This week is usually jam packed with preparation, as many of us get ready to attend Arisia, my 7thtime at that con. One of main reasons I look forward to this con, aside from having fun with friends, the running of the Doctors, and various other silly yearly traditions, it also marks the anniversary of when I started conlife as Mr. Clever.
Around this time, I also usually start to reflect back on the previous year and make notes of all the good things that happened. But as we all know, 2020 did not have many redeeming qualities to write home about.
My struggles weren’t unlike many cosplayers and other creatives. How do you stay motivated and inspired in the midst of a global crisis? How do we stay relevant, without being able to make new content as readily as before?
One thing that became abundantly clear was that everything was going virtual. Virtual events, virtual cons, virtual panels, you name it. At first I hopped right on that bandwagon, eager to support local events. I tuned in to panels and Tweet Alongs, but as much as I tried, I learned that virtual events don’t hold much appeal to me. For me the fun of conlife is putting the costume on and running around the venue all day.
But then I discovered TikTok. I had set up an account (AdventuresOfClever on TikTok) a while ago but never used it. As you may remember I have a real hard time with video. What in the world would someone like me be doing there? But during lockdown, the masses swarmed there, and one thing that I found out right from the start was that this Whovian community was incredibly supportive, and gasp even knew who I was supposed to be!
In April, at the beginning of lockdown, the Pass the Brush challenges were trending everywhere I looked. So I decided that Whovians needed a Pass the Sonic version. That was the first time I had put together anything like that, and I am incredibly proud with how it turned out. I worked with 13 other cosplayers (around the world) to pass the sonic to all 14 doctors. It was a big deal for me.
The Pass the Sonic lead to another variation – Pass the Mask, but this time with local performers and personalities from Salem. Borah, The Addams Family and even our own Mayor, Kim Driscoll took part to help spread awareness about mask safety.
After doing those two videos, I decided to keep trying new things with video. It was a big step for someone that could count on one hand the number of videos they had been in before this. So I invested in some more video equipment like a ring light and tripod with a remote control. After some testing I even found a spot in my house that had a fun geeky background. That was also hard because our house doesn’t get a lot of natural light.
Then I did my very first live stream, as well as a few tutorials on how I made my NIS-Borderlands mash up. I even became involved in a fun fan-made Doctor Who project with a new friend entitled, “Versions Who.” This involved an almost RPG format that was both running lines in character and acting out new scenes via Facetime.
These were all big milestones for me. They kept me going even while the world around us was falling apart. I could do them even if though I couldn’t wear the costume outside. I was being creative in a way that I had never been able to do before.
Creatives in 2020 had to, for lack of a better phrase, get creative. Not just to make ends meet and stay relevant but to stay interested and stimulated against the constant tide of doomscrolling.
While perusing Instagram, I found a page that was encouraging Whovians to make lockdown cosplay videos. I attempted to do a little scene from Nightmare in Silver but they didn’t want voice-overs, and that might have been too much for me. I tried doing it, but I’m still very self-conscious of sounding too feminine and being misgendered. I panicked, whispered, tried auto tuning it, and failed miserably. I honestly thought that would be the end of all of this for me. If I can’t even speak, what in the world am I even doing?
So I tried posting the failed video I had, but with Matt’s voice over mine. Add some flashy fonts. Some Doctor Who music, and I was good to go. I was met with a surprising amount of support, and even got invited to join some wonderful Discord chats filled with other Whovians and cosplayers that were just there to be positive and get through this the best they could.
Have I mentioned I have 7 cats?
For the most part, they leave me alone, but my newest one, Dandelion, insists on having her entire face or her butt in the frame. And while this makes for some great AWWWW moments, she has a tendency to knock stuff down. And by stuff, I mean my chess set. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve rescued a pawn from the dark corners of my room, only to have it swatted again a few seconds later. And needless to say, locking up them all up isn’t easy either.
A few months ago we even got a new door installed to separate the first and second floors so they can have the run of the top floor and leave me alone down below. Literally bought a new door to help mitigate the problem doing videos with 7 cats.
Aside from my feline overlords, the other hurdle that I have is the amount of time spent putting on and taking off the costume itself. I would love to be able to do duets on a whim with people, but I don’t always have the 4-5 hours a day. Its 90min – 2 hours just to get it on. Another 30 min to 60min of set up and car wrangling. And then take the video. And then another hour of taking it off again.
