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Furry fandom

Furry fandom is a category (or sub-genre) of science fiction fandom dedicated to anthropomorphics: fictional animal characters given human personalities and characteristics (see furry for more details). It originated as a fusion of science fiction, comic book, and animation fandom during the 1980s. It has thrived and grown, evolving into its own branch of fandom and finding adherents all over the world -- enough that they may be regarded as forming a subculture. Furry fandom has a large presence on the Internet, and many furry conventions in North America and Europe are held every year, the largest being Anthrocon in Philadelphia in July.

Furry fans, sometimes referred to as furries or furs for short, are eager for more material than is available from mainstream publishers. The demand is filled by fellow fans -- amateur artists, writers and publishers who produce drawings, paintings, stories, independent comic books, fanzines, Web sites and even small press books. Fans with craft skills put together their own stuffed plush furry toys, sometimes referred to as plushies, or build elaborate furry costumes called fursuits (complete with ears, fur, and long tails) and dress up in them for fun, or to participate in convention masquerades, dances or charity events. Charitable works are a tradition in furry fandom; many conventions feature an auction or fundraising event with the proceeds often going to an animal-related charity. In 2002, furry fans at Anthrocon raised over $13,000 for Canine Partners For Life, a group which trains and places assistance dogs for people with disabilities.

Some furry fans create furry personas (imaginary characters based on their own personalities) by which they become widely known in the fandom. They may write stories centered on their characters, build or commission fursuits so they can "come to life" as their character, or engage in role-playing sessions on one of the many furry-themed MUDs on the Internet, the largest, oldest and most popular of which is FurryMUCK. When such furry fans meet one another in person, they may be more familiar with one another's online personas than with their real identities.

Because "funny-animal" characters are often used in children's entertainment, furry fandom has long faced a dilemma that has caused numerous arguments and divisions within the fandom. A large number of furry fans are adults who enjoy themes that are generally considered unsuitable for children. As with other forms of fandom, including science fiction and horror fandom, there is a thriving pornographic element within the fandom, which furry fans refer to as spooge. Fans supporting unrestricted content in furry fandom (including adult-oriented material) are opposed by fans who seek a "cleaning up" of the fandom so as to present a more family-oriented image to the general public.

For many, the fandom is just a hobby and a way to meet others who share the same interests. However, some people like to incorporate their furry feelings into their daily lives to such an extent that they live a "furry lifestyle." This dichotomy is not unlike that found in science fiction fandom between those who believe "Fandom is Just a G*d Damned Hobby" and others who assert "Fandom is a Way of Life."

As with some sports fans who dedicate their energies to supporting their favorite teams (sometimes at the cost of their personal lives), or political activists who devote their entire lives to their causes, there are those who obsess about their furry interests. Their role-playing may become so elaborate that they have difficulty determining where their "real" persona ends and their furry persona begins. A few sexualize the experience to the point of paraphilia, having sex in their fursuits or with their plushies: the latter group are known as plushophiles. This has caught the attention of the media, with articles in Vanity Fair and Loaded and fictionalized on television shows including ER and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

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