I have resolved to start taking more ‘real’ vacations; a ‘real vacation’ being a trip during which I go somewhere or do something that I have never seen or done before. Thus, I will be attending Oklacon later this week: it will be the first road trip I’ve had in awhile, barely my second furry convention, and my first ‘outdoor’ convention. As such, I’ll be camping for three days and some new friends will be coming along.
While that is all fine and dandy, it also occurred to me that I could also take a vacation from myself. I attend fan conventions regularly, but I’ve never really gone through the trouble of putting a costume together for a convention. Granted, I’ve tried once or twice but its was still me, just wearing an 8-bit tie or a half-assed steampunk-type outfit; no glue, no gears, no goggles, so no steampunk.
As geeks/nerds/otkau/what-have-yous, I think we’re fortunate in that regard. Like the Rekall sales weasel told Quaid in Total Recall: “What is the same about every vacation you’ve ever taken?”
I like things that are short. Quite a few of my favorite types of media are short: theatrical cartoons, Three Stooges shorts, Aesop’s fables, and Isaac Asimov’s short stories, to name a few. Curiously enough, my own writing consists mainly of short stories.
I initially kept my short stories to just one side of a page out of sheer habit, but as I write more I am finding myself becoming more comfortable with going beyond that self-imposed arbitrary limit. Curiously enough, my very first short story came in at 12 pages, which I felt was way too long, so there’s that, too.
There’s just something about quickly getting to the point. Sure, a one-page story doesn’t leave much room for character development, but it also means that a message can be delivered effectively without getting lost in the rest of the story. It also leaves armchair psychologists with little room to to find deeper meaning in between the lines.
It may also explain why I enjoy comic books. In addition to enjoying the exploits of Superman, the Green Lantern Corps and Mega Man each month, I have also taken a liking to the various Steampunk titles currently being printed by Antarctic Press. In addition to artwork relating to the book’s theme featuring comely lasses, each one has also featured two or three short comic stories featuring the works of Rod Espinosa, Fred Perry, and other creators.
I really enjoy those short comics. I read them, have a quick laugh or smile, and move on to other things. But unlike the one-issue comic stories I discussed previously, which are ‘fire and forget,’ those short comics (especially Perry’s) have me wondering about just what happened before and after the story. How did that Bad Guy end up as a pony? Who ended up winning the Fairyland Steampocalypse? Just why did Dr. Frankensteam create her Monster?
I also wonder if I am being given glimpses of a bigger tale that has been untold, or are these the scattered pages of a work that is not yet done even in the creator’s mind? Or perhaps, like myself, all they want to do is make a quick joke or point and move on without having to write a whole book. I can certainly relate to that!
The Furry Fandom and Steampunks. On the surface, these two groups/sub-cultures/what-have-you would seem to be very far apart, but I think they have more in common than there appears to be on the surface.
First, there is the Furry Fandom (AKA ‘Furries’ for short): these are people that enjoy works of art and fiction that feature animals with human-like qualities, such as the ability to talk and walk upright. There really isn’t a hard-and-fast rule as to what makes a character ‘furry,’ as far as I can tell. For example, both Mickey Mouse and Mrs. Frisby (that is, the one from the book) would be considered ‘furry.’
Next, we have the Steampunks, who combine Victorian era aesthetics and dress with fantastic accessories and weapons, asking what if the scientists and engineers of the day had found a way to power everything either with steam or some new form of energy. Think Victorian-era dress accentuated with leather, brass, gadgets of all types and for better or for worse, gears.
I have had exposure to both groups, having attended the first two Aetherfests in San Antonio as well as Furry Fiesta in Dallas this past February. In doing so, I noticed a few similarities between the two groups:
The first, and probably the best thing that separates these groups from ‘traditional’ comic book, sci-fi and anime fans, in my opinion, is that they are both very creative. Members of both groups choose to create their own characters and personas.
In the case of steampunk, it is almost a necessity as there is not very much in the way of established material. While there are a few folks that take existing characters and reinterpret them in the ‘steampunk’ aesthetic, such as Steampunk Boba Fett, they are in the minority. Instead, most steampunks will create a character, usually with an honorific or military title added to the name. Groups will sometimes refer to themselves as being part of an “airship crew.”
