What does it mean to be furry?

What got you into it?

I attended a furry convention in October 2013 out of curiosity. I had seen the CSI episode on furries but I’d been interested in furry artwork since I’d discovered the internet some ten years earlier. 

How does it feel to be furry?

You belong to a community of people who share your interests. In a lot of ways it’s easier to make friends. It’s a rather gregarious group with a different set of social rules. As one news station said, a hug is the furry shake hand. As a tactile person, it fills a void I feel living in the rest of society. 

What type of joy does it bring you?

I remember being six and feeling a “spiritual” connection with wolves. This connection has stayed with my entire life. I find beauty in anthropomorphic artwork. Humanity, with all its flaws does not appeal to me but in The Other, I found a more complete existence. Properly done, the blend of animal and human in artwork feels real to me, alive. To imagine myself being that brings a fulfillment I don’t fully understand. It tells a story I want to engage with. 

This feeling deeply inspires my writing. However, this isn’t something that consumes my life. There is a stark separation between this ideal and reality. 

When I go to a convention put on a costume, I am still firmly in reality. All I am doing is hiding myself behind a character so I can connect with others in a way I can’t connect with them in person. My costume is far more attractive and interesting than I am. While I play that character, it brings joy and happiness to myself and others around me. It is the most real thing I do. It is the feeling of being right, belonging, and sharing a deep connection. If you’ve ever shared grief at a funeral, this is that feeling, only with a depth of joy instead of sorrow. 

Fur Reality 2013

This post is summarizing my first furry convention. It originally appeared on my previous website.

Rayles, Kai, Jaru, and IiiiX posing for photos.

I just attended my first furry convention: Fur Reality. I found out about it only a week before it started from a random user on Reddit. Since it was a mere 15 minutes from my apartment in Cincinnati, I jumped at the chance even though there were some complications. My grandparents had already planned on staying at my apartment for Friday night on their annual drive to escape Wisconsin winters by going to Florida. I was going to miss some of the evening sessions. I also had to work Friday so I had to make up some hours on Sunday for leaving early.

Friday

Session: So this is your first Fur Con? With Zander the Blue and Alkali.

I got to the convention in time for the “So this is your first Fur Con?” session. The fursuiters terrified me. I’d seen photos of them before but I wasn’t prepared to see them walking in real life. The panelist explained some basic rules: don’t tackle the fursuiters, don’t touch people without permission, and fursuiters don’t have any peripheral vision so look out for them.

I’m really glad I got to the convention early so I could find out right away there are a couple different types of fursuiters. Some of them don’t talk so they’ll only communicate in gestures or animal noises. Others don’t want to be touched. It took me a while to recognize which was which and figure out how to interact with them.

I stayed around for the next session (Tri-State Meet and Greet) and then hung out in the hotel lobby for half an hour. I ended up talking about Scuba diving and some WWII trivia with one of the other attendees. Then I had to leave to be with my grandparents.

I missed the writing session much to my disappointment but I also missed the movie night turned drinking game turned mass alcohol poisoning. I don’t drink and being the only sober person in a room of drunk furries would not have been good.

Saturday

Kai balancing Jaru’s bone on his nose. Kai is a new fursuiter, he had some fun balancing it.

Saturday was a blast. I got up a little earlier than usual and drank coffee with my grandparents before seeing them off to Florida. Thanks to my experiences on Friday, I packed a backpack with some water, food, and a notepad. I had a light breakfast at home then drove to the hotel and arrived just before 10am.

The first session was “Intro to Fursuiting”. I wanted to know more about the people that wore animal costumes so I figured it would be interesting. It was pretty much a crash course in etiquette, role playing, and staying healthy. At the end of the session, there were four fursuiters that decided to goof around. That was pretty entertaining and enlightening for me. After watching them role play with eachother, I finally understood what they were doing and how to interact with them.

So I invited one of the fursuiters to hug and scritch like had seen them do earlier. In this context, scritching is basically the same motions as petting a dog. Only the dog is petting you. And the dog is actually a guy (or gal) in an animal suit. If you like hugs and physical contact, it’s actually really nice. That is unless you’re ticklish and the fursuiter has claws on their handpaws.

That ended up being kind of funny. Once the dingo accidentally tickled me, he started doing it on purpose, and chased me when I backed away. It turned into a game for a bit. When I finally ask him to stop, he did. Then he patted me on the back to reassure me it was all in fun. I returned the pat and offered him a hug which he accepted.

This is why I enjoyed the convention so much. It’s a bunch of adults playing. The barrier for physical contact is extremely low. As adults, this kind of close contact is considered inappropriate unless you’re very close friends with the person. This aspect of furry conventions is like a weird version of a cuddle party where half of the people are in animal costumes.

Kai, Jaru, and IiiiX playing. They were barking and howling to eachother.

After the “Intro to Fursuiting” session I had a quick break for lunch and then I came back for “Furries in Mainstream Comics”. It was interesting to see the difference in comics from America and those from Europe. In short, I’m disappointed that “funny animals” are limited to kids. I grew up with reading Jack London and Calvin and Hobbes and watching stuff like Disney’s Robin Hood. Why can’t we have more adult-oriented funny animals?

When the comics session wrapped up, I headed over to Pandora Con (a science fiction/steampunk convention Fur Reality partnered with) for the Costume Parade. By the time of the parade I was perfectly comfortable with the fursuiters and really enjoyed watching all of them walking around.

