Roosters, Gorloks and Costume Dreams

This is a big week for the cosplay fam at my house. This week we roadtrip to Austin, Texas for RTX.  Cosplay daughter just graduated from high school and this is what she chose for a senior trip.

She’s an anglophile, my daughter, and I several years ago I began saving money to take her to England in the summer before she went off to college.

When the time came to plan a trip however, she wanted to go to RTX in Austin- because that’s really her dream. To work for a production company called Rooster Teeth.

rooster teeth

Rooster Teeth makes most of her favorite shows- RWBY, Red vs Blue, Achievement Hunter and Day 5.  She’s taking her Yang Cosplay from RWBY

yang pro

and also a Felix (from Red vs Blue) cosplay. She finished painting the jacket for that cosplay yesterday:


It says “aint no rest for the wicked”. My poor photo skills are responsible for the illegibility here.

Her dream job is to work for Rooster Teeth in costuming and digital art.

And I know I’m her Mom, but seriously. She has skills. She can sew and construct and paint and digitally render.

She’s made this digital print to give to the cast of Achievement Hunter

off topic

and will be hoping to make some good contacts.

She’s going to the Webster University Conservatory of Theater Arts in the Fall to study costume design and construction with professionals. She’ll be a Gorlok.


It’s a mythical chimera of a creature that the students at Webster invented that has the paws of a speeding cheetah, the horns of a fierce buffalo and the face of a dependable Saint Bernard

To be honest- the mascot helped sell the school for her. “It’s a Harry Potter mascot!” she said, when we visited.

That, and the fact that it’s the kind of art school where the university team with the best uniforms is the Quidditch team and where students randomly wear cosplay to class.

She’ll both fit in and learn important skills. I’m envious of the required classes in her major- which includes things like “advanced corsetry” and “millinery.”

It’s very exciting for me to see how she’s making her dreams happen.

I helped early on with advice on sewing- pleats and puffed sleeves. Esposo (her stepdad) helped with bondo and plastic forming. He gives her power tools as gifts  The amazing guys at her internship at the Eternal Armory  taught her CAD and sculpting and 3-D modelling.

But in the end, she’s the one who is making her dreams come true.  Constructing her own artistic visions. Making contacts and building a resume.  Exploring and trying and learning from those around her.

She may end up working for Rooster Teeth. Or a film studio. Or on Broadway. Or for television.

I’m excited to see how her dreams unfold, and how she’s already making them happen.

We had business cards made- because as you all know, she is already quite skilled. Let me know if you need any design or costuming work done!!!!

see the cards below or contact her at @kiogenic on twitter or tumblr!

business card

Faces of Cosplay: Average Asian Cosplay

“Always strive for more but never stop learning. Ask questions. Reach out to the cosplay community. Other cosplayers are usually willing to help.”

Paul fire

As I read and research and write about cosplay, I’m continually encouraged by just how diverse and interesting the cosplay community really is. With that in mind, I’d like to widen the scope of this blog to showcase the work and stories of other cosplayers of all ages, gender identities and backgrounds.  This week we will kick off with an award-winning cosplayer I met at the Arkansas Anime Festival in the spring of 2015.

Cosplay daughter had brought her Hiro supersuit and I was cosplaying his aunt. Our first stop was a Disney meet-up and panel down the dim hall of the Springdale Holiday Inn. As I stood outside the room, I saw my “nephew” Tadashi approach and squealed in delight: “TADASHI!!!!!”  and he replied, in perfect character- “Hi Aunt Cass.” That’s how we met.

Hamada family

Name: Average Asian Cosplay

Day job: Graphic Designer and Sales at a sign shop

Age: 29

Home base: Wichita, Kansas USA

Why do you cosplay?

The joy of bringing a fictional character to life. Being able to take something that is two dimensional and bring it to the real world.

How long have you been cosplaying?

I have been cosplaying since 2010.

How do you choose your character(s)?

I choose a character depending on how they look and act. I usually want ones that I don’t need to change my own look too much. Also characters that people could easily recognize.

