Tag: Convention

CanCon 2017

CanCon 2017

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Two weekends ago, I went to CanCon 2017, which is a mid-sized genre fiction literary convention that happens in Ottawa every autumn.

I went to some great panels, including a very entertaining talk by Robert J Sawyer on pitfalls to avoid in the writing life, and a fairly intense panel on mental health, neurodiversity, and creativity. I didn’t get to all of the panels I want to do, but I didn’t expect to. I had a teenager with me who has some anxiety issues, and the venue was just a little too claustrophobic for her to be able to handle for long periods. For those who lack such issues, cozy might be a better word, some of the panel rooms, especially. I’m personally lucky enough to be able to bank some stress relief or relieve it later by spending a little green time outdoors, preferably by myself. It’s a fairly common reaction for me being with too many people in a short time span. Not everyone woks that way. We all need to adjust and adapt to our own mental situation. I have my own, different issues. Most of us do.

But here is a list of panels that I actually got to:

  • Laksa Media Presents: The Making of an Anthology
  • Politics of Canadian SF
  • The Art of the Mosaic
  • Mental Health, Neurodiversity, and Creativity
  • Robert J. Sawyer: The Writing Life

I made audio recordings of most of them, but I won’t be sharing those. The convention policy on recording is that, unless you have permission from the specific individuals involved, video and audio recording are acceptable only for personal archival purposes. What that means is that I got to enjoy the experience of being there more, take fewer notes, and be able to go back and take more notes whenever I want. There were several book references I missed in one panel, things I want to make sure I got in Robert Sawyer’s talk, and many additional notes I might have made in the neurodiversity panel.

It was a good con, and I had fun, and we visited my parents in the evenings. But next time, I think that we should have a room in the convention hotel, or at least on the same block, so that there is easy space for any of us who are attending to go and destress, relax, away from the crowds.

I think it’s worth the extra money.

We are planning to go to ad Astra in the spring, sorry, I guess that one has moved to July now. And maybe to CanCon again next year. I enjoy the focus on literature at these conventions, and writing and related activities. Not to mention there’s the opportunity to run into a few old friends here and there, and maybe even meet one of my favorite authors once in a while. So we’re planning at least those two, and we’ll go from there.

Be well, everyone.

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Cosplay Lessons from Lokai and Bele

Cosplay Lessons from Lokai and Bele

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IMGA0923Lessons learned or extrapolated while putting together a fairly simple cosplay for a major summer convention. This isn’t hard advice about how to make things or what to do or what to cosplay as, but things to think about when you’re planning that cosplay or starting to put it together.

Pick A Character That Is Meaningful To Someone (You, Maybe)

By this we mean pick something not because it’s cool or because you think it’s neat (although that’s still valid), but because it says something either about you or to you. That can be something as simple as loving the character or the episode of the show/movie/anime the character is from. It could be something little more subtle about how you like or identify with or feel about the character itself or some statement the character makes or represents.

When my son and I chose to play Loki and Bele for fan Expo 2014, it worked for me on several levels. First, because we wanted something we can do together. Second, because it’s classic Star Trek and not only did I grow up on TOS, I feel like it’s under represented these days. Third, because the statement about how racism is stupid and shortsighted is still a good one.

The meaning for you can be something as simple as because it’s fun, and that’s perfectly all right.

Make It Something Appropriate

And by that we absolutely are not talking about the matching your physique to the character. If it speaks to you, then I don’t care if you’re a 45 pound Klingon, or a 6’9″ hobbit. It doesn’t matter.

Appropriate means that it’s something you’ll be comfortable playing. If you’re very introverted, and the character your cosplaying is extremely extroverted, you can see this is either an opportunity to be someone different than you are, which is part of what cosplay is all about, or you might see it as a source of stress. Measure against your own expectations, and be sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Just because your cosplaying a wisecracking superhero, doesn’t mean that you have to run around the convention making jokes and snide remarks. People don’t necessarily expect that, so don’t expect to yourself. But if the idea of it makes you uncomfortable, consider something else.

Ask Yourself If The Cosplay Is Seasonally Appropriate

Heavy armor or many layers of clothing may not work very well for you in the middle of summer. Likewise, something that leaves a lot of skin bare may not be the best choice for your comfort in a late January con. Too much sweat and you’re risking con funk. Too little fabric and you might be up for pneumonia.

