What is Furry Fandom?

June 29, 2010
Dalia the Beerhorse and Toni Squire have a friendly glass of beer.

Dalia the Beerhorse and Toni Squire have a friendly glass of beer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, on and off, over the last couple of months. Furry fandom is, really, unique among fandoms, at least in western culture. I get the impression the doujinshi culture in Japan may in some ways be closer than most other examples, but I lack the deeper experience to really say one way or the other. I’m not going to get into definition of furry, as it’s not terribly relevant to what I’m trying to say here. There is an affinity for anthropomorphic animals, and it’s a respectably large fandom, with one of its best-known gallery sites reporting an active userbase of  over 200,000 at the turn of the year [1] and its largest convention reaching a final attendant count of 4,238 in 2010 [2]. That’s a lot of people. And that’s kind of what I’m talking about. Furry fandom as fandom, rather than as what they’re fans of.

One difference lies in that the fans and the content creators are to such a large degree the same. This is distinct from the creators-as-readers dynamic in, for instance, a writing circle, because of scale as well as lack of exclusivity. Zaush, the most popular artist on FurAffinity according to the site FA Rank, is still watching 745 other users, getting notified of their submissions [3]. The separation between content creators and fans that is inherent in most fandoms is simply largely inexistant; there is a lot less “us” (the creators) versus “them” (the unwashed mob that argues about whether Han Solo shot first).

Another difference, which further greys the boundary between fans and the object of their appreciation, is that fans are, in fact, in one way or another, the source for a lot of the content brought to the furry fandom. Fans pay for the content other fans appreciate. Not in the indirect sense of wandering down to the comic book shop and picking up the latest copy of Spider-Man or whatever it is you kids read these days, but directly, through requests and commissions. The fans’ thoughts fuel the creators, which is a pretty neat concept. If you want a picture of a hedgehog girl walking through a field with a wreath of flowers on her head, you can simply find an artist taking commissions, send them a few tenners through PayPal, and they will draw your hedgehog girl, because that’s what they do.

Thus, I would argue that furry fandom is, largely, a very self-appreciating sort of place. Anyone has something to bring to the party, and it doesn’t have to be just a common appreciation for Sailor Moon’s ability to kick a whole lot of ass in between bouts of crying. I have met very few furries who don’t eventually invest some of their imagination into the fandom. It could be drawing, writing, role-playing on forums, MU*s or IMs, commissioning artists to create content others will enjoy alongside the commissioner, or just something as simple as, in their own minds, creating the furry character they use to represent themselves.

1. http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/1123385/, retrieved Jun 29 2010
2. http://twitter.com/anthrocon/statuses/17195986201, retrieved Jun 29 2010
3. http://superwailingbonus.com/farank/?page=1, retrieved Jun 29 2010

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