This weekend is Li Who/An Unearthly Convention, and it will be my first Doctor Who event since Regen 4. When it was announced that there wouldn’t be a ReGen 5, I debated whether or not I should just let all this go. But it occurs to me that, because of things that happened at Regen 4, I have been avoiding Doctor Who specific events since early 2018.
As excited as I am for Li Who, I am worried and scared that my assailants will be there. I’m even more scared that even if they aren’t, I’ll still be looked down upon, seen negatively. That there will still be victim blaming and shaming.
For me, and for anyone that needs it, I decided to just put it all out there because a lot of people don’t know what actually happened to me.
Step inside the Tardis, and let’s go back to Arisia 2015…
A woman stalked me, assaulted me, almost broke my props, followed me to lunch, told me, “I want to be just like you.” Then she cut her hair like mine, and harassed two of my friends. I reported it right away to con security. Security seemed incredibly helpful at first but when I mentioned that my assailant was a “she” they stopped me mid-sentence and asked me to clarify. They were baffled. They didn’t believe me.
“Girls don’t do that.”
I was devastated. And tried to just accept that this would just be how it is. Don’t say anything because no one is going to believe you.
PSA: That security team has since been replaced and the new team has been nothing but professional and helpful.
Fast forward to 2018, to ReGen 4 , where multiplewomen touched me without consent. They rubbed my back, felt me up, and put their hands down my pants. I was jumped on while standing in line for Peter Capaldi. Another woman ran up, grabbed my arm and forcibly pulled me towards her. It knocked me off balance. I dropped the stuff in my hands and screamed out in pain. I was already in pain from an injury and could barely stand, so the pain she caused made me see actual spots.
Because of Arisia, I was incredibly hesitant to report it. I figured no one would believe me and nothing would get done. Sadly, I was correct.
Because of all the times I had been laughed at online when I say “male and NB cosplayers get assaulted too” I kept this all to myself. I kept it in, internally screaming and crying, and wishing I could just vanish.
It wasn’t until I confided in a close friend who had a similar experience happen to her at the previous ReGen, (except with a male assailant) that I decided I would go ahead and report the situation. My friend assured me that the con would handle it well, as they had handled her situation. She gave me names, titles, and contact info. I was reluctant, anxious about whether I’d be believed, but I decided to reach out. I didn’t tell anyone, even my husband.
I told them that I had been sexually assaulted, that I had been stalked, and finally that I had been caused bodily harm. I didn’t blame ground staff. I tried to just be honest, tell my story, and not judge anyone, because in my head, this was the fault of the con goers themselves, the attackers.
I gave the best description that I could of my attackers. I also explained that I tried to find con security while there, but was terrified that my assailants would find out, and to be honest after getting the run around for two days about an ADA pass, I didn’t have much faith in them.
I sent out the first email and waited for about three weeks with no reply. I thought ‘emails get lost, no big, I’ll send it again to the same address as well as a few others.’ Still nothing. After a couple weeks of no replies, I reached out to a different friend who gave me yet another name and contact. Still no reply. But I was getting emails from the same address about ticket sales just fine. So I even replied to that. Nothing. I tried messaging their FB page. No reply even though they saw the message.
I finally got a reply after THREE MONTHS of telling these people that I was sexually assaulted at their con, and that someone literally leapt on top of me.
Their reply consisted of what sounded like a copypasta ‘sorry this happened to you.’ That was it. So I replied to that, very upset that they appeared to not be at least attempting to get more info on these people since I gave them descriptions. I have not reported many people through the years, but the few times when I have, the con always asked what the people looked like, if I knew their names, etc so they could be tracked down and the situation resolved.
Same exact reply. So I sent one last email, telling them that they NEEDED to do something about these people or at least give me some indication that they would look into it before these people came back and did this to someone else.
I never got a reply to that, but I did see a very passive aggressive post on their FB page, that they disabled comments on. They didn’t call me out by name, but they said that if you contact them they need more time to answer because – this was what really upset me – “we have other shows” and added with a winky face emoji.
How very nice to know that if you have been assaulted, make sure you don’t interfere with their show schedule.
I haven’t told many people about this. Some people that I did tell have told me to just drop it, and some even stopped talking to me because it happened. Because they didn’t want to make waves because their enjoyment of the con was more important.
