One of the Five Fandom Friday prompts from the Female Geek Blogger Groups last week was “Fandoms I Am Grateful For”. I didn’t have five fandoms I could talk about, at least none that impacted me in the way some fandoms have for my friends and fellow bloggers. So, true to Ajah tradition, where I do things out of order and never on time, I decided to write about two of the fandoms that changed my life.
1: The Gorillaz Fandom
I’m not sure how many Gorillaz fans remember the old junk. It was a staple of my teenage years, when we had dial up internet and Hewlett Packard PC’s the size of toddlers. Back in the day, when MTV actually played music (and the late night TV programs weren’t too bad either), my siblings and I would spend much of our summer afternoons watching music videos and writing down the names of our favorites so that we could buy their CD albums. (Ahhh…remember when CD’s were great stuff?)
As you might have guessed, I was immediately attracted to Gorillaz because of their animated music video, Clint Eastwood. I knew that some bands had some animated videos, but I learned that Gorillaz was, in fact, an animated band with fictional characters and their own backstory. Their first album, when inserted into the CD drive of your computer, gave you a key to Murdoc’s Winnebago, where you could click around, interact with objects in a mash up of drawn and photo-realistic clutter, get some nifty wallpapers, and listen to interviews with the band. Of course, one shot at the “hidden lives” of my favorite animated band wasn’t enough. Gorillaz.com let you explore the band’s studio, where you could take a tour and see their rooms, access their personal computers, and even check out their car park!
That’s when I found the old message board, or, as we liked to call it, the Junk.
There were two ways of talking to the band back then. There was a chat room, which almost never worked on my computer, and the MB, where many of us waited desperately for a sign of the “red pen” which meant the band was checking in, giving us updates, or commenting on our midnight shenanigans of roller skating parties, inside jokes, and the invention of our very own language, G-slang. There were other forums and websites too, which supplemented our use of the MB as the source for our community. There was the Virgin label boards, where many artists and RPers gathered, the Gorillaz fansite, where we got most of our up to date info on the band’s doings, Fanfiction.net, and the MSN community where hoards of pictures, fan art, and theories were collected. Pretty much everyone who was on the Junk was on one or more of these websites, so we were all connected pretty much all the time.
This fandom is very dear to me because this is the fandom where I gained friends and acquaintances that I’ve known for about 15 years. It goes without saying that individual cliques formed among us, but it was the artists I connected to the most. We watched each other learn and grow through our fan art, fan fiction, and other fandoms. Sometimes we fought and broke up. Sometimes we fought and came back together. Sometimes we just kept respectful distances while acknowledging each other’s existence. Fandoms all come with their share of drama and excitement, but the part I like to remember the most are the relationships I made along the way.
For instance, I met one of my soul sisters (Jade Dragon) in this fandom. I met my future husband (and resident Doctor Who enthusiast, Devillo) in this fandom. I met a lot of cool artists who inspired me, who I also know in other fandoms and have met in real life. Gorillaz, as a whole, inspired me to take my creative projects to the next level. Or, at the very least, it made me want to aspire to make my work something more than just flat drawings on paper. I may not have the same level of experience as some music fans have when they talk about seeing their favorite bands in concert or meeting them up close and personal, but I still feel like Gorillaz gave me something that no other band did, and it continues to influence me throughout my creative life.
Oh, and, for the record, Noodle was, and still is, my favorite.
2: The Furry Fandom
I know what you’re going to say. “EEEWWW”, right?? Furries! A group of charitable, sweet people who dress up in fursuits, dance, make children smile, and constantly burn with huge amounts of creativity! GROSS!
Okay, okay. I’d be lying if I said Furry didn’t have it’s… “reputation”. I mean, usually when I tell people I’m a furry, I can see the clouds of Furry-nam pass over their eyes over the one time Mickey Mouse gave them a questionable hug, and somehow the haunting memory never left. I feel for you, bro, but trust me. That ain’t me. During many cons I’ve had people ask me and my friends “What’s the point of all this? Why the suits? Why furry?” and luckily my friends have stepped up and made more reasonable explanations before I open my mouth and say something really sarcastic and slightly menacing. The outcome is usually one of understanding and mild confusion, but I think people get it. It’s hard to understand at face value, especially with rumors about the darker side of fandoms as a whole, but it’s nice to educate the few who are genuinely interested in learning what it’s about. My favorite was during FWA, when my friends and I were educating a man in the elevator and I was being slightly stuffy about it since I’m used to being interrogated in a non-friendly sense about my pursuits. After some help from my friends Ker’varkas and Jaroga, the man got it and left the elevator calling to his wife, “Honey!! I figured it out! I know what the furry stuff is about!!”
I’m about 80% sure that guy is a furry now.
I started in the fandom really early on in my life. I mean, all of us did I think. If you really liked Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, and Sonic the Hedgehog, you were probably a furry. If you wore a cat costume for Halloween and you spent your time during class parties meowing and knocking things off of people’s desks when they specifically told you not to, you were probably a furry. I think it’s worth mentioning that I never did that second thing. I was more of a dog, barking at people from my front yard, and a dinosaur when I recited lines from Land Before Time and declared “three horns never play with long necks” whilst charging head first towards other children. Much to my mother’s disappointment, we decided that tap dance lessons were not the way to go. When I was a teenager, I found that drawing furry art really inspired me. My personal character, Ajahli, evolved in this way, and she was always a type of shapeshifter that could easily be a wolf, an anthro wolf, or a human with some slight variances. I put a lot of work into characters and stories this way and I felt that she embodied the type of person I wanted to be. The thing about the furry fandom is that every type of creative person finds a home inside of it. Musicians, Authors, Artists, Game devs, Comedians, Event coordinators, Mascot performers…. you name it! Most furries also have a “fursona” which is a character representing themselves, either how they are now or who they want to be, not that every person wants to be a fox with demon eyes and a pair of eagle wings (or maybe they do, but who am I to judge?). Somehow drawing our fursonas or commissioning others to draw them brings us peace, helps us to deal with our feelings, and celebrate who we are.
I stopped drawing furry art in college because of the stigma that if you drew furry art or participated in the fandom, you weren’t a real artist. Being a furry was heavily taboo in a world where the stars of the class were installation artists who nailed a pair of underwear to a wall, threw some broken glass and paint around and called it “Distant Cries of a Harvest Moon” or something. Extra points if you sat in the middle of it and wailed hysterically for an hour. I rediscovered the fandom about six years after college, after the dust from some drama had blown away, and I went to my very first con with my best friend (Corrilia) in tow. And yes, I’ve even suited just a little bit!
Furries are some of the nicest people I know. A bit weird, yeah, but so am I. Every con I have gone to had a family atmosphere, where everyone knew everyone else, where the most creative fursuits were admired all weekend, and inspiration was palpable and real. I come away from every furry con with post-con depression because it’s a place where I feel like I can be myself and other people get me. I’m not a vocal part of the community, in fact I have distanced myself from the drama heavy corners of the fandom almost completely, and as a long-time fur I know which corners of the internet to stay away from. Still, I think it’s probably the place where myself and the close few of my friends really bonded and where I feel like my creative ambition has a home.
So, really. Why NOT Furry?
Anyway, that’s all from me right now! You can look forward to seeing more of me from here on out! Thanks for reading and see you again soon!