puppetmaker: (Secret of Sherlock Holmes)
This is one of those entries that has several different catalysts both from things I read online to some discussions I have had with other people face to face recently.

It started with someone I know declaring that she was taking down all her fan fiction because she wanted a chance to be a real writer and she knew that publishers would look down on her because she wrote fan fiction. So if she wanted a shot at her dream, then the fan fiction would have to go. I knew that decision didn’t sit well with her because of some other things she said to me.

I haven’t a clue where this idea that if you write fan fiction, you can never be a real published writer especially when you consider the number of novels out there which started as fan fiction and then the serial numbers were filed off making it original fiction. Not that I suggest that as a way to go to get published.

You know who has written some really good fan fiction in his time? My husband Peter David did. He use to published a fanzine entitled Second Age with some friends. One of his more popular entries in fan fiction mash-ups had to be the TARDIS at Pooh Corner with Dr. Pooh a time lord with very little brain who had various adventures. You can read the whole thing on his website. Here’s the first chapter the TARDIS at Pooh Corner .

I know a number of professional writers out there who started in fan fiction of one sort or another. Heck, I have written/write fan fiction some of which I have put out there and other things I have on my hard drive which will never see the light of day. I will admit to having a pseudonym for some of my more ‘adult’ stuff but that has more to do to keep Caroline out of it than anything else.

In all honestly, fan fiction is a good way of learning how to write and, probably more importantly, how to write for an audience. If you put what you have written out on one or more of the websites, you can get immediate feedback from readers which can tell you what is working within your writing and what you might need to work on.

I have learned a lot about pacing through the writing of fan fiction. I also know what my strengths and weaknesses as a writer are. And this has made me a better writer overall.

And what is writing a licensed product for a property really? Paid to create new stories and situation for characters that you like by the owners of the property is a pretty cool way to earn a living.

All writers have to start somewhere and fan fiction is not something that the professional world looks down on. Probably by this point most people in the industry have written fan fiction at some time in their lives.

I encourage each and every one of you to go forth and write fan fiction, write non-fiction articles, write whatever tickles your fancy. Just write something if you want to. It might never see the light of day or it might be the next NYT bestseller. You never know until you try.

And to my friend who has decided to remove her really good fan fiction, it is like I told you the other day, it is not going to ruin your career if someone finds your Superwholock fic down the road. I can see you at a convention down the road signing your latest book and someone is going to bring you a copy of what is already out there. I suggest you sign it and smile because they thought enough of the story to hang onto it on their hard drive and that’s a dedicated fan.

Now I am going to go back to writing the project I am working on which may see the light of day later this year.

I am grateful for all the fan fiction I have read over the years and all the people who have commented on my works which has made me a better writer.
puppetmaker: (War Doctor)
I will be at NYCC on Friday, Saturday and Sunday which is a slight change from the original plan but it works for me.

If you want to find me, Peter’s table is B5 in Artist Alley is a good place to start.

I am also going to be, with a little luck, in the audience at the Once Upon a Time panel on Friday with my Rumple puppet. If I have room, I’ll pack Mr. Gold as well. I am also going to bring Nick and a Loki for the weekend.

This is a big one. Not quite SDCC big but getting there.

They are trying a new system for getting people into and out of panels. If it works, might be something for other conventions to look at and makes it possible to both attend panels you want to see and walk around the convention rather than making it an either or proposition.

I recommend comfortable shoes and a lot of patience. And water. Don’t dehydrate.

Food is going to be a challenge to get because of the number of people but remember about the food carts outside the venue. There was a kicking Mac & Cheese truck last year.

So hope to see some of you there. Please don’t be scared to come up and tell me that you read my blog. I love meeting y’all.

I am grateful for things that make it easier to get around the convention.
puppetmaker: (War Doctor)
I have been asked by more than one party recently if their “X” aged child would be all right at Dragon Con or not.

So I am going to give you my opinion based on observation and Caroline’s experience at the convention.

Caroline has been going to Dragon Con her entire life. I know we are in the unusual situation of being guests of the convention, which give us certain perks. I am hoping that what I write will be of general use for someone just going to Dragon Con.

