My CaliFur VIII con report
Crossaffliction is working on a sort into categories of all Flayrah’s posts. He has started at the beginning in January 2001, and is so far through September 2004. He notes that as of that date, there are only seven Furry convention reports. “[T]hey seem to have fallen out of fashion as of late. In case you hadn't noticed.”
He is right. I have complained about the difficulty that this makes in writing a history of Furry fandom. Early s-f fans wrote convention reports of five to ten pages in their fanzines. When Sam Moskowitz wrote his history of s-f fandom in the 1930s, and Harry Warner, Jr. wrote his of s-f fandom in the 1940s, and I wrote a history of the World S-F Convention from 1939 through 1948 in 1976, we had no trouble getting information on the conventions because of the long, detailed con reports in the fanzines. But there has been little of this in Furry fandom. A Furry con report tends to be little more than, “I went to the con and I had a good time”, or, “A lot of people caught the con crud”, or posting a half dozen or so photos of unidentified Fursuiters.
To do something about this, here is my very incomplete report of CaliFur VIII just past. I hope that other attendees can add to it.
CaliFur VIII took place at the Irvine Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, on June 1-3, 2012. Its theme was “The Roaring Twenties”. Furry artist/fursuiter Mochi (not Moon Mochi) from Pennsylvania was the guest-of-honor. Official attendance was 950. Due to my poor health (this was my first Furry convention in over four years; I was in a wheelchair, with my sister Sherrill pushing me), I could only attend for Saturday the 2nd.
The weather was good, and we had a smooth freeway drive from my hospital, about 55 miles away. We arrived about 11:15 a.m., and went into the hotel’s coffee-shop/restaurant, Elements, for an early lunch. We were joined by Steve Gallacci and Roz Gibson. Elements is an excellent restaurant, and we took our time to enjoy a leisurely meal.
Sherry and I went over to the convention side of the main floor about 1:00 p.m. Everything was on the ground floor, except for the Con Suite which was on the second floor. (It was filled with “health nibblements” like carrot sticks and V-8 juice. Maybe the con committee figured that only herbivores would attend the con.) There were so many attendees in full Fursuits walking the halls that it was hard to tell later when they deliberately gathered together for the Fursuit Parade. Most attendees who were not in full Fursuits were wearing tails. This was a change from the Furry cons before 2005, when I had my stroke and became hospitalized; full Fursuits were much less common then.
We went first to the Dealers’ Room, where Glen Wooten, the Art Show/Dealers’ head, had comped membership badges waiting for us. As long as we were there, we toured them first. The Dealers’ Room and Art Show were essentially one large room. We spent a lot of time in the Dealers’ Room, where I had conversations with many old friends like Terrie Smith and Megan Giles. Kay Shapero, who is on the ALAA committee which administers the Ursa Major Awards, was giving out the ALAA’s new stick-on badge ribbons with the Ursa Major logo and the caption ANYTHING TO RECOMMEND?, in silver lettering on lavender. (They’re pretty but very difficult to read; Kay & I agreed that further printings should be silver lettering against a darker background.) I put out a stack of flyers for my forthcoming anthologies of Furry s-f short fiction, Already Among Us and The Ursa Major Awards Anthology. Glen Wooten hung a 2 foot x 3 foot poster enlargement of Roz Gibson’s front cover for Already Among Us in the Art Show.
CaliFur is an unofficial successor to the ConFurences, which started in 1989, so there were many “graymuzzles” present. Sherry & I did not attend the programmed “Remembering Those We’ve Lost”, which was on Friday, but I overheard a few expressions of sadness in the Dealers' Room about the death of Waarhorse/Henry Bestwick, who seemed to have attended most Furry cons during the 1990s and always stood out as being more neatly dressed and groomed than most of the attendees (you could tell that he was in the military or ex-military, even without being in uniform). I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that only one or two dealers (notably Rabbit Valley) were selling any Furry books or magazines. Most of the dealers were selling sketches or art prints or Fursuit parts and materials. Another print dealer, Bengaley Summercat, the publisher of Anthroview, asked my permission to interview me in the near future; we exchanged e-mail addresses.
This might be a good place to make a couple of complaints. The registration badges that Glen Wooten gave Sherry & me were very pretty pieces of plastic with a full-color cartoon design, but they had the attendee’s names on the BACK. From the front, all the badges were identical; the attendees were essentially anonymous. One of the main purposes of a convention badge is to let people know who you are, so that fan friends by correspondence or e-mail can identify each other in person. I suppose it’s considered today, what with Skype and people’s ability to e-mail photographs to each other, that it’s no longer necessary for con badges to identify the wearer. Many attendees were also wearing individualized Furry con badges, of course.
