I like science fiction, obviously – I write it and I review it. But I’m not what most people would consider a “fan.” While I’m always interested in production stories (a holdover from my days as a script geek), I don’t care about on-set gossip. I have no interest in buying the models, the action figures or the outrageously priced autographs of the stars. I don’t want to live in a fictional universe created by other people (perhaps because I spend so much time in my own).
Because of this, I’ve never really understood the battles that arise between different groups of fans. Whether it’s Kirk vs. Picard, Star Trek vs. Star Wars, literature vs. film and television, it all seems to me to be the working out of the tyranny of small differences. (If you aren’t familiar with that expression, you should [re-]watch the episode of Star Trek: The Original Series called “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”) I always hope that people will recognize that, while they may not share a passion for the same thing, they share the same kind of passion, and that passion can unite instead of divide them.
I have especially not understood the antipathy some people at science fiction conventions have for cosplayers. When I first started going to cons in 2010, one aspect of them that I was immediately attracted to was the variety and creativity of the costumes people wore. Although I don’t share it, the passion that people must have towards a fictional universe to want to spend a weekend looking like a character from it impresses me no end. The fact that some people don’t consider cosplayers “true fans” is hard for me to believe.
At the risk of alienating some readers (again), I would point out that some of this antipathy towards cosplay is sexist: some male fans believe that “dress-up” is for girls and, therefore, not a proper expression of being a fan. Again, the tyranny of small differences is in play, here: who has the right to determine whether or not somebody else’s engagement with a fictional universe deserves to be called “fandom?” Moreover, while it is true that cosplay is most often engaged in by women, male cosplayers make up a substantial number of people at conventions.
I have some proof.
I have been taking photographs at conventions almost since I started going, and, when I realized just how fascinating cosplay was, I made a point of taking photos of as many people in costume as I could find (and had time for). I have made most of these pictures public on my Flickr account as a way of sharing my experience and celebrating fandom in general and cosplay in particular. To give you a sense of what I saw over a two day period at this year’s Toronto Fan Expo, you can check out the photos I took here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/72833254@N08/albums/72157672587890322 .
If you would like to see the photos I have taken over the years (WARNING: there are a lot of them), you can find them here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/72833254@N08/albums/.
Cosplay is a wonderful aspect of fandom. We should celebrate it.