Rob Osterman's Blog

September 4, 2013

As most of you know I went to DragonCon this past weekend.  It's what's caused another delay in Bastion, has kept me from writing any more of Mind the Thorns and has been eating up what little spare time I can squeeze out of life now that school has resumed.

But I did have an amazing time there, much of it good, some of it bad, and a little of it frustrating.  I'm going to start with one of the more frustrating moments.

The name of the panel was "Vampires and the Women who Write Them".  It featured an array of women authors of Urban Fantasy ranging from those who had just started writing to those who had been writing about vampires since the 1960's.  It was quite the collection and what I saw as an opportunity to get to the ins and outs of writing good, solid urban fantasy.

It was also a chance to be talked down to by none other than the wonderful Laurell K Hamilton.

The panel was asked a series of questions about vampires, vampire lore, and the like and then the floor was opened for questions.  Because there were few volunteers I was the first question of the panel.  I cannot recall exactly my words but my question boiled down to this:  "I'm a man who is writing with the hope of giving my daughter stories that feature strong women characters.  What would you suggest that I, as a man writing these characters, try to avoid?  What mistakes do men make when writing strong women characters?"

And without hesitation Laurell K Hamilton pounced and gave a firm, confident answer to half the question.

She answered the part about "Strong Women Characters" by basically telling me that the problem is that I should not see them as Strong Women Characters but simply as Strong Characters.  "The great mistake was to think of them as Women.   She actually gave a great answer to that half of the question.

In fact.  It's nearly the exact same answer I gave when I was asked a question about Women Characters in an interview:

Now to be fair, I do misquote Joss Whedon.  The accurate quote from him is "Why do I keep writing strong women characters?  Because you keep asking the question." This came at the end of a litany of reasons that we should have strong women characters.  Not just strong characters, but strong women, characters that our daughters, our sisters could look at as role models and as inspirations.  In an interview GRR Martin answered the question about the authenticity of his women characters with the quip, "I start by thinking of them as people."

However, during the panel, Ms. Hamilton appeared so excited to leap on me for suggesting that Strong Women Characters were also Women, that she completely missed the point of what I was asking:   How does a man ensure that these characters are authentic?  What are the mistakes men make when writing authentic women?

And short of that, I was also stymied.  Just a few minutes ago co-panelist Karen E Taylor had introduced herself as someone who "writes about women", who writes stories from "a woman's point of view".  She went to great lengths to establish her credibility as writing the Female Character.  The subject had been broached that writing women was different than writing men long before I entered into the conversation.

And honestly, there is a fundamental difference between men and women.  They are not the same.  I take great pride in the compliments I get for what I'm able to do with the women in my stories and the feedback I get on their authenticity.  But that does not mean I am without room to grow and learn.

I respect everyone on the panel for their accomplishments and art.  I was told, later, that asking for advice is a serious no-no in these author discussions, which I understand only begrudgingly.  I love to teach and educate and enlighten.  I don't mind, at all, sharing my experience and wisdom.  For me, it seems that short questions about the art are quite fitting for these moments.

I am, however, disappointed that the real question of authenticity in the character was missed in favor of scoring quick points by talking down to one of the only men in the room, and a man who was willing to step up to the mic and ask a question of the panel as experts.

There is a good possibility that Laurell K Hamilton did not understand all of the question, or only felt comfortable addressing part of it.  I suppose that it is also possible that she felt, sincerely, that the only key to a strong woman character is worry only about her strength and to ignore her womanhood.  Fundamentally, I disagree because I know as myself, my maleness is part of me.  It has shaped my experiences in life.  It manages my fears.  It opened doors to me that it might not have to others because we do not live in a perfect society where gender is ignored.

And I learned a valuable lesson about talking to panelists.  Keep your question short, on point, without room for them to wander off.  Never admit that you are a writer.

That just makes them irritable.

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Published on September 04, 2013 09:18 • 50 views

August 27, 2013

So the TV Show Heroes of Cosplay is taking the Cosplay/ Costuming Community by storm and often not in a good way.  Among it's many missteps have been copyright violations committed by using photographs without permission.  Then two of the stars opted to do a full head cast when they only needed the forehead, taking on massive risk and danger, apparently, just to do it.

But what really seemed to steal the spot light was an exchange in Episode 2 regarding who could and could not cosplay.  This seemed to take the show into a dark direction of what was "Permitted" and what was not.