Do you have a signature, or favorite cosplay?

My main cosplays are Mako from Legend of Korra and Spark from Pokemon GO. Both of these cosplays are comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Spark is fun because I also made a large Zapdos that stays perched on my arm.

Paul Pokemon


Do you make, or buy your cosplays?

I buy and make my cosplays. The ones I compete with are made. The ones I just want to have fun at a con with are usually purchased.

What advice do you have to other cosplayers?

Have fun with cosplay. Don’t worry about what other people think about you or your cosplay. If you are competing and do not win, it isn’t that you didn’t do well, it is because someone just did it better. Always strive for more but never stop learning. Ask questions. Reach out to the cosplay community. Other cosplayers are usually willing to help.

What’s the best thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?

I always enjoy it when kids want to take a picture with me and then want to brag to their sibling about it.

What’s the worst thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?

It would have to be someone who asks why I cosplayed a certain character even though I don’t look like them or don’t have the correct body type.

Do you attend conventions?

I attend multiple conventions throughout the Midwest with the occasional con outside the region.

Which is your favorite?

My favorite convention would have to be Tokyo in Tulsa because it was my first convention and where I’ve met many of I’ve met many of my cosplay friends.

Safe Spaces and Complex Identity(s)

Hi all!

I’m back to blogging and DETERMINED to write more frequently!

Sitting in front of the laptop, however, I find myself lost in a sea of possible topics: I’ve been living and observing the cosplay universe, and have a tremendous backlog of stories to tell.

As I sit and consider all the places and people and relationships- I realize that one of the things that I both appreciate and wonder at the most is the diversity of the stories, the great variety of cosplay and cosplayers and the joyful exploration and celebration of fluid identities.

Yesterday I was at cosplacon in Jefferson City, Missouri with cosplay daughter, bonus daughter and their friend Allen.


The Joker, Gender Bent WWE Wrestler Pete Dunne and Dick Grayson (Lego Batman-Style)

The best convention sites are the ones with large open floor plans that function as stages where you can watch the show go by- or find a group of new friends by virtue of joining the group dressed as one of your favorite fandoms.

The venerable Capitol Plaza Inn in Jefferson City has one of these spaces.  A 1970’s vintage hotel- the building boasts a central atrium with old-school neon track lighting and the remnants of a several story waterfall (now dry and decorated with tropical plastic flowers).

As the glass elevators slipped up and down, I sat on a nondescript convention-center chair, parked on the trippy, pseudo-celestial carpet, listening to the happy noise of a whole mob: the prerecorded screeching of the bright-red parrot wearing claws and black jeans.  The giggling of groups of anime cosplayers skipping by while holding hands. The clanking of metal and plastic as a gang of well-armed assassins traipsed by to claim a central locale in the atrium, manspreading weapons, legs and arms in a territorial pose.

There were families, some with children cosplaying (but not the parents) some with parents cosplaying (but not the children). Some wore full, elaborate costumes, others only a hat, a sword, or a tail.

A pair of young sisters scamper by, one dressed as Ladybug, the other gender-bending Chat Noir.


They were all on the stage of the con floor, practicing what the sociologists call dramaturgy: (sort of) exploring their self and selves in a space designed to encourage creativity, diversity and play, presenting a self to others (as Mythbuster Adam Savage has noted):

This is cosplay: we are, all of us on that floor, injecting ourselves into a narrative that meant something to us, and we are making it our own. We are connecting with something important. And the costumes are how we reveal ourselves to each other.”

            -Adam Savage

I say this is “sort of” dramaturgy, because that theory generally sees society as a stage to be performed upon. A cosplay convention is something different- it is a safe, participatory and interactive entertainment experience without a detached performer-audience relationship. There is posing, certainly. And applause in the form of glomping or encouraging “I love your cosplay!” words. But each viewer of each cosplay feels free to talk to the performers, and those in cosplay generally love to talk to fans.

In this way, it is a safe space.