I am asked “what age is a good age for a child at Dragon Con”? I say it depends on the child really.

There are a lot of families at Dragon Con. I know a number of children that, like Caroline, have been to Dragon Con every year of their lives. Some of them are adults now. Dragon Con does try to be family friendly.

Dragon Con is big really big. You may think it is a long way to the chemist’s but that is nothing compare to Dragon Con. The convention is spread over seven (?) hotels and the apparel mart. There can be (is) a lot of walking at Dragon Con. There is time between panels and events to get from point A to point B but I add 10 minutes to my time and 20 if Caroline is with me because of the crowds. Caroline is not partial to crowds but she sucks it up for Dragon. You have to keep an eye or hand on your kid pretty much the whole time.

There are a number of panels in all the various tracks that are geared to children. Some of these are hands on like the puppet making workshop for kids. Others are regular panels with speakers and the like. The program book gives you a fair idea of what the panels are about and who they are geared for.

There is the parade, which is a lot of fun to watch for kids. There are the gaming sessions that the older kids can sign up for. There is the Yule Tide Ball for the Harry Potter fans. There are concerts and costume calls and a lot of things to do with the kids both day and night.

Caveat here. There are performances and a couple of contests, especially in the evening, that are for adults only. There are costumes showing a lot of skin or the super hero equivalent of the naughty nurse costumes you see at Halloween. There are some extreme body mod people wandering around so you may be explaining why someone looks a certain way to your child. I had to explain what someone had done to their ears because they had taken out their plugs and their ear lobe was down to their shoulder. There are areas of Dragon Con, especially after dark, which you want to steer clear of with younger children.

Feeding your child can be a challenge especially in the food court since most places get slammed and stay slammed for most of the convention. I tend to stagger our meals so I am not up against it during the busiest times of the day.

If you are staying at a hotel, I suggest, especially for the younger children, a break at some point in the day just to get the noise out of your ears. To use a bathroom that you control and just decompress from all the input. I still do that with Caroline and for myself.

I have also been asked when can one let one’s children run around Dragon Con. I can say that Caroline has limited freedom like if she is in artist alley with Dad, she can wander that room, the art show, and the bathroom but no further without a trusted adult. If she wants to go anywhere else, she is accompanied. Ariel wasn’t allowed to go to a panel on her own until she was 16 and even then we had her check in via text. There are a lot of people at Dragon Con and not all of them have your or your child’s best interest at heart but I don’t think the hazard is any greater than wandering around NYC or a theme park.

I hope this helps and please ask any and all questions you have. I am an old Dragon Con hand and am willing to tell you what I know.

I am grateful to parents who can navigate Dragon Con safely with their children.
puppetmaker: (Caroline at Nasa)
It was announced recently that Chi Fi a science fiction convention in Chicago proper (as opposed to a convention in the Chicago area) was cancelling its 2014 convention due to problems with the hotel, which was the venue for the convention. Chi Fi has a pretty strict anti harassment policy that states that it forbids "harassment of any kind, including verbal assault, physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions.". Apparently the hotel manager was uncertain if his staff could help maintain such a policy and expressed concern about some of the more colorful characters that can attend these kinds of conventions. The manager used the word “freaks” or rather “those costume freaks”. Thus creating a rather uncomfortable atmosphere right off.

The hotels and management who have learned to embrace the fans have had repeat business during sometimes that rather slow to dead for them and help keep the business in the black. Hotels that have hosted certain conventions for years know what to expect and how to accommodate them.

Dragon Con is a good example of this. They took a dead weekend for a lot of the hotel industry (labor day) and made it worth the hotels while. The host hotels know what to expect from Dragon Con. A lot of the employees have been there for years. I know a number of the staff by first name and I know about their families too. They have watched Caroline grow up and have told me that they are impressed as to how polite she is to everyone. Yes, we see each other for a short time every year but they have gone above and beyond to make sure that everyone has a fun and safe time.

Not that there haven’t been bumps or misunderstandings over the years but they have been worked out. The Marriott removes a majority of its furniture so there is more room for people. I do wish they would leave some seating on the second floor but that is their choice. They also put out chairs and tables on the 10 floor making easier for large groups to meet up there. All the host hotels are golden about making sure there is water for everyone. You can decide which hotel to stay in based on how much noise and how much sleep you want to get.