Now this was further complicated by Becky's obsession with her figure in Episode 1.  A great deal was made about her quick return to the gym to try to slip down to play the part of Merida from Brave as well as snippets of her trying to squeeze into a corset to get the fit right and really look the part.  Since we watched the episodes back to back we saw a solid two hours of weight issues and "looking the part" being front and center.

Really, much of this is quite likely the result of the show's editing staff trying to create an engaging and provocative narrative.  This is not hard to do when you use some creative cuts, slip a few comments around out of context and then remove the chance for someone to respond to something to try to better establish context.

Since Episode 2 has aired, many efforts have been made to defend Yaya Han, the "Ambassador of Cosplay" as being very open to "cosplay for all" despite the fact that her words on the show implied quite the opposite.

So this brings us to now, today, and my own collected thoughts and observations.

Looking the Part Can Matter

Depending on what you want to do with your cosplay being a different body type than the character you want to play can be a barrier to entry.  This can be matter of being the wrong height, heavier weight, wrong skin complexion, etc.  But this limitation only applies to Cosplay with certain specific goals:  wanting people to believe you are that character.

Now why would that matter?

One of the greatest groups out there is the 501st Stormtrooper Legion and it's sister organization The Rebel Alliance.  For some of their charity work, which can include visits based on the Make a Wish Foundation, having the "Real" Luke Skywalker and the "Real" Obi Wan can be a requirement.  It's quite like being cast in a movie or play where it is more than just costuming.  It's the complete package.

Likewise, Disney does this already when it casts men and women in the "human characters" for the parks.  Simply if you don't have the figure of Jasmine or Peter Pan, then they can't cast you because the illusion is a very big deal.

And for some cosplayers that moment where a fan says "Ohmigod, Look!  It's Indiana Jones!" is why they do it.  They look like a certain character/actor and therefore are able to really play to that look when they get into costume.  It's not a requirement for all cosplay and for those of us (I put myself well in this group) who do not have Hollywood looks, looking like an actor just isn't going to happen.  I am a little lucky in that I'm told I look like Adam Savage or even Paul Giamatti, neither of whom are really known for appearing in the kinds of costumes I can wear at a convention.  Sure I could do John Adams, or I could do something that looks like Adam on the set but it's not the same as having the jaw line to be a really convincing Han Solo.

So what does this mean for the 300 pound Superman?  That he can't do it?

No.  Anyone from 30 pounds to 300 can cosplay Superman.  Period.  Full stop.

It does mean, however, that he (or she) should not expect to be mistaken for the character/ actor.  No more.  No less.

The Internet is a Cruel Place

One of the points raised in the after comments about the infamous "you can't be superman if you're 300 lbs" is that when doing so the cosplayer is putting themselves out there for ridicule.  The implication is that people will take pictures and post mean spirited text on them and then circulate them as the next nasty meme.  And once out there, getting these images pulled can be impossible, creating a permanent nasty record.

Last week I commented on the woman's image of "This is what a Feminist looks like" being turned into an anti-feminism meme and Facebook's refusal to react to the obvious bullying that followed.

On this I, reluctantly, agree that it is a risk. It's a risk of not being what "the masses" label as physically attractive.  It doesn't matter if they're in costume nor not.  The wrong hair color.  The wrong complexion.  The wrong sized gaps between teeth.  The wrong weight.  The wrong height.  Bullies don't need a lot of excuses to pick a victim and zero in on them.

So rather than suggesting that someone not pursue something they love because they might get hurt, I really think we need to be encouraging of these courageous souls and support them when the bullies do come out, rather than preemptively telling them to hide from the bullies not yet seen.

Because no matter how much we may think we can protect them, as someone who was bullied, it has already happened.  You can tell me not to wear that costume but it won't be the first time I've been verbally abused.  I'd rather you stand with me when it happens.

Bullies are going to happen. 

I wish this weren't true.  I do.  I wish that when someone said to me "Do you think I'm going to get teased for this?" I could universally say "no."  That would be a better world to live in than we do.

It's sad but I fear it's a little expected that if someone who isn't a perfect match, then there will be someone who will make a comment about it.  I say that not because I want to assign blame to the cosplayer but because I'm a realist about how there are people in this world who are mean, vile and sad people.  They have learned that when they are cruel they get something they themselves want, be it attention, perceived respect, or laughs.

As a Cosplay community it's a job to deny them of these things.  It's our job to not laugh at their jokes, to not give them respect for their "cleverness" and to only give them enough attention to tell them that their comments are not welcome and then refer them to the Convention staff.