I know that “safe spaces” have  a bad rap in some circles. (That’s a link to the very angry urban dictionary definitions of the idea).

What I mean when I say it, however, is the perhaps older version of the idea:

In most cases, safe spaces are innocuous gatherings of like-minded people who agree to refrain from ridicule, criticism or what they term microaggressions… so that everyone can relax enough to explore the nuances of, say, a fluid gender identity.”

-Judith Shuleivitz

In the words of the fabulous Dr. Crossplay,  who I spoke to in the lobby, it’s “healthy creativity.”

I like that. Healthy Creativity. Healthy exploration and celebration.

In the coming weeks I’d like to showcase some of that creativity and fluidity by showcasing cosplayers on this page- extending the space where we can relax, explore and celebrate the healthy melee of ideas and images that is cosplay.

By cosplaymom

Moms and Daughters- And Fangs


So there are two posts that I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. Thinking about them today, I realize that they go together.

I wanted to write about Carrie Fischer. About playing dress up and running around the playground pretending to be Princess Leia.

I wanted to write about Princesses, generally. How I was as girly, “wearing my Mom’s old nightgowns to be a princess” as you can get, but how Leia made it ok to be badass AND and a princess. In a dress.

But I also wanted to write about how my daughter is NOT girly. Never liked barbie dolls. Owns one dress total. And how it is both challenging and wonderful to have such a talented, individual girl in the house.

The kind who leaves fangs on the kitchen counter instead of barbie shoes.

(and there is a separate post upcoming on “you might be a cosplay Mom IF…..” you find random fangs on the kitchen counter….)

There are expectations- societal and familial, and then there are individuals seeking to find their way.  My Mom negotiated this with my Grandma, I had to do it with my Mom (and the world around us), cosplay daughter does it with me.


here we are. four generations circa 2005

And Carrie Fischer had to do it with her mom and with her daughter.

And she did it with fangs. (Bear with me)

I think fangs (and the freedom to wear them, hide them, display them, etc.) are a gift we can give ourselves and our mothers and daughters.

To be brave and honest (like both Leia and the real Carrie Fisher), to be sassy (like my grandmother) independent and strong (like my mother) and artistically adventurous and free (like my daughter).

Carrie Fisher gave us a princess who KILLED the slug who put her in that gold bikini,


and also wrote terrifyingly honest, brilliant and eloquent books about mother-daughter relationships that must have driven her mother to distraction.

My kid drives me to distraction. Often. And whoa nelly I KNOW I did to my Mom.

But I’m so very proud of my daughter and her fearless fangs.  We all give a gift to each other as women when we accept the fangs with the princess dresses, the honesty with the manners and the things that we see in each other that are different-alongside with the things that are the same.

here’s to Carrie, and Debbie. To Hillary and Michelle. To Amy Schumer and Isabel Allende. To all the gorgeous, strong, imperfect, loving, nasty women out there who love and support each other.


Wear a lightsaber AND a gold bikini if you want. Rock those fangs.

Be you.

By cosplaymom

The Future Wears Kigus

The future isn’t just above the Arby’s sign: it’s wearing kigus  and glomping. 


Cosplay daughter has two- One kitty and one Baymax

It’s been a while- life, the day job, and all of cosplay daughter’s activities have made the time fly.

Lots has happened, I finished (and co-finished) two books about beauty, we’ve been working on university applications, and you may have heard that we had a presidential election here in the U.S.

Between the cosplay club and my the university students that I teach, I’ve seen a lot of confusion, sadness and concern about the results of that election.

…and anger. Lots of anger.  Students where I work keep sticking their phones in my face, showing me the map that demonstrates how young people 18-29 said they would vote.


Guys, this map, like my experiences as a teacher and a Mom is anecdotal. But I see something that makes me happy. The future, our future here in the U.S. is filled with young people who embrace difference, non-binary gender identities and people from anywhere.

My students and my young cosplay friends glomp anyone, regardless of their immigration status.

As the kigus demonstrate, everyone deserves to be comfortable. To be safe and warm. Accepted as part of the tribe. And the young people I know are deeply, passionately committed to those values.

