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:

sm-CommanderKeen-Gencon2015-004

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.

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Cosplay what you love

I’ve had a lot of discussions with fellow cosplayers about cosplay fame, how to get noticed at cons or online, and whether it’s even worth trying. In the last year especially I have begun to care less and less about whether I get noticed. I distinctly recall going to GenCon last year, having a great time, and then coming home to a Facebook feed filled with professional cosplay photos and wondering, “Why do we think is so important?” It was a very eye-opening moment, and it made me pause and consider how often cosplayers, at least online, present themselves as, essentially, models.

That said, I love getting my picture taken as much as the next cosplayer–it’s a sign that someone is enthusiastic about your character/costume and wants to remember that they saw you, and it’s especially nice to have quality pictures that showcase your work. I want to share Oogli Sabers and Stuff‘s Jedi Temple guard costume because I think it’s very relevant to this discussion (also because I like saying the word Oogli):

Photo by Joits Photography: https://www.facebook.com/JoitsPhotography

Photo by Joits Photography: https://www.facebook.com/JoitsPhotography

These guards appear in just 3 episodes out of the entire 6-season Clone Wars show. I watched that whole show, but I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have recognized the character if I’d passed him at a con. When it comes to cosfame, a lot of people worry that if they cosplay characters that they like but who aren’t well known/from a popular show, they won’t get any attention. Of course there’s nothing wrong with cosplaying a recognizable and popular character, and hey, sometimes those are the best! But other times that minor character who only shows up in two episodes is the one you really want to do instead, and even if you aren’t cosplaying to get noticed, it can definitely be a downer when you’ve put so much work into a costume and then no one even looks at you. With that in mind, a few thoughts about getting (accidentally?) noticed, most inspired by this costume:

–Cosplay what you love. Whether you love the character or the costume design, you’re going to do a better job constructing the outfit if you care about what you’re representing, and you’re (probably) going to be less concerned about spending a bunch of money on a costume if you actually want to make it. Chances are you’ll also be more enthusiastic and confident wearing the outfit, which in itself can draw attention. No one wants to approach a sad, surly looking cosplayer.

–Cosplay it *well*. This costume may be obscure, but it is SO WELL DONE that the craftsmanship alone invites passersby to stop and look. Now, I’m NOT pushing the “do it right or not at all” mentality here; if you want to cosplay, do it, no matter your skill level. I do think it’s worth pointing out, though, that a clean, well made costume goes a looong way towards catching the eye, even if your fellow con-goers don’t know who you are. I always have time to look at a beautifully constructed costume!

–Step away from the real world. (What’s that? You’re dressed in a costume, wearing a wig, and surrounded by fellow geeks at a convention? No, further. Step further.) Again, this cosplay may be obscure, but it’s also a really cool costume design, and that definitely helps. Obviously picking a costume just for its flair can be problematic (picking it just because you want to get looked at, or choosing something so outlandish it’s going to make you broke/insane/both), but note that if you want attention and all your character is wearing is pants and an interesting coat, you may get mistaken for a congoer who just happens to be wearing a wig and shops at places cooler than JC Penny. *cough* True story, before I was familiar with Death Note I mistook an L cosplayer for someone who hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before and hadn’t bothered to brush her hair. *whistle* If you’re trying to decide on your next cosplay and you’ve got a list of ideas, all other things being equal, go for the most visually interesting. It might force you to learn new skills and try new patterns in the process!

–Get in a group. (This lesson is of course not inspired by the picture.) Story time: I went on a Rebel Legion troop last Saturday with Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and Boba Fett, among others. You walk into a carnival full of kids with those three characters and NO ONE is going to notice the three random Jedi walking around (okay, Jocasta’s not random, but she’s obscure, and kids go for well known face characters). The three of us plus Mara Jade decided we wanted some photos of ourselves at the carnival, so we all got together and started posing for our photographer. Immediately six people walking by stopped and whipped out their phones, and little kids started coming forward to pose with us. Lesson: the more of a spectacle you can make, the better.

Of course this requires having a group to cosplay with or being willing to invite yourself into others’ groups, and that’s HARD. I’m terrible at it, in large part because I go to so few cons that it’s difficult to even find someone I could group with who wouldn’t get frustrated at my constant lack of availability. That said, if you can get in a group, it can’t hurt. Plus it’s more fun.

–Carry a double-bladed lightsaber.

…okay, that one may not actually apply. But seriously, check out OS&S’s custom-designed lightsabers; they’re amazing!

–Cosplay what you love. Just in case you missed it the first time. 🙂

And as a final offering on this Mothers’ Day, a photo of my mom (second from left) dressed as Samwise Gamgee for a showing of Return of the King. You know you’re winning when your mom is willing to dress up for things! Happy Mothers’ Day, all!

