A tribute to Fred Patten, 1940-2018
by Patch O'Furr
Fred Patten passed away on November 12, 2018 at age 78, leaving a legacy as historian and founder for the anime and furry fandoms. He was the star guest poster here. It’s hard to think of having no more Fred posts, but easy to say how much he influenced everyone. I’m really going to miss him sending in news tidbits or emails from curious fans, and asking if I can use them, then working out collaboration posts from his prompts. This was one of many, showing how he was sought out as an authority on anime and furry by people as far away as Malaysia.
Fred is remembered by many outside of furry. A memorial post on File770 highlights author David Gerrold calling Fred a “classic old-school fan”. The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society’s memorial page has Melissa Conway saying: “He was, without a doubt, the dean of Furry Fandom.”
From fellow furry fans, Dronon posted a rememberence of Fred at Flayrah news. So did Mark Merlino, cofounder of the first furry convention (ConFurence) and organizer of science fiction con parties that paved the way. Shortly before Fred’s passing, I ran into Mark and Rod of The Prancing Skiltaire (the long-running fan house in southern California) at PAWcon in San Jose. They had a table set up to remember gone but not forgotten fans. I think Fred deserves a place of honor in the middle of them all.
While I took the picture, another furry spotted Vicky Wyman and was sad to learn of her death earlier in 2018. With a fandom that can date back to the 1970’s, there’s now multiple generations here. Soon the torch will pass from founders to fresh and unknown talents, influencers and supporters. To all of them, Fred was a strong bridge between fandom old and fandom new.
Fred came from the heart of old fandom. That means: artists and writers doing intimate gatherings for movies or quiet sketchbook jams, with aspirations to rise from amateur to professional success. New fandom is a different animal – grown from those roots to a full-fledged, self-generating subculture, attracted by internet connection and glued by a thriving con scene. Now thousands of young and more diverse members enjoy party vibes intensified by high energy event production, photogenic costuming, and crowd-pleasing performing, built on many more people and resources than before.
These changes weren’t always favored by Fred, after his stroke confined him to a hospital bed. But he didn’t just complain that writing could be overshadowed by fursuiting and partying. He focused on the future and kept writing as a main motivation. He looked at how furry writers might find success outside of fandom, and was a force to bring it. In 2017 he edited several fiction anthologies, and his book Furry Fandom Conventions 1989-2015 (along with Joe Strike’s Furry Nation) became formally published, library-worthy furry-documenting that barely existed before. Fred never stopped being vital to things fans love.
At Dogpatch Press, Fred’s last review came 2 weeks before he passed away. Working with Fred made me the last of a series of publishers after others were less than reliable due to site closures or down time. We started in 2014 when he contacted me as a newly-established site; he was having a hard time counting on others and was reluctant to give them time-sensitive posts. One of those was announcing a high-end fashion magazine, Flaunt, featuring Fred. I offered to host and help with whatever he wanted to send, and was proud to give him a voice and bring it to you.
Fred began to steadily crank out submissions amounting to over 400 of 1,000 posts (at this time) on Dogpatch Press. Grateful credit goes to site editor David (Pup Matthias) for handling a great deal of editing for those when I was busy with other work. Some were reprints of book reviews that fell off the web. Most were his new reviews, plus history and deep looks at furry happenings. He was frequently sending new material of his own, although occasionally I suggested topics I thought would suit him well or had books sent to him. I requested a comprehensive list of every furry thing he ever published online, so we could get it in one place (it’s done up to 2016, with the rest waiting to list.)
Fred had a lot going on besides furry stuff. Anime fandom sites gave tributes for how much of what they love is thanks to Fred helping to import anime to the USA. That led to his 1990’s work for Streamline Pictures with historian Jerry Beck of Cartoonresearch.com. When Fred moved on from the job, he still kept a strong relationship with Jerry, and posted over 200 columns at the site.
Jerry left a note on the 2017 finale of Fred’s “Funny Animals and More” column:
Fred Patten passed away on November 12th 2018 – roughly a year and a half after his filed his final post here on Cartoon Research. His work will live on in the numerous books, articles and blog posts he left behind, his life will be remembered by his many friends and colleagues – of which I was one of. When Carl Macek and I started Streamline Pictures in 1989 there was only one person we knew we needed to assist us – Fred. He became out first employee, and was with the company to its bitter end (Fred wrote a series of posts for this blog that recount that experience). Farewell Fred. You are off to a better place – and made the world you left behind a better place with your presence. – Jerry Beck
Jerry also answered my private message about Fred:
I knew Fred very well. We were friends since the 1970s and I employed him to work at Streamline Pictures from around 1991 till he finally left when money ran out in the early 2000s. We remained good friends after that – we were colleagues in an animation APA, APATOONS, and he wrote entries for my books ANIMATION ART and THE ANIMATED MOVIE GUIDE – as well as five years on weekly columns on my blog CARTOON RESEARCH. I am not a furry, so we did not talk about that much. We knew each other over anime, manga comic books, classic TV and movie animation and science fiction books. Fred was well rounded as a fan, as he had many interests. Our world is a better place because of Fred’s research and writings. He will be missed.