Most cons have harassment policies and if it's that easy for a bully to take a picture or a video of someone they wish to mock, it's just as easy for us to do the same in collecting evidence to take to con staff to have them disciplined.

I don't suggest we go straight to Twitter or Tumblr and create a Wall of Shame effort to attack and belittle the bullies.  Those actions make us no better than they are and it only adds fuel to their flames of attention seeking hate mongering.  In short those stories never end well.  But as much as I believe these evil people exist, I believe as many if not more good people exist who want everyone from the 90 lb Super girl to the 300 lb Batman to have fun showing off their fandoms.

Dress for you, in all the meanings of the phrase

First, my own personal advice is to cosplay as you like for what you want.

Second, there is an art to dressing and costuming for your own body type.  What works on the hyper-stylized body of a comic book Power Girl is not going to work on every other woman's body.  There are some looks that one actor can pull of but just plain look wrong when applied to a different shape or silhoutte.

Tim Gunn, briefly, did a show called "What to Wear" and part of it was to sit down with a woman and look at her figure and say, frankly, these are things that look good with the way you are shaped.  He did it with class and poise and not a single drop of judgement.  And there is no need for judgement.  You are what you are in that moment.

But it does mean that some costumes may need to be modified to fit who you are rather than be a faithful 100% copy of the comic or the movie.  It might mean finding a way to add short sleeves to help accent your arms, or a short skirt to better fit and display your legs.  It might mean opening up a panel, or hiding a seam.  Honestly I'm not a tailor and I'm not an expert on how to pull any of this off myself.  But I have seen it done and when it's done well, women (and men) of all body types can rock the look.

The Cosplay community wants to be open but like any group there are going to be those who see it as a competition.  There will be a quiet tally of what comments are made, what compliments given, how often they are stopped for pictures.  It can't be helped and if kept in the right perspective it might not even be a bad thing.

The bad is when we let our sense of competition mutate into efforts to cut others down to build ourselves up, rather than joining in a shared celebration of loves and passions and fandoms.

Rob Osterman is the author of the popular web novel Bastion: The Last Hope.  Its story follows those few who struggle to survive through the end of days and perserve what remains of humanity.  He also writes Mind the Thorns, a reader directed web novel chronicling the death and life of Regan Fairchild:  Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.

His first novel, Fantasti*Con follows Allison Cavanaugh on a weekend of geekery gone awry as she is stalked, followed, harassed and worse.  It is available on Amazon in print and eBook editions.

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Published on August 27, 2013 08:00 • 75 views

August 24, 2013

This week I discovered Heroes of Cosplay and the train wreck of drama and cattiness that it is.  I'm not going to pull punches.  The editors of that show make the Cosplayers look like mean spirited wicked elitists.  The repeated commentary on, for example, Yaya Han's history in the hobby only seems further drive home that idea that Cosplay is for the select few.

It hit a fever pitch in Episode 2 when it was explained to newcomer Chloe (@skydart) that there are certain things you don't do, such as be 300 pounds and try to cosplay Superman.  I believe, possibly, that the other veteran Cosplayers were trying to say that the internet is a mean spirited place where people who are not within "the ideal" are mercilessly mocked and that being of a fuller figure means also being prepared for the fat-shaming and abuse that will follow.  I want to give them a break but I can't.

I won't.

And I'm going to leave it there for now because really my fuller thoughts on this should be in their own blog post and that's going to come next week, possibly after I see Episode 3.  Maybe.

So here's the rest of your weekly wrap up:

In Bastion:  The Last Stand

Hiatus week.  Time for me to prepare for Dragon Con.  Also it may not be until after Labor Day that my life find the normalcy necessary to return to a regular schedule of updates.  I'm hoping to be able to keep to a piece of prose every 3 weeks but I might be too optimistic with that.

On Fictional Omens

That word no longer means what you think it means.  Or does it finally actually mean what you think it means?  Literally words are flip flopping thanks to acceptance of "Common Usage" as a justification for the changes.  I'm not happy.

At Home

I'm prepping for Dragon Con!

