I'll be honest, the first and biggest reason is simple-- time. Right now, I have a pendulum swinging over me. By my calculations, I have about three to four semesters of tuition severance available to me, based on past semester bills for books and tuition. At this point in time, school is my only obligation right now-- namely, using those three to four semesters to get as much of an education in programming and systems analysis as I possibly can. In the Spring, I took an overload of classes-- 18 hours worth. That, juggled with the last three months of my job nearly killed me, stress-wise. So without the baggage of a job, I should be able to continue taking overloads of 18 to 21 hours.
This is where things get tricky. Bronzebear is a job-- albeit a part-time one with low pay, and moderate to high stress. It takes time to adjust stock. It takes time to fill orders. It takes time to go through the stacks of boxes, then put them all back. It takes time to..... you get the point. For the time being, my primary mission is to maximize my time and maximize my finances. Hence, not only does liquidating Bronzebear free up a large amount of free time to devote to study, but it also pads out the financial nest egg that I've been building for the last year.
There are a few heads being scratched right now. "He's unemployed, but liquidating off a source of income? I don't get it." Again, what I need to do right now is to make the most of my time, and suppliment my finances. By the numbers, I'm not hurting, and I'm far from desperate. My goal is to use the cash from that liquidation to extend that situation. As I've just learned, life can throw curve balls: layoffs, car repair bills, medical bills (as well as having to extend my health insurance via the COBRA program)-- and the money that I get from liquidating the stock wil go into preparing a defense against said curve balls. I have very un-fond memories of my college days, and the constant feeling of having my back against the financial wall. Fortunately, I had enough foresight to brace for this layoff, so I'll never have to worry about how I'm going to pay a tuition, book, rent and utility bill in the same month again. Nor will I ever have to resort to a month where my diet consists of ramen noodles and store-brand bologna. My goal by liquidating is to make sure that I have both the free time to study, and the finances to free me from the stress of worrying about making ends meet.
The second reason is a revelation that's gradually been dawning on me since April of 2000. Over the last year, I've slowly come to realize something-- I've been wasting my life away in a mad race to overachieve. I should probably explain a bit.
The death of someone close to you always gives a convenient opportunity to pause and reflect on your own life, almost as a means of using the death as a tool to reconcile mortality by comparing your life to that of the person you recently lost. Last year, many of on alt.fan.furry read about the situation that my Grandfather went through-- nearly dead from pneumonia, to a gradual comeback, to a fatal relapse the week of Confurence (and for those who came out to support me, both online and at the convention, I have never realy had the chance to say this: Thank you. Many of you never realized how important that support was to me that weekend...). In the weeks after, I had some time to sit down and think about my own life, 27 years at that point in time, and where had I been? What had I done?
From the day I was born, my parents had my life pretty well planned out for me: Accelerate through my primary and secondary education, go to college for either an education to become an attorney (the "family business," with seven attorneys in the ranks of my parents, siblings, uncles, and cousins), or to go for the real brass ring-- the family's first doctor-- and end up with a six-digit income by the time I was 25. As a result, I was raised to be very agressive in goal-oriented accomplishment. A month after I turned 16, I was working 20 hours a week at a local food establishment. When I was in college, I carried full class loads, and a full time job delivering pizzas. Same thing for graduate school (yes, it's a scary revelation to some-- Sasquatch can think and be taught. I'm currently one class, and a comprehensive exam away from my Master's degree in Comparative Literature-- which throttles the people who see me at cons, hear about some of my convention exploits, and blow me off as a "drunken buffoon." To quote Frank N. Furter from Rocky Horror: "It's something you'll get used to. A little mind-fuck can be nice.")-- I've always been so busy trying to pursue what I was told by my family was what I should be doing, I've never really had time to sit back and enjoy life. In High School, I saw my friends going out on Friday and Saturdays, and I had to work. In college, friends would go out to movies or to the bars, and I had to work. In Grad School, the same situation. Even as I settled into my job with Lucent, my friends would go out to do something, and I was either working, or had to be in bed for the work day's 5am start time.
