My interview in Russian furry magazine Hugs is now available (p. 6).
Not sure how many people here can read it (angel51431, I'm looking at you), but there's a picture of me being interviewed by Pillgrim, drawn by Душевед.
Edit: Here's the English version:
Hello GreenReaper! Please introduce yourself and tell us about when and most importantly how you found the Furry fandom.
I am the founder of WikiFur, the furry encyclopedia, and editor of furry news magazine Flayrah. I'm also a moderator for furry art community Inkbunny.net, a furry photographer, and a Wikipedia editor.
In real life, I am a 29-year-old British software developer, working at GameStop [like 1C in Russia] in Texas on their digital distribution system. It is not as exciting as making games, but the pay is better and the hours are a lot shorter. ;-)
It is hard to say when I found the fandom. As a child, I enjoyed cartoons with anthropomorphic animals like The Dreamstone and The Raccoons, and first started reading comics such as Ozy and Millie, Kevin and Kell in 1999; I visited Yerf, and the VCL, played Exile, read the World Tree RPG . . . but I was still just drifting towards the community. In 2004, I began to visit MUCKs, but nobody really knew me until I started WikiFur (and came to the USA) in July 2005.
Why the delay? For a start, I was busy with university, and there were no furry conventions in the UK. I was also very active in the Creatures Community (fans of the artificial life game series Creatures; my character is from Creatures 2). But these were not wasted years - without the experience I gained from leading the Creatures Wiki in the first half of 2005, I would never have started WikiFur.
WikiFur was, in part, my way of finding out more about the fandom. A few years later, I started writing news articles, which led to my acquisition of Flayrah in 2010. I have always been a curious creature, and each day I learn something new.
That's very interesting. So your fursona isn't something average like wolf or fox. Tell us more about your inner self.
Norns are ever-curious, playful creatures; gregarious, and driven to explore. In Creatures they were intended to serve a race of genetic tinkerers - looking cute while bringing tea and biscuits, etc. Their diet consists largely of cheese, carrots, nuts and berries.
Although Creatures was popular, I have not seen others using norns as personal character. Perhaps they are seen as too childish; ironic, as furries often act like children (both in good and bad ways).
I see my fursona as a reflection of my personal identity, but part of it is aspirational, too. At work, I sit inside for hours at a time at a desk, looking at code. It is nice to imagine a simple life – exploring the forest, hunting carrots, and meeting new creatures - even if it might not suit me in reality.
I have no spiritual beliefs, furry or otherwise; I just like the idea of experiencing the world through another set of eyes . . . and paws. :-)
Please tell us about first steps of GreenReaper as the part of the Furry fandom.
For several years, I browsed furry websites, and later roleplayed online, but it was not until I came to America that I became active in the fandom.
I flew into the USA on the first day of Anthrocon 2005 - alas, I was busy! However, I had a lot of free time at the evenings and weekends. Having worked on the Creatures Wiki for six months, I felt like taking on a new challenge.
It did not take long to realize that WikiFur was something big. At one point we had one edit every 45 seconds. For the next few months, I spent my nights writing articles and reviewing edits, learning more about the fandom. I talked to many more furs, but I still had not met any of them in person.
When Midwest FurFest arrived in November, I decided to try to promote the wiki there. One of our curators, who was also on convention staff, offered to print some fliers. A week before the event, I decided I wanted to go in person. Fortunately, a room was available. It was a great experience!
In the coming years, I would visit many other events - Anthrocon, Further Confusion, Furry Weekend Atlanta, RainFurrest, Furry Connection North and IndyFurCon, as well as local furmeets. I have met many wonderful people, and seen fantastic costumes and shows. However, my most treasured memory is still of being greeted by a raccoon puppeteer as I stepped into MFF. It felt like I had arrived at home.
It's a fact that almost all furries are very creative creatures and you are a good example, so, which one of the furry creativities you like the most: is it art, music, literature, fursuiting or maybe something else?
I very much enjoy the artwork which furry artists churn out in ever-increasing quality. There are many comics; DMFA, Homestuck, Prequel I also love to take photos of fursuiters, and regular furries - I have several thousand on my Flickr account. I try to capture the spirit of the character in action, rather than the poses that you often see at conventions.
I have tried fursuiting for a few hours, and it was fun, but I do not own a costume myself - I never got around to commissioning one, and I do not have the skill or time to make one. Perhaps some day . . .
I enjoy reading furry RPGs; it is like exploring another world. However, many fans are more well-read than I am when it comes to furry comics and novels. I do not have much time to enjoy furry literature, or space to store it - though I am glad to publish reviews on Flayrah from those who do. However, I did enjoy the 'Lapism' stories by Phil Geusz, about the transformation of humans into anthropomorphic rabbits; initially a cosmetic operation, a scientist develops this into a route to becoming a "better" person. One day we shall have such technology; the stories we write today will shape its development and use in the future.
