petermorwood: (Default)
I saw a sketch of Lady Sybil Ramkin-Vimes on Diane's Tumbler account last night, and for once it wasn't (much) influenced by a Paul Kidby drawing. That resurrected a thought I've often had: to what extent do costumers, cosplayers and fan-artists feel constrained by professional visualisations of written characters and regard them as the "official" version, no deviations allowed?

D's Star Trek Next Generation novel Dark Mirror originated from a discussion in Dublin's Gotham Cafe pizzeria (back in 1991 when it was still Independent Pizza South) over, as the book's acknowledgement puts it,
a large with extra cheese, extra sauce, pepperoni and hot chilies, and a medium with extra cheese, double garlic, hot chilies, and onions, along with two bottles of Orvieto Secco and a whole lot of Ballygowan water...
The discussion had nothing to do with pizza, or (originally) a novel, or even STNG; I was speculating over what the Mirror Universe version of the Wrath of Khan-period uniform (the maroon wrapover tunic one) would look like, since no such thing had ever been made "canonical" by appearance on-screen (the ONLY acceptable ST canon is TV and film; novels, comics, games etc. don't count, and as far as we knew, no Mirror uniform of the WoK style had appeared in any of those, either.)

I was holding out for all-black with silver insignia, prompting an inevitable "Black and silver; it's always black and silver with you, isn't it?" response. A couple of sketches on the back of a napkin showed that black WoK Starfleet uniforms would look more than a bit like German WW2 Panzer-crew kit, and it was later clear that I wasn't the only one thinking that way: the flight-crew uniforms in Starship Troopers were deliberately based on German WW2 self-propelled gun crew tunics; same design, grey instead of black.

Once D suggested piratical thigh-high boots instead of the "official" calf-high ones, we had started down the road that led to the Next Generation novel (my English Literature Honours Degree helped write the bit of very nasty Mirror Merchant of Venice, giving Shakespeare the lavish love for gore seen in Jacobean revenge tragedy. Diane re-wrote it, though I think mine was best.) :-) And we still haven't seen my take on the Mirror uniform, because late Classic Trek never went there…

Star Trek, Star Wars, StarGate and many other Star things, as well as Aliens, Pirates of the Caribbean etc. and lots and lots of anime are all visual inspiration came first, so costumers, cosplayers and the rest are in large part restricted, if that's the right word, to representing what's been shown on-screen with painstaking exactitude.

Sometimes it's so painstaking that the fan-made costumes are of infinitely higher quality than "the real thing" (by which I don't mean the imaginative stuff, that's not real at all, but what you'll find hanging up in the studio Wardrobe Department.) Anime and cartoon costumes seem to stretch a bit further: there are few things quite as dopey-looking as the "Clodbuster sword" (it's apparently a metal plank with a handle) taken from its cartoon and made (ahem) real. But there was also a bunch of very fetching young ladies dressed as the humanized (thankfully non-furry) form of the new-version My Little Pony. D, having written for the original series, was Much Amused by my never-seen-before interest. in this aspect of the show.. :-P

However, too often when it comes to costuming or drawing characters which were originally words on paper, there seems to be a lot of the same default-to-professional-visual-source. Discworld characters are based on Paul Kidby art - I can't recall any based on Josh Kirby's chaotic (my opinion) and inaccurate (Word of God aka Terry) covers - though there’s increasing influence from the Sky TV adaptations, even more steampunky and neo-Victorian. German fan "Otto Chriek" has built an incredible, fully-operational iconograph – wood and brass exterior, digicam and mini-printer interior; the only thing that doesn’t work is the imp! But even this looks based at least in part on one of the elaborate Kidby drawings. (Wenn ich falsch bin, Robert, entschuldigen Sie mich!)

The clothing and accessories of Harry Potter characters originate exclusively from the movie series (at least so it seems, because I haven't read any of the books, so must default here myself;) and of course the standard Lord of the Rings image isn't Tolkien but Jackson, despite years of art from other sources, some high-quality, others…not so much. Were there ever costumes based on the ridiculous Bakshi toon? If there were, and I saw them, my memory has purged itself and thankfully so. I'm fairly sure that needles and thread have already been busy on Game of Thrones costumes derived from the recent TV show, even though George R. R. Martin's own descriptions are more than adequate.

