Review: 'Furry Fandom Conventions, 1989 - 2015' by Fred Patten
Since their origin in panels and meets at science fiction conventions of the 1980s, furry cons have grown in membership and popularity. Today, they are found on every continent except Antarctica (now there's a challenge). Anthrocon, the world's largest furry convention, welcomed 6,389 attendees in 2015.
Fred Patten's book is the most complete published work (OK, OK: it's the only published work) to cover the history and status of furry fandom get-togethers across the world.
A convention is differentiated from a more casual furmeet by elements including a committee, paid memberships, and a structured event schedule. Most cons last more than one day and take place in a hotel, convention centre, or sometimes camp site or youth hostel.
The book comprises an alphabetical listing of conventions, so events in North America rub shoulders with Asia and Russia, and big hitters like Eurofurence appear next to smaller conventions like EAST (Episches Abfeiern Streunender Tiere).
Browsing the convention names, what you'll notice above all is furry's passion for puns, with Baltimore-based Fur the ‘More and Canada’s Fur-Eh! leading the pack and an honourable mention to The Maltese Fur-Con. While most con names include the word ‘fur’ - the F section takes up around a fifth of the book - others use ‘anthro’ or ‘critter’, or, like Megaplex and Oklacon, eschew signposting.
Some aspects of furry conventions, like the PawPet Show and the Dealers' Den, have been adopted by cons across the world, while others are unique to a single convention, like Camp Feral!’s scavenger hunts.
Because the information has been collated from reports sent in by organisers and attendees all over the world, the style can be a little variable, and information sparse. There are a couple of occasions when personal opinion peeks through the factual report, especially when the behaviour of individual attendees is significant enough to get a mention. These little glimpses of convention goings-on no doubt elicit a knowing nod from those who were there, and are often tantalizing for those of us who weren't.
A selection of convention banners, posters and logos is reproduced in black and white, with eight full colour pages at the centre of the book, and there is a 'Furword' by social psychologist Kathleen C. Gerbasi.
Whether or not you attend conventions yourself, this is an interesting read that will broaden your horizons and improve your knowledge of geography. It's nice to think that on almost any given weekend, somewhere in the world, furries are having fun.