Once the parade wrapped up, I was able to get a photo taken of myself with two fursuiters I had been hanging around with in the morning. I also ended up talking to a teenage boy in a cute and pink mouse costume. He was really excited about Doctor Who which was the Pandora Con theme. I’m going to have to actually watch Doctor Who to make sense of half of the stuff he said. Then I mingled a bit more and took some photos.

Since I had some time to kill before the next Fur Reality session, I headed into the theater where Jason Carter (Played Marcus Cole on Babylon 5) had been talking for an hour and a half to a bored audience. It was painful to watch him completely bomb for the next thirty minutes but I didn’t have anything else more interesting to do.

Finally 4pm rolled around and half of the furry convention and more than a few Pandora Con attendees flooded the theater for “Who’s Lion is it Anyway!”, a variation on “Whose Line is it Anyway?”. It turned out pretty well. The audience played all of the parts and most of the jokes were funny and the ones that weren’t were still amusing in how badly they failed. Doctor Who’s regeneration as a furry blue dragon was rather hilarious with the companion saying “What the fuck are you!?” and the fursuiter replying with shrug, “I have no idea.” It finished with the organizer being quite pleased that the first time he had tried the show both furries and non-furries was one of the funniest he had done. Apparently furries and non-furries don’t always do well in mixed company.

I finished up the night with “Dragget Show Live”. The same guy who did “Who’s Lion is it Anyway?” does a furry podcast with his boyfriend. I’ve listened to the first fourteen episodes and wouldn’t recommend it to my friends. It’s offensive and obscene to large degrees. I find the anti-semetic jokes by the self-proclaimed Jewish-descent Catholic-raised gay ferret to be hilarious. Few, if any, of my friends would laugh with me.

With a new podcast to listen to, I headed home. This would be a good time to mention: if you go to a convention, remember to eat a decent amount of calories (400+) for lunch. I ate very light for both breakfast and lunch and ended up pretty wiped out. If I had been staying at the hotel and gone to the after session parties, it wouldn’t have gone well for me.

Sunday

Session: So you want to build a fursuit?

I jumped back into the convention at noon for “So you want to build a fursuit?”. I wasn’t all that interested in making a fursuit myself, I was just curious how they were put together. Turns out there is a lot that goes into them that I didn’t think about like molding claws and teeth out of clay. One of the fursuiters, appropriately named “Punk Cat”, decided to drop in and get his tail stuck in the door on purpose just to cause a scene. Everyone in the picture is staring at him instead of moving to help.

After that I did a 2 hour game of “Lupus in Tabula”, a party game similar to Mafia or Werewolf. It was a lot of fun, in the first round I helped lead the villagers to success in lynching the last werewolf. In the second round, I got eaten half way through and eventually so did the rest of the village.

Then the convention finished up with some closing ceremony by the organizer and some of the sponsors. Fur Reality was founded, funded, and organized in just two months. Attendance reached 150 people, there weren’t any major issues with the attendees, and the hotel was thrilled to host the convention.

My first furry convention was a lot of fun. I’ll definitely attend Fur Reality next year if I’m still in Ohio. In the mean time I’m going to look at going to a larger conference early next year.

Four months later, I joined Fur Reality staff. I went on to become Director of Operations in 2017 and Chairman in 2018. After 2018, I stepped down from the position of Chairman and left Fur Reality staff to take care of my own psychical and mental health.

Researching Edo Period Japan

I’ve been working on a fantasy story set in Japan in the 1700s, known as Edo Period Japan. There’s a lot of stuff on the internet about that era but most of it is depressingly topical. You don’t get a lot of feel for the culture.

As an entry into your own research, I’m going to recommend a book, a documentary, and a Wikipedia article to start with. Together, they made it possible for me to imagine a fantasy Japan set in the late 1700s. I’ll also cover some additional internet resources that you can use to flesh out your own story.

Everyday Life in Traditional Japan (Book)

This is basically a small textbook. It’s pretty small at 208 pages. Easy finished in a couple of evenings. It’s a bit hit or miss topic wise.

Starts off with some history and then dives into the different social classes, and then meanders into random facts. There’s a lot of nice little details on how farming was done, how houses were laid out, and some details on the food of the time. I found meals to be especially interesting. Ideally they are silent, quick, and boring affairs. Talking during a meal in the Edo Period is rude. This isn’t medieval Europe with roaring fires, groaning banquet tables, and busty tavern wenches!

Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire (DVD)

Made up of 3 hour-long documentaries, it’s pretty easy to set through. The voices of the narrators, readers, and professors are pleasant to listen to unlike some other PBS productions.

The documentaries evenly cover a mixture of history, politics, and culture. It paints with a much broader brush than Everyday Life in Traditional Japan. At the same time it covers topics the book doesn’t mention in detail such as the toll roads and geisha.

Shinto (Wikipedia)

Neither the book nor the documentary really cover the Shinto religion in any great detail. It’s a huge influence on Japanese both now and in the 1700s. I recommend reading this after seeing the two resources above. This wikipedia article fills out some of the gaps in understanding specific rituals like the tea ceremony.

Reading about the tea ceremony without a cultural background isn’t going to do much for your story. It’s not just having a beer on the porch!

Other Resources

Now that you have a baseline to start from, here’s some articles I think you would find useful or at least interesting. You can skip the food ones if you don’t plan on covering meals in detail. Remember, meals are boring!

Female Characters

Women in the Edo Period weren’t valued as much as they were in previous or later periods. They really don’t have much information on them. I was forced to look at other eras for what a woman in my story could look like.