…just as soon as I find the sewing machine.
In fact, it’s actually in this photo–can you spot Gandalf the White in his handy traveling case? What I really need to find is sewing space! I’m sure I packed that in one of those boxes…
The Jaws theme:
…no, wait, that’s the sound of my impending dissertation defense. In just over a week.
See you all on the other side. I hope!
Per my previous post about being a card-carrying Jedi, I’m (finally) back to report on my first Troop, or Rebel Legion event. Ooooooh, aaaaaah! This past Saturday evening I attended USA Hockey’s Star Wars Night with other members of the Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison. I met my first Chewbacca (7′ 3″ in costume, 6′ 8″ out of it!) as well as a variety of Storm Troopers, an ARC Clone Trooper, Boba Fett, a few Jedi, Han Solo, etc. Here we all are:
Yup, we all managed to walk onto the ice, in street shoes, and not fall down. My mom joked that because I am an Old Lady Jedi, I should get a lightsaber hilt and attach it to a cane. I think this is BRILLIANT and would be perfect for more ice-walks.
Because it was SW Night we basically mingled with the game attendees and also got to throw t-shirts into the audience between the second and third periods. (Hockey games have three periods. Did you know that? I’m not sure I did… Must rewatch Mighty Ducks soon.) They also gave us space to set up a table, where we had a “blasting range;” for $1 kids got to shoot a Nerf Star Wars blaster at our targets (and a few of our helmet-and-armor-wearing costumers) and then collect a prize — all the money went to the Mott Community Childrens Hospital. I manned the blasting range for a while, and let me tell you…kids + Nerf gun = DUCK AND COVER! Suddenly building a set of Storm Trooper armor doesn’t sound like such a bad idea (and it protects against snake bites — did anyone see this article??).
Lesson learned from my first Troop: I need a lightsaber, even if I am an old lady. And for “need” read “would really like.” So I’m saving up for a fancy one that actually lights up, makes sounds, and has a detachable blade. The editing job I’m doing for a professor right now looks like it’s going to pay for quite a bit of it, so yay!
In cosplay news…well, there isn’t any. And for that I’m going to blame/thank author Michael J. Sullivan, whose Riyria series pretty much ate up an entire week of my life and then some. I picked up Theft of Swords while home on break–my sister had checked it out from the library–and started reading it on a whim, and then I basically did absolutely nothing else for the next week other than read. When I got through the six-book Revelations series so I went and bought the two Riyria Chronicles and read those as well. And then I finished and my life had a giant Riyria-shaped hole in it (seriously guys, I stayed up till almost 3am after I finished, hoping the characters would be okay now that I wasn’t there to watch over them. I am SAD.). I’m not going to do an actual book review since this is supposed to be a costuming blog, but if you are into fantasy I absolutely recommend picking them up. The story starts fairly simply but gets more and more involved and intricate as the series goes on, and the characters are spectacular–I love love love guy friendships in books, and Royce and Hadrian, the main characters, are an amazing pair. And Hadrian has the same name as a Roman emperor, so that totally makes this relevant to the “Classics” half of this blog. *Cough* Really.
Speaking of giant Riyria-shaped holes and guy friendships, the solution my brain came up with to fill said hole was to just go off and do some writing myself. I’m one of those people who has been trying to write a fantasy novel for years and has yet to succeed, with the single exception of my 2012 NaNo novel (I don’t think my LOTR fanfictions of 13+ years ago count, and though I reached 50K words in NaNo 13 I didn’t actually finish telling the story). The list of reasons for my lack of success is long and boring, but I’ve noticed that one of my many problems is that I either have characters I want to write about but no plot, or a plot but characters who feel like afterthoughts because I’ve just stuck them in the story to do the things I want done. Which is bad. The point of this is that, since reading the Riyria books, I’ve written nearly 30,000 words, and while there is, yet again, little to no plot to be seen in any of this, I’m actually really enjoying just getting to know my two new characters, and have so far been able to stave off the nagging feeling that I Must Come Up With A Brilliant, Unique, And Intricate Plot Right Now. (Holy crap does capitalizing every word slow down your typing speed.) Hopefully if I stick with them long enough, they’ll tell me what they want to do.
P.S. New life goal: cosplay Royce Melborn. Not even kidding.
Sara Bareilles’ “Cassiopeia”:
I LOVE THIS SONG!
In other news, my Jocasta skirt is re-hemmed! Score!
