The Next Step

The Zoion Kickstarter came to a close this weekend, but unfortunately it didn’t hit its goal. This was likely for a combination of reasons, but the largest was probably the difficulty in finding the right audience. Whatever might have been the case, I don’t want to dwell too much on the missed goal but rather answer the question, what are we going to do next?

The project is going to continue, albeit in a much more limited and scaled back fashion. While it would have been a fantastic experience to launch right out of the gate with the first full issue, it also required a lot of up-front expense. I’m still confident that the project can be a success. I really do believe it’s something that furries would love to see. It’s just that now I’ll be taking a step back, developing it more organically and slowly over time.

I’ll be interviewing an artist each week and featuring their art here on the Zoion website. In addition to writing the article itself, I’ll also be formatting the content as if it were actually going to print and posting PDFs of the spreads. This partly as an advertisement of sorts, again to show what the project would look like. And it also helps to build a body of work. Eventually over time there’ll be enough material to collect into a printed magazine format anyway. With the design work already done, the actual production would be pretty straightforward and the remaining time investment would be correspondingly lower.

Doing things this way accomplishes two important goals. Firstly it’ll allow me to find the right audience. I know there are a lot of folks out there who are interested in better curation of anthro art, but that audience is so diverse and scattered that it’s hard to reach them en masse. A more consistent approach over a longer period of time would help to draw in the right crowd. And secondly it gives me more of a chance to show what I can do with design and production. I’ve kept my professional experience completely separate from what I do in the furry fandom (not surprisingly), but that does mean a lot of folks don’t know if I’m the right man for the job of putting together a magazine. Well there’s no shame in starting small either, and doing an article or two a week will still build towards that end goal.

To everyone who supported Zoion in the early stages, thank you very much! I really appreciate everything you’ve done. I’ve had nothing but extremely positive feedback which has encouraged me to keep going. I’m excited about the future of the project and to see where it goes.

Finally if you or anyone you know is an artist interested in being interviewed and having their art featured, please let me know at zoionmedia@gmail.com. I’m looking for a variety of media and styles, as long as there’s an anthropomorphic theme. Thanks!

Articles and Scholarship in Zoion

Art without context is just decoration. Readers want to know where the art is coming from, the thinking behind it, the process, and of course the story of the artists themselves. While the plan has always been for Zoion to be image-driven, the supporting writing is no less important. Here are several ideas on what types of articles we’d like to include.

• Artist profiles and interviews — The difference between a profile and an interview is subtle, but important. Some folks either don’t interview well, or prefer just not to be quoted directly. A profile contains information about the artist, written about them as a third party. An interview is a one-on-one dialogue. What’s interesting about this is how interviews are often better conducted as a conversation. That gets into something I’d like to write about more in the future: how a “magazine” in today’s media landscape is more than just a printed booklet. It involves a variety of multimedia which could include podcast interviews, as well. Regardless of how it’s done, it’s obviously an integral part to the magazine itself.

• Discussion on the artistic process — Details of artistic processes are often covered in interviews. But in the case where the artistic process is particularly novel, interesting or altogether different, it’s common to have a separate article that goes into more detail.

• Art tips — This is more of a general category, but insomuch as the magazine is targeted at other creatives, any extra guidance we can provide is valuable. I know that personally I’ve spent a lot of time over the past several years tutoring folks on different aspects of art practice. It was my intention at one time to collect a lot of what I’ve talked about into a book. That may still happen, but a magazine such as Zoion would be a good platform for that as well.

• Reviews — When Zootopia came out in 2016, one of my first thoughts was how neat it would be to have a review of the movie specifically from the perspective of the furry fandom. Plenty of mainstream newspapers and websites covered it, and a lot of furry friends talked about it too. But there was no dedicated furry publication writing from the perspective of furries in particular. (At least none that I was aware of at the time.) While Zootopia is a particularly mainstream example, there is no shortage of media being produced within the furry fandom that would also warrant professional review.

• Critical analysis — This is perhaps the most nebulous in scope, but also has the potential to be the most compelling. My previous discussion on the artistic nude in anthropomorphic art is an example of critical analysis. It’s a look at anthro art from a more philosophical perspective, comparing it to culture and the arts, or popular movements in society. Another good example of critical analysis is the work done by Culturally F’d, in particular this video which compares furry to punk. It’s very much worth watching.

I feel like this covers a majority of what the focus of Zoion should be. There is room for additional ideas, but we also want to make sure we’re not getting too far away from the scope of the project just for the sake of having additional content. For example, something else to consider is serialized fiction. It may even warrant its own magazine like Analog or Asimov’s is for science fiction—certainly enough is being published each year in the furry fandom—but is perhaps not right to include in a magazine focused on the visual arts. Additional items which might be useful in an anthro themed magazine include a calendar of events for conventions and con registration deadlines, news of general interest, or announcements of other large projects such as the launch of a new convention, or anthro-themed gallery shows.

Exactly what all might be included will change as the magazine develops, but these are all ideas we’ve at least considered. If there’s something that hasn’t been mentioned here but that you’d like to see, leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.

The Elephant in the Room

It’s difficult to talk about anthro art without sexuality and pornography coming up at some point in the discussion. On the one hand, it’s a natural part of the human experience and so appears in nearly everything humans do, including anthropomorphization. On the other hand, furry is seen by many people exclusively as a fetish, and isn’t one of the goals of this project to try and break away from that perception?

