If your reaction to the above invitation is utter confusion, read on as Lucy Saxon introduces the ultimate hobby for fiction fans.
Cosplay is one of those things that unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, can look very, very bizarre.
There are a lot of misconceptions about cosplay, particularly in the media; that cosplayers think they are the character, or that it’s some sort of fetish thing, or that we’re all socially incapable losers who wear cosplays like some sort of split personality and can’t interact with people out of costume. I promise you, it’s not nearly that complicated!
Need someone to sew a ball gown from scratch in four hours? Easy. A full suit of armour by next week? I know a guy
Cosplay is a way for people to express appreciation for their favourite fictional characters. Yes, it’s a social hobby, of course – but most cosplayers I know are just as social out of costume as in it, you just have to get them talking about the right topic! It’s a way to make friends through similar interests, and also a way for the more creatively inclined to demonstrate and develop their skills. Not all cosplayers make their own costumes, but it’s becoming more and more popular to do so.
The cosplay community is far-reaching, and full of wonderfully multitalented people. Need someone to sew a ball gown from scratch in four hours? Easy. A full suit of armour by next week? I know a guy who can sort that, no problem. Want a sword taller than the average human? Ten volunteers before you can even finish asking around a Facebook group. Cosplayers end up teaching themselves any number of skills in order to complete their costumes, and even if there’s something they don’t know, it’s very likely they know someone who does.
Cosplay often gets overlooked as just a bunch of nerds running around in silly costumes, but it’s far, far more than that; those silly costumes are the product of weeks and weeks of hard work and dedication, and I think any creator of a fictional character should be honoured to see cosplays of their characters. Nothing shows love more than the want to spend so much time and money creating a cosplay. When there are so many other things to spend that time and money on (I’ll admit, the choice between cosplay and books crops up far, far too often for my liking), and so many characters available to cosplay, for someone to pick your character is pretty amazing.
I’ve cosplayed from all sorts of media; film, TV, books, video games, even the odd anime. Books are often hard to cosplay from, as obviously there’s no visual reference. A character’s outfit has to be described in excruciating detail for someone to get an accurate design without pictures. But with more books becoming films, literary characters are becoming easier and easier to cosplay. I currently own three of four Hogwarts house uniforms (with Hufflepuff to be made sometime this year or next) and Draco Malfoy is one of my absolute favourite characters to cosplay. I tend to go for the slightly darker characters, the dry-witted and sarcastic types. Draco is perfect for that, and he’s a very recognisable character, which makes him especially fun to wear to conventions.
Another great resource for book cosplayers is cover art; characters on book covers are a brilliant cosplay reference. At Winter LFCC last year, I cosplayed Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass book cover, as fellow Bloomsbury author Sarah J Maas was there. The cover art was amazingly detailed, which made it very easy to get enough references to put a costume together.
Cosplayers will go to extreme lengths to cosplay characters they particularly love – they’ll draw their own designs, or work off popular fanart, or even just wing it and work from the book description, even if only the most diehard fans will recognise it. But speaking as a cosplayer to authors; if you’re dying to see your characters cosplayed, give us something to work with! Lack of cosplay doesn’t mean lack of interest, but lack of resources. Have a look through fanart and point out ones that look particularly accurate. Describe a main character’s iconic outfit! Cosplay is a great way to make fandom life more interesting and enjoyable, and a dynamic I think should be brought to more literary fandoms.
With the Young Adult Literature Convention coming up at London Film and Comic Con in July, I’m definitely hoping to see plenty of literary cosplay, myself included! I’m organising a cosplay group for my debut novel Take Back the Skies on the Sunday of LFCC (with Saturday being devoted to Captain America and the genius that is Stan Lee) and with the enormous number of authors attending over the weekend, there are plenty of literary characters for cosplayers to show some love to. Maybe I can even get some fellow authors cosplaying!
If you’re attending YALC, or any other convention, and have always been tempted to try cosplaying a favourite character, I urge you to give in to temptation! Cosplay is great fun, and takes convention-going to a whole new level that once you’re on, you won’t ever want to leave!
Lucy Saxon, for Waterstones.com/blog