In our case, Fan Expo is held in late August, and we were fairly sweaty by the time we walked the three blocks from my hotel on. With a layer underneath, it might be okay for a dead of winter convention, but is probably better for mid-to-late spring or fall.

Do A Little Bit Of Research

See what other people have tried and failed (or succeeded) for similar, or the same, cosplays. Sometimes that awesome idea you have isn’t going to work at all and sometimes it will be spectacular. Don’t be afraid to branch out, but don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.

Think About The Size Of The Convention

Not so much physical size, but think about the number of expected attendees confined in that physical size. If the con is going to be big in terms of number of people present and clouded, and your potential cosplay has a lot of attachments or parts to a lug around, be aware of that and give it some serious thought ahead of time. You’re going to be putting yourself in this costume all day, possibly for several days, and maybe you’re going to have your picture taken every few steps. Think of it how much harder it’s going to be to get anywhere inside the con, and how much damage your hard work could suffer due to overcrowding.

Accessories

Try not to leave gathering all of your equipment and accessories until the last minute. Even if you enjoy that frantic rush to get everything prepped and ready, you’ll wind up spending more money. Yes it can be fun to throw a cosplay together in the last moments before the con, but that also makes it a lot harder on yourself than it needs to be. There’s also the likelihood that you don’t do your best work under that kind of time pressure. As long as you’re happy with the result, that’s what really counts, but you’ll usually increase your chances of being happy if you have the time to put things together exactly how you want them.

Another consideration: all that money you’re spending in the last days before the con is money you won’t have available to spend at the con, and you certainly don’t want to find your self short of cash on the convention floor.

Makeup

If your cosplay requires facepaint, and Lokai and Bele certainly does, make sure that you don’t since cheap out. Yes try to find the smaller packages. Don’t be forced into the giant packs that will allow you do do your whole face several hundred times (unless you’re planning to do a lot of similar color bases over the next several years at multiple conventions). But get the good stuff. It works better, lasts longer, and washes off without taking a lot of skin with it.

And I can’t stress this enough: don’t get your face paint and make up from the dollar store or in the aftermath of Halloween at Walmart. What you’re getting will not last an entire day, is harder to apply in the first place, and is made with the cheapest ingredients to be found. Can you say skin irritation, boys and girls?

The better quality water-based stuff looks better, lasts longer, and you’ll have to do far fewer touch ups. Plus, it comes off reasonably easily with a little bit of soap and warm water. Or, if you wear as much as we did, a nice hot shower and a lot of soap. Just be sure to wipe down the tub while it’s still wet.

For reference, we used Snazaroo and were really happy with the ease of application and staying power, but your mileage may vary, and it depends on what you want to do. Spend a little google time in research.

Planning

Maybe this step should probably go a lot earlier in the process, and we’ve covered bits and pieces anyway, but I’m thinking more about having a coherent cosplay plan. I don’t mean you have to be completely anal and plan every second of your time in shopping, creating, crafting, and wearing. But you should have a firm idea of what will take, and the ability to break things into lists. Here’s my list of needed supplies. Here’s my list of make up. Here’s my list of transportation requirements. Here are the basic steps I need to put it all together. Take your time. Figure things out.

Right, Transportation

Are you sure you want to wear those giant wings and carry that 8-foot foam sword on the subway? While wearing armor you spent six months building in the basement? Sure, the looks you get from the regular passengers will almost make it worth, but then you have to go home after the con ends of the day. Think about what it will take to get you where you’re going, how much of the pain it’s going to cause to get from from your front door to the convention floor.

Reusability

Are you going to wear this cosplay more than once? How difficult is it to get in and out of if you have to go to the bathroom? After a full day on the convention floor, how much work will be to return to normal existence? Can you wear the cosplay to another con? How important these questions are dependent great deal on you. Fun? Are you serious? Do you want to become a competitive cosplayer? And what about the masquerade?

Like I said at the front of this post, all learned or extrapolated when putting together the rather simple cosplay pictured above. But, I’ll be honest, most of them didn’t enter our minds until it was already too late. My son and I thought about this cosplay six months ago. Cool, fun, we liked the idea, and it didn’t look hard. Easy to put together quickly, right? Well, we did have fun, and wasn’t that hard, but the costumes could been much better with a little planning and thought ahead of time, particularly reckoning with Toronto in late August.