I did make a Cyberplanner on a stick for those nights that I read through lines with my new friend. But I’m not comfortable with it and haven’t even used it yet. Both logistically (I have to hold it so I only have one hand, plus it actually blocks my sight) and emotionally (because I’m just not comfortable with not actually having a cyberplanner on my face while being filmed).
The biggest obstacle however, is that I am visually impaired to the point of not being able to see my phone screen while in costume. I can’t see the buttons. I can’t see if people are commenting on live streams. I can’t see other videos well enough to duet or comment easily. I can’t see well enough to set up my little area without some help. Doing my make-up takes a little longer and longer each time as it gets harder and harder to see my face.
It is a STRUGGLE.
And, as I reread this, I keep thinking to myself, “Good Lord, is any of this even worth it?”
Yes. To me, that’s a resounding yes. Yes, because of the friends I’ve made and keep making. Yes, because a year ago this would have defeated me. Yes, because Clever has made me a better person, a stronger person.
I could touch on so much more from the past year. The other challenges all of us experienced. The politics and fear, but as I reflect on 2020 I am focusing on the one thing that helped me get through it.
A year ago I would have found a reason to quit doing video, a reason why it didn’t matter. But in 2020 I really didn’t have a choice. Call it stubbornness or my resolve to continue being Clever. Call it that I wouldn’t accept defeat, or that I just needed something positive to do with my time. But as I approach my seven-year anniversary in conlife, I can honestly say that I have overcome more than a pre-Clever me would have ever thought possible, and I know I am not done yet.
November 2019 saw the return of Long Island Who, now named An Unearthly Convention. LI Who was my first Doctor Who con and is by far one of the best fandom con I’ve ever been to. (As opposed to say, NYCC, which is my favorite general con)
The people who run this con have always been fun, professional, and manage to put on such a great event.
LI Who 2, in 2014, was also the con where I was on my first panel.
Which was, um, entertaining at the very least!
Did I ever tell you about how I got stuck in a tent?
AnyWHO, I had a bad experience at a different Who con a few years ago, so I took a small break from going to DW specific events. I am very glad that I decided to return for this con. What a fabulous weekend.
I will break this up into two parts as so much happened!
After an eight hour car ride we arrived at the host hotel, which was under construction. I have really bad dust allergies so I couldn’t do my usual “lobby con on Friday night” tradition. The hotel staff was super duper helpful though and it was much better on Saturday morning.
For Saturday, I decided to cosplay as my Borderlands mash up, CleverMax the Invincible 😉 I thoroughly enjoy this variation.
My first of five panels was Madman in a Box on Saturday. I was just a guest panelist, as opposed to being a moderator on some others.
It was so much fun to sit there and talk about Matt and his run as the Doctor. Matt was my absolute favorite.
I just started a rewatch of his run yesterday..
The next panel was my baby, as it were.
Evolution of the Cybermen
At my last LI Who, I presented a panel on Cybermen for their 50 year anniversary. It was a huge success and this year was just as awesome
I had myself and four other people as panelists. I didn’t realize that they had never done this type of panel before. They all did such a great job!
We all had our areas of expertise. From concept art to places of origin. And of course, I covered Cyber Planners.
TMW a T-Rex photobombs your Cyberman panel
The third and final panel of Saturday was Finding Family in Fandom.
This panel was incredibly moving and I felt honored to be a panelist. Everyone had such brilliant stories to share about how they found their place in life through fandom. 💖
I have posted my story here before, so I won’t go too much into it. If you want to browse that, here is the link:
Before Clever and conlife, I didn’t really go out. I didn’t have a lot of friends.
I have a huge house and never had a single party, sleepover, family gathering in it. Now? I feel like I need a bigger house. 🤣
Even though my first fandom was Harry potter, I didn’t find myself or my true family of friends until Clever.
I wasn’t welcomed with open arms in this fandom, but regardless, I stuck it out cause I loved Matt so much.
After all of my panels were over, myself and some friends went to grab dinner. I’m always famished after these cons cause I can’t eat solid food with the cybernetics on my face. We all went in costume and our waiter was so happy to see us all.
Saturday night included a DW themed dance party, and lots of casual board and card games in the lobby that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
DJ Gallifrey spinning some tunes!
As per usual this was an exhausting day, but totally worth it!
