I have a crazy hobby, one that attracts thousands of geeks, freaks and weirdos as well as some genuine psychiatric cases. It's a hobby which has given birth to a worldwide network where incredibly strong and unique alliances are fostered as well as bitterly contested territory and accuracy wars. We are the unwanted or barely tolerated friends, the strange ones who sit in the corner at parties mumbling to ourselves, the loners, the dreamers, the ones who utter strange words and languages and gesticulate in unfamiliar and outrageous hand gestures; the ones who only truly come alive when together with others of our ilk. We are ...
... the costumers.
We're the Star Wars geeks and Trekkies: those crazy people you see at comic fairs and sci-fi conventions in full Stormtrooper costume, searching your bags and telling you to "move along"; we're the Jedi who taunt you with mind tricks, the R2-D2s, the C3POs, the Princess Leias and Darth Vaders who squeeze your neck; we're the Captain Kirks, the Starfleet Officers, the Datas, the Orion Slave Girls and the Klingons who insult you with "Hab SoSlI' Quch!"; we're the Batmen and Catwomen, Penguins and Riddlers, the Spidermen and Jokers who ask, "Why so serious?"; we're the Dr Whos and Daleks, the Cybermen and Pig Slaves, the Weeping Angels and Scarecrows. We are ...
... the Uber Geeks.
And we're very proud of it.
All those years spent noses pressed to TV screens and heads buried in scifi books have given us all an unrivalled creative talent that puts most professional wardrobe mistresses and propbuilders to shame. We're able to replicate the costumes and props you see on screen to 100% accuracy - no, ours are actually *better* (the ones used on screen are rubbish - believe me, I've seen them). We spend months researching not only the materials used for costumes and props but the techniques used to make them - then we improve on them.
For example, not only is my Catwoman 1966 (Lee Meriwether version) costume made from the exact same material as Lee Meriwether's but it's also made from a pattern used on set, as is my Starfleet Officer (Star Trek original series) which was made from a pattern based on Nichelle Nichols' actual dress in Series 2 (how's that for geekiness?). Those Stormtroopers you see parading around are all cast from the original armour used on Star Wars.
I've turned pieces of plastic and resin into E11 blasters (based on the Sterling SMG), a wooden walking stick into a rusty iron pipe, woodwork aprons into bloody human butcher's aprons and soon I'll be turning a broom handle and orthopaedic foam roller into an oversized mallet. Send a costumer into a DIY store and they'll make you any prop used in any film ever in the history of mankind - and on a budget. I've seen Jawa ion blasters made from lava lamps and spoons, rifles made from guttering and mdf and medical droids made from squirrel baffles.
We're teachers, factory workers, builders, shopworkers, carers, social workers, compliance officers, market stallholders, motor industry managers, nurses, businessmen, unemployed and disabled -
- that's right, disabled -
and we do it for two reasons : our love of all things sci fi and to raise money for charity. We attend school fayres, large public gatherings, community events, charity fundraisers - anything where there's a community or charity benefit. We're all volunteers, don't get paid and do it all in our own time.
Back to the disabled bit. I had Meniere's Disease when I started costuming and the first real effects of RA kicked in shortly thereafter. Did I let it stop me? Did I hell - I adapted. No costume (other than those restricted on height or age) have daunted me to date. If I need a stick I turn it into a prop - a rusty pipe, an overgrown mallet: simples. If I'm doing a zombie nurse and need a rest I play dead on the floor. I've even got a gold walking stick with the Starfleet emblem. I use that one for disabled-specific charity events to show that look, even *we* can get to be Starfleet Officers! It's my little sign of hope to those who sometimes have none. I've even done a joint event with a female Dr Who with fibromyalgia.
And that, dear friends, is the point of this long-winded and rather strange post. Sometimes, when we're in pain, depressed and scared for the future we forget the simple pleasures of fun and friendship and the fact that others out there are suffering far worse than us. I've dragged myself to events around the country despite being in severe pain and suffering extreme exhaustion (and severe moth infestations of the purse) because, despite what people may think or say about this ca-razy hobby of mine, it's taught me one thing: there for the Grace of God go I.
I've spent the last two years entertaining severely physically disabled children and/or sending off terminally-ill children to their final holiday before they come home to die; I've been swamped at events promoting services for physically disabled adults because it's the only day out they can have together; I've promoted mental health services in city centre fayres which have been more fun than some well-known carnivals I've visited and I've been worshipped by small children and their parents who are doomed to live on benefits and in utter poverty for the rest of their lives. I've been to prom nights for learning-disabled students and open days at residential colleges where the young adults are so severely mentally disabled they can never, ever, mix with the general public. Nothing I've done in my close to 50 years has given me so much pleasure and made me so humble before those who persevere against all odds - I feel honoured to associate with these special people and their carers. I also feel honoured to call as close friends other costumers who do it for no personal gain other than to make other people happy.
These are the reasons I kick against this dreaded disease and this is what keeps me going when all else fails.
So, like today when my back is killing me and my hands feel like someone has attacked them with a claw hammer, I still dig the Dremel out to make the final adjustments to my Princess Leia leather belt and dab the final layer of bronze paint on my E11 blaster - just so I can make the first event of the year. I may only have 12 months or less of this hobby left in me, now my back and feet are badly affected, and the day I'm forced to stop will be a very sad day indeed.
Although, saying that, Captain Pike used a heavily adapted wheelchair and Lt Commander Geordi La Forge is blind, so I've no real excuse. If the worst comes to the worst I can always get myself a full-size Dalek and zip around in that (can't give the trade secrets away though *wink*).
Now then, *looks at watch*, I can't sit here typing all day - I still have a pair of Princess Leia hair buns to finish.
May the Force be with you and let's hope you live long and prosper. Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!
(in the photo are my very good friends and hubby - he's the stormtrooper on the far right)