by Quentin 'Cubist' Long
©2004 Quentin Long -- all rights reserved
When someone first acquires an interest in transformation stories, one thing quickly becomes apparent: Many authors have a very strong affinity for one particular flavor of transformation. Phil Geusz is 'the rabbit guy'; for Bob Stein, it's horses; Mike Brotzman goes gaga for dragons; and so on and so forth. Mind you, this isn't to say that an author who is known for X is necessarily restricted to X -- for instance, Geusz' rabbit stories may not even be half of his total output -- but nevertheless, certain common motifs are tolerably obvious. All of which begs the question: Why does [insert author's name here] have such a strong connection to [insert TF-flavor here]?
Or, to repeat Chico Marx's immortal phrase: Why a duck?
Well, maybe it's a 'totem spirit' thing. Or maybe it's the result of strongly identifying oneself with the qualities associated with a given creature. Or maybe any of a wide variety of other possible answers. But whatever the specific details of any one person's answer, it's probably going to boil down to some variation on "I want to be part of something that's utterly foreign to myself". For some people, this desire is a pathological one, rooted in self-loathing; for others, it's drawn from a healthy desire for self-improvement; and other people still, have other underlying motives.
So what does it all mean? Good question, and here's my answer-of-the-moment: It's a 'religion' thing. Some people feel a deep and transcendant connection to their personal 'totem', and there doesn't seem to be any discernable relationship between the strength of this connection and the identity of its object. For a Christian, the 'totem' is God; for transformation authors, the 'totem' can be Wolf, or Eagle, or Coyote, or any of a myriad other names.
No, I don't think transformation fandom is a religion, nor yet even a cult. I do, however, think that for some of its members, the fandom has at least some ability to satisfy their spiritual needs... and I think the fandom could conceivably be the source material from which a new religion eventually evolves. 'First Theriomorphic Church', anyone?
Note well: The fandom already has a number of elements that could be readily adapted to religious purposes. For instance, the Theriomorphic Church might well regard full fursuits as the functional equivalent of a nun's habit or friar's robe, while clip-on ears could be this Church's replacement for rosaries or crucifix-bearing necklaces. And just as the Roman Catholic Church has a calendar-ful of recurring holidays and celebrations, so does the fandom have a calendar-ful of conventions -- Further Confusion, Memphis FurMeet, etc ad nauseum. Catholicism has its canticles and hymns; the fandom has its filksongs. Christianity has monasteries; the fandom has 'slan shacks'.
Does the very idea strike you as being absurd? It shouldn't. Keep in mind that while the Christian faith has had two millennia to accrete its vast array of rules and dogma and Lord knows what-all else, the fandom hasn't been around all that much longer than two decades. If the fandom manages to survive to the year 4000 AD, who knows what it will have evolved into by that time? We in 2004 would be hard-pressed to recognize it -- but then, Jesus' disciples would likely have equal difficulty recognizing the modern-day Roman Catholic Church as an institutional successor to the faith they knew and practiced.
Speaking of 'practice', what doctrines would the First Theriomorphic Church teach? Something along the lines of 'unity of all life' would probably be in there, of course. But what attitude would the Church have towards Homo sapiens -- are we 'first among equals', are we 'an unmitigated stain on Creation', or are we something else entirely? Seeing as how the present-day fandom exhibits such a wide range of attitudes towards humanity, I'd be willing to bet that The Question Of Man would be a major source of theological conflict within the Church.
Would the Church support or oppose scientific progress? At first blush, one might suppose the answer to be an unequivocal 'yes'; after all, most members of the fandom recognize that some pretty heavy-duty biological research will be needed if they're ever going to attain their desired form. On the other hand, there is that self-loathing segment of the fandom, and if any of those guys end up having serious influence over Church doctrine, all bets are off! This question, too, is probably going to be the focus of numerous heresies and schisms within the Church.
I could go on, but I have to stop somewhere, and this is as good a place as any. See you next issue!