Anthrocon 2008 report
Last weekend I went to Anthrocon in Pittsburgh, the biggest anthropomorphics (furry) convention in the world, with 3390 in attendance. I thought some of a conreport might be of interest to some of my correspondents.
The Anthrocon webpage explains, ‘Today, Furry fandom is . . . an artistic and literary genre that is practiced and enjoyed by tens of thousands worldwide. We count among our ranks professional sports mascots, animators, cartoonists, puppeteers, artists, illustrators, and writers, as well as those who simply think that it would be a wonderful thing if animals could walk or talk like we do. If you as an adult still occasionally like to flip to the old cartoons, or have a stuffed animal sitting on the dashboard of your car, or buy cereal because it has a cool tiger on the box, you may well enjoy what our fandom has to offer.’
I hadn’t been to an Anthrocon since 2002 owing to conflicts with NPL cons, or penury. I don’t know if things have changed, but I was struck much more than before by the emphasis on creativity. I went to Morphicon in Columbus last month and didn’t find much to do because the program was oriented more to doing rather than to appreciating furry stuff. Anthrocon is ten times its size and I managed to find plenty to go to, but it still seemed like a majority of the program was devoted to how-tos on things like constructing and performing in fursuits, furry puppeteering, drawing furries, writing furry stories, organizing a furmeet, etc. The art show was comparable to that of SF conventions several times AC’s size, in both size and quality, despite the lack of professionals attending. I felt rather like a fringefan, since my interest in furry is mainly in comics and fiction, and to a lesser extent artwork. Not even movies; it seems a number of people were drawn to furfandom by Disney’s *Robin Hood*, which I’ve never seen. Nor *The Jungle Book*, nor *The Lion King*, etc.
There was a fursuit parade Saturday so that one could see all the fursuits in action. Well, not all; there were 453 in the parade but scores who didn’t join in (not to mention hundreds more who just wore a tail or ears during the con). You can’t get an idea of characterization from a mere walkby, but I was struck by a beautiful Roman centurion lion, an anteater, a couple of elegant Chinese costumes, and some suits that produced a great illusion of digitigrade legs. The centurion shows up briefly in the KDKA TV report (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI4SIcemOtg).
Talking in a fursuit seems to be uncommon, maybe because one’s voice can be muffled, maybe because mascots do their communication by pantomime. Whatever the reason, one of the events was ‘Fursuit Charades’, which I attended. Not many people were there, what with overlapping events like a charity auction and the fursuit dance competition preliminaries: about eight fursuiters and a dozen bare hyoomans. Humans were matched against fursuiters, trying to act out various things from a ‘Charades for Kids’ game. I was on the human team, which won. Tsk. I don’t know if this was because of mobile fingers, greater skill, or just luck. Or antifurry prejudice, since the remainder of the (suitless) audience was drafted as guessers/judges. There was a wide range of difficulty; I remember doing slingshot (easy), elbow (trivial; ‘no props’ was not in effect), flat (did waves and negation), and tambourine (I thought I was clear enough, but no. Piano?). Nobody had to do sprinkles or (gad) an egg-and-spoon race. This, by the way, was the only event where I met someone I recognized: Ron Bauerle. Aside from staff like Uncle Kage and artists/publishers in the dealers’ room like Mike Curtis and Bill Holbrook.
I spent a number of hours in the open tabletop gaming room. I wasn’t interested in Magic: the Gathering or Apples to Apples or poker, enjoyed a game of Munchkin Cthulhu but wasn’t faunching for a second opportunity, might have played The Red Dragon Inn (D&D-style characters trying to drink each other under the table) if it weren’t limited to four. I did get to introduce a few people to Set and Coloretto.
I arrived early and had an opportunity to head off to a bookstore before the official program began. Found a nice copy of Baus’s *Master Crossword Dictionary* for about $4.75, eat your heart out. And no, you can’t have it; it replaces my copy with both covers detached. I also visited Eide’s, my favorite comics store back when I lived near Pittsburgh. It was just a couple of blocks away from the convention center. My want-list is short and esoteric nowadays, things like *Hairbat* #5 and *Flaming Carrot* #32, and I didn’t find a single thing in all the downstairs boxes. On a second visit I did pick up a few things from the clearance boxes, like a couple of issues of an excellent magazine about comics, *Hogan’s Alley*.
The dealers’ room is one of the main reasons I go to conventions: a chance to buy things I couldn’t find anywhere else. I picked up four of Bill Holbrook’s comic strip collections and all five of Ursula Vernon’s books from Sofawolf Press, three of them collections of her online comic strip *Digger*, one of my three favorites. It’s about a wombat. Wombats have the souls of engineers, hence a thorough dislike of magic and gods, and Digger gets thrown into a world full of them: a talking statue of Ganesh, an oracular slug, vampire squashes (they have no teeth, but if enough of them knock you down they can mess you up), and much other unwelcome stuff. You can imagine how she feels when she learns that something magically influenced her to pick up a fossil ammonite as part of an evil plan. ‘I’ll kill it! I’ll break its face and feed it gravel through a straw! I’ll–I’ll–gnttff-huff-urrrrff!*’ *Lit. ‘I will construct its dwelling using inferior materials!’ (The footnotes are not the least of the wonderful things in this comic.) I recommended it to Wombat, but I’ll recommend it to all you other copyees too: www.graphicsmash.com/comics/digger.php. The first 300 strips are free; the rest you only get to see one day at a time unless you subscribe.
One organization at Anthrocon was Parrot Rescue, this year's charity, which got $8900 from various sources. Another was a scientific team investigating correlations with the relative length of the index and ring fingers (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digit_ratio). They had a long multipart questionnaire with furry (I wish I could take animal form) and nonfurry (I worry about what people think about me) questions, and gave a dime to Parrot Rescue for every hand they could photocopy.
Let’s see, what else. I was rooming with a few people who put on a weekly puppet webcast, so I went to the puppet-improv ‘Pawpets Gone Wild!’ Fine puppets, but a sock puppet–literally, just a sock that someone took off his foot and put on his hand, and that later accreted eyes and a goatee and stuff–kind of stole the show from them. There was another show the next day that included a visit from a Capt. Jack Sparrow-suiter and the singing of ‘Still Alive’ from the videogame *Portal*. Uncle Kage’s Story Hour was excellent as usual. Floyd Norman, a Disney animator for decades, was the Guest of O.K. and gave a fine talk, ‘Memories with the Mouse’. I ate a number of meals at the fur-friendly Steel City Diner and Fernando’s but did not buy one of the SCD’s Anthrocon T-shirts. Also went to the only downtown Indian restaurant and was unimpressed by their chicken saag. And then I went back to Cleveland.