Sunday, March 17, 2013

Babes In Tights And Weirdoes In Onesies

That was my weekend, in a nutshell.

I agreed some time back to attend Aicon in Hobart this weekend. Of course, when I agreed I didn't know I'd be behind the eightball on the exegesis, and desperately entangled in projects and problems. But sometimes you gotta do these things. I'm a writer, and I promised to be a writer for a panel thereof at the Hobart Anime Convention. I also promised to be a martial arts demonstrator, since the organisers of said convention have a thing for all matters Japanesy and cultural. However, there was a considerable dose of rain on the day, and as they'd scheduled the chop-socky demo for an outside venue... yeah, didn't happen.

Can't say I mind, really. I did bring two students down with me -- no, three if you count young Jake -- but it was largely by way of coincidence. The redoubtable Baggins sisters are huge anime and comic fans, and both of them were all set to costume up and dive into the anime con anyhow, so it made sense to car-pool, and they were kind enough to accept the possibility of double-duty: not just fans, but demonstrators, etc.

But any demonstration of which they were part would have been... problematic. Elder sister Amy was done up as Harley Quin from the DC comics. Yep: the whole skin-tight spandex jester suit and hat, whiteface make-up, booties, the lot. Also a gigantic comedy mallet for threatening people. Ms Baggins -- also our mighty perky model for the Mighty Perky Nana Bar day -- is pretty dedicated to her costumery, and she went after the look with... well, everything. Not to put too fine a point on it, the lass in question is constructed rather like a comic-book heroine in her own right, and once she was in that second-skin... let's just say I'm pretty sure there are a lot of anime fans in Hobart today nursing wrenched neck muscles.

Meanwhile, younger sister April Baggins is also costume-prone, and landed herself a very fine Black Widow outfit, of the sort wrapped around Scarlett Johansson in the recent Avengers flick. April's a natural redhead, so the costume was a no-brainer for her.

So: yes. I recognised the humour of the situation -- setting up to do a martial arts demo in which the two assistants were both comic-book Queens of Biffo and Oomph. I assure you it wasn't planned on those grounds, but sometimes these things happen. And that's why I'm not sure whether I'm glad or disappointed the rain came over. It did save me from being hurled about the place by my wrists... but I think I would have enjoyed watching a bunch of anime people goggling at the martial antics of Harley Quinn and the Black Widow, while themselves being twisted, bent and brutalised. (Yes. I planned a very hands-on demo. Sod all that standing around smashing boards. Get the audience involved. Make them hurt. That way they know they had fun!)

The Con itself was interesting. I definitely prefer the SF cons, I must say.  Completely different vibe. This one was all about costumes and play-acting, about celebrating the consumption of pop culture. I like the SF cons more, with their very strong strand of creating and interpreting the material at the centre of the whole phenomenon. I like the proactive nature of SF fandom, I guess, and the community of content-creator types that rock up to the conventions. The Aicon had a lot of shopping, but only a few venues, and the events were by and large about posing and playing, not about thinking and recreating.

But to each their own. I believe the Aicon people were predicting something like 2000 people over the weekend. I'm not sure if they got it, but I know that's the kind of numbers we get at a full WorldCon event in Melbourne, so if the pockymuncher movement (thank you Jake for that term. "Pockymuncher" is now the generic term for die-hard wannabe otaku anime fan types. You gotta love the creativity of a cynical kid, eh?) can generate that kind of outcome in Hobart for a yearly event -- yep. Lot of energy there. Clearly, people are getting something enjoyable out of it.

The writers' panel went very well. What with not having a glut of writers and panels to choose from, we got a very respectable audience -- myself, Tansy, Bob and two others whose names currently elude me, because I am shit at names. (Apologies!) Nominally, the panel was supposed to be about the importance of research in creating SF, fantasy, whatever, but by mutual consent, we threw it open and handled questions from the audience. And the audience were interested, and engaged, so we did our best to be just as interested and engaged in response. It was definitely one of the very best panel-efforts I've seen, and from what I heard and saw, the audience thought likewise. Jake said he wasn't bored anyhow, which is pretty good. When you get through an hour of QnA with five writers without boring the twelve-year-old, something has definitely gone right.

We finished up our day at the con by skipping out on the late afternoon stuff. We'd got into Hobart the night before, and I made the Baggins sisters visit an Indian restaurant with Jake and I. They'd not had experience with Indian food before, so they were delighted by the joys of Madras and Vindaloo, Tikka Masala and Biryani. I also made sure they both got a mango lhassi into them, and to the credit of the restaurant -- Dolphin Indian, on Sandy Bay Road in Sandy Bay -- it was one of the best lhassi I've ever had. Lots of ripe, fresh mango, good yoghurt, subtle spices.

Anyway, since we'd already done the going-out-eating-weird-food thing, I made a concession to Jake and the Bagginses. We were all accommodated in Wrest Point, in adjoining rooms, so I got some pointers from the girls, bought some anime DVDs and we executed Plan Veg. That is: we got lots of cheeses, biscuits, snacks, fruit, munchies and drinks, grabbed a DVD unit from the hotel, and spent about six hours watching Japanese cartoons.

Yeah. I know. That sounds kinda slothful. But it was a lot of fun. The Baggins lasses are good company, and young Jake is old enough to have a decent wit on him too. We didn't exactly trash the hotel room, but I'm going to guess they'll be finding stray Maltesers in odd places for quite a while.

It was a good weekend. I was forced to look away from the exegesis for a while, and I was stripped of the usual kid-handling responsibilities. Taking a bit of time to watch weird cartoons and eat exotic snacks with friends is a good thing. There's not enough 'fun' programmed into the whole 'being-an-adult' situation, you know? Sometimes you have to let go, and just play -- or what's the point? What are you doing all the work for if there's nothing left of you afterwards to enjoy things?

Anyway. I'm back now. Exegesis. Dinners. Lunches. Laundry. Commuting with the kids. Finding school uniforms. Routines, schedules, plans.

Never mind. End of the month, and Jake and I are off to Melbourne to see Mr Barnes and his Weapon Against Society. There will be food, drinks, and gaming galore.

I can't wait.