Why Do I Do It?: A girl’s defense of a scifi/comic convention passion.
I get a lot of blank stares when people ask me my hobby and I come back with the reply, “Science fiction conventions, dressing up like superheroes, and dogs.” I can’t blame them for reacting oddly since it is entirely possible they’ve never even received anything close to this answer before. I thought that today I might try writing why I like conventions and costuming, as well as false beliefs regarding the hobbies that accompany it.
First reason why I like these things? I grew up a geek. I read comic books with my brother and older cousin as a kid and I grew up on the internet from age 13 on. I’m not an ironic hipster nerd, I’m the real deal over here. I don’t have any official nerd credits today, but in the past I have written guest magazine articles, website articles, appeared on television, and wrote an entire thesis on video game culture. I got around in my heyday! Ahh, the good ol’ days.
While discovering an outlet with others like me on the internet, I discovered the existance of anime and science fiction conventions. My parents took me to my first several conventions and soon I was going to 5-6 a year all up and down the East Coast. Since I was 14 I have been to conventions on average of 3 a year with my peak time being around age 18 when I was going to 5 or 6. Let’s roughly guesstimate that I have been to over 50 conventions so far in my lifetime, including Dragon*con in Atlanta for 12 years in a row (this year will be my 13th anniversary!).
Okay, that’s all good and proves my obsession, but why am I obsessed? To look at this we have to go back and see that suddenly my best friends were met at that first convention about three and a half hours away from the small town I grew up in. We had the glorly of the early days of the internet to keep in touch. We all knew each other back then, it was a small community. These were the days when the only anime you could get was a copy of a copy of a copy of Ranma 1/2. You really had to know people. For the first time in my life I had friends I wasn’t nervous around or that I didn’t get tired of extremely fast. I got to express my love for this hobby which was never socially acceptable to like as a girl. Freedom of self = pure bliss to me.
So the love of conventions seeped over into a love of costuming. Here is where I want to speak of false beliefs and misconceptions. The outside world sees us costumers as having no real lives whatsoever and the inside can view some of us as stuck up attention whores who aren’t real nerds. Let me dissuade you of believing either of these things is true for us as a whole. We aren’t all middle aged chubby men dressed up in school girl uniforms or spandex. We also aren’t all running sex sites and have never picked up a comic book in our lives. For me, it’s something that fulfills much more than the nerdy side, it also fills the artistic side.
I have always been artistic. I used to spend hours sketching or playing with makeup. When I first tried costuming at a science fiction convention I realized how much fun it was to plan out, construct, and aim for a goal or deadline. Acutally wearing the costume came second to the construction of it. It’s kind of the same reason that I picked up knitting the few years I wasn’t costuming. For 13 years now I have always went to the sewing machine or cutting board when I feel a lull in my daily activities. I’ll sew aprons, dresses, curtains, and costumes. It feels so amazing to construct something so detailed. Mind you, I can’t sew a straight seam to save my fucking life but that doesn’t mean I don’t like doing it. Wearing the costume can be just as much fun as making it, providing you aren’t in the most detailed or most skimpy outfit of the convention, because you really get a chance to meet other people who like what you like. It gives you a great chance to make new friends, crack inside jokes, and/or speak in Wookie to other attendees who can speak the same language.
There’s really so much to these conventions and so many different layers as to why we all love them. I feel like I barely scratched the surface and only gave a stereotypical answer. To be honest the entire idea of this post came from me fuming how people think I costume just because I like tons of attention. To be honest, I never get tired of science fiction or fantasy and now people at these conventions are so much like family I keep going back. They are my best friends now, some of over 12 years. We’re all still there or at least in touch online. I have watched so many people graduate, get married, have babies…they are a family. They’re my cousins. My giant group of huge nerdy cousins that make me love being where I am a guaranteed to be at least two weekends a year.
Perhaps my good friend Bean said it better, and in more of a compressed space:
I love sci-fi/comic conventions because they capture the ‘nerd zeitgeist’, so to speak. It’s a microcosm of what makes ‘geek.’ They’re a perfect cross-section of a plethora of unrelated (but equally nerdy) pursuits, shoved into a tiny one-way elevator and made to speak to each other for a days. Conventions are equal parts spectator sport, freak show and awesome. It’s a chance to disconnect from the real world for a long weekend, and plug in to some of the most ridiculous (and awesome) scenes with people who speak your language.
Also, booze and mostly naked women.
-Bean Flynn, 2011