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Thursday, March 02, 2017

Vale Peter Lupinski!

Peter Lupinski died this week. I heard about it from my friend and fellow SF fan Susan Batho.

You probably haven't heard of him unless you were a media fan in Australia back in the 1980s and 1990s. And really, he wasn't a personal friend of mine; we only ever met at science fiction conventions. Specifically, media conventions. 

In those days, media conventions in Australia were run by fans, for fans. They were small and friendly, with an average of 150 attendees, and the committees would work their guts out fundraising to bring guests of honour to Australia. We only ever had one GoH at a time, whose job was to make a speech, judge the masquerade or art show(that was Bjo Trimble, best known for her Star Trek connections, who was also an amazing handcrafter - and she loved my needlepoint!) and do a bit of autographing. The rest of the convention was panels which featured anyone who was willing to do a panel, just like mainstream literary conventions. They might be about anything from science fiction art to the latest SF movies.

These days at a media con you go to a huge hall somewhere, pay extra to sit near the front and are entertained by the guests, usually the second Romulan from the left in some Trek movie, pay even more to get a picture taken with them... I'm afraid I refuse to go to those, with the occasional exception of a pop culture expo. Those are not expensive and you get to hear a number of guests, whether writers like Peter David or a couple of former stars of Dr Who. You do have to sit in a large area with the noises of the rest of the con going on outside. But they still do costuming (known as cosplay these days), something that has disappeared from most other conventions.

And that's another thing about media cons, there was the masquerade. Media fans were generally better costumers and artists than their counterparts in literary fandom - who sneered at them. If your interest is in things visual, you like to make things that are visual and do them well.

Peter was a costumer and an artist. He knew all about glass, and, among other things, he designed and created the ASFMA (Australian Science Fiction Media) Awards, which were handed out at the National Media Conventions. They were for a number of things including best art and best fan fiction.

Here is a picture of Peter and me, with me holding one of the beasties, of which I won three, for fan writing.

Peter and me, photo courtesy of Susan Batho.

I see I'm also holding a yellow ribbon, which must have been for art or craft. I can't recall, but it must have been the year I received my third award, because it has a cover. The others didn't. They were big and heavy because they were made of glass - that's what Peter did for a living, glassmaking, I mean. 

But they were beautiful, and inspired by the Emerald City from the film The Wizard Of Oz

Peter inspired me to try my hand at costuming and handcraft. He was a very good costumer himself, as you can see from the picture above. One time he turned up dressed as a wizard, with a gorgeous staff. When I admired the staff, he said, "Oh, it was easy!" and explained to me how he had made it. 

Of course, it was only easy if you were an artist, but when he told me of the simple items he had used in the making of the wonderful staff, I began to think that perhaps it might be fun to try some handcraft myself. I was never going to make anything that spectacular, but I didn't need expensive equipment or to be able to wield a blowtorch or whatever. I just needed my hands, some stuff I could buy anywhere and my imagination. 

I was already doing science fiction-themed needlepoint, drawings traced on to blank canvas. Now I began to make jewellery and my simple costumes became decorated with embroidery and sequins. I began to look for interesting fabrics and metallic paints, so I could create something in the spirit of Peter Lupinski, who could make something amazing from something simple and inexpensive.

The next time I see The Wizard Of Oz, I will wipe a tear from my eyes as I remember him.

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