RMFC Debrief
He likes it! Hey Mikey!
Going into Rocky Mountain Fur Con I was slightly apprehensive. For one, the events system seemed to be pretty screwed up, in the sense that the schedule was extremely fluid--I volunteered to run some panels for them, and they didn't show up on the schedule until the last day. So, attendance was relatively low.

However. I've come to realise that this is actually RMFC's strong suit. Most furry conventions (I imagine most fan cons in general) are really about 95% for people to sell stuff and 5% other things, of which that 5% basically breaks down into "panels" and "hanging out". FWA, where I do writing panels sometimes, has a nice panel set, as does FC. I've heard pretty good things about AC's panels as well.

While there are people selling things, and panels being run, at RMFC the convention is really just about hanging out. It's essentially a very large party as opposed to a convention proper. This takes some getting used to, but on balance I think, actually, it's a very good thing.

I've written before about the strength of conventions--my own feelings on the fandom were substantially reinvigorated by the one-two punch of FC2k8 and FWA a month later. It really helped to clarify to me that for all the bullshit and the drama, furry fandom is basically just about having fun, and chatting with people who share your interests. In this sense, RMFC is an exceptional microcosm of the fandom itself, because it boils it down to these essential elements. I don't see the con being able to keep this somewhat chaotic character indefinitely--judging by the number of tickets they sold, the con is posting incredible year-on-year growth--but as long as they manage to maintain it without falling into the trap of just being a place where you go to buy shit and hear people talk RMFC definitely has my vote.

It also helps to clarify things about the furry fandom as a whole. I joined the fandom back in the late 1990s, right after the burned furs debacle, and in my first six or seven years it appeared to me that the fandom was on a strong downward slope and was going to implode from the drama and infighting. This was also the period when many artists elected to distance themselves from furry fandom by leaving it altogether as opposed to being painted with the broad brush that, admittedly, fringe elements of the fandom were giving people cause to paint the whole affair with.

My first visit to Further Confusion in 2008, and my visits to FWA in 2008 and 2009, really helped me to see that the fandom is not, actually, about that kind of shit at all. Nor is it about the pornography or the random hookups. By and large, the fandom--like any group of like-minded people who come together--is about having a good time. My experience at furry conventions has been a mixture of watching people have an absolute ball and having some of the most incredibly stimulating conversations I've ever had. A raised-voices argument about Larry Niven becomes more memorable when the other person is wearing a rabbit suit--but the conversation itself was incredible. Furries are such delicious geeks :D

At some point, when I wasn't looking, three things seem to have happened to furry fandom:
The drama ebbed a bit. I know people say that places like FA are still clogged with it, and perhaps to an extent that's true. All I can say is, for me it feels like a far cry from the 90s and the early 200s.
The fandom has shifted back into a form of creative, as opposed to spiritual, expression: people choose to write or draw or roleplay as furry characters because it's fun, not because they actually think they're foxes "on the inside".
Furries grew a sense of humour. For much of the 2000s furries were convinced that the world was out to get them, and responded by becoming increasingly insular and rejecting out of hand both external and internal criticism. Since then, a healthy current of self-deprecation has emerged, beyond the pure trolling at ED or 4chan. I think this may reflect the maturity of the fandom: furry as a concept isn't going away, SomethingAwful/4Chan/PoE is going to have to deal with it, and who gives a fuck. We're having fun.

For my money, it's also a good time to be a writer in the furry fandom. There's a degree of talent that I'm quite happy to see. I am going to try to avoid slighting artists, but I think for most of them furry is something they draw because 1) they personally like it and/or 2) they know it sells (will be consumed/responded to/etc). Furry writers, however, are finally starting to rediscover that beyond just "I happen to like [insert animal here]" furry as an archetype is actually extremely powerful, and there's a lot that can be done with it. This richness and depth of narrative and characterisation, which is lacking from for instance my own writing, is something that furry adds to writing in a way I'm not really sure it adds to graphic art. Mind you, again, this isn't to sell the artists short--but I think that furry offers more potential for writers, to be brutally honest. Now the fandom is starting to rediscover that.

In the early days of the fandom, when it was confined to USENET and BBSes, there was a lot of furry literature and much--though not all--of it was quite good. This took a back seat when it became possible to mass-distribute art, but I think (though cannot prove) the tide is coming back in for authors. Certainly, furries like writing and a fair amount claim to be writers. I wouldn't mind being part of this new wave. There are certain complications, but I'm hoping to be able to work through those. I've hinted at this in previous blog entries. Perhaps I'll draw up, like, a manifesto or something tomorrow so I can explain what it is I'm talking about.

For now, though, I've rambled on too much. Basic premise: RMFC is awesome. Furry cons are awesome. This is twice now I've converted someone to the fandom by taking them to a convention and letting them see first-hand how much fun the whole damned thing is.

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