These are the people who invented “la vie de Boheme.” They invented the lifestyle of the urban middle-class dropout art-gypsy. They invented its terminology and its tactics. They brought us the “succes de scandale,” the now time-honored tactic of shocking one’s audience all the way to the bank. And the “succes d'estime,” the edgy and hazardous life of the critics' darling. The doctrine of art for art’s sake was theirs too (thank you, Theophile Gautier). And the ever-helpful notion of epater les bourgeoisie, an act of consummately modern rebellion which is nevertheless impossible without a bourgeoisie to epater, an act which the bourgeoisie itself has lavishly financed for decades in our culture’s premiere example of Aldissian enantiodromia – the transformation of things into their opposites. The Paris Bohemians were the first genuine industrial-scale counterculture. This was the culture that created Jules Verne. It deserves a great deal of the credit or blame for origination of the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. It has a legitimate claim on our attention and our loyalties.
One of the experiences that PR and PV have had that I’m a bit jealous of, is that of encountering Bruce Sterling for the first time in the mid-90s. It’s debatable whether that’s what you’d call “the height of his powers,” but the man has a powerful and bone-deep vision of possible futures that he is compelled to share (he also nicely illustrates that a solid knowledge of history is indispensable if you want to write science fiction). Encountering him in the 90s and seeing what he has to say about the Internet and counterculture, I can see why one might feel compelled to tell others, to share the vision. PR and PV have said in about so many words, that part of why postfurry is a thing, is Bruce Sterling. The vision persists.
It opens questions that make me shiver. I talked to someone recently and found out that I am not sure that postfurry has enough heft to sustain being written about, analyzed, explained. On the other hand, I have a deep and persistent feeling that there is something interesting and worthwhile there.
One of the habits of the furry subculture that troubles me is the fear of excluding people. It makes me squint suspiciously. You can’t have a community unless you have a rule for who’s in and who’s out. It needn’t be phrased too harshly - but such a rule must exist. In a geographic community, the rule is easy: if you’re here, you’re in, if you’re not, you’re out. But furry in general, because of its attachment to the Internet, and postfurry in particular, aims to be post-geographic. Thus, some rule is necessary - and if one is not consciously developed, one will de facto emerge from the community’s id. I am not a fan of that prospect.
There are things to love about the furry subculture, and I love the postfurry community — but the future shape of a community is determined by the work invested in the present, and I’m worried about that.