For those going here's a short list of what I have planned:

Friday night:Walking Dead Costume GroupSaturdayDragon Con Parade as Dum Dum DuganPanel at 1pm on "Do We Need Teachers?" as part of the Science TrackPanel at 5pm on "Hollywoodpocalypse" as part of the Apocalypse Rising TrackSundayBSG Duty Blues costume for funStar Trek Costume GroupPanel at 7pm on Defiance: A Town without Mercy as part of the Apocalypse Rising TrackMondayA long... long... drive home.If you need any help finding me at the con, shoot a tweet to me @FictionalOmen, drop me an email or leave a comment here and I'll do my best to find you.
Your Weekly Video
I'm seriously considering making a lipsync video of "What Makes you Beautiful" by, yes I know, 1 Direction because of all the shaming and hate around Cosplay.  I'm not sure if I will or not but here's one of the best I've seen to some awesome Bon Jovi:

Rob Osterman is the author of the popular web novel Bastion: The Last Hope.  Its story follows those few who struggle to survive through the end of days and perserve what remains of humanity.  He also writes Mind the Thorns, a reader directed web novel chronicling the death and life of Regan Fairchild:  Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.

His first novel, Fantasti*Con follows Allison Cavanaugh on a weekend of geekery gone awry as she is stalked, followed, harassed and worse.  It is available on Amazon in print and eBook editions.
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Published on August 24, 2013 16:56 • 27 views

August 22, 2013

[image error]Recently I was advised to submit a short story to a group working on a collection of stories by female authors.  As I'm not a female this would seem out of place but the suggestion was made that I might be added as a "bonus story" because I have pretty good track record of writing strong female characters, and that a story in that vein might go well in the collection.
I wasn't called a Feminist but I like to think that I let my process of character creation run along similar lines as Jos Whedon and he has been given, if not taken, that title himself.  I've also been known to horribly misquote him but I like to think that my error is more along the lines of "correct in spirit if off in fact."
Oddly, though, I have to confess to a rather on-again-off-again relationship with the term Feminist.  Most "-ists" tend to be used as a form of pejorative.  Racist.  Sexist.  Misogynist.  Elitist.  These aren't nice words.  I even have a weird reaction when someone uses the term "Deist" even though I don't think it's intended harshly in most conversation.Even when it's not used as a negative title (such as Atheist, or Pragmatist) I often feel like the goal of its use is to imply an elevation of something as a superior idea or form over other thoughts.  A Hedonist puts pleasure as a higher good than other concepts.
As much as I love women, I do not believe that by virtue of being women they are any better or worse then men.  There are some men who are horrible and some who are virtuous.  I've met women who have touched my life in profound ways, and some who I still struggle to fully purge from my memory so as never to think on them again.
But then this story came across my news feed:  A woman's picture was turned into an Anti-Femisist Meme and Facebook won't remove it.
And I got angry.
There are two things at foot here.
Thing One:  Anti-Feminism.
Look, fellow men, here's the deal.  Being anti-feminist isn't cool, it isn't clever and it isn't welcome.  It's not inherently manly.  It doesn't show off "alpha male" status.
Simply, it makes you look like a jerk.  Well it makes you look like other things but because I have to keep this blog relatively PG I can't post what it makes you look like.  
There are still real problems with gender relations in this country and poking fun at what a Feminist is (or is not) doesn't help them.  I won't toss out the "$0.70 on the dollar" figure because I think it too much of a soundbite, but I have seen sexism first hand myself as its inflicted on the women in my life.  Part of writing Bastion has been working with Marines to get the Marie story arch right and there are still many real problems with gender equity in opportunity.
Cracking jokes about what a Feminist is in order to score quick points with your bros, doesn't do anything to help the rest of us.  It's not funny and in this case it's just mean.
Thing Two:  Facebook's non reaction.
You own your image.  Period.  It's your image.
I'm a little surprised that when someone's image is used without their direct consent, and done so further in a spiteful and mean way that Facebook's answer is to simply say "We cannot do anything due to free speech."
Here's a tip Facebook:  Bullying is real and your inaction is part of the problem.
I get free speech.  I get being a safe harbor.  I get wanting to stay out of the politics of gender discussions.
But this isn't some faceless drawing, or some statement posted in text.  It's a woman's image, used to mock and shame her.  And your inaction, Facebook, makes you complicit in the deed.  If you, Facebook, are serious about anti-bullying, then the course is really quite clear.
Man up and do the right thing.
And really... that's what it comes down to.  
Patrick Stewart (who is as close to Godly as I think can be found on this Earth, next to the Pope, perhaps) is a famous advocate for battered and abused women.  And in one of his talks he was very frank.  Men must be part of the solution.  Men have to step up and do the right thing.  Men cannot be idle.  
We cannot be silent.  We cannot wait for others to act for us.  We cannot let women sort it out among themselves.
We, humans, are in this together and thus we all need to step up and do what's right.

