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This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read the many fine entries. This week we have six topics. This is my response to the topic "Waking Dream."

Rimmer with LEGO Camera
This cosplayer, dressed as Rimmer from "Red Dwarf,"
shows off the LEGO phone he built to house his camera phone.
It even had a hinged side for easy removal of the phone.

Walk through the shifting halls of Otakon on this year or any other, and you may find yourself strolling amongst steam-punk soldiers, a kiss of vampires, Disney princesses, or odd gap-mouthed frogs. You might spy a witch checking her face in a compact, or an exhausted samurai lugging an overflowing bag out of the Dealers' Room. Someone may be a faerie one moment and a demon goddess the next. At night, that same beast may remove her horns and face paint to become, once more, a conventional 17-year-old girl. A young man who transforms into a martial artist with strange chunky hair one day may, on the next, become a hologram holding a LEGO camera.

Otakon is a rarified world, where robots rub elbows with unicorns and where it's not unusual for a cat-girl and a pirate to walk hand-in-hand. Last night, my 2-year-old son, whom I've nicknamed Kung Fu Panda, befriended a 6-year-old pink fox. They crawled around on the floor before ducking into her den under a draped table, where I could hear her lilting voice babbling like a forest brook.

I suppose, to some, it would seem odd to watch your toddler lured away by a fox spirit. But here, it seems ordinary, and besides, I know her father. Like me, he has staffed this convention for years; in fact, he is one of the Four Fathers, the loving nickname bestowed upon the four Penn State alumni who attended an anime convention in the mid-'90s, which inspired them to make the legendary statement, "We can do better."

Now, nearly 20 years later, his short-cropped hair turning a distinguished salt-and-pepper, my friend The Laughing Man still works the convention. Nowadays, his son and oldest daughter are at his side: the boy dressed as a straw-hat wearing pirate. His daughter wears her own creation, consisting of a pink dress, tail, and matching ears, her whiskers drawn on with face paint. At my request, they accompany my son and I to the Photo Suite, where the couple who run it -- old friends of ours -- offer us an after-hours photo shoot of our children. As the kids cavort in front of the photographer, we all swap child-rearing stories.

It's funny sometimes, in a dream-like land of never-ending childhood, to be one of the adults. But that is the destiny of a staff member. We are the wizards behind the curtain, orchestrating the magic. We procure contracts and meeting space. We greet the guests at the airport at 3 a.m. when their flights are delayed. We reunite weeping children with frantic parents. We police the hallways so that no one is impaled by a spontaneous mock swordfight, and if the worst should happen, we also handle crowd control and make certain the first responders are alerted.

In my specific department, Press Relations, we serve as intermediaries between the press and the convention guests. We answer questions, arrange interviews, and facilitate those interviews to make the experience as productive and pleasant as possible for everyone concerned. When things go wrong -- when guests run late or a photographer is stuck in traffic -- we scramble to get everything back on track.

All over the Baltimore Convention Center, roughly 500 of us staffers work to lessen nightmares. We are the dream shamans, converting bad to good. We step up so that thousands of others can step out in satin ballgowns and bright purple suits.

As The Laughing Man and I watched our children ham it up for the snapping lens, I felt certain that 20 years from now, they too will keep the dream alive.

Links of Otakon cosplayer photos:

Best Cosplay Photos of 2011 by Unframed World

Otakon 2012 on tumblr

Select Otakon 2011 photos by photographer Ollie Oberg

Ollie Oberg's portfolio, including Otakon pics from various years

Thanks to my beta reader, roina_arwen, for looking over this for me and making terrific editing suggestions!

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( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 28th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
Some day, I ought to attend a convention I'm not staffing; of course, then I might not know what to do with myself. I went to Faeriecon in Philly several years ago and had a blast admiring all the faerie cosplayers. I agree with your assessment: overall, cosplayers and fan folk are awesome people.

My son already loves robots and "Kiki's Delivery Service," the gateway drugs to anime culture. :)
Jul. 28th, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
When I read your caption, I thought, "What, THAT Rimmer?" with delight. Haven't thought of Red Dwarf in forever.

Lured away by a fox spirit... *smile*

Thanks for sharing!

Jul. 28th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
A man after my heart! I just HAD to have a picture of Rimmer, even though I was on my way somewhere at the time. His camera was amazing; I wish I'd gotten a better close-up of it.

The fox spirit metaphor occurred to me as soon as I realized they were under the table together. The Laughing Man and I laughed about it. There's a lot of "mock match-making" going on amongst us staffers with little ones. It will be interesting to see if any couples actually result between them when they're older.
Jul. 28th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, now I'm going to have that voice in my head for the rest of the day. No, not Rimmer!