I know not all young people are monolithic in their thinking. I know that cosplay daughter is a blue dot in her deep red high school.

But I also know that in her school and in her community,  cosplay daughter is part of a network of young people who support each other, encourage each other and help each other.  That network is Christian, Jewish, Muslim and atheist. It is heterosexual, homosexual and asexual. It is Anglo, Hispanic, Asian and Afro-descended.

and Furry.


Cosplay Daughter’s Cosplay Club-

And when I am discouraged by the hate and and insensitivity and ignorance that drives the fear of many in the United States, I’m counting on the love, inclusion (and glomping) of these great young people to save us.

No pressure kids.


By cosplaymom

Showing the World Who You Are: Cosplay Identities

Cosplay daughter went to school today rocking her Hogwarts House Colors. And with a wand.

2016-04-21 07.16.35

Wearing also, a vial of wolfsbane. We all remember what a dangerous zoo high school could be.


She’s very proud of having been sorted into Ravenclaw by the official sorting hat on the Pottermore website.


….for the record, I was surprisingly sorted into Gryffindor.  I was dead certain that I’d be Ravenclaw myself. Huh.

But it does make my McConagall cosplay make more sense:


Me and a small 8-year-old cosplay daughter at the release party for the Deathly Hallows. May have actually been her first official cosplay: Hermione, of course.  Fuzzy photo, but note time turner! She won the children’s division- first place.

That my daughter and I were sorted into different houses surprises me not a bit.  She has my blond hair….and that’s about it. We are very different on the inside, in talents, personality and approach to the world.

What we look like on the outside (similar, like mother and daughter) isn’t truly indicative of who we are on the inside.

In my beauty class at the university, we are winding up a unit on beauty and identity- how outward appearances signal inner worth and identity.  We talk about the French philosopher Paul Valery’s theory of three bodies, where the second body (your outer appearance) is a reflection of the first body (who you are inside). As Nancy Etcoff says, we all seek to show the world who we really are, by what we look like- AND wde all strive for an outer appearance that shows the world what we’d like to be.

This seems particularly true to me in the world of cosplay.  Cosplay is the practice of choosing the identity that you’d like to have, or wish you had, or feel you DO have, and showing it more specifically to the world.

Few people to cosplay the characters that no one likes- the mean ones or the stupid ones.

Cosplay daughter recently attended a convention (Naka-Kon) in her Yang cosplay, and went to a RWBY  meet-up.

2016-03-14 06.39.10

She’s the Yang in the aviator sunglasses, front and center

I love the story this photo tells about cosplay choices.

There are six Yangs (one of them gender-bent) and six Rubys (two of them gender-bent), four blakes (one gender-bent) but only two Weiss cosplayers.

Why only two Weiss?

Because no body likes her. She’s the spoiled, bitchy character from RWBY. The mean girl.

We choose to cosplay characters we admire, both because they are like what we feel like inside, and represent elements of who we’d like to be.

I love how the cosplay community recognizes that this might mean that you want to crossplay a character whose biological gender is different than yours, like, say cosplay daughter does when she cosplays 2-D from the Gorillaz (a new cosplay)

Gorillaz Naka kon

Lounging, with melodica, on the right

and it’s also a great choice to gender-bend your cosplay, take the inspiration of the character, his/her strengths, style, power and value, and make a version of it that fits your own biological gender. (I love the guy rocking the ruby-red hat as Ruby in the above photo).

We all make choices about how our appearance communicates our identity to the world.

Cosplay widens the possibilities for people- male, female, young, old, etc. in what they can show.

Today, my daughter went to school with a wand and house tie that she’s proud to know represents intuition, originality, wit, eloquence, intelligence, and all the other traits listed above in the Ravenclaw image.

How wonderful is it that she has that chance? That she’s empowered by both the great literary work of Rowling AND the cosplay community to confidently claim these traits as part of the identity she feels and the self she shows the world.

What else could a Mom ask for?

