Category Archives: Playing Pretend

I Dream of Cosplay, Again

I told myself I wasn’t allowed to start planning cosplays for next year’s Dragon Con – and I am too broke to buy fabric anyway – but that doesn’t mean I can’t compile a list of dream cosplays that I may lack the time and skill to make, right?

Just run with it.

After this year’s experience with painting my entire face you’d think I’d be turned off by it, but of course pining after a Kyoshi warrior means the application would be even more complex. Alas, I can’t resist a beautiful badass.

Captain America Peggy Carter because, obviously. I may or may not already have bookmarked tutorials on triple victory rolls. I’m not telling.

Maybe it’s the hair. It’s certainly not the shoulder pads. But cosplaying Rachael from Blade Runner at least means I won’t need to wear a wig and don’t need to worry about my weird smile. Because, you know, she doesn’t.

Isn’t this concept art by Enolez Drata amazing?

I’ve been wanting to join the 501st since I first met (and drank with) them many years ago at an Ohio convention, and of course I can’t let myself just make an officer – the easiest way in, though still screen accurate – I have to aim BIG. I loved every little thing about Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, and Kreia turned Darth Traya was no exception. And I’d have a reason to buy a red lightsaber. That’s called winning.

What do you think? If I were going to make one of these dream cosplays happen in the next year, which should it be?

 

Cosplay Dreams for 2017

The weeks and months immediately following Dragon*Con are the very best for plotting for next year’s Dragon*Con, and this year I’ve been busier than ever.

Dottie WilliamsI’ve doubled down on my commitment to cosplay Dottie next year, as I absolutely owe it to my best friend. And, our mutual friend expressed some interest in joining us as Mac, so, winning.

And we’ve agreed together to try for Arwen and Elrond, which is the cosplay we never knew we wanted to do until we so did. I’ve had the pattern for one of Arwen’s dresses for more than 10 years, and thank goodness multiple sizes are included because, ahem, I am a bit more than the woman I used to be.

The minute I doffed the red hat I was ready to be Peggy Carter again, and to expand my wardrobe. I purchased an Eisenhower jacket on eBay so that I could put together her ensemble during the scenes where Steve Rogers commits to Project Rebirth. The bonus of this get-up, of course, being that I get to sport some victory rolls.Arwen

Finally (for now), my nerd-excitement over a Duckie sightingat this last con is shared by many, and a whole crew of folks are now planning to cosplay characters from a variety of John Hughes movies. After about a seven second deliberation, I decided I couldn’t cosplay a teenager, not even a 20-something pretending to be a teenager, so I settled on Iona from Pretty in Pink. Let the wild but intentional thrifting begin.

While there’s still a part of me that’s desperate to try my hand at Sabriel or Aeryn Sun, I think this is enough to be getting on with?

Deconpression

I have returned from five days in Nerdvana, otherwise known as Dragon*Con. And while I didn’t get to cosplay everything I planned to and walked about a thousand miles more in heels than I wanted as we weren’t staying in a host hotel, we made so many good memories that I am already dreaming of next year.

Agent Peggy CarterThough I wondered if I wasn’t accidentally cosplaying another red-hatted boss lady, it seems I wasn’t the only one suffering from a case of mistaken identity if my conversations with other Agent Carter cosplayers are any indication. Despite making the worst convention shoe choice of my life, I loved being Peggy Carter on Friday and Saturday morning of the con. I had the stellar opportunity to march with a crew of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Marvel characters during the parade (around 16:12), and another lovely Peggy with victory rolls to roll over for.  There were many high-fives for little ones who recognized me, and I got a hug. As I am generally sensory-deprived when I am away from my cuddly family, it was much appreciated.

I am already plotting for next year, of course. I want to dismantle the jacket so it’s more tailored, completely remake the sleeves, and either make or purchase a shirt that’s closer to screen-accurate. Because I am a perfectionist, not a purist. Both are equally obnoxious, I fear.

Ms. FrizzleThere’s something to be said for a costume that inspires glee and nostalgia. Ms. Frizzle was more fun even than I had hoped. On Sunday night after the masquerade – one of the very few pieces of programming we managed to attend, being too far from the con this year – I met a Captain Planet and nearly melted from joy, tooling around the Marriot with my bestie dressed as the best ever Phyrne Fischer. Normally we skip the bar scene because of the impassibility of that area, but never again. We saw some incredible cosplays and tipsy nerds are the nicest.