It has been almost two years and I feel like there are no safe places. No place to go that won’t victim blame me or tell me, “Well you should have done this if you wanted to avoid getting assaulted.” People have zero issue getting behind celebrities when they come out after sexual harassment. Everybody goes to Twitter, they run to Facebook, to post campaigns and start boycotts.
People will rally for someone that they don’t know because it’s easier. Because it doesn’t cost them anything.
Dealing with sexual assault and predators is a lot harder when it’s a con in your own community.
That’s why I’ve finally decided to put some of this out there. Because it needs to be said. Because we as a community need to do better. We need to hold ourselves and those we trust accountable.
So, in the words of a Twitter meme: “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…”
It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” ~ Albus Dumbledore
I managed to get my hands on the Time of The Doctor set for a pretty good price. So of course I had to give the Doctor a little make over. Cybernetics aside, he needed some repainting anyway. The colors are very bland, and he had no facial expression.
I redid the coat, his bow tie and of course his face.
“Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common reality.
Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore.
The two are rarely compatible.”
―Neil Gaiman, The Books of Magic
May 11th is the anniversary of an episode of Doctor Who that among many fans of the show lives in infamy, but for me is a work of art that has changed my life. It has inspired me, caused me pain, physical and emotional, remade me, then broke me again. Nightmare in Silver has become such a integral part of who I am that some people equate me with the titular villain of the story – Mr. Clever. If that sounds arrogant or over the top its because my spouse typed it.
All I can say is that it has been a bumpy 6 years since I started cosplaying as this character. I have learned a lot, made friends and lost them again.
I wanted this to be a review of the episode. A critique from the perspective of Mr. Clever. But how do I separate the joy of the episode from how I used that joy to craft this whole new persona and just run with it? I guess I can’t. So instead I came at this in a rambling, disjointed diatribe that became a novella on how this episode changed my life. The moment my Doctor, Matt Smith, stepped off the TARDIS onto Hedgwick’s World.
Six years ago, my spouse and I were sitting in bed and continuing our watch of Matt’s run on Doctor Who. CJ had been a fan of David, and I had already fallen in love with 11. His goofiness combined with his dark side had already won me over.
I remember CJ leaning towards the screen saying “Wait. This one was ALSO written by Neil? There were TWO? How come no one told us?”
We’ve always been huge fans of Neil Gaiman. I remember when CJ and I first started dating, we would have nightly conversations about American Gods. Now, of course, I know why no one told us. As much as I love NiS, I am in the minority. Watching it, I thought that somehow people just must have missed this one. Because how could you not love it?
Dead amusement park. Written by Neil. Warwick Davis. Little silver bugs. Cybermen. Cool chess game. And the single greatest villain ever. I mean, come on.
Looking back, I recalled a friend telling me that I would love Neil’s episode, and of course I know NOW that she meant The Doctor’s Wife, but every time I see her in person I smirk as she shakes her head.
Someone asked me once if I knew how long Clever was on screen, like in total. I sat down and clocked it once. It comes in at roughly 9 minutes. As I sit here and listen to the tippety tap of my keyboard, I look around at all the Clever swag that I have gotten over the years, the gifts that people have given me, the fan art, all the little silver creatures scattered around my house. Its incredible to me to think back and try to remember what my life was like before this. BC? Before Clever? Before con life? Before cosplay? Nine minutes changed my life.
A path is built by placing one stone at a time. How does one single character manage to be that stone, to set in motion a series of little events that lead to life altering decisions for so many people. And it all had to line up so perfectly. If I had already known what cosplay WAS, I don’t think I would have tried this. If I had already known what photoshoots were, and meet ups and cons, and had fb pages, and had friends that were Whovians – I think I would have been too freaked out to try to cosplay. I know for sure that if had known that people would have taken my photo and put it on the internet, I would have never even tried this. If I wasn’t allergic to so many things, would I have even found the mixture of ingredients to make the perfect working Cyberplanner piece? Who knows. One stone at a time, and the path was laid.
And what a path it has been.
I have learned a lot, made friends and lost them again.
I used to watch Doctor Who when I was very young, though I don’t remember much. My grandmother loved Tom Baker. Used to say “Oh, that man looks great in a scarf”.
Fast forward to 2009, CJ and I were living in California, and we started watching the 9th Doctor on reruns. But Matt’s run had already started. At the time I only knew one other person who watched Doctor Who and she was telling me that she “hated the new Doctor. Bring back David”. That was all I remember except for a few whispers here and there about Matt until MISTI-Con in 2013.
