They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I suppose it is true. But what does one do when the imitator is a lunatic who soils your character's reputation?
I created Nekobe, or "Nakobi", as he was originally known. The pronunciations are the same. For the story behind how that came to be, you can click here. He was a popular character, and I enjoyed the letters I got from his growing army of fans. The fact that so many people were enjoying his adventures gave me the energy to keep thinking up new ones for him.
One day in 1998, though, someone sent me a note telling me that someone had created a lion character on TapestriesMuck named "Nekobe." The same character showed up as well on TheLionKingMuck. The person who told me thought I would be mad, but I was not. "As long as he is playing the character true to his nature, then I do not mind."
"That's the problem," I was told. "He's not."
OK. Now I was mad.
I started trying to track this person down. I wanted to talk to him, preferably in a rational fashion, and explain that I did not want my character to be played by someone who was not going to do it right. I never could catch him. Sadly, as time went on, more and more reports started to come in. This person, by name Bart Bervoets, was a Belgian national with a lion-fetish and a serious case of delusional paranoia. The world was constantly plotting against him...and perhaps it was, considering how much of a jerk he was being. He had earned a very long reputation for begging his way into people's homes, and then freaking out. He would threaten them, fly into irrational rages, and on many occasions demand sex from them, claiming to have a heart condition that would case him to die if they did not have sex with him. These poor folks would throw him out of the house, and would then be villified by him on the newsgroups for "trying to murder him."
The stories were growing more alarming,and worst of all, this cretin was becoming known far and wide as "Nekobe."
I had my chance in 1999 when the chairman of Anthrocon told me that this Bervoets had signed up for the convention. As a favor, he inquired of Bervoets if his name was intended to be the character created by Rogue. This is what he replied:
Rogue can claim no ownership of this character. I got this character from a cartoon in Great Britain from the 1970's called The Adventures of Nakobi and Nekobe. They are two janitor lions who teach children about brushing teeth.
Now, I am never one to discount a coincindence out of hand, but this was just too much. This cartoon, which nobody else in the world had ever heard of, featured two janitor lions with homonymic names which just happened to be the same ones I had invented? Either this fellow was really delusional, or he is just an out and out liar.
But it got worse. At Anthrocon Bervoets proved that he is not only insane, but dangerously so. He followed people around, demanding sex from them. When they would not agree, he called the police and claimed they were using drugs. He threatened people, making many references to his friends in the "Russian Mafia" and claiming to have killed at least one of his schoolteachers with a bomb.
Anthrocon's committee told him never to come back. He retaliated with threats and accusations of the convention supporting drug use and child pornography, but the chairman did not back down. To this day he is not permitted into the convention.
Since that time Bervoets has harrassed and bullied many others in the furry community. He even went so far as to stalk one poor fellow who called the police. Bervoets was arrested and jailed, released on bail, and then promptly fled the country, never appearing before the court. He is now a wanted fugitive, yet still continues to torment the community with his threats and by tricking unwitting newcomers into letting him move in with them...much to their abiding dismay.
And the sad result is that the name of "Nekobe," so cherished by his creator and by his fans, is now indelibly associated by the world at large with a twisted psychotic. At many gatherings I cannot even mention the name without a great howl of protest arising. You can imagine, then, that my enthusiasm for the character was greatly diminished. It takes a lot of energy and dedicated creative thought to formulate a proper Nekobe story, but any time I tried to write about him, all I could think about was the pustulent little Belgian, and I could not continue.
In recent months I have been able to muster a tiny bit of the old creative spirit, enough to give us Dear Lyell and the very brief A Letter, Delayed. It will be a long time, though, before I have the heart to tell the next chapter in Nekobe's lifetime, and it will not be likely to happen while the Belgian is still out there spouting his twisted lies and dragging my poor lion's name through the mud.
A little bit of cheer from Wotan.
I got to know a Canadafur by the name of Wotan when I attended CampFeral 2001. I told him the story of what happened, and he was particularly amused by the claims of the alleged oral hygiene cartoon. Here he has drawn how he imagines how my story must have been converted within the Belgian's disjointed brain.