Since I announced Zoion, this is the topic that has come up most often in conversation. It’s inevitable that I’d have to address it.

I’ve tried to emphasize in the marketing material that the magazine will be clean and professional. Or as I’ve started to say when I was talking about it at FWA, “not cringey”. Nevertheless I’ve had people ask a variety of questions as to what exactly might be included.  Obviously art exists on a spectrum. Not everything falls neatly into the categories of “clean” or “adult”. This is, naturally, where editorial discretion comes in, and it would be something of a quixotic task to try and define every possible instance of what may or may not be included. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said, “I know it when I see it.”

That being said, here are a few of the specific questions I’ve gotten, and some answers:

• Will you accept advertising for adult products? No.

• Will you accept advertising for adult products, even if it’s not obvious from the context of the ad that they are for an adult audience? No.

• Will you talk about, discuss, or otherwise try to curate pornography in an effort to preserve it as a part of furry culture? No. I wrote in response to a comment on Print Lives : “I don’t think it’s disingenuous to not include furry pornography any more than it is when regular art magazines don’t include regular pornography. There’s plenty of room in our lives for both. At the moment, furry pornography is so ubiquitous that it’s drowning out non-pornographic work. It would be great if there was a way to shift that balance a little, and that’s one of the goals we have in mind for the magazine.”

• Will you link to a gallery which includes adult artwork? Possibly. If an artist is featured and has all their work in one gallery, we would likely still link back to it. This is very much something to address on a per-case basis. And there may be other options too, such as a disclaimer that the gallery contains adult material.

• Will you include tasteful or artistic nudity? This is an interesting question. While the answer is basically “no, we will not include artistic nudity”, the explanation as to why is not so simple. To address this, I’ll be writing a separate article tomorrow that contrasts examples of historical artistic nudity with artistic nudity in anthropomorphic art. Depending on length, it may also include some thoughts on challenging subject matter in art, or that may be discussed in a future article. I don’t want to spend too much more time on adult or pornographic themes in art. But like I said, it’s something that’s come up a lot, so better to address it now at the beginning so we can move on.

If you have another question that’s not listed here, feel free to leave it in the comments.

I’ll close with the following quote from my aforementioned comment which I think gets the point across pretty well:

“Consider that the audience for furry pornography of any sort—even tasteful artistic nudity—is so incredibly large and it receives so much attention, there is just no situation where us leaving it out would be detrimental to the fandom. Contrariwise, if we include it, it could very well be detrimental to our goals of attracting a diverse audience, including people outside the furry fandom who appreciate the fine art aspect but have no interest in nude anthropomorphic animals, no matter how tastefully done.”

 

The Zoion Project

I originally had the idea to do an anthropomorphic art magazine back in 2013. Using some friends’ art, I put together a few example spreads and cover designs. I did it more as practice and just to get a feel for what the format could look like in print, rather than as something that I thought could seriously be done.

Like all ambitious projects, it took a back seat when I had the rest of my life to live. I had a full time job for several years, than later left my “real” job to do furry art full time. I’ve been really fortunate at how well that has worked out. But always in the back of my mind I kept going back to this magazine idea.

The furry fandom has gone through some quite significant changes in the past five years. Some are reflections of broader cultural shifts; some are more specific to the fandom. In particular, the fandom has been growing rapidly and has also been getting more mainstream attention. The tone of that attention has shifted as well, from the CSI days of furry being known exclusively as this weird fetishy thing, to more journalists, charities, and internet denizens standing up to defend furries when they come up in threads or news.

I’ve started to notice that even the term “furry” is now taken to be understood by default. News articles used to spend a paragraph explaining what furries were any time they were featured. Later it would be just a sentence or two. More recently, I’ve seen articles posted that don’t explain the term at all. This is an interesting development. Furries are no longer so weird that they need explanation. As a subculture, it’s still quite niche, certainly. But furries are increasingly well known even to the general population.

Meanwhile within the furry fandom, there is the confluence of several factors: furries as a group are growing older, earning more, and developing more professionally. And they’re doing this while still staying involved with the fandom. In the past it was always a joke that as furries turned 30, they’d disappear. In a smaller group, those absences are even more noticeable. While that still probably happens to some extent, the growth of the fandom has made those absences less noticeable—and certainly less than the influx of new people. Older furries are sticking around. Even cooler: as the fandom’s notoriety grows, people are getting involved at an older age, too. I personally believe we’re on the edge of a snowball effect where the growth of the fandom attracts even more new members, which in turn normalizes the subculture further, which attracts more people, and so on. It’s not just going to keep growing; every year is going to grow more than the last.

These factors together have led to what I believe is an increasing desire for legitimacy within the furry fandom. It means more professionalism in the way cons are run, policing our own subculture from the damaging effects of hatred and intolerance, and standing up to and calling out media sensationalization. It also means there’s interest in a platform for showcasing clean, professional furry art.

I believe this desire for legitimacy in the furry fandom means it’s right time to launch that idea for an anthro art magazine I had five years ago. It took another six months working weekends—research into the magazine industry, planning, developing a brand and visual design—until I had a well-thought out proposal to present to the furry community. I’ve finally reached that point, and on Friday March 30, I’ll be launching the Kickstarter.

I’m very excited for the project! Over the next few days I’ll be posting more articles about my thought process behind it, what I hope to include and where it might go in the future. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please consider supporting us on Kickstarter, or spreading the word to your friends.