Remembering Ian Curtis (1946-2021) - A founding father of the British furry fandom
Ian George Stuart Curtis passed away some time in May of 2021. He was one of the founding fathers of the furry fandom in the UK.
Born in December 1946 in Hull, he grew up on Disney cartoons and funny animal comics like Bonzo the Dog and Rupert Bear. By the time he was in his teens, he also developed interests in wargaming, comics, science fiction and fantasy games as well.
While working as a writer for the military press, he travelled to the USA regularly and used his leisure time to frequent the comic book and science fiction conventions there. This was how he met early furry fans like Pauli Kidd and discovered furry fandom. By the 1990s, he was in contact with fans in the US, Australia, and the UK.
In 1992, a small group of furry comic artists, writers, and fans planned a trip to the International Comics Festival in Angoulême, France. One of the artists in the group, Monika Livingstone, wrote to Ian Curtis ahead of time, to ask about visiting England and meeting British furries. Ian invited them to his house, and to bring over a few UK furry fans as well for a weekend housecon to socialize, talk and share furry comics.
Ian was experienced at planning housecons, inspired by the those organized by Diplomacy wargaming fans in the 1970s and 80s. He had also previously hosted housecons for fans of Elfquest. The furry group going to France accepted his invitation, which happened during the return leg of their journey. Online, the event was dubbed as the "UK MicroConFurence". At least six UK furries and seven US furries attended, and it proved to be a successful weekend.
Following a further housecon in Wales, the meetups would return to Ian Curtis' home and became a quarterly event called the Yateley Housecon, coinciding with conventions like Confurence and Eurofurence. The housecons would grow in size, reaching 25-30 attendees at their peak. They remained one of the popular UK furry events throughout the 1990s. Even furries from the US and Europe would attend on occasion. These would eventually be superseded by the rising regular furmeets, beginning with one in London in March 1998, and continued to run all the way up to the end of 2019, only stopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to a few of his friends, I got a chance to talk to Ian Curtis while doing research for my book on the history of the furry fandom in the UK. He even invited me to a housecon at his home in October of 2019. He was a very friendly, open, and welcoming person, who was happy to share stories and memories of housecons in the past, as well as showing me some of his comics collection. Xanadu became a favourite of mine thanks to him.
Without Ian Curtis, the furry fandom in the UK wouldn't have grown the way it has to the scale it's at now, with furmeets and conventions throughout the country. It was an honour to speak with him, and I would like to give my condolences to his family and friends.
As a final note, while the story I've given here was based on my research and the conversations I had with him, I shouldn't take full credit. Pauli Kidd was the one who broke the news, and provided a lengthy obituary of him on their FA Journal.