Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Being Romana

There's nothing so powerful as your first love.
I attended DragonCon 2010 this past weekend, and while I could tell you about how wonderful the Fantasy panels were, how impressed I am by my amazingly talented friends old and new, how awesome the costumes were, how much ridiculous fun I had, all of which are utterly true, (and a fabulous rundown and picture of me can be seen at Publishers Weekly's Beyond Her Book) I'm going to focus on one particular moment of my weekend that outshone the rest. If blogging about Verdun, France was the most powerful thing I've blogged, this may be the most personal. And definately the geekiest.
For one evening, a little seven year old girl from rural Ohio got to be recognized- for just a moment- as the woman she wanted to grow up to be. The fictional woman she so desperately wanted to be. Only conventions like DragonCon can make magic like that come true.
Long before my 12-year-old self fell obsessively in love with The Phantom of the Opera and that, along with innumerable other 19th century tomes, would go on to define my aesthetic and literary fascination with the Victorian Era, long before Harry Potter changed my life and I fell into what would become my greatest cosplay love of all, Narcissa Malfoy, there was the first and what has been the longest running of my fantastical love-affairs; Doctor Who. I'm a 'legacy' fan of the BBC show, loving it all along, warts and all, long before its admittedly fabulous redux. All Whovians have their Doctor, (usually the one they first began watching) and their Companion. My Doctor is #4 (Tom Baker), my companion, Romana (#2 as played by Lala Ward), the novel lady Timelord and companion who regenerated. I was somewhere around 7 years old when my father began taping the Baker episodes on PBS as they aired in America in the 80s to watch the next day (they came on too late for me to watch in real time). I'd hear the theme song in my room as I tried and always failed to fall asleep, frissons of excitement coursing up and down my little body in thrilled seizures. The next day I'd watch (and often re-watch) the episode, enratpured by sci-fi/fantasy worlds that had my already overactive imagination firing at top speeds. The theme song still has that same effect; a cherished muscle memory.
I know there were other Doctors and many other Companions, even another incarnation of Romana herself but no one could compete with my Romana. The blonde. The intelligent blonde, the sweet and sometimes fierce lady Timelord. She was poised and confident, she was an equal, she was an asset, she was a hero, and she traveled through the whole of time and space (way more exciting than Ohio) with The Doctor (coolest guy ever) and wore really pretty dresses (swoon). What more could an awkward, geeky little blonde girl like me want in all relative dimension in space?!! Of course I loved her desperately and would have given anything to be her and to live her adventures. Even for a pretend moment. I'd never gone as her for Halloween. Because no one would know who I was and it would make me sad to have to explain it all the time to people who could really care less. Enter DragonCon into my life and the equation differs.
It's not like I'd forgotten any of this when I put on my costume Saturday. What I was unprepared for was what it would feel like. I looked in the mirror and I'd become a childhood dream. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Very squealy bouncy little girly bricks. Before you question my sense of reality (which is admittedly strained, but bear with me) please remember I'm an actress as well as a writer- I do live and make my living in fake worlds. Putting on the costume was always the final transformation into becoming my character. While I wouldn't take that character out into the world, when on stage - and ALL the world of DragonCon is a stage, I am the character. It was being recognized upon the DragonCon stage as Romana that hit home and had me beaming. Going up and down escalators amidst the endless, streaming parade of elaborate costumes, meeting gazes and people snapping fingers at me exclaiming: "Romana!" and me grinning and replying (in British accent) "Very good!" or "of course!" - and both of us strangers being ridiculously pleased with ourselves for knowing and being known, agreeing that her choice to go off and fix E-Space was a damn shame for those left behind (though the full canon makes her as awesome as she deserves), and all of us thinking for the thousandth time how much we love this convention where unabashed geekery is rewarded, cherished, and entirely unapologetic.
I desperately thank my many friends with me that night, who kindly humoured me, let me slip in and out of a British accent and play the part that I had a hard time eating dinner and not playing (For an actress who hasn't had time to be on stage in a little while, my 'on' and 'off' switches are fairly rusty). Due to the fact we all had a long and passionate Doctor Who discussion, these were some of the only people on earth who understood the careening, uncontained, bouncing energy of an ecstatic little girl who'd caught her adult self at a loss to contain. I've often been told when I'm truly excited about something I could single-handedly power a small country were I plugged into a grid. But I have to keep that enthusiasm veiled if I'm to cope in this world. I've had a long history of being told to "calm down", a long history of being told I'm annoying to people who just don't have, or want to know, that kind of excitement. That's often been painful, so while I now fully own and am proud of my ability to be enthusiastic, I've built some walls. Not a bad thing, walls are protective. But when in the safe company of loved ones and again with trusted friends, sometimes those walls can tumble down and the sunlight bursts through. Really bright light. I said that evening; "Very few people see this. Unveiled." It was understood. Such experiences can create innocent, pure yet profound intimacies. Suddenly new friends have known each other for years.
All of that volanic energy. All of that consuming obsession kindling bonfires in my storyteller soul. All my love for fantastical worlds, unrestrained travel, tumultuous, wild adventure and endless possibility. All of it has had to find a healthy place to go, an outlet that won't leave me restless. And so I've learned that the course of action that makes me happiest in all this world- a world I cannot travel through via a blue police box- is simply writing books. Fantastical books; bigger on the inside. Books where good companions are the most vital part of the story. And with all of that raw, unwieldy, unfiltered, sometimes thorny energy that can grow both weird and wonderful roses; I regenerate.


