To many furs in the world, young and old, the fandom and the content it produces can be a form of escape. A way to engage in a fantasy world with conjured characters. It works as a means to forget the menial and divisive day to day events. It keeps them sane in a world that can lose it in the spur of a moment.
Drugs in which are utilized recreationally also provide such escapes for some. Through stimulation or suppression of the senses, the user can achieve a state of mind that can help them take an edge off the sharp protrusions in life.
However, just because both tools seem to be a means to the same end, it does not mean that these worlds do not overlap. In many circles in the fandom the usage of these substances can be seen as revered, one such group that is a famous example call themselves the “Baked Furs” are well known for their pro-marijuana stances and usage.
Unfortunately, though, as drug culture has continued to grow along with the growth of the fandom itself, the dark side of these habits is becoming far more prevalent. A recent death of one furry has pushed the conversation to one that can no longer be ignored by the community. Today we go these examples of substance abuse in the fandom, and the impacts that it has had.
At the 2013 XOXO Festival, Mike Rugnetta of the YouTube/PBS Idea Channel delivered a really interesting talk about the Internet, specifically how it's helped us develop new ways of constructing our self-identities, due to the discovery of new ideas and interacting socially online, amongst other things. He hops from topic to topic very rapidly, and doesn't really get started until about two minutes into the video.
Interestingly - if you jump to the 10:15 mark - he discusses fandoms. Good fandoms have lots of opportunities for interaction, sharing creativity, and finding ways for the fans to relate to one another. In fact, the fans may relate to each other more than they might relate to the original theme that caused them to gather in the first place! What matters is the energy within the fan community, the bonds between fans. (This reminded me of Anthrocon 2007's guest of honor Mark Evanier, who noted that furries seemed to be "fans of each other".)
Mike asks his audience if there's a fandom without canonical media for fans to gather around? A fandom which would instead subsist mainly by the interaction of the fans, without devotion to a specific TV show, movie, or comic book series? Yup! Furry!
The Darkness, a.k.a. “Arraborough, Book 2”, has a two-page “The Story So Far” synopsis of Book 1, The Unimaginable Road, but it seems more confusing than enlightening. Basically, The Darkness jumps right into the story in progress. If you have not read The Unimaginable Road, you should start there. If you have, even when Book 1 was first published over a year ago, the events will swiftly come back to you.
The Darkness is a darker story, no joke intended. In Book 1, the community of Arraborough is created with high hopes for its success. Unknown forces are clearly working against it, but there is a feeling that if the animal community will continue to trust each other and work together, they will prevail against the shadowy obstacles. In Book 2, that unity is broken. Deaths occur, some possibly natural but ominous, and others definitely murder. The Arraboroughans now wonder who is the murderer in their midst; which of their close friends is secretly working to sabotage their community. And the agencies opposed to Arraborough seem stronger.
Tust and Kelly are in earnest discussion with Slither. Fespin, Hillany, and Inkwell are playing with Taj as Arlafette looks on proudly. Albin is sharing some opinion with Mander. Breth and Barelle are setting out plates and cutlery. From the kitchen, Hylan is bringing out a large garden salad. Dhenzi and Brady are whispering to themselves, glancing covertly at Spiny, who sits off by himself. Slick’s face hardens as he realizes that one of these people is a traitor and a murderer. (p. 37)
The Unimaginable Road, a.k.a. Arraborough, Book One, begins when six wandering animals coincidentally meet in a Blackwood Forest clearing near a mysterious abandoned house, on a prairie far from the nearest town, about a mile from the cliffs over the Balaba Ocean. The animals – cousins Slick and Slither Snake, Inkwell Pig and Wild Boar (also cousins), Tust Turtle and Hillany Chicken – have all been drifting through one animal region and city after another – Ellineste, Loragin, Thilomina, Hoglarotha, Serpenton – looking for someplace where they can feel safe.
To fill the heavy silence [around the campfire], the snake with vertical green stripes and the perpetual scowl says, ‘I’m Slick. We’re cousins. We went through a pretty bad time in the spring, back in Anilton. Slither had the idea that there must be a better, safer place to live, so …’” (p. 6)
They compare depressing notes, and Slither proposes that they build their own commune, a sanctuary, right where they are.