Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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FAQ: What's With the Uniform Thing Anyway?

This posting is intended to explain the WSFS uniform that I wear at some SF conventions. I plan to point people who ask me "what's this all about?" at it by giving them a card with the URL of the posting. If you've come here because of one of those cards, hi there! I may use terms with which you're unfamiliar. If you don't know what a "Worldcon" is, try The Official Worldcon web site or the Wikipedia entry on Worldcon.

Although dated August 2005 (because that's when I debuted the uniform), this entry was actually composed on July 5, 2007 as a reaction to people asking me about what it means.

Q. Why are you wearing a ship's captain uniform?

A. You mean this?

Short Answer

It was part of the theme of the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow, Scotland. If this satisfies your curiousity, read no further. The full story is longer and gives the full context.

Long Answer

The 2005 Worldcon, known as Interaction, was in Glasgow, Scotland, at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC). Interaction's theme was "Spaceport Glasgow." The convention was styled as though the members were attending an event celebrating the launch of a new luxury space cruiser. The convention centre proper was the "spaceport" and, connected by ramps that looked a lot like airport jetways, was the "spaceship," the Clyde Auditorium.

As you will see if you follow the link to the images, even the SECC's own web site calls that building the "Armadillo," and it's a well known local landmark. Interaction therefore decided that the spaceship's name would be Armadillo. In fact, as part of the convention's opening ceremonies, a member of the Glasgow city council officially named the "ship" Armadillo.

I, Kevin Standlee, was the head of the convention's Events division. Except for the opening and closing ceremonies, all of the major events of Interaction, including the Hugo Awards and the Worldcon Masquerade, were in the Clyde Auditorium. In fact, with minor exceptions, I "owned" the building for the weekend, as nearly everything happening in it reported to me in one way or another. So, in keeping with the convention theme, we decided that made me Captain of the good ship Armadillo, and everyone working in the Events division were therefore "Crew," while everyone working on the rest of the convention were groundlubbers "staff."

Now, I wasn't chairing the convention, so the question arose as to how to fit the theme without implying that "Captain Standlee" was in charge of the entire convention. We eventually concluded that the Armadillo was the newest and latest ship of the White Star Federated Spacelines, and that the heads of WSFS were Commodore Sir Vincent Docherty and the Rt. Hon. Sir Colin Harris. (Interaction's co-chairs were Vincent Docherty and Colin Harris. Docherty had co-chaired the previous Glasgow Worldcon as well, which is why we threw in the "Commodore" title.) These gentlemen, whose responsibilities included both the spaceport and the ships sailing from it, were my civilian bosses, but I was captain of the ship.

Why "White Star Federated Spacelines"? Well, it's a kludge. It had to fit into the initials WSFS. The Worldcon, after all, is the annual convention of the World Science Fiction Society. Get it? We designed a logo for the White Star Line, with lines that also evoke the Armadillo's lines.

Designing the Uniform

Having developed this theme, I set out to build a ship captain's uniform. the WSFS Armadillo was a civilian cruise liner, not a military ship, so the styling needed to follow what a cruise ship captain might wear as his duty uniform. The hat is the genuine officer's hat, obtained from I opted against the "scrambled eggs." CaptainsGear were able to make a custom hat logo from the WSFS design.

I bought four-stripe epaulets also from CaptainsGear, but there wasn't time (or a sufficient minimum order) to do a custom logo there, so I had to improvise. I printed the logo onto printable iron ons, then ironed it over the anchor that a standard epaulet has. While if you come and look at the shoulder-boards closely, you'll see that it's an iron-on, but I don't think it looks that bad, personally.

The shirt -- with the epaulet attachment points -- was also from CaptainsGear, but the slacks are standard white work slacks. These are pretty standard items. The hat, however, cost about as much as everything else put together, and seems to really "make" the uniform.

Anyone who calls me "admiral" doesn't know his/her rank markings. My shoulder boards have four stripes -- that's a captain. I've never claimed anything higher than that. I've become somewhat used to sarcastic references to The Love Boat, but at least those people have figured out that it's a cruise ship captain, not a military one.

Also, these are not "dress whites." This isn't a dress uniform; that would be much fancier, more like a tuxedo. I considered trying to put one together, but it would have been pretty difficult, and probably quite expensive. (Not that this uniform was cheap!) This uniform is what I consider a "duty uniform" for day to day use. And it does wear well and is pretty comfortable; however, that's not surprising given that most of the main structural pieces are "off the rack," with only the cosmetic elements changed. After all, a real ship's captain needs a uniform in which he can work.

