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  • Writer's pictureChipper Wolf

Parafurnalia 2: Albany Anthrocon 1997 Con Book

Parafurnalia explores the many and various media that comprise our shared furry history—one thing at a time. Give Chipper a shout if you have a furry-related object, document, puppet, forgotten room party sign, tiny little sticker, huge scroll of paper, etc., that you think would be neat to feature!


A draconic knight wielding a sword and a unirocn, with the words "Albany Anthrocon 1997" running up the left side.

Daphne Lage, "Drake Arcon Drackones + Lady Eira Amabel."

Used with Artist and Convention Permission.


Anthrocon 2023 saw an attendance of 13,644, making it the largest furry con until it was recently surpassed by MFF 2023 (15,547 attendees) (Wikifur, “Anthrocon” and “Midwest FurFest”). But way back in 1997, when the first Anthrocon took place in Albany, NY, there were roughly 500 attendees. Known as Albany Anthrocon 1997 (or AAC 1997), this con – the first of two Albany Anthrocons – took place in the Omni Albany Hotel, raised $2,200 for Therapy Dogs/K9 Friends, and welcomed artist Daphne Lage and writer Watts Martin as guests of honor (“Our History”; Wikifur, “Albany Anthrocon 1997”). Let’s dive into the con book!


There is much to learn by studying historical materials, and the AAC 1997 con book is no exception. The book is 25 pages long, consisting of eleven 8.5” x 11” sheets of paper inside white cardstock covers, all held together with two staples. Text and images are in black and white. This design is reminiscent of some APAs and fanzines, print publications that were instrumental to furry’s development and that involved assembling copies by hand. The front cover features original artwork by Guest of Honor Daphne Lage, depicting Drake Arcon Drackonis and Lady Eira Amabel, characters credited to one Joseph A. Debone. A note inside the front cover tells us that “This conbook was the result of much fuss and bother” by organizers Points and Peppermint, no doubt the case when graphic design technology was a long way from where we are today (2). For instance, some slightly angled images later in the book suggest that these images may have been manually added to the page before copying.


"Welcome to Albany Anthrocon," a page featuring a table of contents, welcome text, and a drawing of a spear-wielding skunk.

AAC 1997 welcome page, featuring artwork by Matthew McAndrews.

Used with Artist and Convention Permission.


Some aspects of the con book are different from what we may be used to seeing. Nowadays, for instance, advertisements for non-furry-related products aren’t so common – and we certainly wouldn’t see an ad for AirPage Pagers, as adorns the back cover! (“ ‘Email’ has come to Airpaging” the ad proudly announces.) Text makes up the bulk of the con book, and a quick flip through reveals mostly human names. This is not so surprising since the idea of the fursona was gaining purchase throughout the 90s. For instance, in the alt.fan.furry newsgroup – home to many a conversation and flame war in the 90s – the first reference to the word “fursona” appears in a 1994 thread, though digital spaces such as FurryMUCK (and other MUCKs and MUDs) allowed users to create characters whom they regarded as alter egos or what were sometimes called “personal furries.” (See my article, "When FurryMUCK Was New," for more on this.) 


The con book’s human names, therefore, are a reminder that while furry always involved creating characters, there was a transition from seeing these characters as others to seeing them as expressions of self. (Of course, in the present day, our furry creations run the gamut from fursonas to totally independent characters). Where you do find fursona identities in the con book is in the plethora of contributors who list a furry name as a nickname in quotes: e.g., Dan “Rainshadow” Pankratz, Laura “Ehlana” Davis, Roger “Aloyen” Wilbur, and so on.


The book is written in a warm and friendly tone, offering information on the convention programming and contributors. Pages are broken into three columns of text, and sections include the convention rules and regulations, panels, short bios of the panelists, Charity Auction and Dealer's Den information, and short stories. Scattered throughout are hand-drawn images of furry characters. The introduction text invites the reader to flip through the pages to figure out their schedule. You might also “peek through the stamp-biographies we’ve provided and get to know some of the staff. We might be a load of bloody loonies, but at least we’re friendly.” Proudly – if hopefully – the introduction also lets users know that “if all goes well, Registration will be computerized and a breeze to get through” (2).


Image of a small dragon, arms crossed and wings outspread over the back of a cup of tea.

Laura "Ehlana" Davis, "Tea, Earl Grey, HOT."

Used with Convention Permission.


A seasoned con-goer will notice a fair bit of detail on things that need no introduction nowadays. In today’s con books, for instance, the Charity Auction and Dealer’s Den are usually just times on a time-table. After all, such programming has been appearing at cons for so long that furries implicitly know what they’re all about. But the AAC 1997 con book gives a full page spread detailing charity auction rules and more about the charity, Therapy Dogs/K-9 Friends, as well as providing all the setup, teardown, and operation times for the Dealer’s Den (they even provided dealers a lunch break!) (14). In addition, while brief staff biographies are still common enough in con books, biographies of the panelists are also included. This suggests that panelists were seen as part of the foundation of a successful convention. 


