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Justin Carpenter is an early-fandom furry artist and writer better known by his fandom name Dusty Rancourt, not to be confused with fellow early fandom mainstay Don "Dusty" Rhoades. Justin became active in the furry fandom in 1990 with contributions to the Tezuka and later St. Norbert College Avatar furry archives, and appeared at several mid-Nineties furry conventions as a dealer. Justin's art is best known for its judicious use of the "triangle eye" (made famous by such artists as Michele Light and Eric W. Schwartz), and for portraits of early FurryMUCK personalities such as Stash, Midori Hatamoto and Telzey Amberdon. Justin has been cited as an influence for such artists as Jessica Willard, Tremaine H. Fox, Patrick Little, and Waccoon.
His formerly gregarious MUCK love life has earned his such dubious titles as "The Good Time Had By All Online" and "FurryMUCK's Liz Taylor", as well as his place beside MUCK personalities Lochiel and Cinnamon DeWolf as "The Big Bad Wolves Of FurryMUCK," a group of wolf characters cited as exemplary of "archetypical wolven behaviors" during the fox-versus-wolf debate years of the MUCK. He approaches these "distinctions" with some degree of embarrassment today.
Justin's primary character contribution to furry fandom, Dusty Rancourt, is a high-risk entrepreneur and venture investor who runs the fictional independent music label, Equinox Records. Dusty has been described as "equal parts Hugh Hefner and Hugh Grant," both everyman and wish fulfillment self-cipher, and his life serves as equal parts vicarious fantasy wish fulfillment and externalized reflection and critique of the same. He has appeared on several MUCK's, in several short stories and serial novellas, and peripherally in the writing of other authors, such as his wife Stacie Carpenter, Tim "Ravenwolf" Johnson and Tremaine H. Fox.
A few "alternate" versions of Dusty exist, with different histories and backstories. A science fiction adaptation of the character exists with a slightly modified life story, as does a gaslight fantasy version of the character on FurToonia. Dusty's IC entrepreneurial projects over the years have included The Mind's Eye Artist Lounge (FurryMUCK and FurToonia), Visions (FurryMUCK and The American Riviera MUCK), the Gypsy Theatre (FurToonia), Equinox Records (Tapestries and The American Riviera MUCK), and The Original Four Star gentleman's club (The American Riviera MUCK and Tapestries).
Dusty performed for several years at the Fur-Le-Dance club on FurryMUCK, and is best remembered for his performances of Julee Cruise's "The Nightingale" and Iam Siam's "In The Common Tongue." As of 2002, logs of these performances were still in circulation in furry story collections.
Justin stated in 2006 that he would not be writing future stories involving Dusty, outside of the San Paolo stories written supporting the American Riviera MUCK and the "alternate world Dusty" appearing in his wife's One Man's Trash novel.
Justin's best known story arc (in development from 1993 to 2003) starred Dusty Rancourt as a dissident in a near-future Earth who, at the time a 'companion dimension' was discovered, staked claim to a large parcel of land at the dimensional edge he named Jeancrest and created private transportation channels prior to legislation being passed to prohibit his actions. Over time, Dusty grew from merely an eccentric wealthy figure with an odd choice in summer homes to the dictator of a tiny dimensional "island nation," and in the end, the god-king of an atavistic nation-state. Two novellas, both unfinished, were written chronicling key events in the history of Jeancrest, titled Grace Under Fire and Come What May, as well as years of notes and ogs of interactively roleplayed scenes. When Justin separated from his collaborator and now ex-wife in late 2002, he abandoned the entire Jeancrest story arc as written to date, planning to rewrite the story from the beginning.
In 2004, at the time of his departure from furry fandom, he announced that he had no plans to write any future Jeancrest stories, though some of the Jeancrest characters have found their way into the San Paolo stories.