Writing this, I am actually even more determined to do a cosplay that I’ve been talking about for years- a weary, bad-ass Mom who will do anything to keep fighting both intractable bureaucracy and the monsters who threaten her girl.

I really need to cosplay Ripley. That’s how I feel on the inside. Time to show you all.





How to Get a Portal Gun Through Airport Security: Pax South 2016

It’s time for cosplay daughter to start looking at colleges.

Obviously, she wants to attend one where she work on coding, game design, art and costume design, so off to liberal arts places we go!

First stop was Trinity University in San Antonio Texas- a lovely school with a kick-ass costume shop.

As far as I was concerned, our trip to San Antonio was about checking out the college. For cosplay daughter? It was about PAX SOUTH.

pax south

Pax is a set of five super-humongous gaming conventions that started out as industry events, and are now pilgrimage points for the serious gamers and related fandoms. So of course we coordinated the trip to Trinity with the convention. I’m that kind of cosplay Mom.

She was pretty excited when the passes came.

2016-01-11 17.25.39

And of COURSE, she would have to cosplay at this convention, and cosplay an appropriate video game character.

she decided to go with Chell, from Portal 2- an early favorite. The object of the game is to solve a maze by shooting blue and orange “portals” through and around and between walls to escape.  To do this, Chell uses a fancy gun:


While also evading evil robots.


Cosplay daughter has been cosplaying Chell for some time, and wanted to take that cosplay to Pax.

Kira Chell

But…..this meant that we needed to get her new Portal Gun safely through airport security, in one piece, and without any of us getting arrested.

Which of course would be an adventure.

It’s not a thing you can pack in your checked bag. It’s got delicate little feet and feelers.

So we carried it on.

2016-01-29 06.08.40

Very early morning flight, with portal device, combat boots and thankfully supportive cosplay stepdad.

Here we go.

The first rule is: in an airport, it’s not a portal GUN. It’s a PORTAL DEVICE.

This is important if you want to make it to the convention without being hustled off to a back room and strip-searched.

Doesn’t mean, though that security (and others) will not still be interested.  She got to explain what “that thing” was to various TSA officers, (one of whom couldn’t wait to watch the face of the lady running the x-ray machine when it went through).


But, even once we got past security, the questions continued.

As a note, if you are sitting in an airport waiting lounge like this:

2016-01-29 11.07.42

Two things will happen:

  1. LOTS of people are going to ask you: “what IS that thing!?!?” and of course, you can tell them, but it won’t help the majority of them.  They have no idea what you’re talking about. We started saying it was a toy, or prop. Most walked away with puzzled expressions.
  2. You will find all the nerds and gamers in the airport, most of whom are going to the same convention as you.  They will say “nice portal gun” and you will shush them hurriedly:  “DEVICE! it’s a portal DEVICE!”

In the end, the DEVICE made it to the convention safely.


She was a big hit:



And made a bunch of new friends.

2016-01-31 18.05.26

oh, and yeah, really liked the university too.

Yang Xiao Long on the Sulaco- Arkansas Anime Festival T-Minus 19 Days

Ok, folks, here we go- New cosplay project!

Armed with a NEW, heavy duty sewing machine,

Yay! Currently brainstorming names for her. I'm thinking maybe Sulaco.

Yay! Currently brainstorming names for her. I’m thinking maybe Sulaco.

and we’re ready to take on a new Cosplay for our next convention:  The Arkansas Anime Festival (A2F).

Cosplay daughter realizes that much of her cosplay is gaming-based, which is fine, but she wanted an Anime costume for A2F.  She’s been wanting to try for Yang cosplay for a while, and we’re going to go for it:


Once again, this is a cosplay from a show (RWBY) that I don’t know, but apparently she’s not only smart, and funny (apparently spouting bad puns like weapons)…..

Yang pun

…..but has awesome fighting skills:  super strength in her punch, which is linked to the gauntlets that also fire bullets.  When she’s really angry, her hair also flames, and she can take down a whole building with her fists.  She’s a huntress, fighting monsters.

