Furry Fandom, by Wikipedians – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Furry Fandom, by Wikipedians. Illustrated.
Limburg an der Lahn, Germany, PediaPress, —–, trade paperback $21.65 ([v +] 258 pages).
Furry Fandom is supposedly an “all that you want to know” book about furry fandom, but with a major flaw. It’s only current to around 2010. It’s a fine book at 258 well-indexed pages and with 46 illustrations (mostly photographs) to give to a non-furry who asks what furry fandom is all about. It presents a complete overview. But the fandom has grown and otherwise changed so much since 2010 that anyone becoming a furry fan today will need more information to be brought up to date.
PediaPress is a modern print-on-demand publisher in a suburb of Mainz, Germany that is closely associated with Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, “PediaPress was established to provide an online service that enabled Web users to create customized books from wiki content, an example of web-to-print technology.” Anyone can request a book on any subject, and “the Wikipedians” will collate all the information on that subject spread throughout “the over 4 million articles on Wikipedia in English alone” into a handy book – officially.
This Furry Fandom book does not have any publication date other than a statement that this copy was printed on April 24, 2017 at 23:51 UTC. But that does not mean the book has all Wikipedia’s information on furry fandom up to April 2017. It states that Anthrocon was held from 1997 to 2009. EuroFurence and Further Confusion are covered up to 2010. The Ursa Major Awards were presented from 2001 to 2008. (p. 44) The Furry Writers’ Guild and its Cóyotl Award, created in 2010 and 2011, are not mentioned. A four-page list of active furry conventions does not include anything after November 2010. The list of furry comic strips and webcomics includes some titles that have been discontinued since 2010 and does not include some that have become major since then. There is no section on furry specialty publishers, although Sofawolf Press is briefly mentioned – FurPlanet and Rabbit Valley are not. Dr. Kathy Gerbasi and the Anthropomorphic Research Project are not mentioned.
So is Furry Fandom worthwhile if it only goes up to 2010? Yes! It’s a great time capsule of what furry fandom was like up until then. It does include the basic information of what furry fandom is all about. It’s got some great photographs; black-&-white here, but often in color if you can find the entry on Wikipedia that they are taken from.
For ongoing activities and works that were started before 2010 and are still ongoing, Furry Fandom presents an in-depth encyclopedic description. This includes conventions like Anthrocon, Internet comic strips like Kevin & Kell, Lackadaisy, and Newshounds, and activities like the Funday PawPet Show and the Ursa Major Awards. There is an excellent gallery of 15 photographs of fursuiters.
If you are active in furry fandom, you probably know all this, but it is still a handy book to have around.
Mistakes are all very trivial. “… the concept of furry originated at a science fiction convention in 1980, when a character drawing from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphics started a discussion of anthropomorphic characters in science fiction novels.” (p. 1) The discussion included anthropomorphic animals in s-f, animated movies and TV, and comic books; the greater inclusivity was what helped furry fandom separate from just another s-f group. At that 1980 convention and for the next couple of years, Gallacci had only a file folder full of loose drawings. He did not begin to publish them as Albedo Anthropomorphics until June 1984. Furry Fandom says misleadingly, “The first issue of Albedo was published in 1983.” (p. 28) Yes, there was a slim prototype Albedo #0 in Summer 1983, but it was a funny-animal Bladerunner parody, not Gallacci’s serious Erma Felna of the EDF graphic novel that kickstarted furry fandom. Marc Schirmeister was Official Editor of Rowrbrazzle for its first eighteen mailings, not fourteen. (p. 31)
Presumably the lack of a publication date means that PediaPress is giving itself the option of updating Furry Fandom someday. A more up-to-date printing will be larger and more expensive, whether it acknowledges that it’s a new edition or not. Get this, and keep an eye out for an updated edition.
Even if it is outdated, furry fans will have fun poring over Furry Fandom. It’s $21.65 well spent.
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I’m amused to see this review for what is literally a collection of Wikipedia articles. I know because I helped select them (and indeed wrote many of the articles, in part or whole).
Several of the photos shown are also mine, including the cover. This is, of course, permitted by the license I released them under. Alas, most suffer from being made pre-2008, on a limited point-and-shoot camera. It’s nice to see them still getting out there, though.
It is certainly the work of Wikipedians, although I’d hesitate to label it “official”. Anyone can do what PediaPress does, thanks to Wikipedia’s open content license, although there was a special agreement for integration of the publishing service into Wikipedia. In fact, it might be a good idea if others took up their mantle, as apparently there have been issues for a while. One user commented “the support for Books has not really been developed any further since 2012 and it is unknown when this might be picked up again”. Volunteers are working on a replacement, but it may take a while.
It’s a tad bizarre that the book’s not up to date, given that this is a significant selling point of print-on-demand for this use-case. The article on Anthrocon, for example, has been edited a lot in the last few years. It seems like the book is just not updated once collected, unless somehow triggered to do so. Or perhaps it’s trying to re-render it, but falling over for some unknown reason.
On the plus side, this book covers several topics which have been deleted from Wikipedia due to a percieved lack of notability or coverage in “reliable sources”. If you recreated the book from the current list, it would be ~1!0 pages lighter and ~$5.50 cheaper because of this – and despite adding a few topics to replace them. Some would see this as an improvement, but it doesn’t do much for comprehensiveness.
This habit of deletion and reliance on sources which may simply not exist for fan projects is, of course, why I started WikiFur, which at least attempts to cover, say, FurPlanet and Rabbit Valley, as well as the other topics mentioned. I did think about integrating book-creating functionality back in the day, but to be honest, I figured people would just look it up online if they wanted, and this seems to largely be the case.