Kage Baker loved to people watch. Faires were a prime watching ground, of course. Not so much the participants, whom she saw all all day in various states of costuming; the best entertainment was the customers.
The ones in costumes or parts of same were the most interesting, and it just got more so as the years went on. Renaissance Faires and Dickens Fair have become natural habitats for cosplayers and the costume-inclined in general. Most customers present an interesting range of what people who wear normal clothes choose to wear to an outdoor event – t-shirts, shorts and inadequate sunscreen – but it’s the ones who bothered to dress up that are truly fun. I presume they do it to be noticed, but they probably have no idea how much they get watched by the performers.
At a Con, though, costuming is much more serious. What you wear makes a statement – several statements, usually. It establishes your place in fannish culture and your fidelity to various iconic story arcs, as well as to the theme of the Con itself. Watching these folks perambulate around the hotel venue is a source of awe and wonder. Truly amazing skill is displayed on every hand; as well as on other limbs, which in dedicated persons can exceed the human norm ,,, exquisite fabrics are used, hand props are constructed with fanatic precision. The subject may be out of the wearer’s private iconography, or be a reproduction of a specific genre or character: but they all exhibit passion and a desire to make a statement.
Sometimes the statement is, I should not be trusted with a glue gun. But the fervor on view is still admirable,
Some things are always present: Star Wars, Star Trek, Browncoats, pirates. But costuming goes in waves, too, with fads changing all the time. Last year at BayCon, for instance, there were lots of faerie wings. All colours, all substances, some large enough to bear their owners aloft, I think, had they been attached to muscle instead of corsets and harnesses. This year, not so much … I’ve only seen two pair, and one of those was angel wings on the back of a beige trench coat. The symbolism there is obviously the show Supernatural. But aside from completing the Castiel look, the wings were almost supernumerary.
Kage always chose to demonstrate that she was deliberately a non-costumer type of person. She favoured tailored suits – I want to look like Agent Scully’s elderly Aunt, was her stated intent. For casual wear, she liked upscale t-shirts and Hawaiian shirts – she had a huge collection, featuring cars, cocktails, and tropical seascapes. To make her status as writer plain, she accessorized with all her Hugo and Nebula pins; you get one every time you get nominated, and Kage was rightly proud of her collection.
Between the people-watching, I actually went along and attended my assigned panels. The first was “A Shot Rang Out”, which is an improvised round-robin story telling gig, with lines from the audience that must be included in your spiel. After each turn, each participant selects a new prompt; you keep going round and round until you either run out of time, or off the edge of the world. It’s hilarious fun – especially if (like me) you’ve got 40 years of improvisational theatre under your belt … a few more people than usual lost their stirrups, but for mere writers and not Faire people, they all did very well.
The second panel was on hard science, and solicited our opinions of what books and movies had done a good job with their science facts – and which had conspicuously not. We all had different favourites among the good stuff, but the List of Shame was surprisingly unanimous: Independence Day. Armageddon. Core. Meteor. Volcano, Supervolcano and Dante’s Peak.
Maybe the unanimous choices weren’t so inexplicable, after all … Sharknado didn’t make the list, since no one believed any science at all had been used in making it.
But a good time was had by all, and the audience was gleeful in pointing out things we’d missed. I hope they also took away the point that research into real science is always good for a story.
Then I had dinner with some friends, a nice family time with old Faire friends, in much more cleanliness and peace and quiet than we used to dine in. We even all remembered not to eat with our fingers or wipe them on our clothes. The varied citizens of the Galaxy wandered past our table as we ate, staring in wonder as we howled with laughter at old jokes.
I’m not so comfortable, being in the audience. I like to watch the strange, strange crowds go by – but give me a stage to perform on with my friends for a really good time …
And so to bed, and so good night, Dear Readers. Tomorrow: commercial space travel, DIY aliens, and alternate history. And the Dealer Room!