Furries Among Us – two book reviews, from Vox Fox and Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Furries Among Us Book Review – By Vox Fox.

unnamedA disclaimer: I love this book. That said, I will try my best to give an unbiased review but the reader is hereby warned upfront of just where I’m coming from. Furries Among Us provides a very positive-minded, detailed and understanding look into what furry fandom is all about. It explains the deep meaningfulness and sense of camaraderie members typically derive from participating in this fascinating and unique community. The book is comprised of 16 separate essays, each detailing a different aspect of the furry world as experienced through each author’s eyes. Topics include: How furries socialize, furry publishing, fursuiting in the fandom, furry art and music, the ins and outs of fur cons and of course, dating and sexual aspects.

The book (from Thurston Howl Publications) delves deeply into the fundamental motivations that draw furries into the fandom and just why a fursuiter fursuits. Some may fursuit as an outlet for expressing certain (presumably fun-loving) personality traits they would be hesitant to attempt in human form (ah, the flirting you can get away with!). But I think one of the best reasons can be summed up nicely by one suiter’s explanation: “I suppose you could say that the reason I do it is to bask in the reflection of good feelings that I help create.” (Yep, close to the reason I give: to charm the socks off people.)

The last four chapters delve into the psychological and sociological aspects of the fandom, each one courtesy of four prominent members of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP), all holders of Ph.D.s. One consistent theme noted is that involvement in the fandom has the distinct tendency to contribute to a sense of well being, and that sense appears to intensify as the fan becomes even more engaged with fandom activities. Additionally, as mentioned above, the main incentive that seems to draw potential furries into the fold is the sense of community and belonging that the fandom provides. Finally another noteworthy passage discusses fursonas, and the role they play in creation of a more idealized self which is typically a “…more attractive, confident, friendly and playful” version of the self. (In another article I’ve read, the author of this chapter also suggested such role-playing can provide a means for ultimately incorporating these character enhancements into one’s own personality; see http://t.co/xcqSLIeL6u).

The preceding is just a sampling of the insight gained by some of those who are well versed in the furry experience. However I don’t want to give too much away. I highly recommend this book, especially for the potential and wannabe furry who may not yet have a full picture of what the fandom is all about. The curious onlooker would do well to peruse it too. On several levels it does a comprehensive job of defining and describing just what it is we do and why we do it.

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Furries Among Us; Essays on Furries by the Most Prominent Members of the Fandom, edited by Thurston Howl. Illustrated.
Nashville, TN, Thurston Howl Publications, June 2015, trade paperback $7.99 ([3 +] 171 pages).

“Are they human, or are they beast? Over the past several decades, the world has seen a new phenomenon on the rise, a group of people identifying as “furries.” They have appeared in the news and popular TV shows as adults wearing fursuits and participating in sex parties, but what are they really? This collection of essays on the furry fandom reveals furries through their own eyes […]” (back-cover blurb)

It looks like furry fandom has been in existence for long enough that serious books are now being written about us. And “by the Most Prominent Members of the Fandom” — in other words, by people who really know what they’re talking about, rather than outsiders who have only superficially studied us. The main thing wrong with this collection of essays is that its main market is the members of furry fandom itself; it doesn’t have much visibility outside of furry fandom. It’s “preaching to the choir”. But if any non-fan asks what furry fandom is all about, this is a very good short book to recommend to them.

The contents are:

“Introduction” by Thurston Howl. Why this book was written. 3 pages.

“The Furry Fandom”, by Nyareon. The difference between fictional furries like Bugs Bunny and Sonic the Hedgehog, and real human furry fans. 6 pages.

“Social Furs: An Inside Look at How the Furry Fandom Socializes”, by Shoji. What furry fandom is like. 5 pages.

“The Furry Fandom as a Folk Group”, by Hypetaph. The community of furry fandom: how united it is; fursuiters versus others; social furs versus therians, etc. 8 pages.

