Creativity and science fiction fandom
Yes, that fandom. You know what I'm talking about.
I'd like to propose a radical argument: furries are a bit special.

On the face of it, the furry fandom is little different from a host of other science fiction fandoms. It has its lexicon, its weird conventions, its strange behaviours. It's insular, linked only tenuously with other groups, and brooks outsiders with, by now, deserved suspicion. It's not something your mom would understand. It's not something you'd tell your boss about doing on the weekends.

It's hard to define what "furry" is about, for insiders as well as those looking in. It seems to me, though, that beyond conventions; beyond neologisms to describe the sex act or even pornography itself furry is about artistic expression. The fandom is a veritable celebration of the creative spark, and its celebrated figures are creative — artists, writers, costumers. According to the Furry Survey between 75% and 80% of all furries describe themselves as a writer, musician, artist, fursuiter, or some combination of the four.

It's not, of course, that we lack material to consume — the biggest furry websites, FurAffinity and SoFurry, are archives and galleries of creative output and not communities proper. But, more than anything else, furries seem driven by the impulse to add something to the fandom. Thirty percent of furries roleplay with others weekly or daily. Ten percent of them write. Twenty percent draw. Fewer than ten percent of furries say they "never" do any of these things.

The more likely one is to be creative, the stronger one's association with the furry fandom is. The converse also holds true; of the 25% of people answering "9" or "10" (the highest values) to the question "How strongly do you consider yourself a part of the furry fandom?" only 4.5% said they "never" wrote, roleplayed, or created furry artwork.

Why is this? The reason, I suspect, is what separates furry from its science fiction kin. We were never told what to think, what to consume, or what paradigm to exist in. We had to make it ourselves — and the fandom is, therefore, in a constantly changing state of flux. Everyone is invited to contribute; everyone helps to make the fandom what it is. It's not always like that elsewhere.

You see, if you're a trekkie, you have your canon. You can argue whether Kirk was better than Picard, and who would win in a fight between a D'deridex class warbird and a Vor'cha battlecruiser. Artistically, you can discuss your favourite episode — "The Best of Both Worlds?" "In the Pale Moonlight"? "Far Beyond the Stars"? Actually, I'm certain that more than a few of the people currently reading this blog could name their own, with justification (for me, I'd advance "The Inner Light," "The Visitor," and "Living Witness" from the middle three series).

Similarly Star Wars fans have the movies and the EU. You can reminisce fondly about Thrawn or wave your hand and suggest that those aren't the droids people are looking for. Firefly fans have those precious few episodes and Serenity. BSG fans have the series, its movies, a few comics. You're all talking from common ground — everyone has the same frame of reference.

Furries aren't in the same boat. To be sure, there are cultural touchpoints that are shared by many (though nowhere near all) of them; movies like Robin Hood and books like Watership Down or Ringworld. But, while you'd be surprised if someone hadn't seen Robin Hood, it doesn't form the core of the fandom. There aren't sectarian, angry factions debating which "Redwall" book was superior.

The fandom has big name artists — say, Alex Vance or Jay Naylor — but none have (yet?) emerged as the nucleus of furry fandom; the bigger artists tend to be polarising figures, but it's not these arguments and debates that drive the soul of it all. Furry is a fandom born not of existing works of art, but of ideas and the promise that those works of art can — and will — be created.

What are the implications of this?

The biggest one, for me, is that it helps to contextualise the unique sensitivity furries seem to have when the fandom is criticised (admittedly, this has abated much in recent years). Because literally the entire body of work is generated by its participants — we never got a TV show or a movie, remember — attacking that is an implicit attack on the creator. And if you're talking to a furry, the overwhelming likelihood is that they're one of those creators.

This also suggests that, as a creative type in the science-fiction genre, furry is about as fertile a space as you're likely to find. We have a slew of powerful archetypes at your disposal, a welcoming bunch of highly creative individuals to help you out (and buy your stuff), and conventions helpfully located in major cities nationwide. So drop on by.

We won't bite.

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