When I asked Glen if there was any convention program/souvenir book to go with the badges, he waved us to a table at the back of the Dealers’ Room where there was a take-one (or a handful) stack of conbooks. I was shocked at how skimpy it was. Aside from the colorful cover (unidentified; by Mochi?) and the con program schedule, there was nothing in it. I got the impression that most attendees did not bother to take one. I know that most Furcons have thick conbooks full of program schedules, artwork, fiction and articles, biographies of speakers, Furry advertising, lists of the con staff, sometimes neighborhood restaurant guides. What is wrong with CaliFur?
I was also shocked by how tiny the Art Show was. It had plenty of space, and it was well lighted and displayed, but you could see the whole show in about three minutes. Also, frankly, there was nothing outstanding about any of the entrants. The only artist whose work I recognized was Terrie Smith, and this was just more of the same type of art that she has been entering in Furry Art Shows for the past twenty years.
Sherry & I left the Dealers’ Room about 2:45, and spent the next fifteen minutes looking at all the Fursuiters bustling past us in the halls. The official Fursuit Parade was going on, but we were seeing so many Fursuiters anyway that there seemed no point to go out to it.
I’m sure that CaliFur VIII must have had other organizers, but all that we saw all day was Rod O’Riley running everywhere and apparently doing everything.
At 3:00 p.m., we went to a program event on “Animation in the Early 20th Century”. This was supposed to be on animated cartoons of the 1920s, in keeping with the con’s theme. This was very enjoyable because of the panel’s two main speakers, who were veteran animators who were knowledgeable, enthusiastic, friendly, and encouraged participation from the audience of twenty or so. One was Tom Sito, an animator for most of the major studios since the 1970s, the head of the professional animators’ labor union for about thirty years, and the author of a couple of books on animation industry history. The other was Lenord Robinson, an animator since Disney’s The Fox and the Hound in 1981. (I forgot Robinson’s name and had to ask Sito by e-mail; of course there was nothing in the con literature to identify either of them. In fact, I could not tell if they were programmed speakers, or if they just stepped up and took charge of a leaderless Special Interest Group.) The discussions were mainly but not entirely on animation of the 1920s; we also got into their forerunners of the 1910s, and a little bit of post-1920s 20th century American animation.
At 4:00, Sherry & I went to the 2011 Ursa Major Awards presentation. This was in one of the hotel’s largest ballrooms, which was embarrassingly almost empty. This was not the con’s fault; it was very well publicized. Most Furry fans are just not interested in the awards. The emcee was Gary Whalen, and the power point/visual presentations were prepared by Rod O’Riley.
The presentations went smoothly but unexcitingly. They were not exactly raced through, but the presentations went very briskly. "The nominees are" 1,2,3,4,5, "and the winner is" whichever, about 5 seconds of applause; on to the next category. Even with one more category plus the ALAA's Choice Award this year, the whole thing ran only about 30-40 minutes and adjourned early. The only winner present was GreenReaper, the editor of Flayrah which won the Best Anthropomorphic Magazine award, who came to CaliFur VIII from Texas. He gave a brief acceptance speech (which, thanks to an inaudible microphone and his thick Brit accent, was hard to understand). It was announced that the other winners would have their trophies sent to them.
At 5:00 was the second Animation event, “Animation Today and Tomorrow”, also with Tom Sito and Lenord Robinson. I had come prepared and passed around photocopies of three of my animation book reviews from Animation World Network. We discussed recent animation features, the rise of CGI animation, and Hayao Miyazaki’s work. Robinson waxed enthusiastically on how this is a great time to become an animator, if not to find a job in the industry; what with all of the recent technological advances, it is almost possible for a lone animator to make an entire feature at home. This event was also very lively and, if we had not been reminded to end it at 6:00, would easily have run overtime.
At 6:00, Sherry & I went to dinner. Elements was so good for lunch that we had no hesitation about going back there for dinner. After dinner, it was time to return to my hospital, so we missed the evening’s main event, the Fur le Dance cabaret. There were lots of other events all day long, including an unofficial but heavily-publicized “Equestrian Embassy” hospitality suite that was showing MLP:FIM videos and having other Bronies activities, which we also missed.
Some other veteran Furry fans that I chatted with, or at least saw, during the day were Ken Pick, David Bliss, and Zrath. That’s my CaliFur VIII report. It’s missing Friday and Sunday completely, and what went on Saturday that I didn’t see. Can anyone else fill those in? And let’s see some Anthrocon 2012 con reports that go beyond “it was a big con, and I had a good time.”