Honestly, I do not think music has much to do with furry. There are musicians who are furry, sure, but what makes their music furry? It is hard to see animals in a melody, let alone anthropomorphic ones. I appreciate music - mostly game music, trance [e.g. Tangerine Dream] and British rock of the 60s-80s - for what it is, rather than try to fit it into an irrelevant meta-genre.
I'm not sure I'd describe myself as "creative" - I think I work best when editing or critiquing. There is skill in that, but it lies in polishing the creative ideas of others. If anything, I am most creative when roleplaying on MUCKs like SpinDizzy and Tapestries. There, we can build and explore castles in the clouds, and share our experiences with others. To me, this is the magic of furry; the characters we create - limited only by our imagination - can be closer to our true spirits than our real-life selves.
As the creator and editor of one of the most popular furry-news website, what do you think about all this attention we get nowadays from the mass media?
I think it's about time! We have hundreds of people dressing up in animal costumes on a regular basis; what more do you need to do to get on TV? ;-)
People worry a lot about the shows that are so keen to get furries, but as long as they keep comparing us to people who eat sofa cushions, we're going to come out looking good. Even the worst of coverage is not all bad; at nearly every convention that I go to, I find another fur who first heard about the fandom on CSI. Science fiction fandom ran the same gauntlet fifty years ago.
The real breakthrough came when we stopped being afraid to talk to reporters, and started getting mainstream news coverage. There was an easy (and true) story to tell them - "furries are misunderstood, and misrepresented by the mass media". The coverage has become more positive; I expect this to continue as we continue to grow as a segment of youth culture - and an important market for local business.
The depth of coverage is still not very good, but what can you expect? Furry fandom is a complex topic; even real journalists who wish to cover us properly often just have days or hours to do so. Overall, the bigger the source, the better the work, and we are reaching the top; a journalist working for the Wall Street Journal - the biggest newspaper in the USA - is preparing an article about furries. I can tell you now, it will not focus on fursuit sex orgies . . . [note: this article is now likely to be published in The Guardian]
What do you think: is our fandom getting better year after year?
Well, it is certainly getting bigger - by around 10-15% annually if you look at the size of our largest conventions. The number of U.S. conventions with over 500 attendees doubled from 2005 to 2010, with two now occupying convention centers. New events sprint up each year, and there are many active local furmeets.
"Better" is harder to quantify. I think the amount of high-quality furry art has increased over the years. It is also easier than ever to access material - sites like Inkbunny, SoFurry and Fur Affinity have hundreds (if not thousands) of submissions a day. For fans looking for such work, it probably is better.
It is possible to make a living as a "full-time furry" if you are among the best fursuit-builders or professional artists. If you live somewhere cheap, it may even be a good living. According to writer Watts Martin, there is also a market for furry stories, though I doubt anyone (even Kyell Gold) is making enough to live on.
A few years ago, it was "cool" to hate furries online. Now we tend to be tolerated, if not fully accepted. On WikiFur, I see less concern about being identified as furry, although it is still an issue for those in certain occupations. The fandom itself is still dramatic, but it is large enough now that we do not all have to sit in the same room.
Compared to a decade ago, this is a golden age for furry fandom. Will it get even better in the future? Perhaps, if scientists invent human-animal hybrids! But now is a good time for those who've worked for years to enjoy what has been accomplished, while they are all still alive and active.
Oh, Human-Animal Hybrids, sounds interesting. If that could be possible, would you participate in such experiments and turn yourself into a real "furry"?
I always say "I would have to think about it carefully". Honestly, if it did not cost too much and was reversible, I would probably try it, though I would not be the first. Why not? Which of us has not wished for the chance to take that step?
Sadly, I do not see this happening in our lifetimes. Maybe we can get tails or ears, but not total conversion. We may have to settle for more immersive virtual reality - or perhaps "riding" with real animals controlled by our minds, and feeding their senses back to ours.
Some people in furry fandom are hesitant to speak of hybrids, and unfortunately most researchers also appear to be against it, in part because they fear a backlash from the public. To me, it is a shame - whatever happened to doing things because we could, before thinking about whether we should? :-)
What can you suggest to furries, which still think that their "furriness" is still something they should hide from anyone else?
Life is short. How much of it do you want to spend worrying about what other people think? Besides, who do you admire - the people who throw themselves into their passions, body and soul, or those who live in a cage built from their own insecurities?
As a practical matter, I have never felt myself disadvantaged as a result of my furry activities. Perhaps that is because I never cast them in a negative light; never gave others the impression that being furry was something to be ashamed of. Indeed, I am proud of the things I have accomplished within the community; they are listed on my CV/resume and LinkedIn profile.
Of course, you have to decide what you mean by "furriness". Furries are fans of anthropomorphic animals. If you think furry means being sexually promiscuous, or that it is an excuse for inconsiderate or dangerous behaviour, perhaps you need to check your definition.