Building Link’s Hylian outfit from Breath of the Wild

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One of the unexpected joys that I’ve experienced this year is Breath of the Wild, an immersive entry in the Legend of Zelda series. I started playing the game back in August, when I lucked out and snagged a Nintendo Switch at the local used game store here. Breath of the Wild was the reason I was motivated to pick it up. I’ve been a fan of the Zelda games from since I was a kid, and this seemed like a good opportunity to get back into them.

What I didn’t expect was that it turned into a wonderful bonding moment with Bram. I started playing the game on my own, but slowly, Bram started creeping up beside me to watch me play. I went from playing the Switch as a tablet to playing it on the television, and together, we explored Hyrule together, figuring out shrines, riding over the plains on horses we captures, or slaying Moblins that we encountered. I felt guilty whenever I played it without him, and essentially played during my lunch breaks to scout out for the night’s adventure.

When it came time to start thinking about a Halloween costume for Bram, it quickly became a no brainer: the Hylian outfit that we were playing as. Link is a fairly popular character for Halloween costumes, and I saw a ton of kids sporting the Champion outfit at New York Comic Con earlier this year. But this one was a bit more interesting looking: there were belts, pads, and a cape. It looks interesting and the type of thing that an adventurer would wear in the game.

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The first component of the costume that I made is arguably the most important: Link’s Sheikah Slate, the tablet that he carries through the game, using it to access information or transport. I went to my local library, which recently added a 3D printer to their lineup. It took a day or two to get it printed, and once I had it, I ended up leaving the print lines in, to give it a bit of texture. I then gave it a paint job with brown, copper, orange, yellow, and blue. A bit of ribbon superglued onto the handle gave it a bit of extra detail. It came out really well, and it makes a neat prop, even if it weren’t next to a costume.

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After that, I came across designs for one of the game’s Guardian swords that you can pick up in the game. It’s a lightsaber-like sword that has a really cool design to it: it’s bright blue with a jagged edge. I sent the designs to a friend of mine, who 3D printed it (he has a bigger printer than the library) at 2/3rds scale. The handle is solid plastic, while the blade is hollow. I glued those together and gave it a similar paint job to that of the Sheikah Slate, as they’re nominally from the same people. I ended up using spraypaint for the blade, to give it a consistent color, and hand-painted the handle.

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It’s not perfect, but it came out nicely.

After those parts were done, I turned to the cloth parts. Some were easy to source: I picked up a set of tan pants from the store, and a light, solid-colored shirt that I then dyed the right color green, the two base garments for the outfit. My mother sewed together the tunic that Link wears over that green shirt, as well as the blue cape and hood, and the green cloth belt. Once those were on and trimmed a bit, I wanted to add some more detail to the shirt and cape. I bought some fabric paint, and hand-painted the details directly onto the garments. It wasn’t exact, but they came out decently enough.

Along the way, I was putting together the other details. I found a roll of brown marine vinyl on sale, and used that for the leather elements: a chest harness and trio of belts. I had Bram lie down on the vinyl, and roughly sketched out the chest harness, and trimmed it to fit. I hammered a couple of snaps onto it to hold it in place, and added some velcro for extra security. The belts were easy: we just measured and trimmed them out. I used some extra snaps to fashion a loop for the Sheikah Slate, and some snaps on the cross-chest belt to hold the plastic bow that I picked up at Walmart.

Next up was the forearm bracers. Bram ended up ditching these a couple of times on Halloween, but they’re useful pieces. I bought some craft foam, which I fitted to Bram and cut out some rough details to glue on. I used Velcro to secure them, although they can easily slide on and off as needed.

 

The other big foam project was the quiver for the arrows. This is a pretty detailed piece, and I originally thought about painting up a mailing tube or something. I ended up finding a pack of craft foam with adhesive backing: that made it super easy, because I could just cut out the right details, and apply them directly to the foam tube I made. A bit of vinyl wrapped around the middle and attached directly to the belt. I should have done two straps, because it swung around a lot, but it worked okay.

