The End of a Battlecruiser

A very long time ago – thirty years ago in fact – I joined the Klingon Assault Group. It was a refreshing change from other Trek clubs at the time, more creative, less gatekeepered.

The 90s were a time of at least two Creation Cons a year in Pittsburgh, and swarms of costumed Klingons were impressive. This was before the internet, 3D printing, Etsy and the maker movement. We had to learn techniques to craft the complicated elements of a Fletcher-type Klingon. It was fun. It was a bit expensive.

Shortly though the focus became more about charitable and volunteer work. Our ship, DARK JUSTICE. became quite noted in the Pittsburgh area, no doubt on our costume quality, but also our work ethic. Carnegie Science Center and the Pittsburgh Mayors office were among those that contacted us to work at events. We were regularly invited to provide color at bars, music venues, and theaters – as well as weddings.

No doubt the first reason was our appearance. But calls continued for us because we were reliable. Bayer featured us annually at their haunted trail; at first as Klingons, then as regular horror volunteers – my most successful turn was as a zombie bobby with a Sean Connery accent working the crowd waiting in line. So it wasn’t only our Klingon costumes.

Times and culture have changed. An entire industry of cosplay has emerged. There are some truly impressive creations out there. Awareness of gatekeeping and bullying have grown. My understanding of fandom has expanded.

Five years ago, when I stood up IKV ADJUDICATOR, my concern was the focus on cosplay at KAG, and my worry that my very active members, who did not enjoy cosplay, would be short-changed. In long text exchanges with John Halvorson, the man who created KAG in 1989, I was shown how to compromise and work around the cosplay centric premise of KAG; John simply said to get some of those all-over-print tees of Klingon uniforms. A brilliantly simple solution. That was John, he saw Klingon in everything, from motorcycle vest to apron.

And so we soldiered on. I ran my group with a simple principle: I was here to celebrate YOUR style of play, not impose my own views. That was wildly successful. We crushed holiday charity challenges two years running during a pandemic. Perhaps even more importantly, I think we have a supportive group that celebrates however one gets their geek on.

Thus it was probably inevitable that my philosophy would come into conflict with that of KAG. John sadly left us two years ago, and my interpretation of his work, as broad and inclusive, is different from the cosplay-based views of KAG leadership. Neither is wrong; John held both ideas.

But as the costume standards have tightened and the requirement of costume for advancement has remained, I’ve become more resistant. Cosplay is an aspect of fandom, no more important to the overall concept as video gaming, or fan fiction. The use of costume as a gatekeeping tool has haunted me throughout nearly four decades in Trek fandom. It’s why we left numerous club affiliations, from USS POTEMKIN in 1984 to THE FLEET last year. It is a red line for the group, particularly when it serves to create an outgroup of members who aren’t costumed to an arbitrary standard.

This is the situation I found myself in this morning with KAG. It’s not a hard choice. Thirty years in KAG, a name of some notoriety, commander’s rank, even the prospect of higher command… none of that is worth telling one member that they have to buy a costume, or that they can’t participate with the others because they aren’t uniformed, or that I’m not promoting them because charity work is less important than cosplay. It’s an easy, if unfortunate, call. We will not gatekeep like that.

So, as of this morning IKV ADJUDICATOR has severed ties with KAG. Now she shall exist solely as an aspect of the Rocketpunk Space Patrol – where we control the vertical, and we control the horizontal.

Robby Robert @ DeviantArt

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