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:
Most of you may know that I tend to send a mini version of myself along to some cons when I can’t be there. This mostly happens at Gally, which usually means that whatever I send has to not only endure the general craziness of my friends, but also being packed up and shipped. So far, every Clever I have sent has technically survived, but he usually comes back in pretty rough shape. Now is this because of the USPS or my friends, well, I guess a little of both. ( I will be posting the #CleverdoesGally2019 album soon, and you can decide!)
My friend Holly of Hollys Making Stuff crafts the cutest creatures of all sorts so I asked her to make me a wee Mr. Clever. I was not disappointed when she sent me some WIP photos. Not expecting to see a teeny tiny cybermite on his lapel, but that got me thinking, and I asked if she would also make me a cybermite too.
I am really happy with how these came out. I can’t wait to take pictures of them all around the town and at every con we go to.
I hadn’t planned on doing a lengthy end-of-year recap. But there are so many stories to tell, and I am nothing if not a storyteller.
2018 was certainly a year of ups and downs. The biggest hurdle was my health. In early 2017, I was diagnosed with severe arthritis and bone spurs on my left hip from an old riding injury. Cortisone shots were then prescribed every two to three months. Even with the shots, I spent all of 2017, and most of 2018 in astronomical pain. There would be entire weeks that I couldn’t dress myself, or go up and down the stairs without assistance. Tying my shoes, and showering alone were things of the past.
The area that I was most affected was my riding and my inability to safely work around horses. I kept going, kept pushing through the pain to ride, to do the one thing that I had done for work and joy for decades. But it was soon clear that even grooming was too much, as I couldn’t even pick feet. All it took was a horse to rub up against me and they could knock me down. It was now unsafe for me to be around my wonderful animals anymore. This was the single most difficult thing to digest and sent me into months of depression.
My one solace was conlife. As hard as it was to get dressed, I somehow managed to put Clever on and miraculously get out the door. It was hard, it was excruciatingly painful, and I ended up relying heavily on the magic of my cosplay. I have often joked that if I can just get my costume on, it does the rest. And for about two years, this was most certainly the case. However there were times that even with the cosplay on, I could only last one day of a two day con.
The first con of 2018 brought about one such instance of debilitating pain. Arisia 2018 marked my 5 year anniversary of officially going to a con as Mr. Clever. This is one of our absolute favorite cons, and the one that we always have the most friends that go with us, and yet somehow always meet new people. This year was no different. With a bunch of wonderful crazy, costumed friends in tow, off we went for day one. As per usual we did the Running of the Doctors, tied a bunch of people up with my rope, attacked the vendor room with financial rage, and had our usual lunch at the bar. On Sunday, I broke out Darth Clever and ended up meeting two new amazing friends, still known to us as Missy and Clara. This was the highlight of the weekend and what con life is all about! This year I was supposed to be on a few panels, but the pain proved to be too much, and I had to opt out because by Sunday morning I couldn’t even walk. We spent most of Sunday hanging out in the lounge, until I couldn’t take it anymore and we left.
Not one to quit on having fun, the next weekend I judged the costume contest at the annual masquerade ball at the Hawthorne Hotel, hosted by The Creative Collective. This years theme was Through the Looking Glass. So of course, I HAD to do a mash-up of Mr. Clever and the Mad Hatter.
The ball is a lot more low key than a con, and the hotel has plenty of places to sit, so it was not as hard on my hip as Arisia was. It was an incredible night, and I am forever grateful for being a part of this event since its inception.
Most people that know me well, know that every February I try to throw CJ, my amazing, wonderful, perfect spouse a themed birthday party. CJ is like a child when it comes to his birthday. He will run around yelling “BIRTHDAY!” all day until someone pays attention to him. So far I have done Sherlock, IT Crowd, Avatar the Last Airbender, Rick and Morty and now Doctor Who. CJ’s fave Doctor is 12, Peter Capaldi. I decorated the entire house to look like the inside of the Tardis, complete with console, Pin the Eyebrows on Peter, and we even had a birthday cake shaped like a tank. As party favors, every person had black sunglasses with “attack eyebrows ” on them. (Remember those – they make another appearance soon). Everyone came dressed in cosplay, which wasn’t hard since most people we know are Whovians! It was so amazing to be able to bring so many smiles on so many faces – especially CJ’s.