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Published on August 22, 2013 17:53 • 30 views

August 18, 2013

Why is this so late?  Well here's a bit about my weekend.  I'm trying to get the wife to try out Rift, we're just now catching up on Newsroom and True Blood, this was my last week of "Summer Vacation", and today Disney Infinity was released and already it's a hit with the house (but not the pocketbook).

So let's do this round up so I can get back to building a race track in my son's Infinity Toybox.
On Bastion the Last Hope
This week was a multimedia update week and we got some insight into how it was that Felice now goes by the name Jo.  I feel, personally, like it was a little more tell than show (I know it's supposed to be the other way around, but this is a picture based storyline) but I think it worked.
Fans should note that the schedule for BLH is changing over to the following:  Prose / Media / Break.  This past week was a media week, so the coming week will be a break.  Expect the next prose, a week from Monday and expect it to be prose.  This should give me a little more time to work on things and hopefully get Mind the Thorns back into my writing rotation.
On Fictional Omens
I waxed a little angry about the fact that our language is "evolving" to allow the wrong definition of a word to, literally, be considered "a definition" of that word.  I'm, figuratively, steaming at the collar about it and, literally, ready to scream.
At Home
I continue to prepare for Dragon Con.  It's exciting and fun and I'm probably going to be taking at least 5 different costumes to change into and out for over the weekend, coupled with appropriate clothes for my panels (assuming I'm still on said panels as the schedule isn't released yet and my name does not appear in the DC app yet as a presenter).
And, for your weekly video:
If you're a fan of Lindsey Stirling you've seen this already but it's news to me and thus I am sharing it here.  Also I think someone at Dragon Con should totally Cosplay her.

Rob Osterman is the author of the popular web novel Bastion: The Last Hope.  Its story follows those few who struggle to survive through the end of days and perserve what remains of humanity.  He also writes Mind the Thorns, a reader directed web novel chronicling the death and life of Regan Fairchild:  Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.

His first novel, Fantasti*Con follows Allison Cavanaugh on a weekend of geekery gone awry as she is stalked, followed, harassed and worse.  It is available on Amazon in print and eBook editions.
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Published on August 18, 2013 15:02 • 40 views

August 15, 2013

Thanks to John Scalzi, I learned last night that dictionaries are starting to add "Figuratively" to the definition of the word "Literally." Or to put it another way, because so many people are, literally, using the word in a way that is exactly opposite of what it means the dictionaries are giving up and changing the definitions.

 This has spurred me to go after a short list of "definitions" that I would happily shoot with a phasor set to "Shake and Bake."

 Gay vs Stupid, Silly or Lame

I hear this from my students and it simply drives me nuts. "This test is so gay." I'm sorry, Student003, but a test cannot be gay. It doesn't have a sexual preference. It doesn't get together with other tests and make little quizzes together.

 If you want to say "I went to my cousin's wedding and it was so gay" here are some acceptable statements that can follow:

 "My cousin and his new boyfriend look so cute as a married couple." "Everyone was giddy and happy and we all danced and laughed like we did not have a care in the world." "The decorations were all rainbow pride flags." "I was the only person there attracted to the opposite sex." 

 What is not acceptable is to follow it with "I was so bored I couldn't wait to leave."

 Yet somehow this idea has become locked into our culture, that it's okay to use "Gay" as a negative label.

 Can vs May

 Here's one of my favorite exchanges at work:
Student004: Can I go to the bathroom?
 Me: I hope so. Inability to clear your body of waste can lead to serious medical conditions. 

 Over time we have dropped the word May as a way of seeking permission and substituted in Can which is supposed to reference ability. Perhaps this comes from the idea that the only limitations we see for ourselves are those imposed by what we are able to do, rather than what an outside force gives us permission to do. 

What happened to the playground game "Mother May I?" with its lovely and constant reminder of the proper word for permission? Should we stay saying "Just because you can doesn't mean you should" and replace it with "Just because you can, doesn't mean you may"? Have we given up on the idea of permissions all together and simply embraced, finally, the "if it feels good (and you're able to), do it"?

 Literally vs Figuratively 

 This is sheer laziness and a pure desire to look smarter than one is. "I'm going to, literally, bash his face in with a frying pan." This is not a metaphorical statement of anger, it's an actual real threat. You are saying that you really do intend to bash someone's face with a frying pan.

 If you're going to say "Literally" in that context then you:
 a) need a frying pan
 b) need to have plans to bash someone's face in.

 And to be a true statement, when you do see that person, you need to make good on your statement and actually bash his face in. If you don't then your threat of violence, your literal statement of intent is just some figurative expression of anger.

