|A Tale Of Two Fandoms
||[Apr. 9th, 2012|11:10 pm]
|||||Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg - Twin Sons Of Different Mothers||]|
The other day I was cruising my friends page, and a friend that I normally get on quite well with was talking about Mark Merlino.
I’ve mentioned Mark before. He’s the guy who likes to write “Founder Of Furry Fandom” on his profile.
Anyway, I thought I was in friendly territory. So I just responded with whatever the entry had brought to my mind, as usual. But apparently my friend was offended by what I wrote, and I immediately had a debilitating anxiety attack, followed by several wasted days of depression.
Today is Easter, and my low spirits continue. Since I got up people have been calling me right and left wanting me to do things, not giving me a moments peace – not even giving me time to finish the things I’m doing for others, stressing me out all to hell, making me want to eat to relieve the stress when I’m supposed to be resuming my diet today.
In general, it’s not a good day. And I am consumed with the need to do something crazy in order to insure my continued participation in Furry Fandom will never again start me on one of these emotional downward spirals.
To that end, I need to analyze what it means when someone claims Mark Merlino’s parenthood of Furry Fandom, and why it tends to fill me with such a sense of non-belonging as to make me want to just disappear forever.
Not that I’ve anything against Merlino personally. In this entry I’m mainly referring to a mythical Mark Merlino that has been built up over time in order to establish an equally mythical identity for Furry Fandom.
Anyway, apparently my friend, like so many others who support the theoretical parenthood of Mark Merlino, also supports the companion theory that the old definition of “Fandom” (all the fans of a personality, sport or pop culture phenomenon) no longer applies, and that “Fandom” now refers to people who have contact with each other in these newfangled social networks which have only existed since the 80’s. Thus, if one does not go to cons or otherwise network, one may be a “Fan of Furries,” but not a “Furry fan.”
Ok, I can appreciate that people are seeing two different types of fans in the same community. But is there no better way of differentiating between them without forcing this unacceptable indignity on one of them? And then going so far as to alter the very meaning of a word in the English language to support this injustice?
To me this results in a situation of Furry Fandom heaping wrongness upon wrongness to justify a state of existence that is beyond justification. And I just don’t get on well with wrongness. There must be a logically acceptable way of rationalizing things that doesn’t require allowing one’s self to be treated as sub-Furry.
I know that I’m a Furry fan, regardless of the fact that networking is not my thing. Only through the ridiculous rhetoric of fandom politics could anyone conceive that any kind of “Fan of Furries” is somehow not a “Furry fan.” And, as explained in the last entry, politics is anything but an exercise in logic. Rather, it is something that is used to corrupt the logic of others.
But why is my logic so unsusceptible to this corruption. Why don’t I just accept that Furry Fandom is for networkers and just go back to my lonely writer’s garret where I started? Why am I so damn sure there is something I’m missing that guarantees every Furry fan’s right to be a Furry fan, regardless of political rhetoric? I must rationalize it and explain it, or be subject to this demeaning oppression forever.
Apparently, signing off on the idea of belonging to a phenomenon that has Mark Merlino as its parent is key to this “Networking equals fandom” theory.
I have no problem acknowledging Mark as an important historical figure with some significant accomplishments to his credit. Mainly he started the first known Furry fan club and the first Furry convention. Beyond that he just kind of evaporates from the historical record in a flurry of rumor and innuendo, and the community we have today results from the efforts of thousands of people who came after, most of whom never get any credit at all.
But, according to my friend, all of these people somehow live in the shadow of influence cast by Mark Merlino. Meaning that Furry Fandom is what it is and will forever be so because of the direction in which Mark started the ball rolling. And the theory is that the spin he put on it leaned towards a social club, rather than a fandom for a pre-existing phenomenon in the arts.
My analysis of the historical record turns up nothing conclusive on that point, at least as far as Merlino goes. Indeed, the record shows Merlino was only one of several key players, some of whom were potentially more significant. But, for political expediency, these other key players, such as Reed Waller and Steve Gallacci, don’t make for good political poster boys. For the theory to work which excises people who don’t network from the right to be called Furry fans, Mark Merlino must be seen as the parent of Furry Fandom.
Hopefully you can tell I’m well aware that this is all BS. But by this point I was so depressed I was thinking, “Let Furry Fandom have its BS if it likes it so much. If they can’t accept that someone like me is a Furry fan, why should I give a flip what they think? What’s important is that I know I’m a Furry fan, and I know why I qualify as such. I do not require the approval of that other fandom.”
