Saturday, September 1, 2007

Put on the uniform

My friends Shane and Joe are at DragonCon in Atlanta this weekend. Shane runs a cool, funny web site called, and Joe is like his chief flying monkey. Although I can't be there this time, my favorite part of sci-fi conventions is the costumes. I've dabbled in costuming myself. I always dress up as something for Halloween, but my most notable venture into costuming was Star Wars-related.

Here you see Sythbane, originally "Dirk Sithbane," the X-wing fighter pilot character I created. He's a rebel who took part in the Battle of Yavin, in the assault on the first Death Star. The proud name of Sythbane dates back to dim years of the Old Republic; Sith or Syth is a reference to Dark Jedi, and "bane" means a cause of death, destruction or ruin. Therefore, Sythbane means a cause of ruin for the Sith. (Another notable "bane" was Durin's Bane, the balrog of Khazad-dum, so called because of the murder of the dwarf lord Durin, as described in "The Lord of the Rings." So the name is like a double-dose of geek trivia.)

I created the costume to wear to the premiere of "Star Wars, The Special Edition" in January 1997. I was so excited about the movie that I figured a lot of people would dress up. As it turned out, the fans might have dressed up in Los Angeles, but they didn't in Birmingham.

Nobody but me, that is.

I was the ONLY person dressed up at the theater, winning the prize for supergeek of the day. Some of other Star Wars fans seemed to envy me, though. A couple of guys acted like they wished they'd dressed up, too, after they saw me. I felt conspicuous, but I marched in anyway, proudly carrying my toddler son on my shoulders. The theater manager was so impressed that he let me and my family in for free.

Other costume ideas have not been so successful. One year I tired of my X-wing attire and decided to be a little more subtle. I dressed my son as a Predator, which looked pretty darned cool. But for myself, I cobbled together a costume to look like the A-wing fighter pilot who gets shot in the face and then does the kamikaze dive into the bridge of the Executor in "Return of the Jedi," which sends the ship plunging into the second Death Star.

I thought it was obvious that I was the doomed A-wing pilot, but walking around the block in the dark, escorting a trick-or-treater, it was hopeless. Nobody knew who I was except for a 10-year-old in a little clone-trooper costume. Over and over, I had to explain the scene, but when you have to explain a costume, it's like deconstructing a joke. It just kills it.

This is one I should have saved for DragonCon. I bet they would have known who I was!

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