February was also an amazing month because I got to work with Sauvage Photo + Edit aka Vignette for the first time! Contrary to popular belief I still do not like my photo taken. I have gotten much better with it over the years, and cosplay has helped a ton. Many times I push myself to do it because I like the challenge and feel the more I do it, the more I will overcome my fears. Photoshoots used to be challenging for me, as there are only so many canon poses available but now I enjoy taking Clever out of the blue box and doing wild things with him. Vignette is an incredible photographer and a warm, funny, kind soul.
We had already bought our tickets for Regeneration Who (ReGen) before they announced Peter Capaldi, but when they DID, CJ kinda lost his mind. I love, just love that he finally has “his” Doctor. And 12 really does suit him. In so many adorable and annoying ways. The “no hugs”. Omg. So we packed up the new car and drove to Baltimore. ReGen was hot or cold for me to say the least. The worst parts of ReGen were the assault, sexual harassment and physical pain from being jumped on. (Caused by other con goers – not staff members) I am still not ready to talk about these traumas yet. But someday I will write this all down and share my entire experience.
The best parts of Regen was seeing CJ get to meet Peter, get to meet his Doctor. Which of course, yes, I have a story. We have never cared about celebrities (outside of Jenna Coleman, I really don’t care about anyone except James Roday and Dule Hill) but we did the thing. We bought tickets for an autograph and our very first photo op. Ever.
CJ has social anxiety, so we had rehearsed what to say to Peter, how to say it, where to stand, etc. This is how CJ operates. He had cue cards, like the ones from Under The Lake, made by our friend Melissa, ready to read so he would know exactly what to say. He also had one cue card with BOTH sides written on it to finally hand to Peter. One side mentioned all the wonderful things he wanted to say about his Doctor, the other side was funnier and mentioned how CJ was thankful for having a Doctor that also didn’t like hugs. We walked up to his table, CJ handed him the cue card. Peter read the one side, said “Oh, how lovely” then proceeded to slowly get out of his chair and walk over to CJ. At this point I knew he was going to hug him and I lost it. I was cackling already. It was the most awkward hug ever. Poor CJ was torn between this is the greatest moment ever, and why is this person hugging me? Peter kinda then glanced over at me like “Who is this crazy cyberman?”, sat back down and I very dramatically flipped over the cue card, slammed it on the table and exclaimed “but wait, there’s more!” Peter looked down, read the “no hugs” part and went “OOOOOOOOOH”. I was laughing so damn hard, I thought I was going to fall over. He took the journal that CJ had wanted him to sign and autograph as “Who likes hugs? Not us!”
The next day was our photo op with Peter and Michelle Gomez, which CJ was also very nervous about. Our first op, we had no idea what to expect. Luckily, we had already been up to the photo area to get some cosplay photos, so he knew the lay out of the area, and that helped ease his nerves. Remember those party favors? Well I had decided to pack a few for the con. I made the suggestion to CJ that we ask Michele and Peter to wear them, and we do a sort of CSI: Gallifrey pose. We waited our turn and when we got up to them, I asked Michelle to wear them and she was downright giddy about it. I gave Peter his pair and he looked at me and said “ Do I NEED more eyebrows?” We got one of my favorite con photos ever in one take, and I couldn’t be happier for CJ. Watching him meet his Doctor, and the seeing how hilarious the interaction was made the trip worth it. Even with the trauma, I would not do it differently if it meant CJ didn’t get to meet Peter.
Every May 11th, or as close to it, since 2014, most of my friends and I get together and celebrate the anniversary of when Nightmare in Silver aired. The first year was just supposed to be a viewing party. Except people brought me cake. Well, two cakes to be exact. That said Happy Birthday Mr. Clever. And had Hello Kitty on it. This has now become an annual thing. And has, no lie, outgrown my house. I am not joking when I say that we are renting a hall for 2019. This year, aside from the normal shenanigans, we also ventured to NY to visit the Pandorica Restaurant for the first time. It was a bittersweet visit. I had been planning this visit with my friend Rachel, but that wasn’t meant to be as Rachel passed away just a few months before. Shirley was a gracious host and we had a blast! I highly recommend going.
