Furry, not an obscure little fandom any more
Furries have long thought of our fandom as a little niche thing, the fandom that only a tiny number of people are into. The weird fandom, the one that gets picked on and sidelined. We're small, weak, and need to hide…
Well, I've got news for you. We're not. We're amongst the biggest fandoms in the world.
Worldcon, the World Science Fiction convention, considered the focus point of science fiction conventions peaked at 8,365 attendees in 1984. But it started off as a convention that only attracted people in the hundreds. It wasn't till its 34th con in 1976 that it passed 4000 attendees. Currently attendance is between 4000 and 6000, depending on location and the state of the economy.
Anthrocon passed 4000 attendees last year, its 14th convention. A growth rate almost twice that of Worldcon! With Further Confusion and Midwest FurFest following that growth, constantly increasing their membership despite a slow economy.
With these kinds of numbers come huge incentives for their host cities to support the conventions. Even if each one of the 1000 attendees at one of the fandom's 'smaller' cons were to put only $50 into the local economy, that's an economic boost of $50,000. And the reality is that people spend a lot more than $50 over a convention weekend, and the bulk of it isn't spent in the con's dealers' den. Every taxi ride, pizza delivery and hotel room boosts the local economy. So if you wonder why the local businesses love your favourite furry con as much as you do, that's why.
But one thing that could hurt us is continuing to act like we're this weak tiny fandom that can be knocked over by a gust of wind; from the news media, from internet trolls, or from disapproving parent teacher associations. There isn't a chance in hell now that the Anthrocon is going to be shuttered because of some press hack putting out a made-up sex story; no one wants to see the yearly $6 million estimated economic benefit to Pittsburgh disappear. We can, and should, start shrugging off those stories and let the reality of Furry fandom speak for it's self.
Furry is Big Business, but it also needs to be a Responsible Business. We should act a little more responsibly about certain things. Family Friendly cons are great, badge checks for areas and panels on adult material are here to stay. But we shouldn't shun things like Safe Sex promotion. There's very compelling reasons to bring in the people who give out free condoms and leaflets to large fandom conventions. Those compelling reasons are why other big fandom conventions do it as well. No one will bat an eyelid if a convention that also has an adult section of it's art show, has a table given over to a safe sex promotion charity in it's dealers' den. If you can have a writers panel about erotica, which isn't a big issue since Worldcon has had them too, then you can have one on safe sex.
The fandom can also do with a wider range of conventions. Your convention doesn't have to cater to the entire spectrum of Furry Fandom. Furry could do with a few "Relax-a-Cons" focused more on allowing writers, artists and other professionals in the fandom networking time rather than lots of events. Let's grow the number of 'seed corn cons' that are the meets, bowling and camping events. Or even focus on specific speciality conventions within Furry Fandom. There's probably enough space for a Furry Fandom convention focused on webcomic artists. Or one for Furry game designers.
And perhaps it's time for the Fandom to consider creating it's own World Furry Fandom Convention. Make each continent's fandom less distant from each other by inviting existing and new conventions around the world to bid to be the next year's host…
So let's stop thinking we're small, and let's think big!