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.
Both groups also attract older crowds, at least from what I have observed. The Anthropomorphic Research Project believes that there is “…evidence to suggest that there is a significant proportion of furries over the age of 25 (upwards of 30%)” I don’t know that anyone has done a survey of Steampunks, but most of the attendees I saw at Aetherfest appeared to be at least college-age or older. Being just south of 40 myself, I was relieved to not find any teenagers running amok at Aetherfest and just a few at Furry Fiesta.
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! 🙂
Artwork “SteamPowerGirl” by Chris Holm, used with permission.
Photo taken by me, so nyeah