The trip to the Pandorica was our last outing before my usual summer hibernation. This summer was extra painful due to my ever increasing pain and immobility. The cortisone shots had stopped working, and I had zero relief. One last ditch effort to seek help brought me back to my surgeon who told me that my hip had deteriorated so quickly that he couldn’t believe I have been walking on it all this time. The decision was made to replace my hip altogether. At the end of July, I finally went in to have my hip surgery. My recovery was quick, and in less than two days, I had no need for a walker, could already go up and down the stairs, didn’t need pain killers, and was driving in less than two weeks. I had very little PT, as they were shocked at how quickly my body accepted the new, um, upgrade. I am finally pain free for the first time since Dec 2016.
So what do you do when you are pain free? You get back on a horse. I am so lucky to have friends that have horses for me to ride, and I am so happy that I can ride pain free again! I spent most of September slowly getting back into shape, riding when I could, and preparing for October.
Ever since I started cosplaying as Mr. Clever I have been wanting to figure out a way to bring him to Salem in October. But he is too fragile and valuable to me to wear in the insane crowds. CJ and I thought, well what if I did a Zombie version of him, except with grease and oil and random cyber parts instead of flesh and blood. So I threw Zombie Clever together and brought him out for Super Megafest as a trial. Ripped pants, tattered vest, and an old cyberplanner that I had meant to throw away years ago that I found and added one light to. It was a lot to fun to wear! Was a blast as always, especially since it moved back to its original location in Framingham. Arriving home from Super Megafest was a different story.
For a few months, our old ginger cat, The Doctor, had been showing his age. Frail, thin, losing his appetite. But still purring, still happy. We had made the decision to put him down that week if we didn’t see a change, but he didn’t make it. When I walked through the door and saw him lying in his bed, I knew he had passed. He was so a grumpy old man, hated my other cats, but loved people. Always wanted to be pet, always up for a head boop. He will be missed by so many.
Some actors from Twin Peaks were going to be at Rock and Shock the same weekend as Super Megafest, and since I was back to my normal conlife speed, we decided to do two cons in one weekend. Zombie Clever needed a picture in the Black Lodge. We were so blown away at the amount of art that we all saw and wanted. Not to mention the fun of chatting with Malcolm McDowell while he was shopping for t-shirts. We will be going back for sure.
The true test of Zombie Clever however was taking him out in Salem, in October, in the vast crowds. The beauty of this costume is that I DID get bumped into, had something spill on me, and had it broken (which is my fear with NiS Clever) but it doesn’t matter since it blends in with the costume. I did get bumped into a lot, which is normal. I even had some people recognize my character! The biggest accomplishment though was that I finally did it! I went out in Salem, in October in a costume that I loved and felt comfortable in.
Halloween itself is not for the faint of heart, and even with a crowd safe costume, we all planned to get out of the main areas by nightfall if we could. This year wasn’t too bad, but even still, with road closures, massive mostly drunken crowds, and police everywhere, we did what any group of costumed people would do with a 12 year old along for the ride – we went trick or treating. At this point there were 11 of us. Ten adults taking a near-teeneager trick or treating. Except this is us. So of course there’s a story.
And that story is Boot Candy.
Have I told you about my good friend Richard, aka Tequila Mockingbird? No? Well, Richard is a drag queen. And when you are dressed in drag wearing some fabulous boots, your feet might hurt when you walk the mile from downtown Salem back to my house, plus with the added hours of walking to go trick or treating. So you do what anyone would do, you take them off and have your chivalrous bf hold them, which is what Donnie did. So when we came to a house with all of us, Donnie, who had the boots in his hands, would run up to the door and yell trick or treat! At first people were putting candy just in our friend’s kid’s bag. But when we got to about three houses down, some nice woman looked at Donnie, who hadn’t had time to put a costume on, and said “Oh would you like some candy for your boots?”
Now, what candy loving person is going to say NO? Not one of my friends!
“Yes?” So Donnie got the first of many pieces of boot candy that night.
Off we ran to the next house! Trick or treat!
Except this time Donnie shoved both of Richards boots in the peoples’ faces. And they just dropped candy into the boots. No lie. I thought we were going to wet our pants we were laughing so much. Walking up and down the streets of Salem, all night, laughing and yelling BOOT CANDY. By the time we got back to my house and everyone emptied their bags, Donnie had filled Richards boots to the brim with candy. It was one of the best nights ever.
