Finally comfortable in their own fur

While fans of anthropomorphic characters have often been subject to ridicule for their unconventional interests, that hasn't stopped them from holding their very own convention this weekend in Montreal

AL KRATINA, Freelance

Published: Thursday, July 26

Luciano Ciccone is a full-time administrative officer at a hospital, a part-time biology student at Concordia University and, occasionally, an enormous cat named Luchy.

And this weekend, at the Anthrofest convention that he's running at the Doubletree Plaza Hotel on Sherbrooke St. E., he'll likely be joined by a raccoon or two, dozens of other mammals and maybe a dragon.

One of the estimated 25 conventions worldwide that cater to "furries," Ciccone's Anthrofest runs from tomorrow through Sunday, and is about to celebrate its second year with a weekend of fun, fur, and perhaps some kitty litter for the overly excitable.

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To the uninitiated, furries are those who enjoy the concept of anthropomorphic animals in film, literature and pretty much any other medium.

"Basically," says Ciccone, who has been involved in furry fandom for 10 years, "it's people who embrace the concept of walking, talking animals."

And though the term "furry" might imply something a toddler could cuddle up with, any animal can be part of the culture. Even the scaly, dragony kind that would sooner gouge out an eye than provide any sort of comfort.

"Just think of any movie where an animals walks and/or talks, and it's basically a big furry draw."

Spun off from various sci-fi and fantasy conventions, furry first came to prominence in the 1980s. And though it may initially seem a little strange, furry is really no different from other niche interests, but instead of going to a Star Trek convention and putting on pointy Vulcan ears, furries dress like they're on The Island of Dr. Moreau, draw cartoons and hug each other.

They also role-play, both in the mental-exercise sense, and in the sense that might get you beaten up in high school just because you play Dungeons and Dragons.

Furries create their own anthropomorphic animal characters and mingle with other furries at fur meets or, more likely, the Internet.

"I can safely say that without the Internet, furry would not be where it is," says Ciccone. Websites like Furnation, FurryMUCK, and Second Life cater to the furry community, acting as online meeting places for furries around the world.

But for some furries, getting together virtually wasn't quite as fulfilling as meeting in person, leading to informal "fur meets" and, later, conventions like Anthrofest.

"For a weekend you can just be yourself, be your character, do what you gotta do" is Ciccone's succinct explanation of the convention.

Last year, the convention attracted around a hundred attendees. This year, Ciccone, who pays for the convention with at least $4,000 out of his own pocket, expects at least 125.

"Furry is very much a labour of love. If you're in this to make money, you better be very good at drawing, or making costumes."

Convention attendees may have widely varying degrees of involvement, from a mild interest in some of the cuter Disney films, to "furry lifestylers," who might hold animistic or shamanistic beliefs.

"There's the person who goes once a year to the biggest convention, hangs out with his friends, doesn't really wear ears or a tail, or a costume, doesn't collect art," Ciccone says, "then there are people who are dysphoric about their own species to the point they don't believe they're human."


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