MISTI was where I met most of the costumed people that I admired and aspired to become. They were so perfect. Especially a pair of cosplayers I am still friends with today – The Malfoys. I still didn’t know what cosplay meant. I heard it once or twice, but only in reference to Anime. My friends called themselves costumers, performers, actors. Not cosplayers. So that is what I thought was the norm.
We finally finished David’s run and CJ was pretty upset. And TBH, David’s last episode is still one of my favorite endings. I loved it then and still find it moving now. We didn’t start Matt right away, but I was already searching Pinterest and Tumblr for memes and gifs of the 11th Doctor and already fell in love with him without even seeing an episode.
I thought I would make CJ feel better about losing David by buying him a fez. Except I didn’t want to take it off. And it became mine. Which kind of started a whole wardrobe filled with 11’s items. And I mean a wardrobe. I have an antique wardrobe that was my grandmothers filled with items that 11 wore. Mind you I never wear them, unless it’s for Clever. But I have them.
I tried cosplaying as ‘Town Called Mercy‘ 11. I tried the ‘Let’s Kill Hitler‘ green coat. I tried the standard purple coat sans Cybernetics. Eh. Wasn’t for me. I didn’t like it. Like all the other costumes before, I just didn’t get the appeal. I couldn’t understand why “those people dressed up”. Try as I might, I couldn’t be a Malfoy.
Until I saw 11 get converted into Mr. Clever. I lost my damn mind. I really couldn’t tell you why. Still. SIX years later. I don’t know what clicked. I have tried to analyze it, I have tried to figure it out. I don’t know. But I HAD to be him. Watching his smirks, his flirty outbursts, how manipulative he was. Or maybe it was the line about being effected by gold and cleaning fluids (two things that I’m allergic to). I knew instantly that he was my cosplay, my character. Maybe its because I knew I couldn’t act, and to me, cosplay is about the performance, so I knew I had to pick someone close to my own personality, or at the very least something that I could pull off. Or maybe its cause I always loved cybernetically enhanced things. Who knows? But at that moment the first stone of my path was put into place.
But HOW to become him? HOW was I going to pull this off? Looking at myself – long blonde hair, not exactly young and thin like Matt was, and well, not cybernetically enhanced. I refused to wear a wig. So dying my hair was the first permanent thing I did. But for two years, I refused to cut it. I thought I was too fat for short hair, and I didn’t want to be that person that cut their hair to look like a celebrity. Which was dumb. I could have saved myself and my friend Kat MANY hours of braiding my damn hair if I had just chopped it all off to begin with. Eventually I did chop it off to look like Matt’s. Thank god for Ashley and later Sarai, for being the amazing stylists that they are. Instead of taking two and half hours to get into costume, it now only takes about hour and half.
Next I started the acquisition of all the screen accurate pieces I would need. I managed to find all the pieces except for a coat. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to wool – lucky me. Include that in with the hundreds of things that I’m allergic to, so my search was a difficult one. I got very lucky and found a purple coat at a thrift store that I used for about the first two years. Very far from screen accurate but no one seemed to notice. I was all over BBC sites and in DW magazine with this coat. Eventually I got a custom made one and then this past Christmas I took a HUGE chance and got the Abbyshot replica which has become my favorite coat, not only because it doesn’t make me itch, but because it looks and feels fabulous.
So: Hair. Check. Costume. Check. Accessories including cybermites and hand pulse. Check. Now what to do about my face? Again, at this time I didn’t know any other Whovian cosplayers when I put this costume together. I didn’t know there were resources: forums, pages, groups, etc. I knew what I wanted, and I was going to become that. I did know one person who worked with prosthetics, so I asked him if he had ideas.
“Yes, use latex”.
“Um, I’m deathly allergic to that.”
“Well, you’re shit outta luck.”
I did some research on what people used for movies. Mostly latex, silicones, rubbers and urethanes. All things that I can not touch. Someone told me to search youtube. But I have never learned anything that I know how to do except by trial and error. So I sat down, and I experimented. I tried various clays. Nope. That burned a cyberplanner shaped rash onto my face. I tried Eva foam. Ugly as hell, made me itch and didn’t stick anyway. I gave up on the “suggested materials” and made my own. Fragile. Lightweight. Breaks by looking at it, I swear. But it works. 22 days later and I had a working, blinking, wireless cyberplanner piece. It is the most incredible thing I have ever made and the one piece of art that I am the most proud of, and the only thing I have *ever* made for myself.