The energy of Salem in October is like nothing else, and I truly come alive during this time. Even after being a tour guide for eleven years, I never tire of it. I always look forward to October. I could spend every waking minute downtown during October if I could. (I have already started a countdown until next October.) And now I know I can do it comfortably, in a great costume! And now we have boot candy and zombies, and new traditions, and more friends than ever to share it with.
Truly the BEST October ever.
November is usually spent recovering from October. And this year that was certainly the case. I hadn’t been that active in October in a long time and post October sadness set in quickly. It didn’t help that I was kinda bummed that Jenna Coleman canceled RICC. She is the only person that I want a photo with. Ah well. Someday. RICC was still a lot of fun, especially since we opted to go on Sunday to avoid the crowds.
The best part of November however was the soft opening of Kakawa Chocolate Shop here in Salem! You have no idea how long all of us have been walking past, staring into the space, longing for this place to open. About 12 of us were walking by one day and the manager, Jack Bauer, was working inside. Our resident chocoholic, Paul, went up to the glass and smooshed his face up against it. That got Jack’s attention all right. He came out and introduced himself, and so now myself, Chuck and Paul have been going almost every single weekend since. That isn’t an exaggeration. Kakawa has kind of become our home away from home.
December is usually pretty slow, event wise. This year there were two really fun events that I hope happen again in 2019. One was SqueeCon, that I had been excited about for awhile. Hansi Oppenheimer, the Creator/Director is not only a good friend but a badass filmmaker and proponent for equal rights and diversity in film and art. The con itself may have been held in a tinier venue than most but the venue itself was stunning – quaint historic playhouse nestled in downtown New Haven, CT. The programming that Squeecon offered was diverse, unique and unlike other cons. As excited as I was for this con, the fear settled in just as quickly. I already wrote some of my thoughts on how I felt before Squeecon here. But I put the costume on, and I faced MANY fears at this con. The fear of being shunned, the fear of being inferior, and the biggest fear – going on stage and doing a Q and A panel. When I was asked to be a panelist/guest, I thought it was going to be in the same capacity like any other con. Let’s discuss how to make a costume, or Cosplay is Not Consent, seated behind a table. But like anything else Hansi does, this was unique. Myself and some amazing cosplayers and artists were seated on this glorious stage and asked questions pertaining to ourselves as cosplayers and this was a first for me. As was being on a stage and allowing myself to be videotaped. It was terrifying, but there was something very welcoming and comforting about this crowd. Of course, I probably made a fool of myself. My rope had its own chair, and I did swear. A lot. “I fucking loved Nightmare in Silver!” But I had a bunch of friends with me at this con, actually most of them drove up with me, so it was a ton of fun.
We also got to visit the Mew Haven Cat Cafe which was super fun too as the people there are Whovians. They were excited when 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, Jack Harkness, Yaz, a Tardis Ghostbuster and Mr. Clever walked in. I still can’t believe we paid money to go play with cats. Don’t anyone tell OUR cats this, ok?
The other event that was a ton of festive fun was Haunt The Halls. I threw on a festive version of Clever, met up with some friends and we all went to visit Paul at his art booth, and got photos with Krampus. We also did get called naughty by a rather mopey Santa.
The last social event that I had as Clever in 2018 was another photoshoot with Vignette. This time however, I had the gorgeous Kelly with me as NiS Clara. It was so nice to be able to recreate canon shots and some fanart. After lunch which consisted of pizza, things got, well, entertaining. CJ decided that we should recreate a rather famous type of scene. I’ll just let the photo speak for itself. This was by far the most fun, hilarious, off script shoot I have ever done, and I can’t thank Kelly enough for being the BEST sport. It was also a huge treat to not only get my new Abbyshot coat in time for this shot, but to have Abbyshot love Vignette’s photos from this shoot and use one of them. Truly a great time.
We may have gone a little overboard this year for Christmas, and we may have invited more people over than my house can handle anymore. I need an actual Bigger on the Inside House. Which reminds me, did I mention CJ got me a life-sized Tardis for Christmas? Where am I supposed to put this?
I am typing the last paragraph of this blog on New Year’s eve. Hoping to wrap all this up in time for actual New Years Day. Sitting here reflecting on all this. Laughing, smiling, sometimes crying, messaging friends, “Do you remember the time we did…?” 2018 was filled with emotional and physical pain that I had never experienced before. But it was also filled with great new adventures and friends, fresh start and the promise of even better things to come.