It seems I must settle down to the work of being a regular, writerly human now that the mad sewing that precedes con is over, and it should be a lot easier: I threw a bunch of money at artists in the comic and pop art gallery for new prints for my working space.

I Don’t Have a Sister, But if I Did

My Best FriendI’m running out of sentiments, or maybe you’re too good for them. But I’ll never run out of stories.

We were too weird for the other weirdos, trading stickers, amateur music writing, even more amateur film making, taking long walks to libraries and the corner store to buy copies of Tiger Beat and Bop that we would crudely cannibalize for Hanson posters. We got each other on a deep and immediate level that didn’t require asking Zandar for affirmation – we did anyway – and were quickly soaring to new heights on the unicorn of our choice. I feel relatively certain that we moved a time capsule from 1999 when we moved you into your new house just last week.

My favorite teenage memories involve sitting opposite each other on your waterbed, sloshing and wobbling but still managing to balance a pen and a spiral bound notebook. We wrote stories almost exclusively about each other. We were witches. We were fairies. We were vampires and time travelers and space pioneers. The boys we liked certainly found themselves fictionalized, but they were inconstant, unreal, a fantasy. The true heart of what I spent years of my early writing working out was how to follow my imagination in the company of a kindred spirit, both on and off the page.

LYLACHere is a thing that I remember: going with you to your high school freshman orientation, insisting on speaking in what I am sure was an insulting British cockney the entire time. I remember the look on the face of a boy who’d read one of your stories, you know the one, when he realized that it was me who was your best friend in the story, your best friend in real life. The glee when we raced away from him in the hallway, how light our steps felt and how certain we were about everything. If I didn’t take your hand then I am taking it now, holding tight and forging ahead throughout all of the years of our big and little revelries.

When I think about my girls growing up and what I really want for them, I want them to be the oddball, the ugly duck, the girl with the temper and the hair and the too-pink shoes. Because if you don’t stand up and stand out, if you make it too easy for the world to get and forget you, how will you ever find the person who remakes the world with you?

Happy Birthday, Kelsi. I love you, ever and forever.

Roll the Dice to See if I’m Getting Drunk

Our ship, the Wormwood. Don't ask me why the sea monster breathes fire, it just does.

Our ship, the Wormwood. Don’t ask me why the sea monster breathes fire. It just does.

Unlike most of the live action roleplayers that I know, I didn’t get my start in sword and sorcery playing tabletop. I launched right into the ultimate nerdom of LARP, beginning in 2004 in a NERO chapter that has since launched their own pretty killer gaming system. Beyond taking a few years away from the game to incubate and birth my own little weirdos, I am still donning the costume and hefting a fistful of spell packets with local friends. I’ve been LARPing for twelve years – but only this year am I finally DMing my own tabletop game.

Despite my experiences writing and running plot at a variety of scout camps over the years, and playing in a few tabletop games, I’ve been as anxious as I am amped about running my own.

But because I’ve been obsessing about the idea since reading this article on all girls D&D group this time last year, I just couldn’t let it go. I knew this was exactly what I wanted. My experiences with mixed groups of players have been phenomenal ones, but I’ve definitely held back. Many of the things that I enjoy have been traditionally male-dominated, and while that’s for sure changing, the stigma is still there – the expectations, the jokes, the out-of-nowhere feeling of being an outsider stealing over me when I least expect it.

The video above has always made me snort with laughter, and now I’d like to make a tasteless comment about getting drunk in a tavern, trolling for dudes, without the awkwardness of there being dudes in the room. Or, alternately, being the only girl in the room when a comment like this is made by a dude. I wanted roleplay, debauchery, thieves and warriors and lovers without the baggage of being a girl – it’s complicated, but it’s a real wish and I’m definitely selfish enough to be motivated to make it happen.

So, with help, I acquired the manuals. The pawns. Drew the maps. Created YouTube playlists for ambiance. Spent too much time thinking about how each NPC would speak only to eventually really butcher their accents.

After our first two sessions, and anticipating a third this coming weekend, I don’t think I could have chosen a finer group of ladies to adventure with. We’ve had whippings for insubordination, woefully inaccurate pig slaughtering, stories of theatrical gore, secret hook ups, sly bids for power, and moans of mismanagement among pirates. There’s not a single gal at the table who hasn’t delighted me with her imagination and her wit. While I’m still getting my sea legs rolling the big dice, they are on it.