I realized upon scrolling through recent posts that I haven’t done a costume update in quite a while, mostly because there hasn’t been a whole lot about which to update. For example, I hosted a prospective grad student back in March, at which point I’d been working on Jocasta for 3 months. Last week this student asked me about the costume, and of course, it’s still not done!! BUT! I am happy to report that I’m about 85-90% of the way through the ansata, after which I just have to re-interface, line, and bind the tabards. Then the costume will be done!
Then I just have to make a pouch.
And some librarian tools.
And a lightsabre.
And a holocron.
And then figure out what I’m going to do about my hair. (Does “clown grease paint” sound a little iffy to anyone else?)
…erm, yes. I do have some Pikachu progress, but unfortunately only one picture to show for it:
^Pants and top, with an old bridesmaid’s dress bodice standing in for the actual bodice for now. I’m planning to disassemble it and use it for pattern pieces because it’s just about the right size and shape. Who says you’ll never use your bridesmaid dresses again?
I’ve lost count of the number of fabrics I’ve dyed for this cosplay. Actually, no, I haven’t. It’s 3. Which is a lot fewer than it feels like! In addition to dyeing the yellow fabric pictured above to make it a bit more golden/orange, I also dyed dupioni silk AND DID NOT DESTROY IT! Seriously, I’m considering this a huge accomplishment. And then I darkened some basic cotton for the chrysanthemum kanzashi I’ll be making for the hairpiece. I’m also pseudo-stenciling flowers onto another fabric for the skirt-thing and gauntlets.
Short version: None of the fabrics needed for this costume exists in pure form in the natural world. I’m having the same problem finding stuff for Raava. Do they not make white upholstery fabric?
*mental montage of kids, dogs, liquid spills, new-blue-jean dye stains. . .*
Oh. I see your point.
On a different note, I visited the American Sewing Expo today! It was a little underwhelming, actually, probably because 1) the last dealer hall I was in was GenCon’s (56000+ attendees, remember?), and 2) I didn’t attend any seminars but mostly roamed the dealer hall and heckled Karmada, who was giving panels and serving as one of their “costume experts.” Because ASE had a focus on costumes this year, I went in my lolita, and then spent the day explaining that I wasn’t actually in a costume per se, or dressed as a specific character, but was actually wearing a Japanese street fashion. I got a lot of really nice comments on it — people especially liked the kanzashi — my favorite of which was from a woman at the McCall booth who said she’d recently been to Harajuku in Japan and had seen girls dressed in the exact same style. Yay, I’m doing it right!
I also met Andrea Schewe, who designs patterns for Simplicty. She was really nice and very enthusiastic about costuming (yay!), and also kind of looked like Meryl Streep (bonus points!). She’s also responsible for the kimono pattern (Sim 4080) I used for my lolita top. As I told her, and several other people, I’m still enamored of the awesome sleeve-lining technique in that pattern, which I never could have come up with on my own. Amusingly, when I told this to the people at the Simplicity booth, they were surprised, and pleased, that I’d managed to figure it out — apparently they get “help!” calls all the time about that part of the pattern. 😛 I don’t usually say this, but… trust the pattern, everyone! It will all come out well in the end!
Not a lot else to report. As one of the guests, Karmada got to set up a series of cosplays in their display area; every outfit but the black one with the burgundy bodice is hers:
At far left are her and her cosplay partner’s World Cosplay Summit costumes from this past year, Watanuki and Kohane from XXXholic (yes, someone did name a manga series XXXholic. No idea. . .) Anyway, shiny kimono-y goodness!
And now, I’m going to put on Mulan and stitch some more ansata. Which reminds me: who’s excited for the premiere of Star Wars Rebels?? Meeeeeeeeeee!
So I was going to write about the serious Impostor Syndrome I’ve been experiencing lately in pretty much every aspect of my life, including con-related things, but then I figured the world really doesn’t need another melodramatic post about someone’s insecurities, so instead, how about a writeup of my first time at GenCon?
GenCon, which bills itself as “The Best Four Days in Gaming”, is a gaming convention (tabletop, RPGs, dice and card games, some computer games, and so on) that also encompasses a lot of sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasm: costuming, writing, crafting, etc. They have panels on everything from Pathfinder, WoW, and D&D, to writing urban fantasy, to make-and-take craft projects. This year GC had 180,000+ attendees over the course of the weekend and 56000+ unique attendees total, which makes it the biggest con I’ve been to by far (ACEN pulled almost 30000 unique attendees this year). I’ve also heard that GC is the second biggest moneymaker for the city of Indianapolis only after the Superbowl, and GC is an annual Indy event, so it may even be making more in the grand scheme of things. Take THAT, football!