At this point I just kind of did a double take and paused on that thought. “Other fandom? Do I subconsciously acknowledge the existence of 2 Furry Fandoms?” Why would I think such a thing? For that matter, why does it rub me the wrong way when I see “Founder Of Furry Fandom” on Merlino’s profile?
The answer is obvious. My mind can’t rationalize the logic of Merlino parenting something I was already active in a good 10 years earlier. If Merlino is the parent of Furry Fandom, then what I belong to is not the same thing, even if it does have the same name.
Yet, if this were the case, and there were two Furry Fandoms, it would resolve a lot of conundrums. It would mean the logic of those who say I’m not a Furry Fan is not necessarily flawed. They are just saying that I don’t qualify as a Furry under the rules of their fandom, but I could still qualify under the rules of the other.
Yeah, I know. It’s been said that Fandoms don’t have rules, because they don’t have leaders. But sometimes they do get together on a consensus, and someone will attempt to write down that consensus for the fandom to refer to. I had, in fact, done that myself in The Furry History Project.
I noted that the community as a whole seems to be split right down the middle on whether The Furry History Project reflects a Furry Fandom they relate to, or if it is a direct contradiction of how they perceive Furry Fandom.
Then I remembered this guy called Simo that I used to be at odds with. He did quite a bit of writing about the fandom as well. So I started comparing his consensus to the one I had come up with, and suddenly I could see very clearly that it was not a matter of one of us was right and the other wrong, but that we were writing about 2 different fandoms.
The most striking difference between the way I write about Furry Fandom and the way the proponents of Merlino’s fandom write is that I concentrate on the object of the fandom as all important. The object being the books, movies and other things that a fandom builds itself around.
Those coming from the Merlino side of things have to be begged to even recognize commercial titles as having even the most minor significance to Furry Fandom. They concentrate almost exclusively on historical persons who were primarily important in setting up the social networks.
They are interested in showing Furry Fandom as a society, rather than a fandom. And they recite these names like the begats in The Bible that every Furry is expected to have memorized, insuring these past convention organizers and web site creators iconic status, as if it was a fandom for them.
But I was a Furry fan all the while Merlino and the others were doing their thing, and not one of them ever did anything that affected me as a Furry fan in the slightest manner. Consequently, I do not idolize them. I was not involved with their Furry Fandom. I was involved with the other Furry Fandom.
I was beginning to piece together that the Furry Fandom I wrote about had already been in existence when Mark Merlino started his fan club. I know because I was there. But, rather than making a serious attempt to draw the already existing Furry Fandom into his club, Mark Merlino had pitched his idea to people in the Sci-Fi and Comics Fandoms who were not already Furries. He didn’t make a serious attempt to get the word out to the traditional Furry Fandom. And thus he ended up drawing in different elements that drastically altered his creation from the previously existing fandom.
But over time, traditional Furry fans heard about Mark’s fan club and started trying to find space in it. They then found themselves in conflict right from the start. That’s why the history of what I was now thinking of as “Mark Merlino’s Furry Fandom” is littered with turmoil. It was never designed to accommodate the traditional Furry Fandom, but the traditional Furry Fandom had nothing else to unite around. And thus the two fandoms were thrown together by necessity. And they stuck together, even though they would have to endure a long, unpleasant civil war before they would learn to tolerate each other.
Pop culture acknowledges Mark Merlino as conceiving a Furry Fandom that is a big party with a Furry theme. While pop culture has never acknowledged anything along the lines of a traditional style fandom for The Furry Arts. That’s why Mark Merlino’s Furry Fandom is generally viewed as a fandom in name only. It is primarily viewed as a social phenomenon. While traditional fans like myself are commonly viewed as either being wrong, or talking about something no one has ever heard of.
People look at what I’ve written and say, “This is not the Furry Fandom I’m familiar with. This may be something I’ve often wished for from Furry Fandom, but it’s not something it’s ever willingly given us.”
So it’s true. If you take what I have written on the subject of Furry Fandom in the context of the Furry Fandom Mark Merlino theoretically parented, it’s all totally wrong. And if that was all there was to Furry Fandom I’d have no place in it.
Yet, I wrote a book sized essay on a completely different kind of fandom I am obviously very familiar with, one that a lot of readers acknowledge as the Furry Fandom they belong to, or at least wish they could feel they belong to. So, obviously I have been writing about a second Furry Fandom that Mark Merlino did not parent.
