To seek out strange new worlds

Trekonderoga 2023 Recap

To seek out strange new worlds
Image: Andrew Liptak 

On Saturday, I was a guest at this year's Trekonderoga, a small convention run by the fine folks at the Star Trek Original Series Tour in Ticonderoga, New York. I was there to chat about the history of cosplay, particularly Star Trek's influence on the modern cosplay world.

I've been there a handful of times: the OST is a replica of the starship Enterprise, build by James Cawley off of the original blueprints of the set. It's a cool place to visit – part museum, part attraction – even if you aren't a huge Star Trek fan like me: you get to step back in history and see what it might have been like to be on the set of the TV series back in the 1960s. The convention brings in a couple of hundred people each year, and they're pretty good about bringing in the actors from the shows: this year's guests included Jonathan Frakes and John de Lancie. Brent Spiner was supposed to attend, but was sick.

I was there a year ago for a sparsely-attended talk: I had 4-5 people show up for that, then sat in the vendor hall with a table and sold a couple of books. I don't mind those talks where there's only a handful of people: it's a good opportunity to really get in depth with questions.

This time around, I brought Bram with me. He's gotten hooked on Star Trek: Lower Decks, and when he decided to dye his hair purple this summer, I ended up picking up one of the uniform tops for him. I turned on my 3D printer and printed up a combadge for him: it was nice to run through a quick prop project, and it came out nicely. On Friday, we watched the musical episode of Strange New Worlds, and drove down to Ticonderoga listening to the accompanying soundtrack. ("Status Report" is now stuck in my head.) We showed up mid-morning, ran into some friends, and took in the ambiance, then headed over to the music room, where I was a little resigned to talking to a mostly-empty room.

When we arrived, there were already a handful of people taking their seats, and then more kept arriving! I didn't think to take a final count, but the room was mostly full, and I'd guess there was anywhere from 25-30 people, with more than half of them in costume.

For most of the talks that I've done in the past year, I've set up a slideshow full of pictures that I've taken, and we ran through the slides with a little difficulty (note to self: load the presentation onto the computer first, rather than run it off of a USB stick – some of those big pictures froze Powerpoint up a couple of times.)

It was a good crowd: we talked about how costuming is used as a storytelling mechanism, the history of conventions, and how Star Trek really helped bring more people than ever into science fiction fandom, while also balkanizing fandom into its own little fiefdoms. There were some excellent questions, and we took up the whole hour in the room. After that, I caught up with a couple of 501st friends who were there as part of another franchise – the 802 Ghostbusters – and a college friend that I hadn't seen in years who just happened to be there.

Later in the afternoon, I was invited to take part in the cosplay contest as a judge. I don't remember if there was one last year, but I was happy to step in. Our instructions were that this was to be fun, rather than a serious competitions. We had a good number of cosplayers show up, and they'd go up on stage, talk a bit about their costume and where it came from, and we made up a category for them, like "Best Use of Whale Prop", "Best Character Life Decisions / Most Sparkly", and "Best Seamstress / Best Mother". We gave out some prizes, pulled the top three costumers who had really gone above and beyond for their costume and awarded them a "Best in Show" – the prize being Cosplay: A History. (I just received a couple of boxes of new copies).

Then we headed out: we didn't get a chance to take a tour, but that was fine: we'd done it before. Bram bought a stuffed Tribble toy, and we went home to watch "Trouble With Tribbles", and installed Paramount + on his iPad: he's started re-watching Lower Decks, and said that he now wanted to watch the "good" episodes of Star Trek – the rest of Strange New Worlds, I think.

All in all, a good weekend. I'll likely head back next year when they hold it again. Maybe I'll bring some Stormtrooper armor for the contest.