 To put it another way, you should have said "I'm going to, figuratively, bash his face in." But that takes thought. You actually have to, oddly enough, know what the words you are using mean. You have to, literally, know the proper use of the word Literally.

Rob Osterman is the author of the popular web novel Bastion: The Last Hope.  Its story follows those few who struggle to survive through the end of days and perserve what remains of humanity.  He also writes Mind the Thorns, a reader directed web novel chronicling the death and life of Regan Fairchild:  Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.

His first novel, Fantasti*Con follows Allison Cavanaugh on a weekend of geekery gone awry as she is stalked, followed, harassed and worse.  It is available on Amazon in print and eBook editions.
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Published on August 15, 2013 08:04 • 29 views

August 9, 2013

And we're back to weekly updates!

So here's what's happening around the various writings and whatnots:

Mind the Thorns

Is... still on hiatus.  Look, it's been a busy summer and I'm going to level with you it's been hard to get this one going again.  I know a lot of fans want to see how the story ends and honestly so do I!  But with only 24 hours in a day and most of them spent with the kids, it's just as easy to get to.

Bastion the Last Hope

On the other hand, Bastion is back.  For the last few weeks I've been able to work out the buffer a bit, see that I've got some of the "off week" videos and audio ready to go, and I'm able to focus on getting done what needs doing so that it can come back.  Now to find the time to apply that other properties.

Here at Fictional Omens

Dragon Con is fast approaching and answering a call for newbie guides I posted a list of suggestions and ideas for new people to Dragon Con to consider.  Give it a read and feel free to make your own suggestions.

At Home

The summer is winding down faster than I thought possible.  It's hard to believe that in a few weeks I'll be back at work and 90% of my summer plans did not come to fruition.  On the other hand, it's been a great run and spending time with the kids has been fun when it hasn't been horrifically challenging.  Which leads us to this week's video.

Weekly Video

Okay this one is home brewed using iMovie but it show cases some of the fun we've had this summer.

Rob Osterman is the author of the popular web novel Bastion: The Last Hope.  Its story follows those few who struggle to survive through the end of days and perserve what remains of humanity.  He also writes Mind the Thorns, a reader directed web novel chronicling the death and life of Regan Fairchild:  Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.

His first novel, Fantasti*Con follows Allison Cavanaugh on a weekend of geekery gone awry as she is stalked, followed, harassed and worse.  It is available on Amazon in print and eBook editions.

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Published on August 09, 2013 08:31 • 33 views

August 6, 2013

As the days to Dragon Con tick down, more and more first timers have been flooding the various Facebook Groups with questions, seeking advice, tips, and tricks for surviving the weekend with just slightly less sanity than they started with but without going completely nutzoid over the four days.

The call went out for the best "First Timer Guides" and so I am taking up the challenge with a set of ideas, suggestions, and observations I wish I had had for my first couple of Dragon Cons.

So in no particular order here are my thoughts:

Bring Cash, and Small Bills

First there are a limited number of ATM's in the hotel area and the easiest to find and access are just that-- easy to find and access.  That means everyone else will be doing the same and that means that they will be out of money very early in the weekend.  Almost all autographs are best gotten with cash so there goes a large portion there.  The food courts will take cards but it can be challenging to get through the lunch time mob and pay with plastic, and sign, and get your food.  Cash is best, really but that means having it.

The importance of small bills is for flexibility.  When you arrive it's customary to tip the bell hop who helps unload your car.  And then tip the one who brings the bags up to your room.  And then tip anyone who brings up the costume bits you had shipped.  And then tip the... and tip.. being able to slip a few singles is a lot smoother than standing there contemplating if you should tip a 10 or a 20.

Cell Batteries

A lot of the convention will be in areas with poor cell reception.  That's not bad as far as communication goes because more than likely you'll be using texts to communicate with each other.  But what you do have to watch out for is what low reception will do to your phone's battery.  Every time your reception drops too far, the phone has to send another signal up to the cell towers to connect.  That drains your battery almost as much as actually talking does.  It's not hard to go down to the Marriot basement with a full battery and emerge an hour later with it half, and not made any calls during that time.

You will also be using your phone, likely, for the Dragon Con App and other resources which will eat that battery up just as fast.  Invest in some kind of pocket charger, battery extender or other gadgets to get your cell from sun up to sun down.

