GenCon ’15 and the end of an era

Hi all! It’s time for a major update and hopefully a return (beginning) to blogging more regularly.

First, I submitted my dissertation for final approval on Friday, and yesterday morning I received my “This person has completed all the requirements for the PhD” certificate, so I am OFFICIALLY DONE! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay! I won’t get the actual diploma till at least December and probably more like Jan-Feb (although my Masters should be coming sometime this fall), but until then the certificate is hanging on the fridge. 😀

Backtrack to the first weekend of August, when I submitted my finished dissertation to my committee from Bee Coffee Roasters in downtown Indianapolis, right in the middle of GenCon. Cue almost instant panic–what if I forgot something? What if they hate it and rip it apart? What if etc. etc. etc.

A month-ish later I had my defense, and fortunately they did not hate it. I was, however, attacked by a kamikaze bumblebee on the way in, and since I haven’t been stung by a bee in about 20 years… you guessed it: cue instant panic. What if I die?? What if I go into anaphylactic shock and have to go to the hospital and miss my defense? Fortunately neither of those things happened, but I did defend barefoot because my shoe strap sat exactly overtop the bee sting and the two bandaids I put on it. So…. yeah. Dissertation defenses. Good times.

Anyhow, back to GenCon! Other than mild dissertation-submission panic it was great! I pretty much spent all my time at the Writer’s Symposium, where I was lucky enough to meet Scott Lynch and Michael J. Sullivan, two authors I’ve been reading recently. You may recall me gushing about reading Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations in a previous post, so I was especially excited to meet him.

Cosplay-wise it was a very Star Wars-y weekend. I’ve almost finished my “generic Jedi” for the Rebel Legion and it was done enough to wear (just needs props on the belt), so I did Jocasta twice, generic Jedi, and then an obscure Sunday cosplay:


Anyone recognize me? 16 people at GenCon did, which was 15 more than I expected. 😀 I’m really happy with how the helmet came out given all the straight lines I had to do and my ongoing inability to spraypaint things properly. It shouldn’t be that hard, right? You spray it on, it dries, you do a happy dance, repeat. AND YET!

My friend Karmada debuted her Halo armor as Agent Texas from Red vs. Blue. It is super awesome and makes her look big and imposing and all space-marine-y. We managed to get a few photos together but got a bit confused partway through:

“Wait, what do I do with this?”

So good times had by all. I marched in the costume parade with a whole bunch of other SW folks, met a Wookie from Australia, and spilled chicken tikka masala all down the front of Jocasta (but it came out! THANK GOODNESS!). Many tasty Bee Coffee lattes were drunk, many out-of-town friends were visited, and the passive voice was used with reckless abandon.

Next up: staffing Anime World Expos in Chicago!

P.s. If you don’t recognize me, I’m Commander Keen from the 1990s video/computer came of the same name. Still hunting for a lightweight pogo stick.


Updates and the American Sewing Expo

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:

IMG_1567 (533x800)^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!

In theory.

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:

Photo by LunaLadyofLight Productions

Photo by LunaLadyofLight Productions

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.

Local Color

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!

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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:

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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:

Sports cosplayers.

Sports cosplayers.

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:

DSCN6987 (800x600)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.

My awesomely pink journal.

My awesomely pink journal.

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:

Karmada in her awesome Lvl. 50 Weaver from FFXIV. Photo not taken at GenCon.

Karmada in her awesome Lvl. 50 Weaver from FFXIV. Photo not taken at GenCon.

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):

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…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:

Photo by Karmada

Bare stomach, yo! Photo by Karmada

Kim Possible, w/Karmada as Gwen Tennyson

Kim Possible, w/Karmada as Gwen Tennyson

 Angry!UniKitty, with Rajamitsu as Business!UniKitty, Karmada as Emmet, and Samaru as BadCop.

Angry!UniKitty, with Rajamitsu as Business!UniKitty, Karmada as Emmet, and Samaru as BadCop.

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:


Shuto Con

You can probably tell from the content of the most recent blog posts that not much cosplay is going on over here. I’ve hit a block on Jocasta, as my attempt to transfer the ansata using the overhead projector failed (it blew the image up too big and I could zoom in far enough to actually make it fit the fabric); next up is trying the computer projector rather than the traditional transparency projector. If that doesn’t work, it’s off to find higher quality transfer paper. Meanwhile, all of my free time otherwise has been taken up by a Harry Potter marathon. Three words: DOWN WITH UMBRIDGE!

I did attend ShutoCon in Lansing on Saturday, just for the day, since my friend at That Game Girl was giving panels and offered me a ride. Hilarity ensued. Seriously, did you know it’s possible to pull muscles in your cheeks if you laugh too hard? IT TOTALLY IS.

Despite the fact that I was dressed as a fashion photographer (Photo Finish), which not only gives me license to carry my camera but practically requires it, I still only managed to get a few good cosplay shots, although I have a GREAT one of TGG miming laying a dragon egg at one of her panels. Here are the few that I did get, though, for your viewing pleasure!


Ms. Frizzle, complete with Liz! This was such a well-made costume — all the applique looked great!


Steampunk Ursula, complete with…



Amazing back..power-upper… thing!



My friend Karmada from Crash Bang Labs as her Level 50 Weaver, Gaufrier, from FFXIV.



Queen Elsa from Frozen. Her cloak was AWESOME and shiny. She was also willing, despite the massive cloak and dress, to participate in a bunch of TGG’s interactive games, some of which included dropping dead and other potentially costume-dirtying things. Props to you, Elsa cosplayer!


Flim and Flam from My Little Pony, complete with their Miracle Tonic! They even sang me their song.


Moments before an epic battle broke out between the two sides. Some 501st, I assume, and possible Rebel Legion members as well.


CAFFEINATE! CAFFEINATE! From the episode “Victory of the Daleks”


…and, since I mentioned it, TGG laying an egg. Fair warning, if she finds it, I might have to take it down. 😉