odd comissions and gets into fandom member behavior in the comments).


Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:38 am
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I imagine it would be pretty early! Fantasizing about being something else is pretty common, yeah?

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Tue Aug 22, 2017 12:26 pm
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thebrownbunny wrote:
I wonder when and why the "fursonas" thing started? It seems like most people in the old days just went by their real names. Also, I seem to recall a Steve Gallacci journal post on FA about the fandom's growing lack of tact/weirdness. http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/5836824/ (Not exactly as I remember it, but he talks about odd comissions and gets into fandom member behavior in the comments).


I'm going to go way out on a limb and guess, because I seriously don't know. I don't think anyone really knows. It just happened.

There is a tradition of artists drawing themselves. It's just a fun way to show off your skill (especially if you can legitimately represent yourself convincingly). It no doubt derives from the old tradition of the artist's self portrait. Some furry artists were representing themselves in this fashion back in the nineties and younger artists were copying them, but I don't think this is the origin of the fursonna.

Here is what I think happened, and this is just opnion based on years of observation. I think the concept of the internet identity/avatar got merged with the concept of making an RPG identity. Back in the nineties, people were encouraged to create alternative identities for social media. This was supposedly to help protect one's privacy. Companies, like AOL, used to have this in their welcome literature. Back then, a lot of internet role play was text based, and people would create accounts for their RPG identities (I believe you could have up to five emails on AOL at that time). I'm thinking that some people enjoyed role playing as their character so much that they simply began applying their fantasy to real life. Hence, the "fursonna" was born. It's curious that this is also about the time we see furries specifically referring to themselves as "lifestylers," and much of the idea of having one's furry identity become a major part of one's personal life (rather than a simple RPG character set) came from them. Lifestylers also started referring to their furry identity as equivalent to a sexual identity (or sometimes specifically their personal sexual identity or fetish). There were tons of early websites that suddenly exploded that said that "furry fandom" was a means of expressing and exploring one's sexual identity. The news media may have sensationalized this idea, but they didn't originate it. There were actual people promoting this idea openly (one of whom is sitting in a very prominent convention position in the furry community). As you can imagine, this caused a lot of friction within furry fandom: particularly with people who were trying to become professional illustrators. A lot of people were concerned about loosing their jobs, and there were stories floating around about artists that were fired or denied jobs because they had "furry" art work in their portfolio. Of course, the lifestylers simply assumed it was the result of people hating their lifestyle: projecting their own vision onto the situation rather than recognizing that animation studios don't necessarily want to hire artists whose portfolios consisted mainly of pornography (ahem... I mean "yiff art").

As for Gallaci's post from three years ago, he is mainly describing the "lifestylers." For them, drawing/art was a form of social interaction and communication of each others personal interests (something to enhance or make the activity more realistic, I guess). They could not imagine that Gallaci was making art out of a love for a particular genre or that he spent hours world building to create his comic. They simply assumed his drawings were an extension of his personal identity. In other words, they simply assumed he was publicly role playing along with them and wanted to share in their activities. As you can imagine, a fictional world revolving exclusively around a sexual lifestyle (and I'm only talking about the people Gallaci is referring to here) is going to consist mostly of pornography. There's not much substance or storytelling there, and very little to improve the artist. People forget that by commissioning an artist you are forming a relationship with that person. That relationship should be mutually beneficial. 1) The patron should be satisfied with the art they got. 2) The Artist should be given an opportunity to improve their skill while getting payed for it. Good relationships between artists and patrons result in return customers and more art. Artists are not machines who exist to fulfill people's fantasies. They are human beings and deserve respect, too.

To quote from the movie Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." If you draw porn...

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Tue Aug 22, 2017 12:32 pm
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Wow...quite a wealth of knowledge there...I'd heard a story of an early con organizer who supposedly advertised the con in an alternative lifestyle magazine which started the influx of more extreme members. Kinda interesting how fandoms and groups develop signature elements (like fursonas) that become so popular to the point that those who don't have them stand out or are cast in an asperious light i.e. "you're not a true furry"


Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:52 pm
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I see basically-furries over at the Housepets! forum who are like "I'm not really a furry, I don't have a fursona." Who gives them these ideas?!

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Wed Aug 23, 2017 9:12 pm
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