The code of conduct is two pages long and is broken into a series of subsections: “General Rating of the Convention,” “Public Displays of Affection (PDA’s),” “Public (Indecent) Exposure,” “Disorderly Conduct,” “Harassment (All Types, Including Sexual),” “Assault/Menacing/Trapping,” and “Weapons Policy.” The convention rating is broken down by time of day: 8am-6pm is “G-PG-13”; 6pm-10pm is “PG-13-R, Parental guidance is suggested”; and 10pm-7am is “PG-13-NC-17, Ages 15 & under require supervision.” Some rules are left ambiguous. For instance, while public displays of affection beyond “kissing, holding hands, etc.” are not allowed, “There will be some leeway given during specific types of dances as long as it is within acceptable limits for the style of dance and the activity takes place within the designated dance area.” You’ll also find reference to “Justiciars,” i.e., the con security (3-4).



Some things definitely do look familiar, such as the hotel map and convention schedule listing the times and locations of all the events. The schedule reveals that programming such as the gaming room and artist alley have been staples since the early days. But there are lots of other intriguing events and panels. One room, for instance, is devoted to “Plush Fun and Games” on Friday and then “Plush Panels” on Saturday and Sunday. Numerous panels on writing promise to discuss everything from comics history to “Furries as Allegories” to strategies for getting published. Arts panels cover topics ranging from pencilling and inking to making comics. A panel provocatively called “The Great Spooge Debate” was presumably about the morality of producing explicit furry porn, anticipating the Burned Furs movement of 1998 (you can find many debates on this subject on alt.fan.furry around this time, as this 1999 thread). And if anyone can explain the 10-hour overnight event “Crayon Madness” to me, I would be MOST grateful!


Fursuiting was also welcome at the convention and several events cater to fursuiters and fursuit makers. Two panels hosted by the well-known early fursuit maker Robert King focus on basic and advanced fursuit creation, the former focusing on “How to make a body suit, How to make a head, Cooling, etc.” and the latter delving into “Servos and computers and other High Tech, SFX level techniques, etc.” We have King to credit for the term “fursuit,” owing to the Fursuit Mailing List (aka FURSUIT) that he started in 1993 – the first collaborative space dedicated to suit makers sharing their techniques (King). The Masquerade is described in "Panel Information" as a “furry fashion show” where you can “strut your stuff in the fur”:


"We're trying something a little different at AAC. Instead of the usual competitive Masquerade with its skill divisions and such, we're having something a little more laid-back. Think of it as a furry fashion show, if you like, where you can strut your stuff in the fur and just have fun with it. Of course, we'll have a prize or two for those who have something really interesting in store for the audience! (We do like to acknowledge all the effort your fursuiters put into your creations.)

It’s also neat to look over the “Con Staff and Panelists” section to learn about who created one of the earliest fur cons and what they’ve done since. For instance, panelist Mick Collins formed the garage rock band The Dirtbombs and became an influential recording artist, music producer, and radio host (Wikipedia, “Mick Collins”). Panelists Mike and Carole Curtis co-founded and co-edited Shanda Fantasy Arts, through which they published (among other things) Shanda the Panda, Katmandu, and the comic anthology Women in Fur (Wikifur, “Shanda Fantasy Arts”). Uncle Kage, who was indeed giving his now-famous “Story Hour” at AAC 1997, “is an irrepressible storyteller. [...] His stories are sometimes charming, often sardonic, but always, he says, absolutely true” (13).


A sword-wielding black and white rabbit girl named "Deanna Blackpaw"

Matthew McAndrews, "Deanna Blackpaw."

Used with Artist and Convention Permission.


As with con books of the present, creative pieces adorn the book’s pages. Roughly the last third is composed of short stories by Will Sanborn (whose two story collections were published by Sofawolf Press), and J. Scott Rogers and J.L. Eddy, who together created Tales of the Biorg Universe. Throughout the book you’ll find drawings by Daphne Lage, one of the two guests of honor, as well as Matthew McAndrews, Ken Pick, Laura “Ehlana” Davis, Tygger, and Stacey K. Wenkel. The inside back cover shows the “Honor Roll,” i.e., the list of Contributors, Sponsors, and Super Sponsors, and facing that is an advertisement for Guardian Knights, a comics series published by Limelight Publishing in 1997-98.


This early con book gives us a snapshot of the furry culture in and around Albany Anthrocon 1997. If we could go back in time, having gone through the computerized registration, no doubt we would feel the energy and community spirit that the book admirably captures. Thank you Points and Peppermint for making it, thank you Anthrocon and the artists for permission to post images, and thank you Makks Doberman for donating the con book to Fang, Feather, & Fin. If you are interested in donating any furry materials – and we mean anything – for historical preservation and study, please reach out to us at fangfeatherandfin@gmail.com!


A fox in medieval-looking robes holding onto a bejeweled lockbox.

Art by Daphne Lage. Used with Permission

of the Artist and Convention.


Works Cited


King, Robert C. Bio on Fur Affinity. https://www.furaffinity.net/user/rcking/. Accessed

20 December 2023.

“Our History.” Anthrocon. Anthrocon.org/history. Accessed 20 December 2023.

Wikifur. “Albany AnthroCon 1997.” 

——. “Anthrocon.” https://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Anthrocon. Accessed 20 December

2023.

——. “Midwest FurFest”

——. “Shanda Fantasy Arts.” https://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Shanda_Fantasy_Arts.

Accessed 20 December 2023.

Wikipedia. “Mick Collins.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mick_Collins. Accessed 20

December 2023.


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