Not Everyone at the Con is From the Eastern Time Zone

This one probably could come later but it's fun to point out.  The con runs pretty late into the night and it can start pretty early in the day.  But that also means that if you have friends from California to hang out with, and you talk about "doing breakfast" your 9am meal to them is coming at 6am to their body's clocks.  Likewise, if they say "let's just hangout until we crash", when your body says "Oh god it's 1am" their's thinks it's only 10pm.

Cosplay is not Consent

Maybe this should have been at the top but it's something that if you're reading a list of tips of what to do and not to do, you probably have enough savy to realize that just because someone is in a costume does not mean.... well anything besides the fact that they are in a costume.

It does not mean they need to pose for a picture.  It does not mean they want to be touched.  It does not mean that they want to be talked down to, treated as a prop, or laughed at.

A Cosplay is a statement of fandom through costume.  It's a way to say "I'm into this character, this story, this show, this movie."

That said, the majority of cosplayers are happy to pose for pictures, to turn towards a camera, or to talk about their fandoms.  The key is to be respectful that everyone is there to have fun, to enjoy the weekend and to engage with other fans.  Show respect and you'll do fine.

Don't be afraid to talk

The fact that we're all here for a massive convention of people into geeky things should make conversations the easiest of things to have.  If you're the sort not used to talking to strangers, Dragon Con can be one of the best ways to start a conversation is to ask about a costume you don't recognize.  Pro tip:  Be sure it's a costume first and note that Kilts do not mean costumes.

Another good ice breaker is to just ask if they've been to the Walk of Fame yet.  That opens up the door to find out what actors they wanted to see and then what fandoms you might share.

Going up to go down

This appears to be controversial so let me explain a bit about how I understand the elevators work.

When an elevator reaches a certain weight limit it no longer stops on floors where it might add passengers and instead continues down until it reaches one to discharge them.  So this means that if you're in the lower part of a bank of elevators, it's possible that you will never get a "going down" elevator to open for you.

Say you're on floor 5.  The elevator going up opens on your floor to let people off.  It then goes up to 6, 7 and 8 and lets off more people.  Then it starts down picking up people on 8, 7, and then on 6.  But on 6 it fills to capacity, thus it it zips past your floor without stopping.

This is where "going up to go down" starts.  When that elevator going up opens on 5, you get on.  Now you're on an elevator that will eventually go down.

And this is where it pisses people off.  Once people start to fill up on the up trip, elevators tend to reach the top of their run at full capacity.  This means they don't stop for any floors on the way down, and people on floors where there is not a stop to let people out never get an elevator.

I don't have a solution.  As someone who has spent long stretches waiting for any elevator to stop, I confess I've fallen prey to the "just go up to go down" mentality.

Plan for walking

No matter how perfect shoes or boots may look for a costume you need to remember that you will likely be walking or standing for long stretches in them.  Honestly I usually plan three or four comfortable "generic" shoes to wear and accept that while they're not screen accurate I have to be able to walk again within a few days.

It also helps to think about where you plan to go in what costumes.  If you're just going down to the lobby then shoes that a more fashion over form should be fine.  If you're walking between three different hotels for photo shoots, then, yeah, not so much.  And while those might be the perfect boots for a look, if you can't walk back from said photo shoot, what's the point?

Be Cool about What you Shoot

This is a major photo and video event.  There will be pictures in all directions and many people love to make videos at cons.  You may even be asked to lipsync some lines to go into a mash up later (I wish I had the talent to pull off the one below).

But here's the key:  Be sure everyone you film wants to be filmed in the way you're filming them.  Making a point of getting shots of breasts, butts, crotches, down top, up skirts, etc are not only likely to get you in trouble later, they're likely to get you in trouble the very moment you snap the shot.

And when in doubt:  Ask.

Breakfast - The Most Important Meal of the Day

Breakfast is probably the hardest meal to get at Dragon Con if you are staying in the main hotels and you're on a budget.  The Starbucks in the Marriott has a line that takes about an hour to get through and they will not have any food item when you get to the front.  Coffee?  Yes.  Bagel?  Aw, hell no.

The easy way around this is to pack something nonperishable as your breakfasts.  Granola bars are easy, dry cereal can work, and you can use the in room coffee makers to heat water for oatmeal.  There are places that serve breakfast but they tend to be pretty jammed up, tend to be a walk, or tend to be expensive.  If you're in the Marriot you can do the breakfast buffet but understand that at that price it'd be cheaper to hire someone to go to a different location, get you carry out and bring it back.

Which is also an option.

Don't try to do it all.  Prioritize.

If you've ever read a guide book for a major theme park you've heard this before.  When you arrive do the most important things first, and then work your way down so that if you get to the end of your visit you don't leave saying "How did we not get to Pirates of the Caribbean?"