Next year, we have Anime North, Ottawa Comic Con, and potentially Montréal Comic Con as well. We’re giving Fan Expo a miss for reasons I’m not going to dive into here, but we do still have three major conventions in the year. And maybe a couple of little ones too. Definitely something to think about.

Be well, everyone.

 

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Ad Astra Cosplay Results

Ad Astra Cosplay Results

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Since it almost seems like the steampunk weapons were more work (at least they took longer), we’ll start with those.

We turned these:

IMGA0630 IMGA0634 Nerf Shotgun 01

Into these:

IMGA0635(That’s a post-con picture. You can see a little evidence of use and, in my case, the loss of a small scorpion on top.)

Mine (the shotgun) was pretty much done with layers of spray paint and made use of painter’s tape. The girls’ were much more intricate, involving a lot of handpainting and far more artistic ability than I’ve got.

As for costumes, there was much shopping of thrift stores and craft stores. We’ve got a lot of stuff we didn’t use (hey, FanExpo is coming) to play with still. The girls were awesome:

IMGA0652 IMGA0653

I actually had two costumes, the traditional mad scientist and 2/3 of a three-piece suit I accessorized. Worked out fairly well, I think.

IMGA0645 IMGA0655-closer in

Bit of a difference in demeanor, no?

We didn’t manage to take a lot of pictures since we were in costume most of the time (all of the time in the case of my oldest daughter}, and I need to raid two iPods to see everything we took, but I’ll get some photos up of other cosplayers shortly.

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Cosplay Prep

Cosplay Prep

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Totally forgot to post this, so it seems a little off now that the Con is over. I’ve added a couple of notes here and there. Pictures in a post I’ll be uploading in a few minutes.

 

Many months back, my oldest daughter and I decided to go to Ad Astra, a (mostly) literary Science Fiction and Fantasy convention held in Toronto, a planned awesome father-daughter weekend. More recently, she decided that maybe, since we’re going to cosplay for Anime North in May, we should consider putting together something for Ad Astra as well. This sparked the interest of my youngest daughter (I only have two), who began to wonder if she’d like to come along. After going through the programming list with her, and after she sucked up to her sister a bit, it’s now a father-daughters weekend. (And was completely awesome. See my last post.)

And after trips to a variety of thrift stores and other places, we’ve now got a pile of stuff we’re supposed to be turning into steampunk outfits. And the con starts Friday (this was written on the Monday before). And I’m out of days off. I am, however, on nights so I have some afternoon time. We’ll finish up what we need to in the nick of time, I think, as long as the bronze paint dries on my gloves.

I’m using the word steampunk fairly loosely, too because I’m not all that interested in labels, really. The point of the cosplay is not to strictly adhere to an imagined aesthetic, however cool, it’s about bonding with my daughters and doing something fun. We went shopping. We mixed things together. We’ve sewn, hot glued, spray painted, and made jewelry modifications (fiddly damned stuff and those miniature pliers don’t really make things easier).

Net result: we each have a nerfpunk gun (pictures forthcoming) and we each have a costume (actually, I sort of have 2, pictures of all of us also forthcoming).

Are we done? Probably not.

Are we ready for the con? Who knows?

But it doesn’t matter if we are or not. We’ve had fun, and we’re going to have a great time next weekend. We are still trying to hammer out a schedule for the convention. There are three of us, after all, and I’m not giving my girls completely free run of the hotel.

{And now we just need to worry about our Soul Eater cosplay for Anime North.}

Be well, everyone.

 

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Top 10 Ad Astra 2013 Moments

Top 10 Ad Astra 2013 Moments

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My daughters and I went to the Ad Astra SF convention in Toronto (technically Markham, but it’s attached) last weekend and we had an awesome time. A busy weekend filled with geeky goodness. We spent most of the weekend in costume (all of it in the case of my oldest daughter while the younger daughter and I took half of Sunday off), so I didn’t get a lot of pictures. Hoping that someone is going to post some, but frequent Google searches haven’t come up with much yet. Hint, hint. (A handful of pics in a slideshow here, including one of us with my head cut off, and a video recap here, which we do appear in briefly.)