ROTK

 

Nerd level up

Today I got my first “grown-up” lightsaber, i.e. not one with a retractable blade:

IMG_1933 (640x427) IMG_1934 (640x427) IMG_1935 (640x427)

Isn’t it shiiinnnyyyy??? It made it all the way here from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, by way of San Francisco. I have no idea why it went that route, but hey, it’s here in time for my troop tomorrow at the University of Michigan’s Star Wars baseball game, so yay!

Saber is an Ascend stunt saber from Genesis Custom Sabers. I opted for no sound ($$$$), so I’ll be making all sorts of silly noises while carrying it!

Possible actual review to come, but for now I’m just basking in the blue glow. 😀

A wild defense date appears!

Yeaaaah, so I’ve got no excuse for this particular prolonged absence from blogging except that the story I mentioned in the last post now has about 120,000 words. And STILL no plot. It has the beginnings of a plot. It has a problem the characters have to deal with. But still no overarching plot. But never fear, I will get there eventually! And in the meantime I’m writing the heck out of my pair’s backstory. And drawing pictures of them. Etc.

No, wait, I do have an excuse! I HAVE A DISSERTATION DEFENSE DATE! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! *panic*

It’s in mid-August, and I’m going to be working like a crazy person until then to get my dissertation into proper shape. Unfortunately, this means no cons until after I turn it in to my committee in July, so ACEN’s out (again! GRAR!), but I’m still hoping to make it to GenCon. A recent defend-ee in my program told me the best thing I could do during that month-long period between turning it in and actually defending is take a vacation, so I say, TO THE FOOD TRUCKS!

In cosplay news, I’m pretty much where I was in January (see above dissertation crazyness), but with a bit more progress on Pikachu and a new Jedi outfit in the works that won’t require 2+ hours of hair and makeup every time I want to wear it! I wore Jocasta to ShutoCon in March and didn’t even bother making myself look old–too much effort! 😛

Here’s a shot of Pikachu; aside from adding poofs to the shoes, the bottom half is done!

IMG_1901 (533x800)

Shoes could use another layer of paint, too, but I may just leave them. Yesterday I tested paint on a feather for the headdress thing. It worked…all right? Not spectacular, but will work if I can’t come up with anything else. Unfortunately my base feathers are pheasant, so I can’t just dye a white feather yellow.

Built a lightsaber:

Saber (640x347)

$20 of random hardware store parts and for-plastic spray paint later, and that’s what I had! It doesn’t have built-in LED or anything and can’t be attached to a blade, but it works as an on-the-belt prop and makes me look like a proper Jedi. 😀 And Errant Knight Photography, who took my photo at Shuto, was awesome enough to photoshop me a blade and a snazzy background!

EK2

Now I just need to learn to pose properly. 😛 One-handed saber w/two-handed pose, not so much. 😛

And on that note, I have the afternoon off, so I’m going to make tabards and an obi for Jedi 2.0. Cheers!

Rebels and Riyria

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:

swnight

*Insert Hoth joke here*

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??).

Jocasta Nu and Sabine Wren.

Jocasta Nu and Sabine Wren.

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.

I’m a card-carrying Jedi!

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! I am super excited to announce that yesterday I was accepted to The Rebel Legion!!

Check out that white hair!

Check out that white hair!


The RL is an international Star Wars costuming fan club, but in addition to just geeking out about SW, they also give back to the community through a variety of volunteer activities — marching in parades, visiting hospitals, raising money for charities, and the like. You may be familiar with their counterpart, the 501st Legion. The 501st does ‘bad guy’ costumes (Vader, Stormtroopers, Sith…), while the Rebel Legion does good guys (Jedi, rebels, Clone Troopers before Order 66…). And to be thorough, I should also give a shout-out to the Mandalorian Mercs, who do Mandalorian costumes (think Boba Fett).

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this here, but for the last few years I’ve felt kind of conflicted about the fact that my major hobby, cosplay, is mostly about me. I’d say 95% of the sewing I do is for myself, and conventions are largely about celebrating the things you enjoy along with your friends and fellow fans. And while hobbies are, by nature, things we do to make ourselves happy, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, I’ve been feeling guilty about spending all of my time and talent on myself. However, I’m not very experienced, and therefore not very comfortable, sewing clothing for other people (unless they’re actually present for repeated fittings and adjustments), so I was looking for something outreach-y I could do in my cosplays.

From what I can find online, anime cosplay isn’t very organized in this regard. There are various ‘cosplay against cancer’ (or other diseases) efforts, but most of them seem to be limited to a few individuals, or even to one individual doing a particular cosplay to raise money/awareness. There’s also Cosplay for a Cause, but let’s just say that I don’t think my chest-to-waist ratio is quite right for their needs. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking their efforts, but no one would pay to see my picture in a cosplay calendar.)

I’d heard about the 501st, but I’ve always been a serious sucker for the Jedi (and a little too short for a Stormtrooper), so when I learned about the Rebel Legion I knew I had to join up. I’d wanted to do a Jedi costume anyway, so this was perfect. Now that I’ve been accepted, I’ll joining the Great Lakes Base in Star Wars nerdery and charity in the Michigan/Ohio area. Can’t wait!!