I remember the first time I had to sign an agreement to not destroy the hotel at a convention. It happened the year after someone had taken a battle-axe to the elevator creating 1000s of dollars worth of damages. These have become pretty much de rigueur with science fiction conventions and now seem pretty much a part of checking into any hotel.

I don't think that fans are the only group that can be hard on hotels. I have heard from various hotel employees that the science fiction fans are much more polite than some other groups they have through there every year.

I have been at hotels where there has been a certain amount of point and laugh from the staff and the other guests. Those conventions are uncomfortable outside the convention area. Those hotels tend not to be used in the future by the convention. Also conventions that decide to do major construction work during the convention and not tell the con committee doesn’t get very high marks either.

I think that Chi Fi did the right thing. There were signs that this was not going to go well and that the guests of the hotel that were attending the convention were not going to be treated with the same respect that the hotel would give any other convention that was at that hotel.

And I think that is the bottom line. You want the hotel to treat the science fiction convention the way it would treat a Shriners convention or a religious convention or a group of bankers. The fans are the customers and should be shown the same respect that the hotel shows to all its other customers. They shouldn’t be considered “freaks”.

I am grateful for hotel management that gets it.
puppetmaker: (Peter David and Me)
Last night after watching Face Off, we watched the last episode of Heroes of Cos-Play which was the second half of the costume contest at the Planet Comics convention in Kansas City. This was the group rather than the individual contest. This is the episode that Caroline has been waiting for since she saw the previews and knew somewhere along the line there was going to be an Astrid costume from How to Train Your Dragon.

Now this is a “reality” show where it is edited within an inch of its life to creates stories and drama that the audience will find interesting. Most of life can be pretty mundane and that doesn’t make for good television. I talked to both Yaya and Monika at this past Dragon Con and they were rather frank about the whole thing along with the editing process that either made them look good or bad.

In the first episode the Internet exploded because there seem to be an elitist attitude being portrayed. Only costume to your body type and the like. It was as I expected that choice lines were pulled out of context, which is was evident because they didn’t show the person talking but a reaction shot from another person. There was a lot more to that conversation than was portrayed.

Most of the other episodes were pretty much edited the same way. There was always a bit of drama some of which seemed pretty made-up and the music they were using wasn’t helping matters.

Then we came to this episode and the costume Caroline has been looking forward to since the show started. The drama was high. Costuming contacts were left in eyeballs overnight which begs the question of why she forgot to take them out. Another individual might have the flu or food poisoning. But the show must Go On!!!

This was bad enough but the capper to me was when the heckling started both by the audience and some of the costumers who were not part of the show. That was such bad form on so many levels.

One of the individuals did put up her version of events on the whole matter on her facebook page. You can read it here.

When Caroline saw it this morning she said, “They aren’t being nice. I always try to be nice even if I don’t win.” And a little later, “why are they being so mean to them?” We had a talk about reality TV and editing and the like but she still felt that the words shouldn’t have been said.

I understand being ticked because the rules have changed. I understand being peeved because the contest has been taken over by a reality show. I understand the hungry and tired after competing. That, in my book, does not forgive bad behavior. And the "they provoked us" defense just drives me crazy. As my mother would say, “Monitor your mouth.”

When you are in public or in the public’s eye like being in a costume contest or on a panel, for the love of glob think before you speak. These sorts of things do go around especially since the costuming community is not very large. Heck fandom maybe larger than it was but still it is a small group of people compared to some other groups.

I can remember way back in the mists of time that if people heard that the Stringers were competing then it was a lot of bellyaching and people complaining that now no one but them would win best in show. The Stringers turned their hobby into a business and have worked their hardest to make costumes that are wonderful to look at and easy to wear. But just because the Stringers were in the contest didn’t give them an automatic win. They were judged harder than everyone else because the judges knew what they could do. Eventually there was another group that came in and started winning various contests. It is almost the circle of cos-play that the vets cycle out and the newcomers become the vets. I competed against the Stringers. I participated in costumes with them. I won and lost against them and with them. All in all it was pretty even handed.

