Here’s a truth: I never really pictured myself living the life I am currently living. This isn’t a complaint or a celebration, it’s just an observation. But I never, ever imagined I would even dip one toe into the pool of nonfiction writing, I write fiction, that’s my thing. But right now I write blogs and….*whispers* I don’t hate it, I actually like it. I mean, I’ve always been a very opinionated person, so having a platform is honestly nice, but it’s more than that. I believe in the power of stories. I was brought up on that, I fed on it.
I know you may be deceived by my charmingly witty writing (sarcasm, intense sarcasm), but in the world outside of the written word I can be pretty shy. Once I get to know someone well enough that veil will be lifted, but at first, I am kind of withdrawn. Sometimes I worry that I am destined to live a reclusive life. Within all of this there are of course moments of connection, moments where I think that maybe I am not actually terrible and maybe people might actually find me likeable by some miracle, but still, my usual attitude about meeting new people is “How do I even friend ?!”.
So, I just got back from Tampa Bay Comiccon, which, as a writer, gave me a few thoughts about stories. When I was little (…and also now) the costumes were the best part of Halloween, not the candy or the pumpkins, though those were all cool too. But it was the costumes that drew me. I never really did the classic witch, black cat, ghost type costumes. I always took them very seriously, including basically getting into character, highlights including Princess Leia, Luna Lovegood, Queen Guinevere, and Sherlock Holmes(Benedict Cumberbatch edition). So naturally one of my favorite things about these conventions is all the cosplay. If anyone reading this doesn’t know what that is, it’s basically dressing and often acting as characters from things, but a lot better than I am probably making it sound, but for me being there amidst a sea of other cosplayers is like stepping into a world of living stories. Usually I do Scarlet Witch in her costume from “Avengers, Age of Ultron”. I have her hair and half of her clothes already so it isn’t too hard to put her together. This week though, I added the title character from an anime called Yuri!!! on Ice (that I am sure most of you have never heard of, which is fine) to my repertoire.
My friend was performing at the convention. She was on a panel the first afternoon and had her “Give Back to Hogwarts” show that night, which coincidentally tied in very well with the theme of this article. I was with her all day, but the next day I made my way to the marketplace to look at all the art. At the same time, I was sort of secretly looking for people who were dressed as other characters from the same story as me. I knew there had to be someone. I was super nervous because I had never done this particular cosplay before, so when someone asked to take a picture with me I began to feel better about it. I know it’s probably pretty vain, but being recognized as a character and having people freak out is very validating. Whenever I go to cons I have this secret dream of finding other people who are characters from the same fictional universe as me and actually becoming friends and walking around together as an actual group, but it never happens and I tend to assume the worst so I figure that it is an unrealistic ideal. I was energized though, so it was time to play the “look for other Yuri!!! on Ice people game”. Finally, I saw two people dressed as other characters from the show. We took some pictures then we separated. As I wandered out into the entry hall, a girl really wanted to take a picture with me but their group had to get somewhere and they didn’t know how to get there, so I said we could just take the picture really fast and I’d show them the way. As we were going down the escalator I heard was someone shouting “Yuri! Do you want to come get sushi with us?” And it was the two I had met earlier, so I ran up the up escalator to meet them and we got no sushi because apparently no sushi places are open that early and that should change, but that’s how I got adopted. We learned quickly that we got recognized a lot more as a group, and I think we looked pretty great.
So, we walked around, and sat around, and posed for pictures until 5:00 which was the panel about our show we had been waiting for all day, and we ended up taking pictures with the panelists and some people we met there. There were lots of duplicates of characters, and then suddenly we somehow had this huge clump of people. Also puns. Lot’s of puns…
I said before, I’m not good at meeting people. But, in a situation like this you don’t necessarily have that problem. If you see someone dressed as a certain character you can pretty safely assume that they like whatever that character is from, and then BOOM, built in topic of conversation. These stories, whether it’s anime, comic books, musical theatre, Shakespeare, or poetry are the wild and colorful strings that weave us together in the most beautiful way.
Humans just now are deep in a tragic narrative and a lot of it is one of isolation, but it is not the only one. There is so much beauty and longing to connect in us as well. Sometimes I marvel at the absolutely delicious creative worlds that we can dream up and offer for anyone to inhabit. Fictional places, people, and spaces are just as “real” as anything else, but it is an entirely different kind of real—a reality that can bend into whatever shape you want it to be and that is shaped and built with thought and passion that lasts at least as long as the storytelling. I am learning slowly that we truly are social creatures, and if it weren’t for the stories we tell we might never be brought together at all.
Let me just give you a taste of the kind of excitement you’ll find at a con. You’ll just be walking around and then see someone run up to your group shouting “OMG OTABEK I LOVE YOU SO MUCH YOU ARE MY FAVORITE CHARACTER EVER!!!”. It can be pretty great.