[photo by Sean Molloy] At my first Arisia, I found myself weaving through crowds of strangely-coiffed pirates, rocketeers, and gamers; wondering at what point my own personality would intersect with one of those cliques and, at the same time, idly speculating as to which clique it would be. Twisting, turning, and meandering, I wondered if there was any cipher concealed for me in my conversations with Freemasons, swordsmen, and zombies, or a secret buried somewhere in the depths of a prominent decolletage. In the end I was left with an exhilarating sense that something interesting had transpired, and though I could list any number of particulars of the fun things I did, I wasn’t quite sure how it all added up. This year, at my second Arisia, I was more accustomed to the casual ebb and flow, the meaningless randomness of who one might meet at any given moment, and I was more attuned to simply enjoy the dance. Indeed, some of the most startling appearances in 2009 — the stilt-walking woman in tights and razor claws, the body-gloved Harley Quin, and the immaculately nuanced Steampunk ensembles — returned. They were all conspicuously different from last year, but instead of novelty they radiated a pleasant warmth of familiarity. Oh that mischievous stilt-woman! Always scratching and snarling at the Muggles as they float up behind the glass of the atrium elevator! And Harley, the little minx, does one ever tire of contemplating the poses she strikes while strapped into that saucy leather corset, black boots and ragged stockings? [photos by Sean Molloy - http://www.flickr.com/photos/falconn67/] It was equally reassuring to see pieces of last year’s favorites, if not ramped up to full energy, at least lying about here and there like fragments left over from an archaeological dig. The skull-bracketed rocket pack that was flamboyantly posing with a team of rocketeers in ‘09, was this year merely glimpsed abandoned on a table, straps dangling idly alongside. It certainly would have been fun if somebody rushed out of the con-suite, strapped on the skull-pack, and flamed up across the atrium space to a party upstairs! And yes, there were pirates, there were faeries, and furries, and a few storm trooper types. You could say that it was the same rich stew of individuals at Arisia 2010, but there were definitely higher concentrations of bare feet, of blood-drenched nurses, blue-green body paint (though only a few of them Navi, as fas as I could tell), and really pervasive wearing of kilts. Sure, some people I expect to see wearing a kilt (since that’s pretty common around the office…okay, it is Cambridge!), but it seemed like every time I turned around there was another utilikilt wrapped around some smiling, bearded dude. Which means that this year’s Arisia (officially sub-titled “the future and the past”) has been informally dubbed by Yunchtime as the “barefoot techno-fantasy fest, in a kilt.”
My first impression of Arisia was one of sartorial richness, stirred together with equal parts of humor, history, literary allusion, and performing arts. The non-stop schedule of movies, panels, gaming sessions, readings, parties and demonstrations got lost in the spectacle of costumed attendees swarming randomly around three levels of the hotel, and visible from any number of perspectives along the balustrades of the atrium. Out of this dizzying scene the iconic image of this con, for me, was that of a black-clad woman with blonde dreadlocks, jacked up on really tall stilts, and moving hazily across the rippling lobby carpet while slashing playfully at people with her foot-long razor nails. There were plenty of other costumes…indeed far to many to describe, except to say that the standard for corsets, ray-guns, battle-armor, cloaks, boots, scabbards, gowns, ragged wings, top hats, gloves, goggles, spats, walking sticks, holsters, capes, chain mail, and hardened-leather bustiere was conspicuously high! This managed to fit in with some of the subtexts running through the con, such as hentai anime, freemasonry, and steam punk vs. cyberpunk. And you could follow some of those threads on the con Twitter feed.