Literary Cosplay

Before the term “cosplay” came into common use, I always loved Halloween as one of the times I could create a costume and become someone else for a day. Nowadays, pop culture conventions also provide a fun excuse to dress up. Of course, most people who dress up for conventions make costumes based on their favorite television shows, movies, or comic books. A creator has already designed the costume and it’s up to the fan to make their own version. Likewise, most commercial Halloween costumes are also based on these same mass media heroes. However, novels can also be a great source of costume ideas and they often provide a wide latitude of ways to interpret characters. This can be especially useful if you’re looking for materials you can grab from a thrift store or something you can create with some simple make-up effects.

I have been known to dress up in outfits inspired by my novels. Back in 1993, I went to a Halloween party dressed as a Rd’dyggian (pronounced Red-dye-chian) from my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. The Rd’dyggians are aliens with orange skin and a purple mustache-like array of tentacles under their noses. On top of that, they like to wear long, flowing robes. I was able to create a version using some face paint, hair dye, and some odds and ends from the closet. I didn’t match the Rd’dyggians from my novels perfectly, but I was close enough that my friends who had read the novels understood what I was supposed to be. Those who hadn’t read the novels still understood that I was some kind of alien.

I will note that when I first got into science fiction fandom, costume contests were a big part of conventions. You can still find contests, but an important element several years ago was that most of the people who dressed up created costumes based on favorite novels they’d read, rather than favorite visual media. This allowed them a lot of creativity in how they interpreted their costumes. These days, most of the literary-inspired costumes I see are at steampunk conventions.

As a steampunk author, I often dress up for the conventions I attend. It’s rare that I dress up as a specific character from my novels, but I do like to wear clothing like I describe in my novels. Here I am from an event last week, where I went to Ruidoso to speak about my Clockwork Legion Novels to the Fortuitous Book Club. The club at the recommendation of my dear friend, Margo McKee, read my novel Owl Dance. What’s more, Ruidoso is in Lincoln County, the heart of Billy the Kid Country. So, while I didn’t dress as a specific character from the novels, I did put on an outfit that said Wild West steampunk. Most of the outfit is just western wear, which is easy to find in New Mexico, but topped up with a pair of goggles and a cool steampunk looking watch. Of course, my outfit also evokes the feeling of the old Wild Wild West television series starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, which was one of the inspirations for my series.

If you’re looking for an original costume this Halloween, or want to find something new and unique for a pop culture or science fiction convention, I encourage you to look no further than the pages of your favorite novel. See what it inspires you to create. If you want to look at my novels for inspiration, click the links below to learn more about the series:

2 comments on “Literary Cosplay

  1. sftrails says:

    Folks don’t seem to go in costume at cons as much as they once did. Steampunk seems in decline but certain events like Wild wild West Con run contrary with record attendance and a lot of great costumes. There’s this redhead that makes her own costumes and, well I digress. For Halloween, I used to take the dog trick or treating. He loved Halloween. He had a Zoro costume. I have an authentic Western duster, Pinkerton Badge and have just added a replica Colt Peacemaker to my wardrobe. Yippe Yi yay and Happy Halloween.

    • I’m not sure I agree about steampunk being “in decline.” It seems anyone who didn’t jump onto a bandwagon when it rolled by is quick to call the genre declining the minute the bandwagon finds a happy place to park with all the people who originally climbed on. I think that’s more where steampunk is at the moment. It’s not rising meteorically or in the news so much, but I don’t see those people who fell in love rapidly leaving either. The same is true with vampires… funny, for vampires being a thing of the past, I have to sell a LOT of copies of my vampire novels to make modest gains in the vampire bestseller lists This all gets away from the point of literary cosplay, except perhaps for me to say don’t let anyone tell you not to cosplay something because it’s not popular. Dress up in a way you like when you like and have fun with it! Happy Halloween!

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