Lastly, we took a pair of mud boots that Bram recently wore out. I took some vinyl and glued it around the top, and folded it over around the edges. I spray-painted primer onto the boots and then covered that with a brown acrylic paint. That ended up flaking off after he wore them a couple of times, but for the most part, they looked okay.

The last thing I put together was the weird shoulder pad. I measured out a circle in my remaining piece of craft foam, and cut it in half, gluing the two edges together so that they were a weird dome. I did the same thing with a piece of vinyl, and glued that onto the foam. I then sketched out a ring of craft foam that I then glued onto the dome. I then secured it to Bram’s shoulder with some velcro.

After that, it was done, and when it all came together, it looked pretty good! We ended up taking the costume out to a couple of places: Trick-or-treating at Norwich University the week before Halloween, a Halloween train in Burlington, to daycare and trick-or-treating on Halloween itself. We got a lot of compliments on it — some people recognized it, but others thought he was an archer or Robin Hood. But the best compliment came from Bram, who declared that it was his most favorite costume, and that he wanted to wear it for “a thousand years.”

I took him up into the woods near our house for a couple of Hyrule-style pictures:

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All in all, it was an extremely rewarding costume to put together. It was a complicated costume with a lot of different parts, most of which I usually don’t work with. But more than that, it was a costume with a bit of emotion sunk into it: we both love playing this game, and it’s been something we’ve bonded over. Seeing Bram go into the woods and pretend to be Link is a moment that I won’t forget. I’m sad that he’ll eventually grow out of it, but I’m sure that we’ll figure out some sort of costume for next year that will be just as much fun to assemble. I can’t wait to see what it is.

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The Art of Empire: WWII influences in Star Wars – Thursday!

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If you’re in central Vermont this Thursday, stop by the Sullivan Museum & History Center at Norwich University. I’ll be giving a talk called The Art of Empire: WWII influences in Star Wars. I’ll be talking a bit about some of the images and iconography of Nazi Germany, particularly with how it is used for the Empire.

The talk will take place in the museum’s conference room at noon on May 4th, and lunch will be provided! If you can’t make it, there’ll be a livestream set up by the museum. Details can be found here.

Reading vacation

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A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine talked about how she had gotten away for a ‘Reading Vacation’. The idea sounded glorious, and between February and March, I realized that I was in a bit of a rut, and needed to take some time to step away from the computer and everything for a while. I’m not good at taking time off; it’s not how my brain works.

When I’m at home, I tend to drift towards the computer and check in on things — news, Facebook, Twitter, rather than doing what I’d rather be doing: reading, writing, walking the dog, and so forth. Fortunately, I’ve got an option: my parents own a house way up in upstate New York. Not the NYC version of Upstate (between Albany and NYC), but the actual upstate. Miles from the Canadian Border. The nearest store is half an hour’s drive, and it takes at least two hours to get up there, driving through fairly rural territory. Best of all, there’s no internet, or even cell service.

So, I packed up the car: a trip to the grocery store to get food for a couple of days. Clothes. Salt, in case the driveway was iced over (I’m in dire need of new snow tires). A bucket of dog food. The dog. My laptop. A small pile of books. A couple of audiobooks for the drive. We set off.

I’ve written about the books that I get here in the house, and I always feel as though I have an insurmountable reading list. Case in point, I had a couple of books that I’d had for ages that I just didn’t get around to reading to hit the on-sale date for review. I polished off Meg Howrey’s The Wanderers on the drive up, as well as the podcast S-Town.

I packed along Kim Stanley Robinson’s amazing novel New York 2140as well as its audiobook. When Tiki and I went out for a walk, I listened to a chapter in each direction, and picked up the book later. I also brought along Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn, and was sucked right back into the Star Wars universe in a way that I haven’t been in over a decade. Brian Staveley’s Skullsworn, John Kessel’s The Moon and the Other, and Ruthanna Emrys’ Winter Tide. Between them all, I think I read nearly 900 pages.