We have been fighting the elitist tag on costumers for years especially if you participated in the International Costuming Guild. I am a very inclusive person. I want to learn from others and teach what I know to others. I want to help people become better costumers and make some amazing costume that I couldn’t even contemplate making. The ICG is inclusive too. Marty Gear worked for years to convince people that the ICG was not just for those who made historical costumes, but for all costumers no matter what skill level. You just have to have a passion for costuming.

And maybe this “reality” show might encourage some new blood to join us. I am more concerned that it may have chased some of those who were about to dip their toe in to just forget the whole thing. Cos-play as a business is a very small group of individuals who have worked very hard to get where they are. A number of people I know have gone onto jobs in films, television, and theater along with numerous haunted houses that are staffed by fans. It just doesn’t help when they can make it look like we eat our young.

I am grateful for all the costumers and cos-players I have seen over the years that help each other rather than snipe.
puppetmaker: (House Elf by Kathleen David)
DragonCon is a very large convention. I use to say that unlike San Diego Comic Con, it takes place in several places but that kinda bit the dust this year when SDCC spilled out into the hotels and store fronts outside the convention center. However DragonCon navigation can be rather daunting.

There are a few things you can do before the convention to get ready. One thing that new technology has made it a little easier to find what you want to see. DragonCon has an Ap for that. I used the first version last year and downloaded the new version this year. It was the fastest way to find where I needed to be when and where other people and things were when I needed to find them. I haven’t played much with the new version but I can tell you between that and the convention map, I was not lost at all.

Go through the schedule and figure out what you want to see. Yes, there will be several things in several places that you want to see at the same time. I will say that giving a half hour between panels does make it possible to get from one hotel to another and see things. There will be lines for the more popular panels just like San Diego however at DragonCon (or as of last year) they cleared the room and let the next group of people in for the panel so if you are in that line (and they do count), you can get into the panel unless you are behind the person holding the end of the line sign.

Comfortable shoes that can navigate uneven pavement or various forms of floor are a must.

The hotels do put out water stations but bringing a bottle to fill is a really good idea. That way you can sip while you barrel around the convention.

Walked the dealers room AND the exhibit hall for things you might want to buy. I have found things at as much as a 10 dollar difference (Rare Dalek) between them depending where the booth is situated and what the dealers think they can get for it. If there is a one of a kind hand made thingy, then consider this, what will happen if you don’t get it? You might want to look around and see what else you can’t live with before buying. There is a lot of stuff to look at.

Speaking of Looking at Original Stuff and buying it. Don’t forget about the Art Show. It is in the Grand Hall West of the Atlanta Hyatt Regency Hotel and the Comic and Pop Artists alley is going to be in Grand Hall East like last year. Peter will be set up in Grand Hall East and that’s a good place to look for me unless I am on panels or walking to a panel.

One of the first things to do is look at the maps that you are given in your packet and are on the application. Figure out where things are situated can help a lot. Also it can be tricky since the tunnels to the other hotels can be on one of two to three floors depending on the hotel. Give yourself that whole half hour to make it between buildings because traffic can be fierce.

My schedule is pretty much set at this point. I am waiting to hear about one or two other things and then I will post. You will see me at the Puppetry Track the most this year.

So plan your strategy but allow for change. Also make sure to give yourself some downtime in there somewhere. DragonCon can be overwhelming at times even for the veterans of the convention.

I am grateful that I have gone to DragonCon as many times as I have.
puppetmaker: (Vincent Face)
The Internet has changed a lot about fandom. It is much easier for fans of the same thing to find each other. There is plenty of fanfic and fan art to peruse. Recreation costuming has become so much easier with a lot of information at our fingertips. Some times too much information. I really don’t think there is more drama now than then, it is just a little more in public and more rapid to spread. Fans can give Actors a run for the Drama Queen or King title.

