Arisia is New England's largest and most diverse science fiction and fantasy convention, named for a planet in the Lensman novels by E. E. "Doc" Smith. Taking place in Boston each year during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the convention is by fans, for fans, and features a wide variety of programing for all ages.
Over 4,000 fans braved Boston's subzero winter temperatures to attend the twenty-sixth annual Arisia convention over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. The fan-run convention covers a wide span of genres but maintains a solid focus on literary-based science fiction and fantasy, hosting literary guests, a writing contest, and panels such as "Did You Know That Was Based on a Book?" In fact, Arisia is built around discussion-based panel programing, where instead of panel hosts volunteering to present a lecture/Q&A format on a topic of their own design, they submit lists of topics which they feel comfortable conversing and then are assigned to a discussion panel with other topic-knowledgeable people, and cover such controversial topics as science, religion, and politics. The age range among Arisia attendees tends to older than most cons, and as a result, specially designed programming for children and families is extensive. Other programing included historical demonstrations in costuming and fighting techniques, gaming and crafting, art contests, dances, and a costuming masquerade for cosplayers of all ages, genres, and skill sets. Skits are kept to a maximum length of 50 seconds, and the focus is very much on the actual costumes rather than the performances. Finally, Arisia is very much a social event; not only is discussion its main focus during the day, but at night convention-sanctioned room parties hosted by various organizations and clubs serve as a great opportunity to meet new people and make friends.
Sketch and I casually attended Arisia, commuting from home for the day on Saturday and Sunday wearing one costume each day. I wore Madoka Saturday, while Sketch wore his Godric Gryffindor outfit. We arrived late afternoon, picked up our badges (which took all of 2 minutes) and wandered a bit until EllyStar and Cimerone joined us as Homura and Mami. Since Arisia is more of a sci-fi/comic convention, our Madoka Magica costumes where unusual so they got a lot of attention. One girl in a Star Wars costume was really interested in the show, while another girl was halfway through the series and told me her theories about what was going to happen…which I tried really hard not to confirm or deny! That evening we attended a costuming party in EllyStar’s suite. Christa had her photography equipment set up so we could get photos of all the costumes that showed up. One girl we photographed had a silver ballgown she had hand-painted circuitry all over, and had an LED hoopskirt, a video screen chest corset, and a back that lit up to the touch. It was really cool! We also hung out for a bit with Cosplay Mom, and I got chatting with one of EllyStar’s friends from Barfleet who knew all about the Legion of Super Heroes and we were geeking out over Silver Age comics!
Sunday Sketch wore his Richard Castle costume and I wore VICI from Small Wonder for the morning before changing for the masquerade. I hadn’t planned on competing, but several of our friends were doing a skit which was made up of all the Planets and their Neptune had to drop out a week before. I was recruited to take her place, so when we arrived for the day I had to accompany the group to rehearsal. Usually, if a rehearsal exists at all, its just to give the tech crew the chance to know when to press play, but here the lighting crew actually mapped out lighting affects to compliment the fabric and colors of our costumes, which we had to bring with us. They also read our script live rather than asked us to pre-record it, so the announcer practiced a few times to time it to our music. Each planet is announced while the cosplayer walks out doing a runway turn, and after Neptune Pluto comes running on unannounced, making everything super awkward and she is asked to leave by the MC. After rehearsal I met up with friends and several people noticed I was VICI and shouted “Small Wonder!” and high-fived me as they passed by. We checked out the Art Show and dropped in on a panel about bad science that was in the news this past year.
That evening we got ready in EllyStar's suite and then checked into the show at 6. The green room was a full-size meeting room, with comfy chairs organized into “dens” in the order of our performance. Each den had a “den mother” who was in charge of getting us water, repair stuff, and food, of watching our purses and things and making sure we went onstage on time. A large table in the middle of the room had fruit and crackers with wheels of Brie and Camembert cheese. In one corner, a backdrop was set up for the official photographer to take group photos, and in the other corner was craftsmanship judging. In the front was a platform with a huge video screen displaying a live feed from the ballroom so we could watch the show in comfort. This was AWESOME. I wish all cons had the type of facility to do this; it took a lot of the stress of masquerade out of the picture with everything all in one place! I especially appreciated being assigned a specific staff member.
The show started at 8 and all of the children under 12 performed first, after which they gave out the youth awards so the kids could leave. Then they did the adult performances, which zoomed by; most masquerades have a 3 minute limit, but with a 50 second cutoff they blew through almost 30 entries in under an hour. Our skit went perfectly; when Scarlett came running out as Pluto, hamming it up waving and grinning, everyone just loved it. When she sadly slunk offstage the crowd collectively let out a vocal “Awwww.” The performances wrapped up around 9PM and I was very impressed with the masquerade experience up until this point. However, then we waited for the awards. And waited. And WAITED. We were tired, HUNGRY, our feet hurt, contacts and wigs needed removing, etc. FINALLY they announced the winners AT 11PM. UGH. We received Best Performance in the Master Division, and then also won Best In Show for craftsmanship. EllyStar was in tears she was so excited, and I was excited for her because this was her skit and her idea and it meant a lot to her! I can see returning again next year, but if I compete, I’m going to dinner BEFORE the awards are given out.