Insofar as the furries are concerned, you are not going to find very many folks dressed up as Bugs Bunny or Baloo at a furry convention. Instead, just like the steampunks, people will make up their own characters, often referred to as ‘fursonas.’ While many furs wear ears and tails at conventions, the apex of adopting a fursona is represented by the ‘fursuiters.’ Fursuiters dress up in costumes to fully take on the appearance of a character. The effort required to create a fursuit, to say nothing of putting one on, is impressive. Indeed, at Furry Fiesta I witnessed a wide variety of species represented. They also come in many different styles, from the cartoony to the more realistic.
Secondly, both groups appear to be more receptive to writers. Writers are virtually nonexistent in most fan groups save for science fiction. Heck, I can count the number of writers that I’ve seen at conventions on one hand. Thus, I was encouraged to see a few writers with tables at Furry Fiesta and Aetherfest. Both conventions even held panels that were involved writers: meetups, discussions of the craft and even story readings. As a writer myself, I find it very encouraging and hope to have a table at a future event.
Finally, both groups like to prefix everything with their descriptor: if you are a furry, then everything starts with ‘furry’ and if you are a Steampunk, everything starts with ‘steam.’ 😉 Okay, I’m just being silly now.
Despite being somewhat ‘on the fringe’ (or perhaps because they are on the fringe) both the Steampunks and the Furry Fandom have quite a few things in common. I’ve enjoyed taking part in activities held by both groups, and I look forward to continuing to do so in the future…just gimmie some glue, some gears, and some ears! 🙂
The best compliment I can give to AetherFest is that I should have set aside more time for it. Unfortunately, I ended up being a very busy nerd that weekend (to say nothing of stupid work on Friday) and thus, could I only make it out on Saturday. I had a good time, though. Like last year, (actually, like most of these things) I spent a significant time hanging out at my friend Chris Holm’s table, shooting the breeze and watching the festivities unfold before us.
Unlike last year, I did not try to dress the part. I really should put an outfit together, or at least jazz up the half-baked one I currently have. The opportunity was certainly there at Aetherfest, because there were a good number of vendors and dealers there selling all sorts of clothing and accessories. The spirit was there, but alas, the funds were not. Indeed, I felt just a slight twinge of guilt over besmirching the proceedings with my uncouth presence.
Aetherfest was greatly improved over last year, not that there was too much wrong with the event itself. There were more vendors, some of which were put in the main area, and the panels were held in bigger rooms that were located on the first floor, so they were easy to find and could accommodate more attendees. I attended a panel on the history of burlesque and learned some interesting things in addition to being entertained by the presenters and their tales. While I did not attend any of the main events, I heard lots of good things about them.
In conclusion, Aetherfest appears to have fixed the little issues that I had with it the first time around and ended up being a really good event, at least from my limited perspective. I really need to just go ‘whole hog’ next year; take some time off from work, get a proper outfit together and take in all that Aetherfest has to offer.
While there are lots of things to like about fan conventions like the upcoming Texas ComicCon and San Japan, there are a lot of things not to like about them, too: crowded hallways, long lines, overexcited sugar-and-energy-drink-fueled teens running around everywhere and the eventual feeling of ‘been there, done that.’
If you’re tired of the same old convention scene and want to check out something different, I strongly suggest dropping by Aetherfest in San Antonio this weekend. “Texas’ First Steampunk Convention” is taking place at the St. Anthony Hotel and will feature a host of activities, vendors and guests for all to enjoy. For the uninitiated, “steampunk” is an odd mash-up of speculative fiction, science fiction, alternate history, and fantasy…set in Victorian times. That’s the best way I can put it, you just have to see it.
Based on my experience attending last year, Aetherfest is very different than your typical fan convention. The Steampunk audience slants a bit older, so there aren’t as many hyperactive kids running around, the con organizers are capping attendance at 500 in order to prevent overcrowding, and as there is no truly ‘definitive’ Steampunk work of fiction, just about everything that will be presented there will be original. In fact, I can say with confidence that you will see many things that you have not seen before at Aetherfest.
In addition, the St. Anthony Hotel fits the aesthetic perfectly, you will feel as if you have stepped into another place and time at Aetherfest. A more civilized time where lords and ladies spoke proper English, paraded around in elaborate outfits, and exotic devices bought to life by the not-quite-understood power of aether were in abundance.