I remember the first day that I was laid off. Those of us on the "list" were herded first to our lockers, to clean out, then into the auditorium to get the speech from management: This isn't your fault. It's the economy. We hope it's going to be short term at best. We're going to help you as much as we can. Blah, blah, blah, blah.... That only took about two hours. By the time I went to campus, registered for my Summer classes, and came home, it was 9:30am. I sat down on the couch, thinking what the hell do I do now? I didn't mean that in a sense of the big picture. After all, I'd been planning on this for about a year. Financially, I was safe. Educationally, my ducks were lined up for the next term. I was thinking more in terms of just free time-- in my whole life, I've never really had a situation like this: unadulterated free time. It's sort of like Pete the Prospector, from Toy Story II. Pete was a toy whose owner never took him out of his package. Hence, he never learned how to really socialize with the other toys. Myself, I was in the same situation. I'd spent so much time pursuing my academic goals, and financially entrenching myself in life, I never had time to stop and "play" at all. And now, here I was with a good year or so of time to put into miscellaneous pursuits.
As with the first reason, it all comes down to time. There are so many hours in the day, and I've promised myself that I'm not going to overextend my resources during this layoff
period. There are things I've always wanted to do with my life. And now that I have some spare time, I can actually get around to them. I've wanted to get my weight under control and
try some entry-level body sculpting (not Mr. Universe, so much as I'd like to look at my body and see definition other than stretch marks). Unfortunately, that hour to two hours per day, spent in the
gym has to come from somewhere. Since I was 9 years old, I've wanted to resume my music training. As a child, I was taking piano lessons, and always wanted to learn guitar. Unfortunately, my piano
lessons were the first casualty of my parent's divorce. My mother didn't like the fact that my father got "free" visitation, in the form of picking me up to take me to and from the lesson. My father
didn't like the fact that my mother's solution involved her taking me to the lessons, and him paying the bill (and in retrospective, I resent the outcome of that, since it was one the very few "bonding"
activities my father ever tried). So, in a classic "use the kids as a pawn" move, the lessons stopped. In 1996, I tried to kick-start things by buying an entry-level bass guitar and small amp. Unfortunately,
school and work issues bled my available time dry, so I never had time to arrange for lessons. In the last three weeks since I've been laid off, I've since started instruction with a local music store.
So, I'm slowly learning the art of recreation-- and my suspicion is that trying to salvage Bronzebear would be a liability to those efforts.
The third reason can be summed up with a simple phrase: stupid fanboy tricks and politics.
In the early 90s, I remember watching a feature covering Confurence on the Sci-fi Channel's Sci Fi Buzz with complete awe. Since I was a child, I'd always been interested in funny animals in books, comics and cartoons. So now, I was watching a TV news article on a group of people who shared my interests, and finally realized I wasn't alone. In January, 1994, I finally got my first "real" internet account-- a shell account through Florida State. No more using a loophole in the dialer to access an open telnet. I had email, ftp, gopher, space to run tinyfugue, and access to usenet. The first Friday night of the semester, I took the night off work, and sat down with a large order of chinese take out, and began digging through the plethora of newsgroups in ELM. When I found one called alt.fan.furry, my attention had been aroused. After reading through, and making a few sample posts, I realized that I'd finally found the community I was looking for.
The idea was that I'd finally found a community to share my art and stories with-- a place I could create and communicate with like-minded individuals. Before I knew it, I was dealing at conventions, publishing fanzines, and slowly getting drawn into the world of furry politics. At first, it was kind of fun-- after all, having grown up the typical shy recluse, I was ecstatic to find that people were interested in my company. Granted, I didn't find out until later that a lot of the attention was superficial posturing for various reasons. Person A wanted information on Person B, and tried to pump me for what I knew. When I replied that I didn't know or that I was bound to be quiet, the friendly pages on the muck stopped, and my "friend" was getting busier and busier online. It was a recurring cycle I soon got used to and eventually learned to call out for what it was (those who know me recognize that this was the beginning of my "bitter" period-- when I pretty much began calling people and things for how I saw them. If furrydom has done one thing-- it's taken a shy, passive person, and transformed me into a tough individualist, no longer afraid to speak my mind and step on toes. As the saying goes, you sometime have to break eggs to make an omlette...)
