Guest post by Thurston Howl. Thurston is the editor-in-chief of Thurston Howl Publications. The author of several novels, short stories, and poems, he prides himself in the Ursa Major Award winning essay collection he edited, Furries Among Us. He received his BA in English at Vanderbilt University and his MA in English at Middle Tennessee State University. Aside from running a publishing house, he teaches English at a local college, plays piano, dances, and is actively training to be a coffee connoisseur.
All year long, furries see it all over the social media: “3 days till AC!” “Can’t believe I’m on my way to MFF!” Or, my personal favorite, “Suffering post-con depression after that big con.” Yet, we never hear enough about the less famous small cons. Wikifur has published a list of conventions by attendee participation. It shows 55 furry cons, ranging from 58 participants to over 7,000. The arithmetic mean (average) of the participants for a con was 1,027. Yet, cons that average around that number are generally called “small cons.” I have been to more small cons than large ones. So, here I shall provide five reasons for why small cons are better—or at least, as good as—large cons.
- More intimate social connections: The last small con I went to was FangCon in Alabama this past October. I participated heavily in the Writing Track as both a panelist and a panel-goer, and it was delightful to run into the same people over and over again. Rather than seeing a person once in the con and never seeing them again through the crowd, I ran into them over and over again throughout the con. Three writers went to each of the Writing Track panels, and that wasn’t unreasonable; I felt like we had a pack of writers going throughout the con. When I socialized outside the panels, I’d get to run into the same people multiple times over the three days I was there. I got to know people more intimately than just a chance introduction. I would worry that being at a large con, people could easily be overwhelmed and not really be able to add as many contacts, especially if they were particularly shy. Small cons give you five or six rooms people will be at, and you can move between them with ease, cycling through them multiple times, getting to know people gradually and allowing you to have multiple conversations with the same person more easily.
- Less overwhelming personal schedules: At FangCon this year, at one time, there might be two things happening: maybe a panel in one room and a game in another. I think at one point, there were three panels happening at once, but that was after the Dealer’s Den closed too. When I planned out what I was going to do for the con, generally, it was a fairly quick and painless procedure. A or B? C or D? And it went on just like that. When I look at schedules for larger cons, my eyes are glazed over from staring at the tons of panels offered throughout the day and well into the night. A couple of years ago, I went to Mephit Fur Meet near Memphis, TN. I remember at that time, there being two panels I really wanted to participate in, but they happened at the same time. That frustration must be tripled for people who frequent the larger cons. Small cons completely eliminate that frustration.
- Sleep: Spirits above, I get to sleep at small cons. All activity is pretty much dead by 11pm. There’s usually a dance after that, but in my experience, there’s usually ten people or less that go to that at small cons. And things don’t pick up until 10am the next day. I just get to chat with my roomies all night or just socialize. Still, this opportunity to not be sleep-deprived for the duration of the con enables really thought-provoking discussions at panels consistently, and it allows you to take advantage of the multi-hundred-dollar hotel room you’ve saved up for.
- Local color: People don’t travel from New York to go to an Alabaman small con. It is just an incredibly rare occurrence. The people who frequent small cons are almost always locals. This means you can get a better glimpse of local culture when visiting small cons. You don’t know what that’s like until you see fursuiters with camoflage clothing, speaking in Southern accents, and having a barbecue at the con. In this way, small cons become so unique, from each other and definitely from the large cons.
- Indie culture: Furries are already not considered mainstream. However, there are still “popufurs.” Going to a small con, you are guaranteed to meet artists you’ve never heard of; authors you’ve never read; and musicians you didn’t know existed. The Dealer’s Den is full of craftists and hobbyists, with board games, soaps, bracelets, and more, not just furry gear. You will find the most hipster of furries at small cons, and that creates such a warm, family environment, rather than “name-brand” furry.
Now, here is a list of a few small cons, where they are, and what they’re about.
- Mephit Fur Meet: This is a con in Olive Branch, Mississippi, really close to Memphis, TN. This is a great Southern con to go to. They have great music and writing tracks, and their Furry Drama Show is always amazing with Calamity Cougar and Keefur involved. Always a great time to see the wonderful Phil Geusz, too. With the mascot of a skunk, the con has always been the largest contributor to the Knoxville charity, Tiger Haven.
- Furry Siesta is an unusual small con in Addison, Texas. It is a two-day event that is really just a huge furry gathering. They don’t have panels or guest appearances or workshops. It’s like a humongous furmeet in the summer. It is the perfect environment for people who just want a big hangout without all the commercialism (not that it is necessarily a bad thing; just a better idea for more frugal furs, or furs who are only into the social aspects of the fandom).
- FA: United is a small con on the east coast. Originally, it started as a con that was ran by FurAffinity, but now it is technically run by the person who owns FurAffinity. The con frequently is represented by FA admin Fender, and art is often a major focus for the con. It participates in usually vivid themes, with the 2016 one being “Masquerade of Beasts.” Their website proudly boasts that congoers consumed over 200 pieces of sushi at this year’s con.
- Furlandia is a small con in Oregon, and its themes proudly boast of different periods from the Iron Age to 1929 (their 2017 con theme). Since the con’s being adopted by Rainfurrest, their con has grown to almost 800 members, and their guests of honor are “popufur” artists typically. Still, it is a wonderful con to visit if you are just looking for a well-designed con and interesting furs.
Note that while I defend small cons, I am not attacking large cons. Large cons are wonderful events, and I would never recommend someone not go to them. However, I definitely also support the underdogs of conventions for their intimate culture and decreased stress. I can’t ever recall even feeling post-con depression after a small con. I heavily recommend furries frequent their local small cons if you don’t already.
So furries, ever onward.