Justin's current story series is being written entirely interactively in the shared world of The American Riviera MUCK with cowriters Traveller Blues, Silver James and his wife Stacie Carpenter, and has been named for the fictional California coastal town of San Paolo which appears in them, even though the town and its residents occupy merely a small corner of the storyscape. These stories take the "circles of acquaintanceship linking multiple otherwise unrelated substories" approach to storytelling that past furry serials such as Omaha the Cat Dancer and Shanda the Panda have employed. Rather than being plot-driven, these stories are ensemble cast "slice of life" situation comedy/drama/romances, illustrative of life in coastal California. These stories focus less upon his character Dusty Rancourt in particular, and more upon the lives Dusty has touched and changed for his presence, over the years.
Early "shared world" writings from San Paolo include Traveller Blues' diary of Charlie Winthrop, and the occasional IC interactions on the exceedingly low-tech San Paolo web site.
The Fandom Essays
Justin announced his discomfort with the fandom in late 2004 due to a series of grievances with furry fandom social dynamics, outlined in a series of highly volatile treatises (characterized by some as rants) referred to by the collective title "The Fandom Essays". In these, he suggests that furry fandom has taken a collective affirmative stance on alternative lifestyles and sexualities, and argues that affinity for "animal-people" is the only common point of agreement for furry fans.
Critics of these essays have argued that the author's bitterness has damaged the points he hoped to make by writing them, and some have compared his beliefs to the Burned Fur movement, or to anti-furry-fandom trolls such as the Something Awful goons. Others cite that the essays' circulation today is a testament to the endurance of the points made in them, and argue that Justin cites personal discomfort with certain practices and alternative lifestyles in his essays, but does not suggest censure of these lifestyles on moral grounds or any other, only a code of conduct to be courteous to non-lifestyle furry fans.
In August 2007, Justin released a sixth (and final) fandom essay in which he criticized his own efforts in writing the fandom essays, and apologized for what he believes to be mistakes in his reasoning. He observed that the trends toward greater sexualization of creative content, more libertine values and new candor about once-taboo topics of discussion in furry fandom's social culture can also be found in other fandoms and cultures, and that he believes he blamed furry fandom for what amounts to a change in times and in prevailing social mores. He is uncomfortable with these changes, but he asserts that he argued from the beginning that furry fandom should defer to the prevailing social norms of the day and age, and that this is exactly what the fandom is doing. Whether or not these cultural changes are good ones is a highly controversial matter, but no matter what the case, suggested the final essay, furry fandom itself is not responsible for them, cannot be held accountable for them, and cannot be reasonably expected not to adapt to the prevailing sociopolitical climate of the times, as it (being about animal-people) has no particular single sociopolitical stance of its own.
He also suggested that negative generalizations about the fandom do more harm than good, because they deter those who would object to such a negative climate, and suggest to those who would enjoy such a climate that they would be at home within the fandom. In trying to identify problems with the fandom, Justin now believes that he aided the very people he sought to censure, and cast suspicion and judgment upon those he would not have wished to censure, by promoting the message that furry fandom tacitly condoned (or at least quietly tolerated) various practices he considered offensive. He advises future malcontents to learn from his mistakes, and has abandoned the conclusions presented in the earlier essays completely, writing them off as "bitter, vitriolic crap."
Other notable works
Justin's is perhaps best known for collaborative character and plot development with such better-known furry fandom luminaries as Tim "Ravenwolf" Johnson (Lyssk and Rusted Earth realms), Tremaine and Dragon of the North. He partnered with his wife Stacie Carpenter to produce the furry science fiction serial One Man's Trash. He was the owner and webmaster of the [non-lifestyle] furry-friendly community web site House Rancourt (named for his primary furry alter ego) until its shutdown in March 2007. He is also the grandwiz and site administrator of The American Riviera MUCK, the site administrator of the Bauhaus family of web sites (many of which furry in nature), and serves as co-writer and editor for his wife Stacie Carpenter's ongoing and future literary projects.
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