I’ve never gone before mostly because I’m really not much of a gamer. My family tends to play really simple games like Hand and Foot, Cribbage, Scrabble, and Apples to Apples, and I haven’t been in a tabletop RPG since college (I played a French exchange student. Ask ThatGameGirl about my French accent. Suffice to say, it wasn’t always French. :P) I’m also one of those people who doesn’t like to invite herself to things, but this year desire not to feel left out trumped discomfort at inviting myself along, so I did. And I’m really glad I did!
Rather than give you a day-by-day rundown, I’m going to just talk about some of the big things, both in terms of importance and in terms of the differences between GC and the average anime convention.
NB: All photos watermarked Crash Bang Labs are, obviously, taken by Karmada, and are pulled from her writeup of GC, which can be read here.
Not all cons are well organized, and even the best can encounter glitches or unexpected swarms of people. ACEN 2011, I believe it was, was a nightmare for Will-call; I heard stories about people standing in line an entire day waiting to pick up their badge. Autograph signings and big industry panels are also places you find Big Lines, and sometimes people will stand in them for hours only to have the line cut off in front of them.
Not at GenCon. Karmada, her husband Aris, and Kristy from ThatGameGirl and I carpooled down Wednesday evening and arrived at the convention centre to get our stuff at about 10pm, because apparently they had Will-call open all night. Even at 10pm, the badge line was huuuuuge:
This is just a small fraction of it, but we climbed in at the end anyway and then realized no one had thought to bring along any form of entertainment. Except Karamda, whose 3DS batteries turned out to be dead. Whoooops. We were in the line, I dunno, maybe 15-20 minutes? It was incredible how fast it moved. They clearly have it down to a science (SCIENCE!): tons of stations open at Will-call with everyone working efficiently. Gold stars!
The con’s method of preventing line build-up during the con is to distribute tickets to their panels in advance, via their website. Want to attend a seminar on writing urban fantasy? Go to the GC website, find the writing panels, and get a ticket for the panel in question, then bring it to the panel and they let you in, no fuss. Some panels cost money (for supplies, or honoraria for the guests), but many are free. I’ll admit, I found this all terribly confusing at first since they have about 10 different panel types (seminars, workshops, “spouse activities” for the non-gamers, gaming, etc.) and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing, but once I got the hang of it it was really handy. An added bonus is that having your tickets with you means you can reference them at any time, so you won’t have trouble remembering when/where your panels are.
It turns out that most of Indy, or at least the part around the convention centre, isn’t afraid of geeks! They even had signs!
Many of the restaurants have themed menus for the weekend, and the priest at Mass said he and his fellow priests were gamers and had been attending the con (seriously, hearing that was one of my favorite parts of the con and it wasn’t even part of the con! Fr. Sean, you be awesome.). Bee Coffee Roasters across the street had quite possibly the best coffee I’ve had this side of the Mediterranean, as well as an awesome sign:
and Enterprise crew members brewing espresso:
I also got a free Bee Coffee die from them for filling out their special GenCon weekend punch card (yeah, I bought a loooot of coffee there):
(Bottom left; yes, that middle die really is that massive. AND PRETTY!)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was a Colts game Saturday evening (is that football? I don’t even know…) and many of the “sports cosplayers” walked right past the con site. Most of them were completely floored, if the looks on their faces were any indication. I heard that one cosplayer was going around asking Colts fans for their photos. LOVE IT. Me, I snapped a few photos without asking:
Speaking of local stuff, how about some
Food trucks are AWESOME. Rather than getting stuck with overpriced hotel restaurants, or local places (which in downtown Indy are not a problem but at other cons are often too far away to walk to), we had our choice of an array of food trucks which pulled up along the curb across from the con centre. They rotated throughout the day — either two or three cycles (lunch, dinner, and maybe late-night dessert/snacks?), so we had a ton of variety. I had Indian twice (because I LOVE Indian) but from two different trucks, as well as a BLT, gourmet mac ‘n’ cheese, and an amazing ginger mango popsicle. Here’s a rather poor shot. The food trucks are running along the right side of the photo; the tasty Indian food is in the green truck:
They weren’t cheap, but I wouldn’t say they were overpriced, either. I think my Indian was around $8 or $9 and my mac ‘n’ cheese was similar. The desserts were kind of pricey, but I think that’s going to be the case anywhere. Anywhoo, food trucks, you need to come to ACEN! And other cons! FEED ME!
