Bacon-Smith on Cosplay

These are notes from chapters 2 and 3 in the book, specifically related to cosplay (walking the halls and attending panels in costume). Recall that chapter 3 (31ff) primarily is discussing Worldcon, though other conventions and the cosplay there sometimes fits too.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Bacon-Smith, Camille. Science Fiction Culture. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2000. Print.

When Boskone (Boston convention) had problems and was uninvited from its venue “costuming was discouraged” (19).

Elisabeth Carey … “Some of the fans … couldn’t see why the paramilitary costume and the Trek costume got different reactions.” (19) from the hotel staff and non-convention guests

9Worlds 2014 Lady Elsie-6237defined one of the subsets of true fans as “Those who form their primary fan identity around a particular science fiction activity or product, such as costuming or folksinging or television science fiction” (32). Says these folks see Worldcon (and presumably other cons) as “a convenient place to gather and share their own part of the science fiction continuum” (32).

Those who form their main fan identity as above “find their solidarity based on the products of the science fiction industry” (33).

“The first line of defense, clothing, reflects the specific communal enterprise of science fiction.” (34)

“Clothing functions internally for the community itself to establish a visible marker of group inclusion/exclusion, and to allow for the expression of individual identity within the allowable parameters of the community” (34).

“creates a visible boundary that shuts out the mainstream culture” (34)

“… many fans add a detail or two from a variety of costume like options to signify the wearer’s particular interest.” (35)

“the participant who wears science fiction fashion [jeans or dirndl skirt and tee] rather than a full costume seems to be expressing primary identification with the group rather than with a personalized vision of a character” (35).

Some of the professionals, who generally dress more formally, also add an element of costuming. Maureen McHugh wears an ear clip. Steven Brust wears a cavalier’s plumed hat (wears all the time, not just at cons). (35)

“Costume marks the territory of the convention as more clearly “other” than science fiction fashion…” (35)

“costumes appear in a wide variety of styles and carry a range of potential meanings that cannot be decoded simply by reading the clothing. To understand costume, we must look at both the coding on the body and the intention of the costumer, which may remain hidden.” (36)

“The costume itself always provides a visual referent, sometimes to a specific character or situation, but almost always to a specific genre, subgenre, or special interest. Costumers walk the convention site like the living books…” (36)

“For many conventioneers, particularly newcomers who have not yet been completely enculturated into their own social networks, the boundary that costumers defend holds them safely inside–safely because their growing ability to read the costumes demonstrates their growing enculturation. Making this easier, costume has engendered a variety of classification systems, including, most importantly, genre.” (36)

9Worlds hexadecimal 2014-6181“Fantasy, science fiction, and historical are the three main costume categories” (36)

“Monsters are often created by young men…” (36)

“For the person who creates and wears the costume, the purpose and meaning can be varied and complex. Participants may costume as an artistic endeavor, as play, or as an expression of a commitment to a special interest or a personal perception of the past or the future.” (36)

“costume is a declaration of solidarity with others who share the fantasy and its presence in great numbers in the convention site creates a visual boundary for the frame of the event” (37).

An entry point into fandom can be through the aesthetic of costume. (47)

Masquerade at Worldcon
The masquerade (costume contest) “has increasingly come under fire by long-time fans. Resentment of the event arises out of the clash of meanings the masquerade presents” (56).

For fans who see fandom as “small, long-distance community of likeminded readers… the masquerade is a waste of resources. It draws and audience that this group perceives as primarily passive receivers of a produced show rather than the active participants these core members value.” (56)

“members of the community for whom costuming provides the primary fan identity have … added to this sense of division” (56)

“For a community suffering the effects of sudden growth and the loss of homogeneity, the masquerade became a ritual of inclusion for socializing newcomers as well as a source of affirmation for many long-term participants.” (57)

“As a ritual of inclusion, it turns the crowd into fandom” (57).

Costume is not the end of Masquerade. Must have performance as well. “the totality of the performance is required for full aesthetic effect” … “not just a pretty piece of clothing but a fully developed concept represented by the costume” (57)

a very cold Weepng Angel RonThis is not always understood by newcomers and sometimes the Masquerade costumes at non-Worldcon conventions are not the best costumes there and also are not presented within a skit or with acting. Sometimes the conventions encourage this by PA announcements inviting folks to sign up for the costume contest.

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)

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