The first time I did the Vincent costume from the TV series Beauty and the Beast back in 1987/88, my friends and I had one issue of Starlog, fuzzy video tapes of the TV series, and a couple of photos from the newspaper. That was it. And we worked very hard to create what we thought we saw. Now we had the good luck that George RR Martin was at the convention (well not that good luck since one of the reasons we wanted to do it was because he was going to be there) and he sat down with us and went over the costume giving us insight into what we had gotten right and where we were just a bit off. He was impressed that we had done as well as we had considering what we were working off of. The reason there was no clear photo of the make-up was because they always shot it (and the photo shoots) through a gauzy filter to soften it. So we took the information and redid the costume to make Vincent Mark 2 which was much closer to screen accurate.

Fast forward a number of years and we decide to do the sketch Beauty and the Beast(s). Since I still had the foam mask for Vincent and it still fit my face and was is pretty good condition, I was going to be Vincent. I didn’t really have anything from the previous costume except the mask. Some pieces belonged to the other people who worked on the costume. The good cloak got stolen at a bar on Halloween. The sweater I used had been worn out. So I decided to go on the Internet and see if I could find photos I could use to recreate my recreation. I remembered most of what George told us that night so I had that. I found a lot of pictures out there including the fact that the costume had been sold at auction pretty piecemeal so I had good photos of all the pieces front and back. That made it so much easier to recreate.

I have been part of Doctor Who fandom for quite a while now. When I started it was hard to find in the US unless your PBS station happen to be showing it. I lucked out by meeting a bunch of Doctor Who fans at a convention. A number of people that were in that room are still friends of mine. We hung out and watched Doctor Who. Some of us wrote for fanzines. And over the years I have made a lot of friends through that one TV show.

I was invited to a viewing of the Doctor Who movie in 1996 with what was left of the Terminus TARDIS in Atlanta (a lot of us moved around the country by that point). We had a great time and took over one of the local sports bar to watch. The sports fans were puzzled by this but a number of them watched along with us which was interesting because they didn’t know anything about Doctor Who. Afterwards we were talking about the movie and the PMEB was born from a couple off hand comments. This was also the night I took on the DragonCon Challenge to make one of each of the Doctors as puppets. I got an email a couple of days later and joined the PMEB. That is really my first online fandom that I participated in. It is also the first time I found screen captures of the movie. It was a lot of fun and I kept up with the group for quite a while.

Now fandom seems to happen before the actual product is released which, for me, is a little weird because I need to see before I squee.

I am grateful for fans of things I like. It is nice to have other people to talk to about them.
puppetmaker: (Default)
I figured out the other day that I have been going to conventions for almost 35 years. When I was young, it was limited to conventions in Atlanta which there were a few. The big media at the time was the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, which was our big convention of the year. There were also a number of other conventions both book and media related and there was the Atlanta Science Fiction something or other which was an off shoot of another Science Fiction Club. (I am sure someone reading this will remember the real name of the group.) Before the Internet there were things called APAs (Amateur Press Association) that allowed fans of something to share their thoughts and ideas about a subject.

At the time the literary convention and the media convention were two different beasts. And there was an attitude of fans against the mundanes a lot of the time. We also had the older fans which fell into two distinct groups which some were very welcoming of the next generation and encourage younger people that weren’t just the children of the older fans to participate and the “get off of my lawn” group which really drove me up a tree. The GOOMLies didn’t seem to want anything to change from when they first discovered fandom and anything that might threating their version of FIAWOL (fandom is a way of life) and they made it hard for some conventions to survive. In some cases by the time they could be convinced that they needed to expand their horizons, it was already too late and a number of venerable conventions fell by the wayside because of the GOOMLies.

Within the media conventions there seemed to be a little more understanding of other fandoms and they tended to be a little more inclusive. However there were media GOOMLies as well that wanted their conventions to only be about a series that hadn’t had an episode in quite a while. I remember a Star Trek group rejected the idea of having some Star Wars stuff at their convention. That convention lasted longer than I expected but then we had a couple of new Star Trek series for them for mine but eventually it did go the way of the dodo.

There were a couple of conventions that tried to be all things to all people. Some of these worked (DragonCon) and some of them failed. There were some in fights between the conventions for guests and marketing which led to some people not being able to go to conventions that they previously enjoyed because they were assumed in the other camp. This got to the point of silly and then imploded. Some conventions stated what they were for (San Diego Comic Con) but they also were willing to branch out a bit and appeal to the younger fan. San Diego Comic Con for a long time was the only place I could find things based on Japanese animation that I loved.

