Furry founder Fred Patten saw more partying, less fandom in 2018 with the Ursa Major Awards.
by Patch O'Furr
Fred Patten started off with a message to Patch O’Furr:
This is a rant, as much as anything. I wrote, as Secretary of the ALAA (AKA the Ursa Major Awards) to the AnthrOhio Committee, to invite it to host next year’s award presentation ceremony. AnthrOhio is the new name of former Morphicon in Columbus, Ohio. They presented the Ursa Majors in 2008, 2011, and 2015.
I got a very nice reply from Danny Travis, this year’s Director of Programming for AnthrOhio. He thinks it’s a great idea and has agreed. But his reply implies that he’s never heard of the Ursa Major Awards, and that he was unaware that they have been presented at Morphicon/AnthrOhio in the past.
This makes me wonder how many of today’s furry conventions are being organized by people who are mainly interested in putting on a big party with fursuits, and little interest or knowledge in furry fandom beyond their own convention, including their own con’s history. Some like Anthrocon with Dr. Sam Conway and CaliFur with Rod O’Riley (and any con with staffers who have been around for a while) know what’s going on. But how many are being organized by young people who only use the trappings of furry fandom to have a good time?
You have been following not only the conventions but a lot of the smaller furry parties and raves. Do you get the impression that most attendees are more interested in partying then other active fandom?
Patch wrote back:
I think part of that may be the reach the Ursa Major Awards have. This award has been around for 17 years or so, before some new furries were born. The growing population of new, young members are less likely to know the founders. They might not be uninterested with everything else fans do – they might just be out of reach.
Kyell Gold’s books, for example, are really popular with young people. Kyell was so successful with the awards that he had to bow out. I’m not sure how many of his fans are even aware about that.
For more reach, keeping a more active presence for the awards year round would be much better than taking it out of hibernation once a year. It would take hard work, like updating a Twitter regularly. That’s why, a while back, I suggested doing a regular “where are they now” series about award winners (and maybe con guests) from the past. There could be an interesting feature about them once a month to sustain regular interest.
Fred answered with an update about recent Ursa Major Award voting:
The voting for the 2017 Ursa Major Awards is closed, and this year’s voting statistics are in. 1,247 people requested a ballot. 882 actually voted. 250 of those waited until the final day to vote.
That isn’t very good. It’s really bad! The ALAA has statistics back to 2009 for the 2008 awards, the first year that the ballot was completely by e-mail (rather than people requesting a paper ballot to be voted upon and physically mailed in). The number of people actually voting, rather than requesting a ballot, have been:
- 2008 = 273
- 2009 = 1,150
- 2010 = 1,372
- 2011 = 1,782
- 2012 = 1,112
- 2013 = 856
- 2014 = 2,851
- 2015 = 1,157
- 2016 = 1,446
- 2017 = 882
The nominees for 2014 included Guardians of the Galaxy for Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture, and Furry Force for Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work or Series. Furry Force was broadcast on College Humor and was one of the few movie or TV productions to acknowledge its Ursa Major nomination. Maybe that was the reason for the unusually large number of votes that year.
Furry fandom supposedly has hundreds of thousands of members and is growing. Theoretically the number of people who know about the Ursa Major Award is also growing each year. But that isn’t reflected in the number of voters each year. It’s been stagnant at 1,200 to 1,300, and took a sharp nosedive this year for reasons unknown.
Some Internet creators ask their fans on their websites to vote for them in the UMAs. We may get a few votes for that reason, but the number of voters still doesn’t go up each year. This year, the Ursa Majors initiated a GoFundMe campaign, and while that has been successful financially, it has not brought any increase in the number of voters. It’s frustrating.
The votes vary from complete ballots – votes in all twelve categories – to votes in only a single category. Most ballots contain votes in about half of the twelve categories. The most popular are Motion Picture, Dramatic Short or Series, and Game – the three that would fall the most if the Ursa Majors were turned into an award for furry fandom creators only. Movies, TV, and games tend not to be created within furry fandom. I’m afraid that Best Anthropomorphic Magazine, where Dogpatch Press qualifies, is consistently one of the least voted-upon categories.
Patch thought about it:
This could involve saturation. It’s math – while audience grows, their attention span stays the same. If a group goes from 1,000 to 10,000, but each spend the same hour a day on media, and many of those 10,000 people are also creating media themselves – you see the problem of falling attention span to watch everything.
Creating costs time and money and those who grow a fanbase invest extra effort beyond just enjoying a hobby. If a pool of creators shares revenue among individuals, when they grow, a more-or-less basic share to everyone gets more expensive. Value per person falls and entry cost gets more prohibitive. I think that’s why Youtube creators had ad revenue they depended on cut this year. Only larger producers with more views get it now.
Mainstream book publishing is like that with a few high-traffic bestsellers pulling weight for thousands of “wallpaper” titles. There also used to be the midlist thing with authors who were productive and reliable, even if rarely bestsellers, but I suspect there’s been a lot of polarization with Amazon killing competitors and gaining a monopoly. Furry authors may know the challenge.
Saturation goes with electronic media that can repeat infinitely compared to printing paper. It can go out of control and test the human brain and learning. Black Mirror is a great TV show telling dark futuristic stories about society changing that way. On a down-to-earth level, that saturation can just make a slippery business with a race to the bottom nature.
This is why I think conventions and parties, and the popularity of fursuiting are important community glue. It’s valuable to have real, tangible experiences you can’t download. That’s why this fandom is great compared to others. In fandom there can be advantages for media that’s tethered to a real foundation (like book sales at cons). Engagement can also benefit from the timing of getting it from each other independently of corporate media production schedules.
I think the Ursas could harness that energy from face to face groups and events. How about more focused con panels, workshops, parties, contests, regional awards, or even book clubs? It takes team work, but I hope that helps for ideas about how to keep the awards active. Instead of parties competing against fandom creativity, putting them together could improve both things.
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