*explosion* "There's an emergency going on... It's stil going on."

Ah, but you know, they never end up with the one you expect them to. Given who my parents probably would've picked, I say that's all to the good. *smile*

Jul. 28th, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
We loooove "Red Dwarf" and attend a "Red Dwarf" marathon each year held by some friends of mine from college. I was a little disappointed he didn't have a Lister with him.

Ah, but you know, they never end up with the one you expect them to. Given who my parents probably would've picked, I say that's all to the good. *smile*

Yes, I probably would have ended up with the son of the men's store owner who reportedly gave me my first kiss when I was a toddler, running out from behind the counter. My parents teased me about that for years. He and I NEVER talked about it when we were older, so I wonder if his parents ever told him. I didn't remember a thing about it.
Jul. 29th, 2012 04:20 pm (UTC)
Ah, Lister's great, but the cat would've been cooler. That guy was awesome! Now that I think about it though, that kind of humor might not go over particularly well in our new and improved PC age.

LOL Reminds me of my youngest. When we first moved in here, about six years ago, she and the boy from next door hid in a closet and kissed each other. Her sister came charging down stairs, and told anyone who'd listen what was going on. They're still good friends, and as far as I can tell, use each other as lines of information into the opposing gender community. "Does he like me?" "He does, but he also likes Christen," and like that. I think she's very lucky, I would've killed to have an information source like that in middle school/high school. *grin*

Jul. 28th, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
I've been to conventions here and there - we like Dragon*Con, which is probably about the same size as Otakon appears to be - so I could totally relate to this. Glad I could help!
Jul. 28th, 2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
I'm envious! Dragon*Con is supposed to be a really fun con. Maybe when KFP is older, we'll try to go to more conventions just to enjoy them.
Jul. 30th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
I've been to Otakon before. It was a lot of fun! ^_^
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
Cool! What years? I've been on staff since 2001.
Jul. 30th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
That sounds like so much fun. It's great that KFP is old enough to go and enjoy it too!
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
He did have fun. Actually, he's been going since he was 7 weeks old, but now he's finally beginning to appreciate it.
Jul. 31st, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
The people come to life so clearly! Strong writing :)
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! It helped that it was fresh in my mind at the time I wrote it.
Aug. 8th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
Comic Con in San Diego was very much like this!
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
I have several friends who attended it and agree.
Aug. 8th, 2012 01:11 pm (UTC)
This makes me miss cons. I used to go to DragonCon here in Atlanta (and was also on staff for a couple years) before it got too big. I'm sure Otakon is even bigger, but DragonCon has major logistical issues - I think it grew too fast or is just not well-managed enough or something.
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
We had a little over 30,000 people this year. That's a little more than twice what it was when I started on staff in 2001. Managing a growing convention always results in growing pains.
Aug. 8th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC)
I think an event like this would be fun! I like your take on this topic because one thing I love about idol is learning about the people behind the writing. I love nonfiction and you do it well. Thanks for sharing your world with us!
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's funny you say that, because this season I find myself writing much more fiction than I used to. I never used to consider myself a fiction writer before, but that's a lot of fun, too.

But yes, creative nonfiction is my wheelhouse, and I love that form.
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:11 pm (UTC)
Until this season, I classified myself as a nonfiction writer mostly. But I've done so much fiction this season and it's gotten such a good response, it's been fun. I still tend to enjoy reading creative nonfiction over fiction in Idol, though there are some amazing fiction writers in the group that I love!
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
When it's done well, creative non-fiction can pack a real emotion impact. Or, like you do so well, it can discuss human nature in an entertaining way. The thing is, I think that sometimes people think that it's easy just because "it's writing about yourself." The best creative nonfiction uses artistry, as well.
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC)
I totally agree. Nonfiction isn't easy to do right. Anyone can tell a story as it happens, sure... But good nonfiction goes beyond retelling the events... It tells it in an interesting and fascinating way. It makes you feel things. You feel like you're experiencing it too. Or it makes you laugh. None of that is easy to do. It's more than just saying "this happened and then this happened...".

Nonfiction is always going to have a special place in my heart. I love reading about people's lives and experiences. And phooey on anyone who says its easy. To do it right, it's not easy :)
Aug. 8th, 2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
I'm with you; I love finding out more about the lives of the people in this competition. Some of them have had so many adventures that they put even my fiction characters to shame!
Aug. 11th, 2012 06:17 pm (UTC)
That Rimmer costume is swoony!
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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