I enjoy all forms of conventions in the things I am interested in. I can fluently speak all kinds of geek and am comfortable with various types of conventions. I never understood why a convention had to be this or that when you had a young base interested in that and could potentially be the next generation to run the convention. Especially when it overlaps something that is of interest to the people who do come to that convention. There is only so far you can go with the children of fandom, you have to find the new blood to bring in or the GOOMLies win in a very sad way.

The advent of the Internet changed the face of fandom and conventions forever but that is an essay for another day.

I am grateful for all the conventions I have been to through the years and all the friends I have made through them.
puppetmaker: (Vincent Face)
This week I want to discuss Hall Costumes. Hall Costumes have become a thing in their own right. And some of the Hall Costumes out do the ones that come up on stage. DragonCon is a great place to catch all kinds of costumes you will only see in the halls or at various points where photo shoots have been organized.

A couple of things to think about

Can you walk around a crowded space in the costume? How much space are you taking up? Can you see so that you don’t trip over small children or not see obstacles in front of you? Do you take up an entire elevator to get your costume down to the floor? Are you going to knock over displays as you walk through the dealer’s room or if you have to turn around? (I have seen this happen). Is your costume going to ride up or down exposing parts of the body that aren’t allowed in public in that state? Can your costume take the friction of just walking around? How comfortable are your shoes/hooves/furry feet on various surfaces? How heavy are your props? Can you carry them around for a long period of time? Can you drink water in the costume? Can you eat? Can you go to the bathroom or do you have to go back to your hotel room for this? How does your costume look from all angles not just the front? Are you willing to look at photos of this costume for the rest of your life on the Internet?

Here are some of my solutions to some of the questions I have just asked in no particular order.

If you can’t see all around you, I strongly suggest that you get a friend to be your handler and help you navigate the convention. Someone to watch your back especially when you have wings or a large backpack is a good idea too. This protects both you and the other convention goers from possible harm or costume damage.

Walk around in your costume before you bring it to the convention. Consider if things are going to ride up or bunch up over the simple movement of walking. I watched a Power Girl’s costume go from PG to an R while she walked from the elevators to the escalator at DragonCon. There are several schools of thought on skimpy costumes (including no costume is not a costume). I really don’t care if you want to coplay Red Sonja with the chain mail bikini, however I really don’t want to see parts of your body that aren’t allowed by local laws (check those laws before going to the convention).

Skimpy costumes aside, is this costume going to last for the period of time that you are wearing it? I have seen plenty of costumes that look great in the AM but are pretty homely by the PM. Paint flaking. Pieces ripping. Wigs riding up and off. Shoes that were painted that now have parts that have returned to their original color.

I have seen a couple of people that had serious damage to their bodies from shoes that didn’t fit to hooves that caused them to strain a hamstring to a tendon snap when someone toppled off their high heels. Can you walk in your footwear? Can you walk in your footwear comfortably? Can you walk in your footwear comfortably for an extended period of time without damaging your feet or legs or back? Last year I did a X-men First Class uniform. I had a pair of black hiking boots that I had used for other costumes over the years. They have always been a bit small. I wore them for close to 12 hours and my feet seriously cramped up in them by the end. I knew going in that they weren’t perfect but I also knew I could deal with the consequences of wearing them for long periods of time. Which is why I had a slight limp at DragonCon after Friday Night.

Hydration at a convention is hard enough when you are wearing just normal clothing and walking around. In a costume it can be harder. Before going to a convention make sure you have what you need to hydrate be that a straw or a hydropack. Don’t assume that you are going to be able to find a straw. I learned that one the hard way a number of years back. You are responsible for your health in that costume. Can you eat?

Going to the bathroom in a costume can be an adventure in itself. Much more so for women than men but still both genders have to think about that basic function. I have had costumes where to go to the bathroom I had to almost strip the whole thing off. Ariel was so grateful the first time I made her a costume that she could go to the bathroom in without taking off the whole costume. I plan for it now. Fitting into the stall can be a whole other issue. There are some costumers that wait for the handicap stall because that’s the only space they can fit into. The X-men First Class Costume was not too much of a problem but I did have to take off the jacket and the harness to get to the suspenders that were holding up my pants. Years ago I had a friend who couldn’t go to the bathroom because to make the costume look right, he had to be sewn into it. He held out as long as he could but eventually he had to get cut out of the costume so he could relieve himself.