It’s pretty much everything I could’ve hoped for.

I Don’t Write in Costume, But if I Did…

This artist did a killer job of capturing Sabriel's badassness, no?

This artist did a killer job of capturing Sabriel’s badassness, no?

I love costuming and cosplay, which is actually not the nerdiest thing there is to know about me, but still.

I am especially fond of book cosplay, which is perhaps why, though I rail against descriptions of mundane clothes in books – who cares how distressed your boyfriend’s jeans are, YA heroine? – I love, love, love when a character’s garb is unusual or symbolic in some way and the author takes some time to describe it in detail. Because these things make great costumes; specifically, great costumes I wish I had the time and resources to make, and the opportunity to squeal in delight when recognized at a con.

I’ve had a dream of cosplaying Sabriel from Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy for years and may yet, if I can connive a method of embroidering dozens of silver keys on a great swathe of surcoat fabric. And, you know, find seven bells of graduating sizes, because this cosplayer has not yet ventured into the realm of mold making, and probably should resist dumping money into yet another hobby.

What I love about Nix’s descriptions isn’t just that the clothes are beautiful, but that they have meaning in the world the characters occupy, that they’re instantly recognizable, that their weight is both physical and figurative. I felt the same way when reading Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series, with the keftas. How freakin’ cool are the keftas?! Likewise the stillsuits in Dune.

As a writer, I’ve had characters glancing in mirrors beaten out of me, so sneaking in the opportunity to dress somebody requires a bit of creativity. There was one passage, in particular, where I allowed myself to linger describing a garment that Eiren wears late in the book:

“Embroidered along the hood and sleeves were… detailed renderings, scenes and figures playing out the details of their lives.

But it was not any life, it was mine. My mother carried me as an infant from the birthing chair to my father’s arms, Jurnus and I raced through the streets and the sand. I bent my head in prayer, I burned ritual herbs, I braided Esbat’s hair and soothed Lista’s vanity. I went into exile with my parents, brother, and sisters. The figures were tiny and but a handful of knots each, but I recognized them all, and could see when Morainn and Gannet entered my life, crawling dark and glinting with gilded thread in the capitol tower.

We looked like figures of myth, all splashes of color and fine, spidery features. It was breathtaking, and I could hardly imagine wearing such a life for all I had lived it.”

While I would never cosplay one of my own characters, it is perhaps a not-so-secret and ridiculously vain writerly hope of mine that somebody else someday might want to. I’ve got some very particular notions about Gannet’s mask that defy description, if anyone’s interested.

I’m a Player (Character)

When it comes to nerd cred, I’ve got it in boffer spades.

I do live action role-playing, or LARP, and have for years. I make my own costumes or thrift them, spend hours watching Farscape and making spell packets, and when I can afford it, travel as many as four hours away for a weekend of pretending to be someone who does magic, or sword fights, or creates alchemical poisons, or writes songs about heroic battles between good and evil. Or, as we like to call them, PCs, or player characters, and NPCs, non-player characters.

Some of the most creative, intelligent, and generous people I know I’ve befriended through LARP, and some of the people who make me want to shove a latex dagger in my ear I’ve met there, too. I’ve never questioned more than I did this past weekend why it is we do what we do when, in full makeup myself and my friends in makeup and prosthetic ears and noses – not to mention extensive costumes, armor, and weapons – I looked around and knew that we weren’t fox-people or rabbit-people or dog-people, but moms and dads, successful professionals, people with degrees and jobs and a whole lot more laundry to do on Sunday than we would have if we’d stayed home watching television like normal people. So, why do we do it? What is it about us that makes us want to play pretend, despite it being generally socially perceived as unacceptable past the age of nine or ten?

I’m happy. In fact, I think my life is pretty bitchin’. So I don’t play because I’m unhappy, or because I’m trying to escape, but because what I want out of fantasy I just can’t have in real life. For the many staggering, poignant, gorgeous moments in my real adult life there are ten times over as many days where I do the laundry, pay the bills, clean the litter box. There are no litter boxes in LARP. I take thirty-six hours of my life and live it as fast and as epic as possible, and it doesn’t matter what’s happening on Monday at the office. There’s a ruined temple in the forest where dark rituals are bringing the dead back to life, and a murderous horde massing in the Orcan lowlands, songs to be sung whose words contain the power to mend flesh and inspire courage, laws of physics to break. Why watch or read or daydream when I can play instead?