Condo Blues said...

Fabulous costume and one of my favorite companions. I have a pattern for a Victorian Coat. My plan was to make it and wear it as my winter coat - in pink, just like Romana's.

Stephen said...

It was a pure delight to accompany you in costume! You were a picture-perfect Romana, and your enthusiasm was a joy to behold. I only regret that I don't possess the improv chops to have gone all the way into character with you!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

I LOVE that coat. Great idea! You'll have to share the results! Thanks for stopping by!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Stephen - you too were beyond delightful, t'was an absolute joy and honour, Doctor! And Stu was magnificent. Since you look just like Peter Davison, you don't have to DO a damn thing! Maybe the celery. :) I am still awaiting more pictures to arrive since I ridiculously forgot my camera.

Anonymous said...

That's a great post. Just awesome. And I saw your costume. Wonderful.

One of my goals is to get to Dragon Con.

Go girl!

Bri said...


I had NO idea you liked Doctor Who back in the day. Fortunately, my mom always let me stay up to watch on Saturday nights though I was usually a bit sleepy in church the next day. I also quite like Romana and Tom Baker though Peter Davison is my favorite.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

@Janie - thank you! You should definately come to DragonCon, it is wonderful madness!

@Bri - yes indeed, proud lifelong fan and still a fan. (I ADORE David Tennant) Also a huge Davison fan as well. Cheers and thanks!

Mary Rodgers said...

Sooooo sad that I couldn't be at Dragoncon with you! Next year for sure. Your costume - and you - look awesome. So does Stephen! Both of you, too much with the cuteness. I swoon...

Mary Marvella said...

Loved seeing you at DragonCon! Come to M&M in Atlanta, at the end of this month!

Karin Shah said...

Tom Baker was my Dr., too. I remember how stunned I was when they killed Adric. I loved him.

I've wanted to watch Dr. Who again, but I can't seem to catch up. I've watched the first season of The Sarah Jane Chronicles with my son on SYFY. I still think people should be careful of Stonehenge (since the stones might actually be blood-sucking aliens) and have been known to say, "Build high for happiness." :-)

Hope you had a good Dragon-Con! I so want to go, but Labor day is the worst time for me.

Anonymous said...

Glad you had fun. As for costuming, been doing that for years at many conventions, including Dragoncon. Though as an author guest, it's harder at smaller cons to do this. Been bringing one costume mainly to these. I used to change costumes during each day. LOL Hubby still does the costuming (unless he is head of con security)--he's one of the 501st--one of thoese stormtroopers you seen at Dragoncon (I've done jedi for Rebel Legion and Tuskan too--yes, made both from scratch).

Esther said...

I'm also a 'legacy' Whovian though being a little older my first Doctor was John Pertwee.
My favourite companion was Sarah Jane though for me, as for all of my friends, it was a love hate relationship. And I still want a K9.

Thrall said...

Great to meet you (too briefly!) at D*C this year! When our little guy was preparing his 11th Doctor costume (pictured over at Skye's blog), he wondered out loud, "Will anyone know who I am?"

Not only did about 100 people throughout the weekend recognize him well enough to stop him for photos, and not only did we get photos of him with maybe 40 other Doctors, but he was asked to march in the British Section of the parade along with MANY other Doctors, companions and supporting characters (right down to the "that guy who appeared in the background of episode X"-level costumes).

It's always awesome to truly find your tribe.