At some point in time during this period (1996, 1997), I began to notice that the face of fandom was changing. Conventions were getting larger, and the usual post-convention firestorms were getting nastier. Also, this was when alt.fan.furry began its metamorphosis into the Jerry Springer Show of furry fandom. Reading the newsgroup went from being a joy, to being an exercise in self-restraint ( Yes, I know so-and-so is a clueless git, but I must.....not......respond...with...a...flame...), and eventually something that I would do very infrequently, just to keep my blood pressure in check.
Starting Bronzebear was when I got a good look at the ugly side of fandom, and some of the people involved with it. As we all know, at the time I announced the company, another company was in negotiations to purchase Mr. Zolna's old company. As soon as word spread that I was the person behind the "Bronzebear Media" postings on alt.fan.furry, I noticed that several friends who had once been very close to me were now cold and distant. I certainly was aware of what was going on, but wrote it off to human nature. It's just a shame when miniscule issues like fandom politics get involved in personal friendships. It's a situation that only results in burnt bridges and destroyed or unsalvageable friendships.
As the summer of 1999 progressed, the effects of the cold war began to escalate with the usual tactics: whisper campaigns on the mucks, political alliances resorting to nastier and nastier tricks on both sides of the fences, posturing on the newsgroups. Unfortunately, by that point in time, I was financially committed to trying to make the business work, and enduring the slings and arrows as risks of the business. A shame, really. What had started as a love for anthropomorhics had mutated into a 20-ton gorilla (or rather, a bear) that was running, and ruining the circles of friends I'd spent the five previous years building up. Unfortunately, as 1999 turned into 2000, things only got progressively worse. Then, the situation with my Grandfather came up, and I took a reality check: real life takes precedence over fandom games.
I know this is going to come as a shock to some out there. I've probably lost credibility in the eyes of some of the more extreme furs, but don't feel particularly distressed by it anymore. The fact of the matter is, when you log off your mucks, close your IRC programs, turn your computers and video game consoles off, there's a whole world out there. My stance is that the dreaded "real life" always comes first, regardless. And yes, Bronzebear is a fandom activity. Contrary to what many think, this isn't the kind of business where one can make a true living off. At best, Bronzebear covered convention expenses and some "rainy day" funds. Otherwise, I'd have quit Lucent a long time ago, and would have strictly focused in on Bronzebear. Unfortunately, there are some in the fandom who never quite got a handle on that concept. What can I say to them? One more time, folks: it's not bad to be a "mundane" now and then. It teaches you how to handle issues beyond what page has some new furry porn, or what chat service you can log onto to get your virtual wick dipped. Logging out of the furry fantasy world and dealing with issues and challenges presented by the dreaded "real" world is good. Sitting behind your computers 24/7 and trying to build your political fandom regimes is much like the first and second little pigs hoping their wood and straw dwellings would protect them from the big bad wolf. All it takes is one slightly more charasmatic person to come along, before we see yet another "farewell, cruel fandom" letter being posted to the muck boards, and on the newsgroups. In short, the best way to win the fandom politic game is to simply not play at all, which I've chosen to do by liquidating the single lightning rod that most people have used to go after me-- Bronzebear Media.
In the end, I really bear no malice towards any of the participants involved. We're all works in progress at various phases and levels of maturity and development. I can only hope that those people will one day be able to distance themselves from their actions and see just how ugly that brand of cloak and dagger politics make themselves look... Until then, I continue to enjoy the anthropomorhic tradition, but just not the political subculture that's erupted around it in the last four to five years. So no, this is not a grand dramatic "goodbye, cruel fandom!" letter that I can post, then lurk on the newsgroups, just to see what people say about me in my wake (and shame on you, RC, I always thought you had more character than that...). I've simply eliminated the largest and most cumbersome piece of political baggage in my fandom life. I still intend to chair and run Furry Spring Break. I still intend to publish Ten Furcent. I still intend to write and draw. I'm just no longer posturing online, hoping to make a "name" of myself, in some desperate attempt to try and seek out fandom fame. Some arrangements are simply too faustian in nature.....
The final incentive to liquidate slowly happened over the course of the Fall, and overflowed into the new year.
