Fans get new shows, but who profits? #DisneyMustPay demands fairness for Alan Dean Foster — and a ConFurence founder remembers him as guest of honor.

by Patch O'Furr

Via an author I follow.

I almost forgot my own report about Alan Dean Foster, the accomplished science fiction author who is being cheated by Disney.

It was buried by news about shows and movies with extra furry appeal. Irish animated feature WolfWalkers is just out for streaming. There are deaths to remember: Thomas “Tiny” Lister (voice actor in Zootopia) and Richard Corben (comics artist whose ROWLF was pitched for a furry feature by Hayao Miyazaki.) There’s announcements from Disney and Pixar — an animated TV series, and a feature of incredible furrybait.

It’s understandable if you forget one small creator behind the wealth of content. A giant corporation can count on it when they own so much. Maybe we won’t notice if they cheat people who make what we love while they profit from US. (Foster isn’t the only one being cheated!)

That’s what Foster is fighting with the #DisneyMustPay campaign, backed by the Science Fiction Writers Association. And hopefully backed by fans who go beyond consuming, and directly support creators — the kind who got Foster’s support when furry fandom was just taking off. Below is a story from the 1990’s when Foster turned down an invite to be guest of the big-time Worldcon, and went to Confurence instead.

These shows will be cool, but don’t forget the roots.

Here’s a message from Mark Merlino, co-founder of the first furry con (ConFurence) with Rod O’Riley. They also co-run the Prancing Skiltaire (oldest furry fan house on the West Coast). Their experiences with Foster go back to the beginning of furry organizing.

Alan Dean Foster from File770


Rather than make a long comment on your article about Disney stiffing ADF over owed royalties, I’ll just ramble on about my (and ConFurence’s) experiences with our favorite “hack” SF author. NOTE: I use the word Hack as a praiseworthy term here. When discussing ADF’s reputation as a “hack” (he wrote many “official” novels for media productions, including for Star Trek and even Star Wars…) Rod suggested that he (ADF) may be a hack, but he was Our Hack!

I remember (my memory of dates, time and events may be foggy due to advanced age) having a long discussion with Mr. Foster in the back of my video screening room at Denvention II, the World Science Fiction convention, in 1981. I was familiar with his writing, but had not read much. We spoke of many things, including my “alternative family” living situation at The Prancing Skiltaire.

A couple of years later the first of his Spellsinger series of books was published. Rod and I, and everyone else at the PS, and all most our proto furry friends read it. We read every other book in the series when they came out. At some point we had a discussion about similarities in the personalities and relationships in the stories and our actual living situation. (A suggestion was made that perhaps our house had been “bugged”). Coincidence? I think… so.

When ConFurence had grown to the point that we could actually afford to have Guests of Honor, Rod and I decided to invite creators of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Film/animation. Authors, illustrators, show developers/producers that had made media in the furry genre. One person that was an obvious choice was Alan Dean Foster. Rod and I met him at a book signing at our local SF/F book store and asked about how we might officially invite him to our convention. He had been a guest at many conventions, and explained that we should write a letter to his publishing office and they would get back to us.

I’m not known for my traditional correspondence abilities, but when I was preparing the letter, I remembered that Mr. Foster once mentioned that the secret to his amazing output was due to the fact that he carried a portable recorder with him at all times, and would record his ideas and stories to be transcribed later by Mrs. Foster. They were a writing team! When I wrote the letter, I made sure to invite Mr. and Mrs. Foster to be our writer Guests of Honor. We offered them round-trip transportation, a room and GOH memberships. The answer came back amazingly fast! They accepted the invitation and were delighted to attend. The letter also explained that the normal fee involved for such an event would be waived for ConFurence!

The convention was a success and the Fosters had a wonderful time, even though not many attendees had read the novels (or much SF/F at all). My original involvement with fannish activities had been mainly traditional literary SF/F clubs and cons. Furries seemed to be less “well read”. I found out later that Mr. Foster had also been invited to be a guest at Worldcon that year, and had declined. We lucked out! Or… maybe it wasn’t just “luck”.

I really enjoy most of Mr. Foster’s work, I recently (a few years back) listened to audio books of his Pip & Flinx series, which I wish I had read back when I was a teenager (when dinosaurs ruled the Earth). They make up an amazing “coming of age” saga that would appeal to any “kid” growing up in the 60’s (and maybe even today) and did a great job of being progressive and teaching valuable lessons at the same time. They are all read by Stefan Rudnicki who I believe is one of the best solo readers around today.

– Mark “Sylys Sable” Merlino

You can help simply by boosting #DisneyMustPay on social media.

(I made contact with the producer who optioned Foster’s Spellsinger for a movie back in 2011, covered in my previous article. He welcomed messages but hasn’t been able to share comment from Foster so far.)

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