A fringefur's report on Anthrocon 2010
As I mentioned in a similar report a couple of years ago, I consider myself a fringefur because I don't do things that more committed furries do (writing, art, fursuiting, taking on a fursona). Mostly I just like to read furry comics; most of my favorite Webcomics are furry, and I first got into the fandom when Fantagraphics stopped publishing Critters and I had to find another source. Text stories don't appeal so much, though I loved Michael Payne's Blood Jaguar, for instance, and I don't much care for movies or TV of any sort. I've never seen Disney's Robin Hood, which I gather is something of a furry gateway drug.
So why did I go to Anthrocon at all? Well, I'll tell ya.
It's something like a science fiction convention, just with a lot more fur. It's comparable to Worldcons in size; there were 4238 registrants this year, up from 3776 last year and 3390 the year before that, and I suspect the non-attending percentage is significantly lower than for Worldcon. There is a higher percentage of workshops on creative things like writing, building and performing with puppets, building and performing in fursuits (I missed Fursuit Charades this year, dammit), improv (including two sessions of 'Whose Lion is it, Anyway?'), and of course art, with this year's GoH James 'Dinotopia' Gurney hosting several sessions. No movies or anime, for whatever reason, but a videogaming room with several tourneys. And a Dr. Who LARP, aka live action roleplaying game.
There was a dealer's room with about a hundred dealers; only two comics dealers, though, so I couldn't find a copy of Furrlough #183. I did pick up my preordered copy of Demon Sandwich from Lizardbeth, along with a button of Inix emerging from a box. Also bought the penultimate Digger collection from Sofawolf Press, highly recommended; and Bill Holbrook's latest Kevin & Kell collection, On Strike, likewise. Bill offered to sign it for me but I told him I didn't like people scribbling on my books. Hope he didn't take it personally. I've said the same thing to Greg Bear, for example. All these creators were busy whenever I went by so I didn't get to talk to them much.
The art show had numerous excellent artists. Dark Natasha, who does the best fur in the fandom. Richard Bartrop, with several excellent ads featuring the Vixen, Big Red. The Anthrocon theme this year was 'Modern Stone Age Furries', so he produced Big Red Cooking With Fire. P_moss (Paviamostyn Fox), with some beautiful pictures of her moss fox persona. Ursula Vernon, who besides Digger is big on strange fruits and vegetables. Spotty the Cheetah, prone to gay and/or X-rated art but with lots of good general art. That's a Chechen flag he's burning. And perhaps my favorite for her mix of weird and cute (alas that we see no more of Saiko and Lavender): Diana X. Sprinkle. One of her most memorable is Cat Puking Kittens. For more goodies, try Cuddly Parasite, House Mouse (note the door-to-door salesman), and Pancats. Also Circle of Cute, The Ugliest Duckling (same page), and Visual Puns 2 .
One of my favorite parts of both NPL- and Anthrocons is gaming. The gaming room is always busy, and there were over a dozen game demos, notably by Looney Labs. I was introduced to Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirls, newly back in print, in one of them, and if there'd been a copy for sale anywhere I'd be bringing it to Seattle.
I didn't get in as much gaming as usual this year. Once, though, I sat in on three or four games of Martian and Zombie Fluxx and, in a virtuoso display of luck, won three of them. The Zombie Fluxx win was a notable example. I played a 'draw cards and give one of your choice to each player' card and kept the 'I Alone Survived' goal card, which requires you to have a Car, no Friends, and no Zombies. I had the Car, no Friends, and only one zombie, which was encouraging. In the course of this drawing I drew and had to accept a zombie in addition to the one I had. Groaning Required was in play but I forgot to make a zombie noise when I put it down. The guy to my right called me on it, so he got to give me one of his zombies; he chose Larry, who like Radioactive Potato prevents you from winning as long as you have it. Him. It. So...I played 'I Alone Survived'. Since the goal changed, Larry moved to the next player counterclockwise. Weapon Bonus was in effect, so I smashed one of the remaining zombies with my baseball bat and the other with my shovel, and won. Note that if I hadn't been given Larry he would have come to me with the goal change and all my work would have been for naught.
Buttons weren't as much in evidence as at SF cons, but there were plenty of interesting T-shirts. I can't remember many offhand. My other shirt has a skull on it. Don't mind me, it's just that time of month [with a werewolf in front of a full moon]. A T-shirt à clef; I may even buy this one. I like poetry, long walks on the beach, and poking dead things with sticks.
There was a masquerade, as at many SF cons. It's hard to talk understandably in a fursuit so dialogue is generally prerecorded. I enjoyed it but wasn't bowled over. The final act was 'History of Dance', which got lots of laughs of recognition where I remained just puzzled; I did recognize the 'badger badger badger badger mushroom...' music, though.
There was no filksinging session, which strikes me as a bit odd considering all the other performance activities. Maybe because it's too hard to play a guitar in a fursuit; there were a couple of keyboarders in the masquerade, though. Filker Tom Smith did two solo performances and I was impressed enough to buy one of his CDs. It was more f&sf than furry, not that I cared. I particularly liked his two-minute summary of Dune, 'Crystal Gayle Killed Frank Herbert' [MP3]. And 'Return of the King, Uh-huh' in the style of The King.
One of the high points of Anthrocon for me is Uncle Kage's Story Hour. Uncle Kage is Samuel Conway, the CEO of the con, and he's a great raconteur. Despite his nom (short for kagemushi, Japanese for 'cockroach'), he prefers to wear a chemist's lab coat, suitable to his profession, rather than press-on mandibles, and his stories are furry mainly when related to running the con or meeting furry friends abroad. One story this year, for whose veracity I will not vouch, involved a trip to Germany to visit Eurofurence friends over New Year's. As he left, one of them gave him a cake to take with him. (Miming of almost falling over sideways from the weight.) He went through airport screening and a valkyrie ordered him to open his suitcase, then pointed to the cake and said 'schtolen!' 'No, nein! Gift! Gift!' Not the wisest thing to say in Germany. So she marched him in back, eins! zwei! eins! zwei!, and a tired functionary wanded his cake with a mass spectrometer or something. He finally learned two things: that *stollen* is a German fruitcake (you saw that coming, didn't you?), and it has the same signature on an X-ray machine as C4 plastic explosive. It being the holiday season, he was the fifth person they'd had to check that day. Se non è vero, è ben trovato. Incidentally, he wrote the foreword to On Strike, mentioned above.
One thing Anthrocon has that I don't recall from SF conventions is a chosen charity. This year it was Fayette Friends of Animals, an animal shelter for which a charity raffle, a charity auction, and other odds and ends raised $12172 (Editor's note: Later raised to at least $12212). And the most distinctively furry thing is the Saturday fursuit parade. This year, 713 fursuiters took part. They all went past in 15-20 minutes and blurred together in my memory for the most part. Lots of generic dogs and foxes, a GothLoli furry or two, a dinosaur with a tail so long he kept it off the floor on a roller skate, an attractive white kirin. The only ones that stuck in my mind were a pretty full-body lynx suit, a gorgeous cat head on a costume I've forgotten, a rather clanky mechafurry, and my favorite of the convention: Kuhn, an insane black-backed jackal in chains and an unstrait buckle-studded strait jacket. The wide white eyes and open fanged muzzle made him something you wouldn't even want to meet in a well-lit alley. Several of the marchers also blew venezuelas as they marched. Vuvuzelas. Whatever.
So I had a good time, and I intend to go back every time its scheduling doesn't conflict with the NPL's convention. This year I returned on Sunday and will head to Seattle on Tuesday.