The area the house sits in is pretty desolate, all summer cottages and lake homes that are occupied a couple of months out of the year. Cars zipped by the highway, but I only saw a couple of neighbors down the road in quick glimpses, like the deer that forged paths in the deep snow in the woods around the place. Most of all, it was quiet. No distractions. I lounged on the couch, reading chapters at a time, or worked on a long-simmering writing project, finally making some headway. I cleaned the floors, organized the books and cooked when I needed a break from words. Tiki and I went on long walks up and down the back roads, looking for deer.

I think what I needed was the solitude. Just some time to get away from everyone and everything. It was refreshing to sit by myself, or to walk alone, knowing that there’s nobody around for miles. I’m already trying to figure out when I can go back.

 

RIP Fionna

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The last of my childhood dogs passed away last night. Fionna had been sick for a while, but she’s lasted far longer than I think anyone had expected. Even as she grew thinner, she never seemed to lose her upbeat and perky nature.

Fionna was always my sister Keelia’s dog. She was a gift of sorts: we had one dog, but she had been asking for one. My mother put down a stipulation: any new dog that we get can’t be a long-haired, loud black dog. (Fionna’s predecessor Tilly was all of these things, and mom didn’t like the shedding). What we ended up with was … all of those things.

She was an anxious, shepherd-type dog, and gave our other dog, Buck (who died back in 2008) a bit of a new lease on life. She was energetic, clingy, and exceedingly attached to Keelia. She was playful, often tangling and chasing other dogs who came to visit – one memorable moment was when she snuck up behind Buck, grabbed a back leg and ran. We always imagined her with a high-pitched, somewhat squeaky voice.

She slowed down and greyed significantly in the last couple of years, and there was a health scare over a year ago with some sort of ear infection that left her with a tilted head (and the new nickname Lopsided Dog). But, each time we’ve gone to visit my parents, she’s been an ever-present shadow wagging her tail in greeting.

We didn’t have to put her down, although Mom and Dad were getting to that point. Up until a couple of days ago, she followed him down the driveway and back, even running a bit. We buried her in the front field of my parents’ house, next to where we buried Buck and Tilly all those years ago.

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She was a good dog, and I’m going to miss her terribly.

Talk: J.R.R. Tolkien and World War I on October 31th!

I’ll be talking at Norwich University on Monday, October 31st at noon, about J.R.R. Tolkien’s experiences during World War I and how it impacted his works. I’ll be there along with Professor Gina Logan.

Here’s the description:

Please join us October 31st at noon at the Sullivan Museum and History Center for a presentation by adjunct English faculty Gina Logan and Andrew Liptak, (M’09) as they discuss the influence of Tolkien’s service in World War I on his life and writings including the portrayal of the conflict in the Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien’s description of Frodo and Sam’s journey through Mordor as a reflection of his memories of combat. Light Lunch served, free and open to the public.
 Should be a fun time!

So Long, and Thanks For All The Trilobites

I regret to announce — this is The End. I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell.

So, yesterday was my last day at io9. I’ve spent the last year as their Weekend Editor, running the site on Saturday / Sunday, filling in and generally holding down the fort on the slow part of the week. I’ve been there even longer as a contributor. Now, it’s time to move on.

It’s been a hell of a ride.

I started writing for io9 back in 2008, after I answered a call for interns. I think I skipped pass the intern phase and became the site’s ‘research fellow’. I had written for a couple of places like SF Signal, but this was a whole new thing. Under Annalee Newitz, I had the chance to write about a whole new mix of things – Trilobites, Stormtroopers, spaceflight, books that should be movies (three of which have become or will be TV shows!), and scored a big hit with a rant on Military Science Fiction.