I understand why daughter (newly training in Kenpo) loves this character.


So here we go.  Armed with a modest budget, we hit JoAnn fabrics yesterday, and then, of course, the thrift stores.  Can we make this cosplay for less than $100? Let’s find out.

(Looking at the website for advice yesterday, I saw that one of the member’s mottos was “Nothing is impossible, but some things are very expensive.” So. Very. True.

It’s easy to drop hundreds of dollars on one of these projects in small pieces. We have to avoid that this time- I have to save for us to go to Pax South in January)

Cosplay daughter is an inveterate internet and thrift shopper, though.

We found second hand boots that would work, and by last evening, she had altered them, made the scarves to go on top and the sock/sleeve for her left leg.


Here working, while watching RWBY for inspiration. That’s Yang on the screen.

The boots and scarves.

The boots and scarves.

Today we start tackling the jacket- T Minus 19 days and still under budget.

Wish us luck!

Cat Cosplay: Feline Fine….

So the other day, a friend posted this photo to my Facebook timeline:

sailor mewn

Anime fans will quickly recognize this character as “Sailor Mewn”- feline Sailor Moon.

My cats may never forgive her.

It turns out that there is a whole, glorious world of CAT COSPLAY!

How fun is that?

Well, fun for the humans, anyway. (Though I have to say that Sailor Mewn, there, doesn’t look upset.)

We have the two cats: one princess and one street urchin with PTSD.

2014-03-12 19.02.52

Cosplay daughter with both kitties. The calico, Abby, and her royal highness, Princess Fluffbucket (aka Pearl).

Cosplay daughter has been dressing them up for years- the princess even once won a pet costume contest for Halloween- (I think because she was the only cat entered).

Turns out that clothes from

Turns out that clothes from “Build-a-Bear” fit the cats perfectly.

Until this, though, I don’t know that she had considered actual cosplay for the kitties.

I hadn’t either.

I sure am NOW!

To be fair, our street urchin, Abby, doesn’t really need an actual costume to cosplay.  If she weren’t afraid of EVERYTHING (humans walking into a room, humans walking out of a room, saran wrap, the washing machine, etc.)  Abby would be a perfect Mochi for our Hiro and Aunt Cass cosplay:

“BIG HERO 6” ©2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved. Well, not PERFECT- she’s clearly not fat enough. But we never let body shape deter us in our cosplay choices. This is a body-shaming free zone!

Abby would never make it through a convention, though.  As esposo (recently upgraded from novio!) has observed, Abby is sure that EVERYTHING means that the apocalypse is upon us.

That leaves Princess Pearl, Empress of Everything.

I’m thinking Elsa:



Light fur, big blue eyes. Fabulous, high-maintenance, feline-in-charge.

Stay tuned. There may be Elsa cat cosplay!

Update: Cosplay daughter says that while she is totally on board for Cat Cosplay, there is NO WAY she’s dressing Pearl up as a “overrated Drury Princess.” (not a Frozen fan- though I think that’s from the ubiquity of the franchise more than anything else.)

we’ll see. Daughter suggests perhaps Cinderella…..

My OCs are Showing- Fan Fiction and Original Character Shaming: Fandom’s Social Imaginary

So as I wonder “what on earth have I done” in taking on two simultaneous book contracts in my day job, the cosplay life around here goes on. Cosplay daughter has started a costuming internship, we have two upcoming conventions, and once again, the arts and crafts room has exploded. Stern words have been shared about limiting the flotsam to that room.

In and around this frenzy, I have recently learned about “OC shaming” and have come to realize that, once again, I am not nearly cool enough for the fandoms.

An “OC” is an original character, one that fans conceive of and develop through their love of the source material.  This is often found fan fiction- I believe that the deeply troubling Fifty Shades of Grey characters are OCs of the Twilight series.

I learned this lesson, because cosplay daughter and cosplay best friend are huge fans of the show Red vs. Blue:

a production of the company

a production of the company “Rooster Teeth”, hence the logo.