In thinking about how I should explain this realization, I started to think about who I could say parented this other Furry Fandom. My first thought was that credit should go to people like Walt Disney and Richard Adams. But, of course, there are far too many Furry creators in the history of entertainment to give any one such person that kind of credit.
And besides, the Furry Fandom I wrote about is not the child of anyone creating Furries in any one genre or idiom of entertainment. It’s a conglomeration of interest in Furries from all over the entertainment spectrum.
Who invented that notion? Who was the first to throw all the Furry eggs in one basket and say Furry allegorical fiction, Furry Sci-Fi, Furry cartoons, Furry comic books, Furry music and all other aspects of Furry entertainment can be put together to form a new creative medium around which all the splintered segments of Furry interest may gather and unite into a single fandom? Who has come forward with the earliest conceived creative project aimed at such a fandom? And suddenly, I was looking in a mirror.
At first my usual denial kicked in. “No, absolutely not. I can not claim any such thing for myself. There has to have been someone else. Someone of more notoriety. Somebody with a well-known name. Somebody famous.”
But then my other self in the mirror asked, “Is Mark Merlino famous? Beyond all this political hyperbole, is Mark Merlino anything more than just some guy who started a fan club for something he liked? Would it not contribute to the balance of things if the name used to identify the other fandom was just as obscure?”
I could see the logic in that, but it was still hard to accept. Back in the old days, I was like Reed Waller. I never saw myself as inventing something new. I saw myself as taking something old to its next phase. But, looking back, it’s clear that no one in the 70’s was as ambitious, as daring or as crazy as me.
People would dare to use Furries in genres they’d never appeared in before, they’d dare to use them seriously rather than comically. But genre defiance on a scale such as I proposed was absolutely unheard of. And, as far as history records, I was the first to propose a multi-media project meant to appeal to all fans of Furries in all genres of entertainment where Furries flourish. I was the first to acknowledge that all those different types of Furries had something in common. And the first to commit a lifetime of work to the unproven theory that there could be a fandom for such a thing.
I may not have founded Furry Fandom, but I certainly did conceive it. And to conceive something also means to parent it. And on top of that I wrote the book on the fandom I conceived. So I not only conceived the other Furry Fandom, I wrote its Constitution.
Dang! What a thing to have been right about. And what a shame I couldn’t pursue the idea of forcing the recognition for such a fandom the way Mark Merlino did, because what Mark conceived was a very different kind of thing. Mark’s conception sells an idea to people who then come in and make a name for themselves, attracting others to come in and form a community which can be for anything and everything they like that they can find a way to express with Furry characters. My conception was, “If you create something good to demonstrate this new genre of entertainment, the fans will gather around your creation and become interested in the things that inspired it.”
So, you can see, right from the get-go, two entirely different philosophies. Two different fandoms.
Thus, my new rationalization is that there has been in existence all these years “Mark Merlino’s Furry Fandom,” which is the big Furry party that never ends, encompassing all the conventions, message boards and social networking sites. As well as “Perri Rhoades’ Furry Fandom,” which is what I described in The Furry History Project, and which is not a social thing, but rather all the people around the world with an appreciation of the collective Furry Arts, as well as the continuation of the traditional Furry Fandom that was previously splintered amongst the various genres under several different names.
Of course, I do not own Perri Rhoades’ Furry Fandom any more than Mark owns the fandom some attribute to him. I am merely the person who wrote the book on it, and in doing so, gave solidity to the second prevalent theory of Furry Fandom which backs up the right to be called a Furry Fan, even if one does not network.
Thus, hence forward, for the purposes of clarifying their position in any discussion, anyone who wishes to may identify themselves as leaning more towards “Mark Merlino’s Furry Fandom” or “Perri Rhoades’ Furry Fandom.”
And with that I absolve myself of any obligation to any consensus proposed by the proponents of a Furry Fandom parented by Mark Merlino. I have total security in my own conception of Furry Fandom, and if it helps anyone out there who’s having similar confusion, they’re welcome to share it. All they have to do is open The Furry History Project, pull up the appropriate section and say “This backs up my position. If you don’t agree with it, we don’t belong to the same fandom, and I’m not subject to your authority.”
I can now put this whole business behind me and never worry about adjusting my logic to fit in again. I will just be the me I know I am, and any suggestion that I should be something else will be dismissed.
Also, if Mark’s character happens to be wearing a T-shirt that reads “Founder Of Furry Fandom” when we run into each other on Second Life, I shall feel no need to be bothered by it. Because I’ll know he’s not claiming title to the fandom I conceived.