Tomorrow I will be driving up to Addison, Texas for Furry Fiesta along with my friend Chris Holm. While he hopes to get a table in Artist’s Alley to peddle his wares, my objective is to hang out and have fun. This will be the first “furry” convention I have ever attended, and I have received quite a few different responses from friends whenever I bring it up, ranging from curiosity to revulsion and even amusement. I just grin and bear it…ba-doom, tissh.
I guess there is no way to get around it, though. I am a ‘furry.’ No, I don’t have a costume, or think of myself as an animal (the picture at right nonwithstanding). I don’t bark or howl or snarl at people nor do any of the other crazy stuff that the Internet Hate Machine and misinformed mass media would have you believe.
I just happen to like media that features anthropomorphic animal characters. As a kid, I grew up watching Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse cartoons. I enjoyed reading Aesop’s fables and Watership Down. Later, DuckTales, TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck were part of my afternoons and fuzzy critters like Starfox, Ratchet, and Sly Cooper happen to star in some of my favorite videogames.
I submitted an idea that was used in the newspaper comic strip Pluggers, which features animal people demonstrating the foibles and virtues of working folks. I entered a writing contest to appear in a (sadly cancelled) comic strip called “My Cage” which was also completely populated by funny animals. I won and got to pick what animal my character would appear as in the strip. I chose a bear; artist Melissa DeJesus did a pretty good job of turning me into one, as you can see in the picture above. As an aside, the template she used can be found on the ‘About’ page. I also wrote a short story for the Furry Fiesta conbook that stars their jackalope mascots. It’s called “All’s Well That Ends Well” and I look forward to seeing it in print.
So yeah, I suppose I was a ‘furry’ before there was a term for it. No, this isn’t intended to be some big epiphany or coming out or anything like that. It’s just one part of who I always have been, whether you happened to notice it or not. Tomorrow I am going to go to a convention to hang out with a bunch of other folks that happen to like some of the same things I do, just like I do at anime, comic book, steampunk and videogame conventions.
Going to try something new this year. Furry Fiesta will be my first-ever furry convention. It will be interesting to see how similar and different this will be from all the other cons I’ve ever attended.
Mizuumi con was one of the first anime cons I ever attended, and is a great place for newbies to dip their toes into the multicolored pool that is anime and manga. At $15, its inexpensive to go to and the kids out at Our Lady of the Lake University make for a pretty enthusiastic crowd.
Set in the beautiful St. Anthony hotel in downtown San Antonio and put together by the San Antonio Neo-Victorian Association, Aetherfest is a three-day steampunk convention that truly stands out with its costumes. Steampunk attracts a slightly older crowd, so those looking for an alternative to the manic pace of other cons will find plenty to like here. Dress-up is encouraged, but not necessary, or to borrow the words of a certain Mr. Collins, there is ‘no jacket required.’
Of all the cons on this list, this will be one of the few that I will be ‘working’ at. E3 is the Big One as far as videogame conventions are concerned, and I will be going there in my capacity as Editor of Original-Gamer.com to check out new games and talk to people and write. It is an industry-only event, so not everyone can go.
If anime isn’t quite your thing and you want to get your hero on, Texas Comic Con is the place to do it. In addition to the loads of comic book, action figure and pop culture dealers there are a host of artists, independent publishers, and fan groups ranging from Whovians to Sith to Ghostbusters. Guest of Honor Larry Hama and Lou Ferrigno are but a few of the names showing up to this one.
Easily and consistently one of the best conventions I have been too, San Japan Mach 5 is upping the ante this year as they are moving into the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center this year. The already-biggest fan con in San Antonio is about to get bigger, which should mean even MORE fun stuff to do. Sadly, I may be ‘working’ at this one as well for Original-Gamer.com, but we shall see.
RealmsCon is currently (as far as I know) Corpus Christi’s only anime and pop culture convention. While it is a 3-day affair, my experience is that you can go and see everything in one day. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad convention, just a smaller one.
There may be a few other events I go to, but this is what I have planned for so far for the year. ‘Working’ or not, this year should be fun on a bun!