Dealers rooms are a bit tricky to navigate any way. Trying to go through in a large costume is a whole new tricky. Wings make you wider and thicker than you think you are. Backpacks and props do the same thing. I watched a person coplaying Sora take out a spinner rack totally by accident with the Key Blade he had on his shoulder. The spinner rack was not in the aisle at all, he just tried to sneak through the crowd and cut a corner too sharp. Be aware of where you are in space and where your props are. It might behoove you not to go into the dealer’s room in costume.

Photography is cool. Getting your picture taken is a lot of fun for everyone except the people trying to get from point A to point B and there is an impromptu photo shoot in the middle of it. I don't understand people who put on hall costumes and don't want anyone to take pictures of them but there is a time and place for this. Last year the New York Comic Con set up a number of spaces to take picture in. They were accessible but not directly in the path of traffic. When allowing others to take your picture, consider where you are and what is going on around you. I try to pull out of the path of traffic and take the photo. If I have to walk a little further on, I do. Also figure out beforehand how you want your costume photographed. Pose a little to see what looks good and what looks goofy. Remember that the Internet is forever.

Hall Costuming is great fun but there is the added complication of the convention all around you.

I am grateful for all the cool Hall Costumes I have seen over the years.
puppetmaker: (Mommy Monster)
I could subsection this forever but today I want to discuss Masquerade costuming at conventions.

I agreed to take on the mantle the head judge for the Workmanship Masquerade at DragonCon, which is held Friday Night at the convention. I have participated in this contest for a number of years now and have been the head judge the past three years I think. So that put me in mind about costuming for a Masquerade which is different than hall costumes or an Anime convention costume call.

I started costuming back in the 1980s. I did mostly recreations of things with a few original costumes mixed in. I met a lot of people through costuming who are still friends of mine. I found myself helping out in pretty short order and learned from some of the best and worst how to run a green room and how to run a contest itself. Since then I have probably done just about everything that you can do for a Masquerade from just about every point of view. This is a subject that I am very well versed in.

Today I am going to talk from the point of view from a contestant and give some tips of things to think about before one signs up.

You will hear costumers talk about Rostler’s Rules of Costuming. A pretty good set of the rules as I know them can be found here. I suggest you give these a gander before reading the rest of this.

In no particular order here are some of the things I think about before decided to even do a costume or sketch.

What kind of audience is attending this function? Are they going to understand what I am trying to do? A media convention is a better place to do Battlestar Galactica sketch than a literary convention. You stand a better chance that the audience understands the source material. I have seen Anime sketches and costumes kill at media and, more specifically, anime conventions where the source material is know as appose to a literary/science convention where one leaves more than half the audience scratching their heads and most of the judges as well. Consider the more obscure for an audience that is versed in it.

Yeah, it looks kicking but can I wear it for the period of time required for a Masquerade? Usually one has to be in the Green Room about an hour before go time especially if you want to enter workmanship. The length of show itself is determined by the number of entries. You have a lot of entries, you are going to be in the costume longer than just a few entries. Can your skin take the make-up for the length of time you will be wearing it? (If you have extensive make-up make sure you have a touch up kit ready to go. Don’t assume that the Masquerade is going to have a bottle of spirit gum or powder to take care of a last minute oopsie. All though I will say that I met two of my BFFs because of a bottle of spirit gum I just happened to have in my kit backstage.) We always suggest that you try the full get-up before coming to the convention but we know that is not always possible. So I use the rule of thumb, can I stand to wear this for the next three to four hours?

Here is a pet peeve of mine that seems to rear its ugly head about once a show. Unless a microphone is provided or the stage is specifically miked for sound, don’t assume that you can be heard in the back of the room. What you can do in an empty room and in a full room are two different things. I can get to the back of a room full of people but I have trained my voice so I can do this and I trained it for years before I had this ability. Peter can too but we are exception to the rule. The only people I have seen that had a prayer were professionals either singers or actors and even then it was hit or miss.

