Thursday, January 19, 2012

Con report: illogicon

This past weekend, I kicked off my con season with a convention in my former haunting grounds, Raleigh NC. It was a first year con, very small, but tons of fun. In some ways, I like small cons better than huge ones, just because you actually get to hang out and connect with people, as opposed to the big cons, where you have to have drive-by-conversations. It’s like the difference between going to Mardi Gras, and having a dinner party with a bunch of good friends. I will admit that despite being a tiny weekend event, it completely kicked my ass, and I was so exhausted by Sunday night that I couldn’t even stay awake enough to play a button-mashing side scroller on the Xbox with my sister. In gamer speak, that's pretty freakin' exhausted.

Technically, my illogicon started on Thursday night, when Matt and I drove down early so I could shoot with my dear friend and mentor Alan Welch, of Reverie Realm. We’ve been planning an image as an homage to Frank Frazetta’s “Egyptian Queen”, and finally got a chance to shoot it, using our friend’s large garage/workshop area. For anyone unfamiliar with it, Little Miss Egyptian Queen is wearing some kind of gold pasties, and a long blue loin cloth, and….nothing else. Oh, she has a fancy Egyptian hat. Which is all well and good when you are lounging about warm, sunny, well heated Egypt, but holy cow it’s January and we’re practically outdoors and why couldn't he paint her in a nice cashmere sweater or something. Thank god for set assistants and fluffy bathrobes is all I have to say. The pictures turned out great, though, and hopefully I’ll be posting the finished image soon!

On Friday, Matt and I headed over to the hotel to set up. We were nicely tucked into a corner with Shaun, my chainmail guy, and GarthGraham, a really unfairly cute webcomic writer and artist. Every year at WTHCon I bid on him at the geek auction, and every year I get outbid because he can do the David-Bowie-in-Labyrinth-glass-ball-thing. Pro tip, fellas, the ladies just love that. Also in the dealer’s room were the artists of Firetower Studios, a Jedi Academy (where you can learn to fight with lightsabers!), and some cool vendors selling books, jewelry, and art. I finally got to meet (officially in person) two of my con buddies, Animaze Guy, whose awesome pictures I will be linking throughout this blog, and Mike Penny, who does videography.

I had a record (for me) EIGHT panels, including the Zen Scavenger Hunt (the panelists bring 10 random items, then the audience makes a scavenger hunt by calling out what they want us to “find”, and we have to explain why one of the random things we brought is what they want. It’s like an awesome exercise in BSing, because you have to explain how a typewriter is really like a bass guitar. Unfortunately, I kinda skimmed the explanatory email, and brought nothing besides my jazz hands, so I was designated scorekeeper), Trivia for Chocolate (answer geeky trivia questions, receive chocolate for correct responses), a couple panels about modeling, costuming, and art (with the aforementioned Firetower Studios guys, who are very funny).

Friday night also saw a very fun dance party thrown by the infamous Formal Vader (with his beautiful wife as Formal Leia, making them a very-well-dressed-but-exceedingly-weird-to-think-about-in-canonical terms couple). 
Just before the Father-Daughter dance!
As it was a winter formal, I endeavored to find something appropriate to wear.

Clearly I failed.
We had Mandalorians and Master Chief (in a pinstripe suit), raver girls, elves, lots of people in formal wear, and Matt even got down on the dance floor in his full armor.

In addition to enabling people to dance their butts off, there was also a fundraising and support effort for Baby Leah, affectionately known in the fan community as “Princess Leah.” Leah is the infant daughter of two Star Wars fans, Zev and Fran Esquenazi, and she suffers from a very serious condition that has baffled doctors. As anyone who’s ever had a family member go to the hospital… those bills get kinda scary. So the fan community has banded together to help raise money for her family, and so far has sent $65,000 to her family to help them out. You can check out their facebook page and blog if you're interested in helping out! This time, we also took turns recording video messages of hope and encouragement, so hopefully the Esquenazis will be getting their video of all of us NC geeks wishing them the best soon.

Saturday saw the debut of my newest outfit for conventions: my fleece? Pikachu onesie. Oh, I can sense your jealousy from here. My dear friends Cord and Kelly came up with it for my Christmas present, and it’s the perfect thing for wintery conventions, warm and soft and fuzzy. Also, it’s the best way ever to one-up someone’s Pikachu hat/tshirt/shoes/whatever. “Oh, you’re wearing a Pikachu? I AM PIKACHU, BITCHES.” (I may have a small Pikachu one-up-manship contest going on with my friend SpaceJesus) Words can’t describe the amazingness of this outfit, so I think these pictures will have to:


Back view... yes, it has a tail!
Me, clearly about to kick some Mandalorian's ass
There were more panels….and more parties! ConTemporal, a Chapel Hill based steampunk convention, threw an excellent party which was promptly shut down by the hotel, then discreetly reopened by the ConTemporal staff, and was very fun, especially for a party that periodically had to shush itself. For all the Whovians out there, we taped an episode of GallifreyPirate Radio (which you can watch here). I also helped host Trivia for Chocolate, as the self-designated Chocolate Girl. Like Vanna White, but handing out M&Ms. Is it true that I was caught sneaking a few M&Ms? At this time I can neither confirm nor deny such allegations…

Sunday is always a very laid back day at conventions, partly because everyone is leaving to get home and get ready for the week to start again, but mostly because everyone is dead tired from partying/gaming the night before. In a cruel twist of fate, Sunday is actually when I had the most panels, so I was forced to feign coherence and wittiness. I confess, I couldn’t even bring myself to get into the bikini, and spent the entire day as The Pajama Chick, and now I’m strongly considering lining my bikini with some flannel.

By Sunday afternoon, I was falling asleep in the lobby waiting for my last panel to start. The panel, named “See I’m So Pretty,” was not actually a panel about stunning good looks, but rather how to get great pictures of your costume. You might be surprised to know how much sorcery is involved with this process, so it was a pretty informative panel, but we also forced the audience to preface any comment or question with a compliment about the panelists, preferably related to how pretty we were. Our very creative audience complimented the sturdiness of our noses, our lack of split ends, and how nice our relatives were. Next time I’ll have to be a lot more specific with the wording.

We capped off our Raleigh visit with a trip to Brewmasters, to sample their famous burgers, which were ungodly delicious and probably totally unhealthy. And then I slept for 14 hours straight.
I hear illogicon was a success this year, so there will be another next year, and I’m looking forward to it! Congratulations to the illogicon team for putting together such a fun event :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My year of conventions

All right, so I’ve been doing this convention/cosplay/modeling thing for about a year and a half. I’m not a supermodel, and Dragon*con hasn’t sent me an email begging for my attendance. I made a bit of money this year, most of which went straight back into costumes and travel expenses. I moved twice, pulled off the most difficult cosplay on my “to do” list, got into a minor internet scuffle over an ill-conceived gaming company’s marketing scheme, and I did more paid photoshoots this year than since I started modeling. I met a lot of amazing people, and got to know many acquaintances better. Several people made artwork of me, including this badasslittle statuette I am now referring to as my action figure. I drove a 22 hour round trip by myself, I started selling my own pictures, and I began guesting at conventions.

I also made a mess of my personal life and my (now ex) boyfriend and I separated. I occasionally offended people by not knowing their names (names and faces have *always* been a weak spot of mine). I stammered at dinner parties when nice, normal adults asked me what I did for a living because "professional bikini wearer" did not seem like a respectable response (default answer: I do…freelance…sales?). I lost a few friends for not being more in touch.

So…what did I learn? Was it worth it? Should I keep pursuing this crazy career? Let’s do some Q&A, which is really just me talking to myself, and figure it out.