Fred’s sister, Sherry, was his closest real life helper. She told me:
In my files for Fred, I found the document he sent me over 2 years ago, with a long list of names and companies he wants notified “if I die”… I’m sending you the info Fred wrote at the end of the list of names… (teasingly). BUT, you might want to post it on your site for your readers to enjoy, Fred Patten’s FINAL COMMENT.
If I can choose my own epigraph, I’ve always been partial to “Here lies poor Fred, who was alive and is dead”, the opening of the notorious anonymous epigraph for Frederick, Prince of Wales and father of the future George III, who died on March 20, 1751 to general indifference:
“Here lies poor Fred who was alive and is dead,
Had it been his father I had much rather,
Had it been his sister nobody would have missed her,
Had it been his brother, still better than another,
Had it been the whole generation, so much better for the nation,
But since it is only Fred who was alive and is dead,
There is no more to be said!”
Crown Prince Frederick (born Friedrich Ludwig in Hanover) was known for his amateur painting and spending all his time living in luxury, playing cricket, and for publically despising his father, George II. At least Frederick lived off his own royal allowance and money borrowed from rich friends, unlike his father and siblings who supported themselves in flamboyant luxury on public tax money. So Frederick was considered inoffensive but not disliked; the best of a bad family.
Sherry’s relationship with Fred is remembered by Melissa Conway at File770:
I also want to acknowledge the debt that all us who loved Fred owe to his amazing sister Sherrill (aka Sherry) whose dedication to Fred’s well-being during the past twelve and a half years went beyond what anyone could have expected one sibling to do for another. It was Sherry who drove Fred the two hours each way to Eaton once a month, undertaking the arduous transfer of Fred from her van to his wheelchair (and back) without complaint. Sherry was also Fred’s medical advocate, making sure he always got the best care; his research assistant, literally serving as his “right hand” when he needed to take notes; his librarian, making almost daily trips to the L.A. Public Library to keep up with Fred’s voracious reading; his art curator, dedicating a room in her apartment to his large art collection; his IT specialist, making sure his laptop was in good working order at all times; his patron, purchasing the van to transport him, and all the little extras that he wanted or needed; and his best friend.
I extend my deepest condolences to Sherry and Fred’s other sister,Loel, his two nieces, two grand-nephews, and all his treasured friends in Furry Fandom and at LASFS, his “true home” in the world. RIP, Fred! We’ll miss you.
Here’s Fred and Sherry in 1955, in her favorite photo she sent for the 2017 Christmas present I made for Fred from furry fandom. There’s many tributes there.
Furry author Jako Malan sent this in:
In the words of the Afrikaans poet and songwriters Koos du Plessis :
as dit gedaan is, en verby,
die aarde weer sy erfdeel kry,
sal hierdie kluisenaar in my
nog iewers op ‘n boekrak bly
when all is done, and past,
the earth claimed back its own,
will this hermit within me
still live on someone’s bookshelf
Rest in Peace, Mr. Patten. You will live on in many hearts, minds and on many bookshelves for a long time to come.
Erdwolf from Cape Town, South Africa
Farewell to Fred – he preferred not to play a fursona, so I like to think that he’s out there somewhere sharing stories with Stan Lee, who left at the same time – surrounded by the more fuzzy of us while they shed up the place, sneezing and laughing about it, and being the scribe for everyone while they plan new adventures together.
The world of fandom has lost a giant. Fred Patten will be deeply missed.
Furry fandom would literally not be the same today without Fred’s yeoman work nurturing and guiding the fandom, from his years as “Rowrbrazzle’s” editor, to his invaluable “Furry Fandom Conventions” book and to being the driving force behind the creation of the Ursa Major Awards.
I was so fortunate not just to have included Fred’s thoughts and reminiscences in “Furry Nation,” but to have him as a friend as well. The fandom, and our lives won’t be the same without him.
The amount of respect that someone like Fred deserves is more than one person alone can give, but the work that he did over his seventy-eight years is staggering, not just within the furry community, but in countless others as well. It goes without saying that without him, we wouldn’t have the same amount of furry literature that we do today. His book on furry conventions is nothing short of comprehensive and enlightening. He truly was an intellectual giant, and will be dearly missed.
As you mentioned in the article, now that furry fandom has become a truly multi-generational phenomenon, it will become our responsibility as the younger generation to not only take up the torch, but to recount and remember our past. I hope that I, as a future historian, will be able to someday write a comprehensive history of the fandom, and I can only hope that I can fill at least this bit of Fred’s legacy.
[…] A tribute to Fred Patten, 1940-2018 […]