I know that everyone doesn’t have access to a sound studio but there are so many options these days for sound recording and editing that getting a disk cut is pretty easy. However you have to make sure that your disk will play in the tech gawds equipment. Take that disk and try it in several different places like CD players, game systems that play CDs, places like that. Don’t assume that if it plays on your computer that it will be compatible with their system. Also don’t assume that the balance that you have on your computer is going to be the same. I have heard many a sketch go south because the audience couldn’t understand the dialogue because the music was too loud or the dialogue was so loud it was distorted against the music again making it hard for the audience to understand it.

Practice your sketch and assume the worse for stage conditions. Figure out what can go wrong and how you are going to deal with it. Believe me that if it can go wrong, it very well might. If you can video tape it from the audiences POV, you can learn a lot about whether your sketch works. Also see if you can find out what size of area you are going to be working in before the convention. If you have some idea of the dimensions and entrances and exits are, it can be tremendously helpful. Also what other resources you have. We have used the Stage ninjas to our advantage more than once and they are usually game for whatever we throw at them.

Here is how Peter and I view the sketch part of the contest: Short is better than long, funny is better than serious, short and funny is best. I am not saying that a serious costume can’t be presented. I have seen plenty of serious beautiful costumes win big. However the Masquerade is not the place to promote your room party, political beliefs, or social issues at length. (Believe me I saw all three done within one Masquerade and the poor Masquerade director had to spend the next day hearing how sucky the show was. She hadn’t done anything except allow these people to enter the contest. They screwed it up for her and there are other places/times to do that sort of thing.) Make your point and get off the stage. I have seen points drop rapidly for costumes that go on too long on the judges score card. Figure out what your point is, present it to the audience, and get off the stage.
So that’s part one of this ramble. Part two next week.

I am grateful to all the things I have learned from costuming.
puppetmaker: (Dr. Who and Caroline)
This topic came to mind to me when I was talking to someone about conventions since they were thinking about attending one since they are a fan and they found out that an actor that they admire is going to be at the convention. They asked my advice on going to a convention and what they might encounter. They had some odd ideas about conventions due to the TV portrait of conventions and fans.

I have been going to conventions since the late 70s/early 80s. I have volunteered for conventions in various departments. I have work on con committees for various sized conventions. I have been on both sides of the table as a fan and later as a pro. I have been to a lot of conventions and not all of them in the US. I have also been to a lot of different kinds of conventions as well. I know a lot of the ins and outs of conventions.

Interestingly enough the first thing I had to assure my friend was that they didn’t need a costume to go to the convention. We can thank the news media for that one. I explained that some people did dress up but a majority didn’t. Although by looking at DragonCon, one would think that a majority did dress up if you just walked through the hotel atriums. I explained it was like a Ren Faire in that if you wanted to wear garb it was perfectly OK but you didn’t HAVE to wear garb.

The two things I learned the hard way are wear comfortable shoes and drink lots of water. I am much better about the water drinking than I was when I was younger. I wonder how much of con crud is just dehydration on top of fatigue. Comfortable shoes are a must if you are going to be standing a majority of the day or doing a lot of walking to get from point A to point B.

Also as I have gotten older, I find sleep a bigger necessity than I did in my youth. The 24 hour convention does exist but I no longer participate in the whole 24 hours.

Recently there has been what is called the 5-2-1 rule: 5 hours of sleep, two meals (not just junk food) and one shower per day. I prefer to call it the 5-2-1 strong suggestion. It does help to make sure the brain is working on the last day of the convention as well as the first.

My husband came up with his Fan/Pro bill of rights last year as his take on what should be expect by both pros and fans. Fan/Pro Bill of Rights which can be boiled down to

The Prime Directive
Fans and Pros have the right to be treated by each other with the same courtesy that they themselves would expect to be treated.* Fans and Pros who act like jerks abrogate the right to complain when they themselves are treated like jerks.

*The expectations of masochists notwithstanding.


Which is pretty much how I see it.

So do y’all have any questions about conventions?

Next week I will be writing about why conventions are cool to attend including a number of stories from my own experiences.

I am grateful for all the conventions I have attended over the years.

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