But the fandom grew, spreading across the country and even the globe with the speed and ease afforded by the Internet. Many ConFurence attendees began to develop issues with how the event was being run and promoted, while for others the travel distance to California was prohibitive. There was a rising call for alternative venues.
And so ZonieCon was essentially founded on a dare.
ConFurence Eight (January '97) was held at Knott's Berry Farm, and was witness to extremely poor behavior on the part of a number of attendees --- many of whom identified themselves as non-furries looking for the uninhibited sex they'd heard our fandom was notorious for. Similar occurrences had happened at previous events, with many resulting complaints by furries in attendance, but these were generally brushed off by the convention's organizers. In part, the fault lay with the organizers themselves, who had been caught promoting the event specifically and repeatedly as an "alternative lifestyle convention" and the fandom itself on basis of "sexual awareness". That this sort of thing continued, even at the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel, was for many the last straw.
Many of CF8's attendees grumbled their post-convention complaints over one of the Farm Restaurant's famous chicken dinners.
This debate was nothing new: Trish Ny had already launched "Furtasticon" and then "ConFurence East" in the mid-'90s, in part due to these very sorts of issues. But efforts to continue CFE were already collapsing by '97. Who could, or would, take its place?
It was in the middle of all this talk that Matt "Milikardo Knights" Henry looked at me and said that if no one else was going to do it, fans like us were going to have to. Merely continuing to complain about the problem would achieve nothing...the dare was out in the open, and I took it. Like an idiot.
I looked back at him, wiped my mouth, slapped my napkin on the table, and said, "Okay. If no one else is going to do it, I will."
Fortunately, a lot of better-prepared people had the same idea. Outfits like Anthrocon and Mephit Furmeet really got the ball rolling with their own events kicking off before '97 was out. I'd also be doing a disservice if I didn't mention Eurofurence, which had been serving EuroFurs unable to get to ConFurence since '95.
Meanwhile, I got together with the "Tucson Mob", Arizona's core of original furry fans, to plan and organize a convention targeted for May '98.
This was where Mike-Scot McMurry came in. He was one of the better-respected folks in the fandom at the time, and well-known as the creator of "Zonie Coyote" (http://www.glasswings.com.au/comics/zonie/ has a decent archive of various of Mike's published Zonie strips). He had a great sense of humor, was very sociable, and as a result tended to host informal "ZonieCons" where a bunch of us would get together and just sketch and drink and shoot the breeze. We simply took the idea and decided to make an actual convention out of it, with Mike's permission for use of Zonie as our mascot.
And that's how this whole mess started, officer.