The show is a send-up of first person shooter games like Halo or Mass Effect and is relentlessly silly. Also, from my outside perspective, impossible to follow. But I’m not a gamer. Or 16 years old.

The girls are such fans, that they have developed, and enjoy sharing with each other, two original characters in that universe. These characters have names, elaborate backstories and their own plot lines.

As I heard about a new story that the girls were spinning for their characters, I was impressed at the detail and creativity, and suggested that they share it with the world as fan fiction. (So proud of myself for knowing what fan fiction is!)

However, what I didn’t know was that original characters are so disdained in the fandoms, that there is a whole world of making fun of both the characters and the people who invent them: OC shaming.  Cosplay daughter explained it to me this way:

-“Oh….your character is BEST FRIENDS with (insert name of famous character from the canon)…..Riiiigggghhhhtttt.”

This is so pervasive that on Tumblr (where the fandoms seem to live) the artists themselves have started a “OC shaming” tag that is similar to the dog or cat shaming:

OC shaming

An example from the Tumblr page of artist and cosplayer sawsbuckgo


I’m not sure what I think about this.

Generally, I have found the cosplay, art and fandom communities to be welcoming and supportive of difference and creativity.

So why would those same communities enforce strict adherence to “canons” and both shame and promote self-shaming of the fans?  What’s wrong with people taking some ownership of the universe(s) that they love?

I’m not sure. I suspect that part of it is that same fervent love of the canonical text/image/storyline.  Fans can be deeply protective of what they love so much.  And in the extreme, these are the same people who will tell others that they can’t cosplay a character of a different ethnicity, body shape or gender.  Those fans only want to see, in person, the same thing that they see on the page or screen.

I can remember feeling like that as a young fan.  I really, really loved Star Wars. And I really, really didn’t like the novels written about it.  It took the characters places that I hadn’t imagined them going or thinking things that I didn’t want them to think. I still don’t like Star Wars, Star Trek or Torchwood novels.

Hans and Leia

sorry. Not the best photo, but trust me. They were SO FUN.

But I did LOVE the gender-bent Hans and Leia at Cosplacon this year.

So why?

I think some of it has to do with the shared social imaginary. (Apologies here for geeking out PhD-style)

According to philosophers and other scholars, communities collectively construct a shared “imaginary”- an imagined set of values, laws, symbols and practices.  Members of the community then abide by and work within the space of those imagined parameters to function as citizens.

In the United States, one could argue, part of our social imaginary is the deeply held value of the right to free expression. And we (as a group) get very angry, defensive and accusatory of members of our community who challenge that value. (Hence the recent backlash against “political correctness.”

I wonder, if similarly, creating a new character violates the shared imaginary in a way that crossplay or creative versions of canonical characters doesn’t.  For example, do the fandoms accept Steampunk Darth Vader because he is a version of a part of our social imaginary already?


Not the one I saw at cosplacon, but impressive.

And then do we refuse to accept brand-new additions because we didn’t arrive at them collectively?


What I know is that most of my characters when I cosplay are OCs.  I have a steampunk pirate/smuggler who I based on members of my own family history, and an elf from the Tolkein Simarillion whose name I can never remember at conventions. (I admit. I picked a cool elf name from the text, because she loved trees. I love trees too).

2014-06-14 13.52.57

For the record: Melian.

And I enjoy cosplaying both, and probably get away with it because I’m not encroaching on anyone’s beloved canon.

But I suspect that if I tried to insert my original character into a beloved fandom, say……Firefly

My smuggler, Amelia Elizabeth Hawkhurst Avery, and Captain Mal. I was excited. Amelia and I are both Browncoats.

My smuggler, Amelia Elizabeth Hawkhurst Avery, and Captain Mal. I was excited. Amelia and I are both Browncoats.

That’s where I’d start to get shamed.

So as much as Amelia Elizabeth loved meeting Cap, I’ll keep them separate for now.

and continue being thankful for my daughter’s guidance into the world of the pop culture imaginary.