Rainfurrest 2013: Seattle Grunge

Fandom 150Last weekend I headed up to Seattle for the annual ode to anthropomorphics in the Pacific Northwest, Rainfurrest. It’s a really nice convention, and it’s positioned itself well — in the crowded furry con landscape, I don’t think there are too terribly many events in September. It’s also one of the only conventions that makes a concerted effort to distinguish itself by catering to a specific aspect of the fandom, and that’s something I wish other cons would gear towards. We’ve gotten big enough that some fragmentation would be a neat thing — while Further Confusion and Anthrocon could be the senses-shattering mega-events that draw the biggest crowds, the smaller, regional cons could forge their identities by taking advantage of their location (Rocket City, for example) or building a lot of their programming towards performance, writing, art or music.

Rainfurrest has become the convention to go to if you’re a furry writer, for example. They encourage furry publishers to debut new works at the con by throwing release parties, they pay quite a bit of attention to their Writing Guests of Honor, and the writing panel track is one of the most robust I’ve ever seen. Instead of the usual con-book that no one reads, they actually went out of their way to publish a full-fledged anthology for sale, with proceeds going towards the charities that were taken up that year. It’s really impressive, and a quite welcome focus. Most conventions are too concerned with keeping the lights on and making sure everything runs smoothly to take risks or be creative with the focus and goodies they provide. This con is a wonderful exception.

Ryan’s book God of Clay debuted this year, the first in a trilogy. There was a general book release party for Sofawolf Press, his publisher, and he got quite a bit of attention there. He was adorably shy through most of it, but all in all it was a great experience for him. He spent some time behind the Sofawolf Press desk in the dealer’s den, got in touch with his audience, signed some books and learned the importance of personal contact and marketing. (It sounds so crass when I say it that way.) He was on a panel or two and seemed to impress a few folks with what he had to say. He actually presented as a bona-fide writer, which was tremendously exciting to see. I have to tell you guys, I’m tremendously proud of him. He’s incredibly talented and passionate about what he does. And now he gets to live the dream for a little bit.

I may be biased, but God of Clay is still a great book and there’s nothing like it in the furry fandom right now — there’s very few books like it in the broader sci-fi/fantasy genre. I highly recommend picking up a copy if you haven’t already.

Otherwise, it was a really fun convention. I got to meet a couple of writers whom I’ve always heard about, Phil Geusz (Freedom City) and Mitch de la Guardia (N’duk the Hunter). Phil was the Writing Special Guest, and it was pretty awesome seeing him get something of the rock-star treatment; he constantly had a retinue surrounding him wherever he went. I managed to talk to him for a little bit about his Books of Lapinism setting, which sounds like something I’d love to read. Mitch and I already kind of know each other through the FBA; we both play polar bear centers in the league. But it was good talking to him outside of that connection, and seeing him in a more writerly context. I bought the first collection of N’duk stories, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I also got to talk to Daniel and Mary Lowd for a little bit. I came away from the weekend with a good sense of the writing community here in the fandom; that’s one of the things that Rainfurrest affords.

It’s also convinced me more than ever that the writing segment of the fandom is mature enough to stand up to criticism, and could serve to benefit from it. There are a lot of people who are serious about the craft, strive to be better, and like engaging in discussion about how best to do that. I think as long as the discussion is positive, constructive and respectful, criticism isn’t anything to be afraid of. It also reaffirms my belief that the big problem with criticism in the fandom so far is that it’s been used as a vehicle to boost personality and fame; there aren’t that many people who really scrutinize the work closely with an eye towards discussing its impact and meaning.

I’m really glad I was able to make this convention, and now I’m going to try and make it one of those things I get to every year. Ryan’s come away from it with a better sense of the work that goes into a book surrounding its publication. What’s better, I think he actually learned he does a pretty decent job with it as well. Win-win for all!

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