But with any experience, there are bits that stand out and I thought I’d share a few of those in brief.

  1. Stepping onto the stage with my daughters at the Masquerade so they (okay, we, but I stood in the back even though they made me go first) could show off their costumes to the waiting crowd.
  2. Heather Dale holding us in the room after the Masquerade to start the concert with a beautiful, vocal only version of “Mordred’s Lullaby”, standing up out of the audience to root us all to the spot and letting me know I’m maybe not quite as done with the Arthurian mythos as I’d thought I was.
  3. Talking my daughters into a posing session for a group of artists in our Steampunk cosplay, letting ourselves (and not fooling myself at all, mostly them because they’re far cuter than I am) be drawn in a variety of poses.
  4. After the posing session, having the artist GOH, Scott Caber who has far more major credits than they could list in the program, pull us aside to finish his sketches of my girls, sign them, and give them to us.
  5. Discovering two new anime series with my youngest then sharing them with her older sister. For reference, Ore Shura and Kotoura-san, and I recommend them both to any anime fan. The latter, in fact, is going to “appear” in the first episode of the Cyborg Bunnies Review.
  6. Meeting up again with two friends I made at World Fantasy last year, and being so absolutely and completely happy to do so and that I’d met them in the first place.
  7. Being privileged that both of those friends (who are both authors) allowed us to interview them for the podcast that we haven’t quite launched yet (but it’s close!).
  8. The poke in the brain Tanya gave me (not that she knew it at the time) to get back to my Japanese lessons. I’ve misplaced the bulk of what I have learned and need to fix that.
  9. My oldest daughter winning what she had to compete for at the Art Auction.

10. Realizing that both of my girls actually wanted to hang out with me for the entire weekend.

Okay yes, that’s really more than ten moments, but feel free to make your own list. There were a lot more besides, in panels, at the Pacific Mall, in the dealer’s room and just hanging out in the halls. Ad Astra 2013 was a great time, and I think we’ve decided we’re going back next year. It was a lot of fun and everyone who can should come join us.

Be well, everyone.

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My 2013 Convention Schedule

My 2013 Convention Schedule

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First off, if you see this twice in your feeds, I’m sorry. Because it’s relevant in several places, I’m cross posting it to both my author blog and my personal one, but a day apart.

That said, to no one’s surprise, I’m raising a group of geek kids. My wife is the token non-geek, she thinks, but has either developed geeky attributes as she’s adapted to the rest of us, or she’s just letting her inner geek out to play a little more. Either way, we’re a geek family.

And we like cons. Each of us for different reasons, probably, but a lot of those cross over. Cons are fun.

I’ll be attending four conventions this year, with the possibility of yet to be scheduled day trips to a couple more depending on days off and budget at the time. This is on par with last year for me, but with some differences as one of those was World Fantasy which I went to on my own and two were day trips.

But for 2013, we’re looking at this as a minimum:

We (myself and my oldest daughter) will be at Ad Astra April 5-7. This is mostly a lit con with some other stuff thrown in. I’m looking forward to renewing a few real world friendships, conducting some interviews, going to some cool panels, and having a great time with my daughter. Tickets purchased months ago, hotel booked.

On May 24, by request as a birthday present, I’ll be taking the same daughter to Anime North. She’s in love with anime and cosplay and it seems like a natural fit. Again just the two of us. Further, I have agreed to cosplay for the event. We will both be attending as characters from Soul Eater. In her case, the heroine Maka, and in my case Professor Stein. Tickets purchased.

August 22-25, the annual family pilgrimage to the geek mecca known as FanExpo (also, I believe the third biggest con in the world after San Diego and New York comic cons). Four days of everything geek, and I do mean everything. Whatever it is, you can probably find it at FanExpo. Tickets not on sale yet, but vacation time booked.

Finally, there’s a small con starting just down the road from us, Quinte Mini Con in Belleville on November 9 & 10. Shortest drive to a con ever for us. Both daughters are in, son debating, wonderful wife to attend if she’s not working. Tickets not on sale yet, but they’re supposed to be, so probably any second, we hope.

It’s always the Year of the Geek, but it almost seems like 2013 is also the Year of the Con.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Be well, everyone.

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