“Furry Erotica”, by Kyell Gold. The emphasis on erotica in furry writing and publishing, in perception versus reality; furry erotica versus other forms of furry “Adult” writing. 6 pages.

“The History of Furry Publishing”, by Fred Patten. Furry fanzines and specialty publishers, from the beginnings of furry fandom to the present. 12 pages. [This is reprinted from Dogpatch Press, February 3 & 4, 2015, without the illustrations.]

“Yiff? Murr? Sex in the Furry Fandom”, by Thurston Howl. The openness of sex in furry fandom; the reality versus the popular public stereotype of “sex orgies in fursuits”; whether fantasy hybrids among fursuiters (a wolf/tiger) indicate a prediction towards sexual miscegenation. 5 pages.

“My Experiences with Furry Online Dating”, by Takaa. Personal experiences of realistic social relationships within furry fandom. 4 pages.

“What Does Art Mean to the Furry Fandom?”, by Zambuka. The emphasis in furry fandom on visual creativity; the broad range of visual media; whether fursuits are a form of art; why a fan chooses one animal species over another as a fursona. 6 pages.

“The Fuzzy Notes of Furry Fingers”, by Roo. Personal experiences of a furry fan becoming a furry professional musician; the history of furry music. 10 pages.

“Fursuiting and the Fandom”, by Keefur. What a fursuiter is; what being a fursuiter means emotionally. 8 pages.

“First Furry Convention at Califur 2008, a Memoir”, by Corvin Dallas. A personal experience of a neo-fan’s first furry convention. 6 pages.

“Furcons: the Ins and Outs”, by Zantal Scalie. What furry conventions are like in a broader scope, by a veteran attendee. 8 pages.

“The Origins of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project”, by Raphael Dogustus (Kathleen C. Gerbasi, Ph.D.). “This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Address correspondence to Kathleen C. Garbasi, Department of Psychology, Niagara County Community College, Sanborn NY 14132.” How the most longrunning psychological-social study of furry fandom got started. 3 pages.

“‘By the Numbers’: Comparing Furries and Related Fandoms”, by Nuka (Courtney Plante, Ph.D.). Detailed results of questionnaires passed out online to numerous self-identified furry fans and at many furcons from 2011 to the present. 20 pages.

“Social Identity Perspective of the Furry Fandom”, by Doc (Stephen Reysen, Ph.D.). An academic social analysis of the IARP’s questionnaires. 24 pages.

“Marginalization of Anthropomorphic Identities: Public Perception, Realities, and ‘Tails’ of Being a Furry Researcher”, by Dr. Shazzy (Sharon E. Roberts, Ph.D.). “The purpose of this chapter is to flesh out our professional views on the furry fandom, document furries’ ascribed status in culture, review some of our history with the media, and discuss the implications of our research as it relates to the human interest side o the furry story.” (p. 153) 16 pages.

If this does not add up to 171 pages, each of the sixteen essays is introduced with a one-page biography of the author, and his/her cartoon portrait as his/her fursona by Sabretoothed Ermine, the winner of the 2014 Ursa Major Award in the Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration category. The book’s cover is by Rukis, another Ursa Major Award winner, and a title-page cartoon by Nyareon.

So. Sixteen essays, all by experts of one sort or another. Some are humorous, or are personal anecdotes; others are dryly academic, some with footnotes and/or references. The last four should be seen as a set. (The sixteen make it clear that there is no standardization as to whether the F’s in either “furry” or “fandom” should be capitalized or not.)

For the furry fans, this mostly confirms what we already know. For those who just enjoy the current furry subculture and don’t know how or when it started, Furries Among Us will tell you. For those interested in details – what percent of furry fans just enjoy the atmosphere versus what percent adopt fursonas or wear full-body fursuits – here are statistics. For the non-fan wanting real information – such as a parent wanting to know what an adolescent son is getting involved with – this is an excellent tutorial. 

Fred Patten