Certainly "representing the screen/cover/supplementary portfolio material" properly means that the costumer isn't relying on a masquerade audience (and judging panel) having read the appropriate paragraph from a big novel or long series before deciding if their work is accurate or not. But when it's a hall costume worn for fun rather than formal masquerade (which are often amazingly elaborate and complex) then I wonder why people don’t swing out more.

Is it (a) reticence: no matter how carefully the writer describes characters and clothing, is a costume or drawing that lacks "professional visual imprimatur" somehow incorrect?

Or is it (treading carefully here, masqueraders are my friends) (b) a subtle sort of laziness, skilfully recycling a pre-packaged image to avoid the work of visualising a writer’s words in your own way? (with a sizeable unadmitted dash of (a) lurking at the back as well?)

I have a feeling this will be discussed more thoroughly at the next convention I go to – and if the subject hasn't already been done to death somewhere, it strikes me as a good topic for a panel. Any con organiser who wants to use it can be my guest. I’d be curious to hear the result!
petermorwood: (Default)
...The Irish one this time, and just as good in its own way as the USDWCon at the beginning of September. One was big, the other was small; one was far away, the other was relatively speaking in our own back yard, one was hot and dry, the other was intermittently but impressively - Hollywood special effects impressively - wet.

And then the sun would come out :-)

D and I had a great time - including one especial benefit, being able to sit and speak to Terry for the first time in too long. We didn't have any opportunity to chat with him at all during the Tempe convention, so really enjoyed being able to just talk: about knightly things like spurs (we gave him a pair, since HM didn't) and swords (he's making one, since HM overlooked that, too) and the leverage being a Sir can give against the more annoyingly petty bureaucracies; about writery things like DragonDictate, which can now be trained to recognise the vocabulary of a complete backlist; and about stuff we weren't allowed to mention till the banquet - the Scottish BAFTA award for Living With Alzheimer's. I'm happy the documentary won, but at the same time I wish it had never needed made.

We had the chance for a natter with Jack Cohen and Bernard Pearson as well. Jack is as wise as ever, and added some interesting comments to our impromptu, five-minutes-warning Folklore panel (the original panellist didn't show) that gave people second thoughts about having furry slippers in their bedrooms, never mind on their feet. Bernard is his usual ebullient self - has anyone ever thought of bottling that man's laugh as an anti-depressant? If an audible dictionary needs to define guffaw, that's what to use.

Much beer was consumed over the weekend (of course) and I'm not the only one to think that Sir T. Pratchett, all in black with a white beard, looked very well matched by the pint of Guinness in his hand. He also seemed very at ease, so much so that he decided to extend his stay at the hotel. And There Was Much Rejoicing.

We weren't the only ones who got plenty of Terry-time beyond the programme items (where there were a few moved or cancelled events, but nothing earthshaking that a glance at the Voodoo Board couldn't fix.) The Falls Hotel and the convention numbers were both cosy enough that he was able to sit in one place and let the con come to him - which it did, with great enthusiasm. As he said at the closing ceremony, IDWCon gave him fond recollections of other early conventions, and he even used the word "relaxacon."

Though fortunately not the word "custard." :-D
petermorwood: (Default)
Diane and I will be guests at the first-ever US Discworld Convention in 2009. We've known about it for a while, but had to keep quiet until the Concom got all the details nailed down. It'll be at the Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe, Arizona, a nice hotel in a super location - we were there as guests of CopperCon last year and had a great time both at the con and outside it, since the hotel's conveniently located for various restaurants, a brewpub just across the road, a really excellent used-book store, and since almost all the Coppercon convention venues were in rooms around the hotel courtyard, there was no hiking for miles through the Arizona heat (it was hot - and I loved it!) to get from one panel to another.

The official announcement follows after the cut )

Having a convention in a college town is always a good idea, because students and fans have the same requirements: food and drink at reasonable prices and not so far from the campus or con that there's a risk of missing lectures or panels. This is going to be a lot of fun!

Don't forget, closer both in terms of distance (for European Discworld fans, anyway) and in terms of time is next year's UK Discworld Convention - see its own LJ community [livejournal.com profile] discworld_2008 for more information.

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