quoth The Cat:
"No cat out of its first fur was ever deceived by appearances, unlike human beings, who seem to enjoy it."
--from The Last Unicorn
The Furry phenomenon is a fascinating form, more style than
genre. The Furry style can be applied to almost any genre : SF/fantasy,
mystery, cowboy/Western, swashbuckler, interpersonal romance,
superhero, and so forth. The primary criterion for a work of fiction to be
considered Furry is that it focus on sentient animals (in rare cases Furry might include sentient
plants or sentient micro-organisms or even, rarest of all, sentient machinery
such as automobiles or computer terminals or toasters). Although the style is referred to as
'Furry', the sentient animals need not be furred, which is why there
are sentient birds, fish, insects, dinosaurs, and even the occasional
oakwood or paramecium.
There is a minor controversy among devotees of Furry fiction whether simply focusing on anthropomorphic animals is sufficient or whether the sentient animals must display at least some traits appropriate to their non-sentient kin. To use a simple television cartoon example, most (but not all) Furry fans would agree that Yogi Bear qualifies as a comedic Furry - he lives in the woods, hibernates, and has demonstrated ursine powers at climbing and strength on occasion - whereas Huckleberry Hound is not a true Furry - it would make no difference in his behavior or how others treat him were he human instead of a bipedal blue dog.
Furry fiction has been used to explore Gender Rights and to provoke new perspectives not unlike some Thought-Provoking Sites. Furry characters can be found in ancient works such as Myth, Legend, Folklore and even fables on Celtic Christianity & Celtic Paganism. In modern works, Furry characters appear in The Last Unicorn [such as The Butterfly and The Unicorn herself] and The Neverending Story [such as Falkor and Morla] as well as works of Television SF [how else would one classify the ubiquitous peoples evolved from felines, reptiles, or serpents?] , Superhero Retro [who can forget Tawky Tawny?], Kaiju / Sentai / Mecha [such as the occasional sentient monster], and Animé [just look at *Tenchi Muyo* and *El Hazard*].
A warning when searching the internet for information about the Furry phenomenon: the term 'Furry' has also been adopted by individuals involved with beastiality (rare) and people into a fur fetishism or stuffed animal fetishism (more common). The easily-offended should be cautious when visiting new Furry sites.
For more detailed information on the phenomenon of Furry as a style for works of fiction, I recommend PeterCat's Furry IntroPage! and Captain Packrat's Fur Central. Also, here is one person's Furry Definition.
For an excellent example of non-sexual Furry humor, I highly recommend the always-amusing and oft-times brilliant domestic comedy Kevin & Kell series by Bill Holbrook. Other delightful on-line Furry comics include the space comedy Freefall and the college comedies The Class Menagerie and FurDaze.
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