My first genre convention -- and certainly the most far-flung -- was the second and final Mystery Science Theater 3000 ConventioCon Expo Fest-A-Rama in Minneapolis in 1996. I give conventions a wide berth these days, because -- aside from the fact that I love few things as much as I love Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- others I've attended have left a bad taste in my mouth. This malaise is perfectly summed up in Red Letter Media's video recap of the 2011 Chicago Comic Con.
But I'd been looking forward to Further Confusion, the annual furry convention in San Jose. I got to attend as a media rep, I found some really cool stuff, and I got to try on a full fursuit for the first time.
That the convention's media director Chairo (read my interview with him here) invited my girlfriend Marta and me to attend as media for the Exhibitionist made it all the more awesome. Gods know we were given the best lanyard-badges EVAR.
Conventions tend to be defined by the costumes the attendees wear -- witness sfweekly.com's own cheesecake-heavy, fap-ready WonderCon gallery -- and Further Confusion was likewise heavy on the dress-up, though unlike most genre conventions there were very few copyrighted characters.
There were dozens of full fursuits, but the majority of the approximately 3,000 attendees were in far more affordable tails and ears and such, handmade or purchased from vendors who made them with their own hands.
Further Confusion, and the fandom overall, is a celebration of creativity and doing it your own damn self. There were classes and workshops on subjects such as art (e.g. "Figurative Anatomy for Furry Art"), fursuiting ("Advanced Construction: Exotic Materials"), music ("Scoring Music for Media"), science ("Animal Physiology, Anatomy, and Behavior"), and writing ("Learning to Love Editing," which Marta and I felt compelled to attend).
And there were flyers, naturally.
Though a few people were selling things like commercial DVDs and books (including some very con-appropriate vintage Pogo collections), vendors were by and large selling their own creations, not only accessories but homemade books and 'zines and original artwork of their own characters as well as commissions. It's similar to the Alternative Press Expo in that regard, and many of the artists were drawing new things at their tables.
Furry art and costuming tends to be an expression of the individual, as opposed to trying to re-create mainstream characters (or selling decades-old action figures). Almost no two pieces are alike, and everyone's looking for something a little different.
(And, despite popular Interwebz belief, furry art does not consist wholly of drawings of cartoon animals with ginormous human schlongs. There was some of that kind of thing, to be sure, but Further Confusion is a family-friendly event, and it was kept out of sight of young and/or sensitive eyes.)
The most notable exception to the tendency for original characters was the strong presence of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Chairo confirmed that it's much more of a thing this year than it was at Further Confusion 2011, which stands to reason, seeing as how the show had been on only a few months. The fans have been busy in the meantime.