For Dragon Con it comes down to picking a handful of panels you know you want to get to.  Around that schedule your trips to the Walk of Fame, the Dealer's Hall, gaming.  Eat when you can schedule it and if possible do it during off times.  If you can eat dinner at 4 and then snack heavily at 8 you'll save yourself a lot of greif over going into the food court at 6 full of dreams.  Those dreams will end up in a deep fryer somewhere screaming in terror.

Some things make good "Sponge" activities to soak up spare time.  The Walk of Fame can do this unless you want to see celebs who have limited appearance time and who will be very popular.  The bigger the actor, the longer the line.  So prioritize.

Do listen to hotel staff.  They're just doing their jobs.

The hotels will usually stake out areas where they want you to keep from stopping to talk or take pictures.  Please listen to them as there's usually a good reason that is not readily apparent.  It often comes down to keeping a flow of traffic through an area and avoiding jam ups on the escalators.  The hotel lobbies get a massive work out this weekend with the number of people milling around, going up and going down.  Give the staff a break while they do what they can to comply with their own rules and policies.

Being honest, I've never once felt like a hotel staffer was rude to me at Dragon Con.  I've seen annoyance, even impatience from time to time but that's where it stopped.  They want us to have as much fun as we do (so we come back and spend more money) so let them help you have that fun.

Take something to carry things in, preferably something for pictures

If you're going to be collecting autographs have something like a binder with rigid sides to put them in.  You don't want to be running around with a bunch of pictures you're trying to keep from getting bent.   Before you pack make sure you have room for these things on the return trip.  There is nothing worse than getting back from having met Sir Patrick Stewart and gotten his autograph only to open your suitcase and find a crease right down the middle of his face.

Getting Stuff there without getting arrested by the TSA

First, do not pack wands for your Harry Potter cosplay in your carry on bag.  While the TSA may have a good laugh it will only be after an exhaustive search of the bag.

Second, the hotels do have a receiving area and can and will take packages for guests.  There is a handling fee for coming in (plus tip to the hop who brings it up), and there will be a handling fee for sending it out again (plus a tip to the hop who picks it up) but it will let you get things like swords, prop guns and other hard to pack in a suitcase items to the con and back again.  You will want to ship it several days ahead and plan for it to be several days behind but it's a nice option if you have costumes that require items that you just can't take on the plane.

This is hardly an exhaustive list.  If you have more questions toss them in the comments and I'll do what I can to write up a part two to this list and try to address them.

Oh, and totally look for me while you're there.  I'll post more about where to find me when the final panel schedules are posted.

Rob Osterman is the author of the popular web novel Bastion: The Last Hope.  Its story follows those few who struggle to survive through the end of days and perserve what remains of humanity.  He also writes Mind the Thorns, a reader directed web novel chronicling the death and life of Regan Fairchild:  Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.

His first novel, Fantasti*Con follows Allison Cavanaugh on a weekend of geekery gone awry as she is stalked, followed, harassed and worse.  It is available on Amazon in print and eBook editions.

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Published on August 06, 2013 18:41 • 79 views

June 27, 2013

As I wrap up my post-surgical convalescence, I've been fortunate to find my name out there in a few places recently.

First my dear friend and fellow author Janine Spendlove posted my guest post on the levels of accuracy over at her blog.  Hop over there to give it a read, then come back here and leave a comment.  Or leave one both places.

By the way, she's also part of Silence in the Library Publishing and it's not too late to get in on their Kickstarter for a lovely collection of time travel based short stories.

Second, the wonderful blog The Kill Zone has a critique of the first page of Bastion: The Last Hope posted.  It's a great read with many excellent points raised.  I'm happy with the response and plan to take it all into consideration moving forward.  Of course if you'd like to read the entire first chapter, just hop over to Bastion itself and have a look.

And lastly, I had my interview for the Local Author's program for our area cable channel.  It will be airing in July so stay tuned for more!

Oh, by the by, I came through surgery quite well, and have all four of my wisdom teeth safely removed.  Of course I scheduled an appointment only to remove two so there is still some story to be had here.  I get the stitches out tomorrow and I'll be probably telling the full tale sometime next week.
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Published on June 27, 2013 06:37 • 28 views

June 10, 2013

Things have quieted down a bit so hop over to Mind the Thorns for a little poll about vampires:

If vampires ~are~ real, what kind would they be?
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Published on June 10, 2013 05:20 • 31 views