I mentioned the array of panels GC offers above, but just wanted to share a few that I went to. Not being a gamer, I stuck mostly with “spouse activity” and writing panels. SA panels are designed for spouses who don’t game but come along (or get dragged along!) anyway. I get the impression they’re mostly for women because they involve a lot of crafts (knitting, crochet, bookbinding), activities (yoga, how to dance Thriller (yes, really)) and tours of local Indy shops and markets, but both of my bookbinding panels had men in them, too. I learned two different forms of Coptic stitch binding from the owner of Indy Upcycle, one for hardback journals and one for leather. It was coooooool and I will be making more, because I somehow managed to acquire a surfeit of leather while making Kit’s sheaths.
Aside from those, which both cost money to cover the cost of supplies (leather, yo!), I went to a lot of writing panels. One on constructing realistic biospheres for your fantasy novel (plants!) and one on writing short stories, just to name two. I also ended up in a panel with guest author Jim Butcher for which I didn’t have a ticket — if there are open spots they will let extra people in on a first-come, first-served basis, and I managed to squeeze in and stood in the back because by that point, I was really sick of sitting on my tail and two swords. 😛 Which brings me to…
I’ll be honest, I was underwhelmed by the cosplay scene. I was expecting a lot of people to be there dressed as their RP characters, which turned out to be the case, but it also turned out that many of the people dressed as their RP characters were, to me, virtually indistinguishable from Renaissance Faire-goers. I saw more men (and a few women) in kilts on Thursday at GC than I usually see at the Michigan Ren Fest. Which is all fine — I am a Rennie myself and love garb, but I was expecting a lot more of this:
World’s best hat(s), hands down. Which is not to say there weren’t some awesome and creative costumes there (I saw everything from a Lego Batman to Bunsen and Beaker from the Muppets to part of the cast from Recess):
…just that in a con of 55K+ people, I thought there’d be a lot more! On the other hand, I spotted many, many nerdy t-shirts, all of which were awesome.
None of that prevented me from cosplaying, of course. I was Kit from Fey Winds on Thursday and Saturday, Kim Possible on Friday, and Angry!UniKitty from the Lego Movie on Sunday:
As you can see, Karmada and I tried to have “Red-headed Heroines Day” on Friday, except it turned out that we’d both scheduled so many panels and events that day that we were able to see each other for about 5 minutes. Whoooops. Oh well.. we patrolled more of the con for evil villains and alien threats that way! 😛 Didn’t find any.
In fact, if I had any complaint about my GC experience (other than a cosplay/body-image crisis on Thursday) it would be that I didn’t actually see as much of my friends as I’d have liked. Now, on the one hand, that’s good, because we each have our own interests and want to get different things out of the experience, and following someone to a panel I didn’t want to go to, or dragging them to one, just because we’re friends would have been worse. The fact that we don’t need to hang out 24/7 at cons is great, and the more experiences others have the more you get out of the con as a whole, even if it’s just by hearsay from a friend.
On the other hand, I think I’ll try harder next year to go to at least a few panels with other people, because it’s fun to be able to share experiences and bounce ideas off each other and scare our neighbors with inside jokes. *cough* On Sunday afternoon we all just sat in the hall as the con was winding down and watched people walk by, posed occasionally for photos (Sunday is family day and lots of kids recognized Karmada and Samaru), and just talked and drank coffee, and it was actually a lot of fun. Granted, I wouldn’t spend a 4-day event doing just that, but I’m definitely going to try to experience more actual con stuff, like panels, alongside other people next year.
Shout-out to Alena from “…And Sewing Is Half the Battle!” for letting us stay with her Wed and Sunday nights, and also for letting me play with her heat gun and Worbla. Worbla is straaanngee. I also played my first Pathfinder RPG on Sunday evening with ASIHTB and Friends. As a goblin. Who liked to stab things. Two words: RECKLESS ABANDON!!
P.S. I slayed a Dalek:
The fact that I have to start nearly every blog post here with “Hey guys—I’m not dead!” seems especially appropriate today since I want to share a review of Laura VanArendonk Baugh (say that five times fast!)’s murder mystery novel Con Job, in which would-be detective Jacob and his friends have only three days to find a murderer before the fan convention they’re attending ends and all the con-goers — and the murderer — head home.