The hat can get pretty hot sometimes, though.

Losing the Armadillo

So, at Interaction, we told people during the Opening Ceremonies that once the five days of festivities of the Worldcon were over, they would board the Armadillo and we would take off for our interstellar sightseeing cruise. (The artwork under the "take off" link is a detail from the cover of the convention's Souvenir Book by Jim Burns.) We had tote bags listing the cruise itinerary. We handed out an in-flight magazine, Ion Trails, with articles about the ship and the planets we would be visiting. It was going to be great!

We did warn people during the Opening Ceremonies that the management of Spaceport Glasgow were not responsible for anything going on outside the spaceport's immediate area. In particular, members were warned of the dangers of the Argyle Cantina, known nest of the dangerous Pirates of Plokta.

Translation: The people who publish the fanzine PLOKTA were organizing the convention's Fan Lounge in the adjacent Moat House Hotel's Argyle Ballroom. Independently of this development in the storyline, the "PLOKTA Cabal" had decided that one night in the Fan Lounge would be Pirate Night. Arrr!

Well, PLOKTA went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine on Sunday night of Interaction, and we worked this into the convention's Closing Ceremonies. At the start of Closing Ceremonies, I came on (in uniform) and advised everyone that once the ceremony was over, we would start calling out boarding pass numbers (membership badges) for boarding the ship. I then left and the convention co-chairs came in and started doing all of the usual Closing Ceremonies things. Eventually, they introduced Christian McGuire, chairman of the 2006 Worldcon, L.A.con IV.

(Before continuing, you should note that L.A.con IV's theme was "Join the Space Cadets." This is important for what comes next.)

Christian came on stage and talked about the guests for the following year's Worldcon and about what a good convention it was. Just as he said, "...and I'm sure you'll all have a wonderful time!" the "Red Alert" klaxon sounded, and I dashed on stage, out of breath, and shouted, "The Armadillo! It's been hijacked by the Space Pirates! I knew we shouldn't have given them those rocketships last night! What are we going to do?"

Christian said, "There's only one thing to do!" And he impressed everyone immediately into the Space Cadets and ordered us to report to Anaheim for Cadet Training the following year. I (and Interaction co-chairs Docherty and Harris, who were still on stage) donned Space Cadet sashes, and, led by Christian, we all sang the Space Cadet March and soon afterwards the convention ended. With the spaceship held by ruthless pirates, the interstellar cruise was scrubbed.

We came up with more story as the convention ended. The pirates, not being terribly savvy with the new starship design, made the mistake of trying to activate the main star-drive motors while still on the ground, rather than launching on the rockets as illustrated on the cover of the program book. The ship's hyperdrive, not designed for use in a gravity well, shot off into hyperspace, taking the space pirates with it, but leaving the ship behind, welded to the ground and no longer usable as a spaceship. The Glasgow Spaceport Authority subsequently decided to re-develop the now-stuck starship as a concert hall.

About that Board of Inquiry

Well, having lost my ship, I was under a dark cloud. A month later, at the 2005 NASFiC, CascadiaCon, where I was Fan Guest of Honor, a Board of Inquiry into "The Armadillo Affair" convened, with Commodore Docherty and several past WSFS Captains [former Worldcon Chairs] serving as the Board.

This was not a court-martial. The Armadillo wasn't a military vessel. This was a civilian Board of Inquiry to examine the affair and recommend actions. As I reported elsewhere, I was cleared of all wrongdoing and was released for further assignments to WSFS.

But Getting Those Assignments...

So at the Opening Ceremony of L.A.con IV, I, in WSFS uniform, enter... pushing a broom. After losing my ship, that's the only job I can get. You can read the full story here with pictures, and posted a video clip to YouTube.

Oh, and as a bit of postscript, I was also on stage at the Closing Ceremonies, along with all of the other members of the Nippon2007 committee. The broom we'd used during Opening Ceremonies was still standing around, so I took it on stage with me, and at the end of the ceremony, as everyone else left, I followed, last one out, sweeping up behind them.

Now You Know The Whole Story

And that's why I hand out cards pointing to this LJ posting rather than try to explain the whole thing to you in person unless you really ask me to do so.

Can I Still Get WSFS Merchandise?

Yes! The WSFS Armadillo CafePress Store is still open. We've priced all of the items at cost, so we're making no profit on them.

Incidentally, in the real world, "WSFS" is a service mark of the World Science Fiction Society, and the use here is only as an extension of the use within the context of the 2005 World Science Fiction Convention.
Tags: costumes, worldcon, wsfs

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