My goals for 2019 are very simple. Ride more, adopt another cat, more Clever mash-ups, and enjoy my second chance at better health, because most people don’t get one.
This has been your Year in Review for the year ending 2018. Cyberplanner out.
One of the many things that I enjoy about doing photoshoots is getting to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating a fabulous photo. It certainly takes lots of patience, a certain charm and a great sense of humor to work with someone like myself. I am notoriously uneasy when I am getting my photo taken, yet always a bit rambunctious at the same time.
It was a great pleasure to work with Sauvage Photo and Edit again. She always puts me at ease and makes it a very fun and productive day! This time around I had my good friend Kelly as my NiS Clara along with my wonderful spouse taking some photos of us while we worked.
As per usual, I brought all my props – chess board, chess set, trigger, Clara’s gun. And perhaps a few more things.
I thought it might be fun to recreate some fan art that I had seen. This proved to be a little tricky, as you don’t realize that illustrations and photo manips, no matter how good, are still not real people. Getting some of the angles correct was bit challenging.
We managed to get some great shots, and I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product!
I haven’t written a blog post in a while. Recently I uploaded some new photos from a photo shoot and there were a few comments that could only be described as trolling so I thought it was time to get something off my chest.
It wasn’t just the trolls that made me decide to write this. After a few “Facebook friends” made their comments, I doubted myself, so in a moment of weakness, I deleted the whole album.
Doing that shoot was incredibly hard for me. You may not realize it when you see me running around a con with grapes and rope but I am very self-conscious. And I delete far more than I post. And in that brief period of self-doubt after the trash people thought they had a right to tell me what I could or couldn’t wear, I thought it was just easier to delete it, delete myself, off the screen, and deal with all later. Or not, depending on how I felt.
After some soul-searching, and some convincing by my close friends, my partner, and the wonderful photographer, the album is now back up.
The reason I reposted it isn’t just because I didn’t want the trash people of the internet to win, but the larger reason is that when I see these photos I am reminded that even though these pics are “of me” they aren’t just about me.
I think a lot of people in the cosplay community will agree with me – when I see a professional cosplay photo I see a team effort that goes into making those beautiful photos. And when I share mine I am not only sharing my own art (like the cyberplanner) that I have painstakingly created (with the emphasis on pain) but the art and skill of my friends and colleagues.
There are so many people that have helped me over the years, that have also invested time and talent into helping me make Mr. Clever come to life in these photos and in person.
The insane number of amazing photographers alone. It is not easy to capture (and edit) a wonderful photograph. It is even harder to work with someone like me, who has severe anxiety in front of the camera. Cosplay photographers often go unnoticed and are truly the unsung heroes of our community. The photographers that I have met and worked with over the years deserve a medal for putting up with me. Many times, they have worked with me for free, so yes of course, I am going to share their photos everywhere (and give them credit as often as possible).
Or the hair stylists that have helped me over the years. Running into the salon with pictures of Matt. “This is the color I need”. And the random make-up artist we met while in NYC for NYCC that color matched me and taught me how to put make up on for photos. Never would have known any of that if not for her.
And the friend who felt bad that I couldn’t wear the Abbyshot coat who went and got fabric for me. And the other friend who made me the coat that I wear now. This coat is amazing. The curator from the DW experience loved it. The person who made it should be proud of herself.
Even down to the tattoo artist who worked with me to make my cybermite tattoo come to life.
And that doesn’t even cover the emotional challenges that people help me work through: how hard it is for me to overcome the fear of cameras, the challenge of my body image issues, getting into character, overcoming the severe pain that I am in all the time now, and with this shoot in particular there was the added fear of because of my injury I was terrified that I was going to be unable to move.
Everyone knows how much this character and cosplay means to me. I have lost much in 2017. For a fleeting second, there was the thought that I could lose that too, and that was devastating. And I know there are people that don’t get that Mr. Clever is both my first and last cosplay. It is who I am and I cannot imagine cosplaying as anyone else.
But trolls will be trolls and after battling my own demons and winning, at least this time, I have taken the trash out, and that album is back up. Not just because I need it, or because Mr. Clever is who I am, or because I don’t want to let the haters win, but because all those other people deserve to have their work talked about too.
So the last thing I want to do with this blog is thank (some) of those many people and give everyone who reads this a way to connect with them and make some of that cosplay magic for yourself.
Above photos were taken by the amazing Vignette of