That’s right, this is a murder mystery at a con. *Pause for geek-out.*
Cosplayers who read my blog (are there any?) might know Laura as one-third of cosplay group “And Sewing Is Half the Battle!” She’s got more years of cosplay experience than I have experience being alive (okay, not quite…), and not only cosplays but also gives panels, participates in and judges masqs, and staffs cons. Suffice to say she has the bases covered, and she brings all of her con knowledge and general nerdery to this book.
Here’s the blurb from the back:
Jacob just wanted to have a good time with his friend Samantha and fellow geeks at the fan convention. But when dead bodies start turning up, Jacob has to start a little early on his hoped-for detective career. After all, the police are out of their depth in a world where nearly everyone wears a costume or uses an alias. But Jacob has a secret of his own, and it looks like someone is bent on revealing him to the entire con. If Jacob’s history comes out, his police career will end before it begins, even if he can find the killer. And if he can’t, more fans will die.
*Dramatic gasp* DUN DUN DUUUUNNN! (No, I haven’t had any coffee today; why do you ask?)
Anywhoo… This book is awesome. And fun. Except for the murders. *cough* Laura has a fast-paced writing style that works really well for this type of story. On the one hand, it lends a sense of urgency to the mystery itself — I read the first 3/4ths of the book in one sitting and stayed up waaaay past my usual bed time doing so. I would probably have kept going but the idea of 6:45am finally drove me to bed. On the other hand, it also conveys the bustling activity of a con, from cosplay to voice acting contests to tabletop tournaments. Her characters get stopped in the hallway for photos and have to visit Con Ops to have their prop weapons approved and tagged. Discussions about Worbla (see my previous post) break out spontaneously. My Little Ponies accidentally photobomb a Star Trek photoshoot. And so on.
Jacob, on the other hand, ends up helping staff the con, so we get to see both the attendee and the staff perspective. I’ve staffed one con (AnimeWorld Chicago 2012) and would definitely do it again, but lemme tell you, it’s madness even without murder, and Laura knows it.
A few highlights:
Geeky references. This book is full of ’em, and I’m ashamed to say I probably missed quite a few even so. First there are references to “real” things and fandoms, like Marvel, LOTR, Doctor Who, Naruto, and so on. Voice-actor Rob Paulsen also gets a shoutout. On the other hand there are thinly-veiled nods to real things. A girl cosplays a character from the artist-group CLUTCH, for example, and I’m pretty sure the photographer character is based on Elemental Photography. And like I said, there are probably a bunch I missed (Mr. Doobles, anyone?).
Jacob’s secret. I was initially a little doubtful that this secret, if revealed, would actually prevent Jacob from pursuing his detective career, but by the end I was pretty much sold — Laura touches on it enough to make you realize the impact it’s had on Jacob’s life and could still have on his future without letting it bog the story, or the character, down. And I gotta say, the last scene was amazing, and completely satisfying.
Actual fan-community issues. Jacob and co deal with everything from verbal abuse at the hands of non-con-goers, to the serious difficulties and frustrations presented by the way anime is licensed for distribution in the US (as one character puts it, “people are mad because they can’t pay for a product instead of stealing it”), to the outrageously-low prices charged by convention photographers, to ridiculous room-sharing (wanna spend less at the con? Room with 11 other people!), to the evils of body paint (guess what happens when you paint yourself gray and then sit on hotel furniture? Yup.). The last is probably my favorite, and is a (mostly) gentle nudge at the Homestuck fandom. I’m thinking copies of Con Job should come with complementary bottles of makeup sealer. The book doesn’t backhand you with any of these issues, but they’re definitely there, the bad with the good.
Is this a book for people who don’t attend cons? Being a congoer myself, I can’t really say, and I haven’t been able to get my mom to read the book yet. 😛 Several reporters and the police detective in charge of the investigation are all “outsiders” as it were, and provide plenty of opportunities for the con staff and attendees to explain what’s going on. Additionally, Jacob isn’t a cosplayer, so even when his friend Sam waxes enthusiastic about hand-dyed silk, the non-cosplaying reader has someone to sympathize with. If you don’t attend cons you’ll definitely have a different experience reading this book than I did, but I don’t think you’ll be downright confused.
One final note: the jacket art was done by my friend Karmada, which just makes this book that much more awesome. Available at Amazon!
P.s. If you do get a copy, be sure to leave Laura a review when you’ve finished reading. It’s one of the best things you can do for a self-publishing author.