Most of you either read on the newsgroups, or heard about the misadventures of a certain Bart Bervoets, a "gentleman" who uses the fan-handle "Nekobe" in furry circles. For those who don't desperately suck the digital nipple and churn the rumor mill for wisps of dramatic torment in others' lives (and you have my comendations-- I run into fewer and fewer people with lives these days. If you fall into said category, consider yourself one of them.), I'll give the quick Reader's Digest version:
Mr. Bervoets spent a fair portion of 2000 travelling across the United States, living off the courtesy of other furs, or in a string of hotels. Unfortunately, Mr. Bervoets is also slightly socially-challenged, and quickly burned his welcome where ever he went. In August, he learned that I had a spare bedroom for rent, and was rather agressive in insisting I rent it out to him. When I learned how to ignore him on IRC, he resorted to calling my cel phone from payphones (to dodge the caller ID). As time marched on, and he got more desperate, Mr. Bervoets also got more hostile and threatening-- eventually promising to come to Orlando and kill me. It was at this time I also learned that law enforcement doesn't act on such threats until after they're carried out-- which left me hoping that Mr. Bervoets was either truly insane, or a horrible shot. The situation reached a head in early January, when Mr. Bervoets was apprehended on my front doorstoop, eavesdropping into my apartment.
I'm sorry, folks, but it fucks with your mind to have someone calling you on the phone, threatening to kill you-- then to open your door several weeks later and find an armed police officer shouting orders to a figure just out of sight, but speaking quite defensively with a very familiar, european accent. At first, I played it off lightly-- my "pet" stalker. But as I thought about things, I began to realize just how serious this could have been-- and just how dead I could have been, had my "pet stalker" been a little less clueless and a little more resourceful.
The real scare came later that afternoon, when my roommate mentioned the fact that Mr. Bervoets had advocated calling the police about me, claiming child pornography and bestiality charges. In the past, Mr. Bervoets has made several attempts to bring law enforcement down on individuals, using similar charges. Looking at law enforcement from a responsible point of view, it seems only logical that if a complaint were filed against me, I could expect a visit from a police officer.
Now let's be blunt here for a minute. We've seen the mundane reaction to furries before. This Spring, we had a harsh lesson in how the public at large views us, with the whole Vanity Fair issue. Now, recall that I'm in the deep south (no matter how people joke about Central and South Florida being stocked with northern transplants, there's a very strong redneck vibe down here. Just ask Mike Diana-- a comic artist who lives about two hours north of me. I'm not going to rehash the case here-- click this link for a summary of the case). When I turned the master's for Ten Furcent #1 into a local Office "superstore" in October of 1995, the manager threatened to call the police on me for obscenity charges. One of my greatest concerns is that I'll have to try and explain to law enforcement about some of the stock I have-- and finding myself in similar hot water. When my roommate mentioned to me that Mr. Bervoets advocated making calls to the police, that was the final nail in Bronzebear's coffin. I began drawing up plans for liquidation, and made preliminary contacts with vendors during Further Confusion.
By my own definitions, I consider myself fairly normal. I have a concept of what truth is. I'm familiar with reality. I can hold a conversation
with a stranger without feeling either uncomfortable, or anxious. I know that there are appropriate times and places for things to be said, and for behavior to
be displayed. I guess what I'm seeing happening isn't so much a matter of "barbarians" ransacking the city, but more one of obnoxious neighbors moving into the apartment.
Hence, there's no need for a long, dramatic "farewell, cruel fandom!" letter, as I'm not leaving. What I am doing, however, is sound-proofing my metaphorical
walls and patiently waiting for the "neighbors" to move out in the form of quietly withdrawing from the public eye for a while. I've done my part for the scene, and
it's now time for others to take over. I got involved because of a joy and love of the anthropomorphic tradition in comics, not because I found an easy outlet for sex at conventions,
or found a neat little way to feed a need for attention by sitting around and pandering for pity and attention on the mucks and IRC all day, or thought I could make a "name" of myself
by playing amatuer character assassin on alt.fan.furry. I'll continue to write, to draw, and to commune with friends--
simply on a more private scale.
If people feel like getting in touch with me, I'm still around. I can be ICQ'd at #63360722, or CutterCoon on AOL's IM service. Likewise, I'm still on the mucks and yiffnet. So, if people feel like getting in touch, please don't hesitate to do so...