As an artist, over the years, I’ve made many pieces; from remade Breyer model horses, to wands and jewelry but only if it was a commission. Only if people paid me. That was my job. I never made art for fun. For myself.
Until I sat down to make the cyberplanner piece. No clue what I was doing, but I knew it had to be done. I had never done anything like this before – or since. It was an act of magick, filled with passion and planning and pain.
Every time I hold it in my hands, it fills me with such a sense of pride, wonder, and excitement. Well, until I have to put it on. Or until I have to take it off. Or until it gives me migraines. Or until it pushes into my head all day and causes me actual pain. I guess it’s more accurate to say I have a love/hate relationship with this…I don’t know…horcrux?
It’s more than a costume piece. More than a cosplay. Its pure magick. Something that resonates on its own, but incomplete without its owner. I feel incomplete sometimes when I’m not wearing it or maybe just feel more complete when its on. And sometimes I feel like I’m not worthy. Like Mjolnir and Thor.
Now I was ready…
Arisia 2014. This was the catalyst. The start of con life and all things Cyberiad and Clever and friends. Rewind to my life before – BC. Going out, socializing. It was hard, it was almost non existent, and it was harrowing. Especially getting dressed. Ugh, even now I just hate dressing up. Clothes are the enemy. I’ve always had issues with my appearance. Hated myself, my looks. Always been the ugly one, the fat one. Going out in public was never easy for me. Deciding to throw on a costume and go to a convention was an odd, out of character choice for me. Certainly for CJ. But we grabbed a friend, and off we went.
Boston Whovians were having a photoshoot but I didn’t want to be a part of it. Photos? Oh hell no! We stood at the bottom of the escalator and watched the procession of Whovians go by. ‘I’m going to just stand in the shadows and hope no one sees me’
Our friend said, “You know your face blinks, right?” and suddenly I heard what I think was “Mr. Clever you better get your ass to this photoshoot” from the best looking River Song cosplayer I’ve ever seen. (Cat Smith, and who turned out to be a good friend shortly after.) I remember looking around for advice and him saying “Someone who very well could BE River Song just screamed the word shoot. I would follow her if I were you.”
SIDE NOTE: River Song is my second favorite DW character, so it didn’t take much convincing.
I was very blown away with the amount of people at this meet up, and was not expecting so many people to come running up to me, posing me, asking for photos and calling me “delicious”. (Yes that happened) I posed for one particular photo for my friend Lynn Wine, and that is the pic that ended up going viral. Not long after Arisia, it ended up on Geek Universe, The Nerdist, a few other geek sites, and got retweeted by BBCA. That was shocking for me, and I was not 100% sure how I felt about seeing myself all over the place. But that is how it began.
It’s more than a costume piece. More than a cosplay. Its pure magick.
Of course, with all the good things, there is usually bad. This is also the time period where I first started getting hate for my choice of characters, how I presented the character, etc. I talk all about that in another post here – Haters Gonna Hate. Even with all the hate and negativity, I would not trade this, nor do I have a single regret.
I can’t emphasize enough how much my whole life changed at that very moment; Arisia 2014 was truly the point of no return.
And as with all my more personal posts I need to include something Taylor Swift:
It doesn’t take much for myself and my friends to get silly, and this night wasn’t much different.
Luckily, this photographer, Katie, is used to us. She’s done many of the Collective’s events, so I think she is always prepared for our craziness.
One of my favorite things about the PEM ‘s parties, is the interactive workshop. A few years ago we made pinwheels out of the material they use for sails, and they were displayed all around town. That was incredible. This time around people got to make prints and learn about silk screening techniques.
While my friends tried that ( let’s be honest here – I am a mess when I paint, and I knew it would get all over my cosplay) I saw paper and markers, so my brain went ” What the Hell!”
While I was sitting down, these three women came running up to me, fascinated by my lights. Like moths to a flame, I swear. One of them thought it was make up, and asked how I did it, how I made it. They had no idea who Mr. Clever was, so of course I had to show them a picture of Matt as Clever. One of them actually said ” Oh he’s cute.” Yes, yes he is.
After we finished making art, we meandered around some more, looking at the other exhibits. I did manage to find a very cute squirrel puppet. Of course now I want one.
“Hey, Sarah, don’t touch those…nuts.” Yeah, I need puppet.
Anyway, we are all looking forward to the next party!