My term was up after 6 months, but I kept contributing the occasional book review or commentary. io9 opened a whole lot of doors for me, professionally. It helped me become a better writer and thinker – the range of articles that Annalee Newitz, Charlie Jane Anders, Meredith Woerner, Lauren Davis, James Whitbrook, Germain Lusslier, and many others put together shaped how I looked at science fiction, writing, science, current events, and so much more. It’s helped me get regular writing gigs, such as with Kirkus Reviews and Barnes and Noble, and to travel to places like the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop.

In June 2015, I figured out that I didn’t want to stay at my day job anymore, and was able to join up regularly as io9’s Weekend Editor. The new gig allowed me to write about a ton of things that I loved writing about.

All of that is coming to a close. I’m jumping over to The Verge at the end of this month, something that’s exciting, but also slightly scary. It’s time for a bit of a change, and it’s the next step.

It’s hard to encapsulate everything I’m proud of with io9 – the list above is only a fraction of what I’ve done. io9 is genuinely an online home, and while I won’t be adding to it anymore, I’ll be keeping my eyes on the place.

Help The Shelburne House

A while back, I posted up a post about one of our members in the New England Garrison: Peter Allen, asking for people to donate to a fund to help as he went into hospice care after suffering from ALS. People came through in a great way.

As an incentive, I told people that if they donated, I’d send along a perk: a copy of War Stories: New Military Science Fiction. Let’s do the same thing for the Shelburne House. This is a house that specializes in mental health services for young boys between the ages of 8-12.

Our program is home to three amazing boys that have worked through so much this year. Our residents have experienced trauma and childhoods that were not able to reflect the positive experiences during the holiday season. This fact is a major drive in why we want to raise money this year. We strive to able to provide these boys with a holiday to remember, and to restructure their ideas of what the holidays are really about. This fund me page is more then just monetary donations, its a way to prove to these boys that they are loved and supported. It is a way to prove to them that they can trust and lean on others. Most importantly, it is to show these boys are they live in a world that is good and that they have things to look forward to in their lives.

Funds from this project will go to the purchasing of gifts for the boys during the holiday such as: clothes, shoes, art supplies, winter gear, yoga balls, new sports equipment, Magic cards, meditation pillows, certificates for art and martial arts classes, yoga classes and so on.

All gifts are chosen to not only help in their treatment, but to cater to the individual interests of each resident in a therapeutic way.

They’ll take the money that they raise, and purchase a bunch of gifts and clothes for the boys currently under their care. These gifts in turn, will be delivered by members of the 501st Legion’s New England Garrison.

They need some help, and if you can, I’ll send you a copy of War Stories:

If you make a donation of $30 or more, I’ll send you a copy of War Stories: New Military Science Fiction. If you’re you’re from outside the United States, donate at least $15 and I’ll get you an ebook copy (Sorry, shipping books internationally is just too time consuming and annoying). Here’s what you can do:

  1. Make the donation.
  2. Take a screenshot or forward me your receipt for said donation, and an address where I can mail you the book.
  3. I’ll send you a copy of the book. (And maybe another random one as well!)

My e-mail address is: liptakaa [at] gmail[dot]com.

Thanks in advance.

Leaving The Day Job

So, this is something that happened in the last couple of weeks: I’m leaving my job at Norwich University. I’ve reached a point where I realized I was happier doing work writing and reviewing, and that I’d gone about as far as I could go with Norwich at this time. So, in December, I’ll be heading out for good.

I’ll admit: it’s a little nerve-wracking. I’ve been working at the school since 2007 – eight years. I’ve been there even longer when I count the years that I spent there as an undergraduate.

One of the things that I’m looking forward to is spending more time with Bram. There’s a lot that I’ve wanted to do, but just haven’t been able to do. Now, I’m hoping that there’ll be more adventures for the two of us.

I’m also excited. I’ve got a ton of projects that I’ve been wanting to get to for weeks or months, and just haven’t been able to do much on them. This’ll give me more time to devote to those things, and explore some new ones. Stay tuned: if some of these things work out, there’ll be some cool things coming!