I love alternate universes (They keep me sane). My approach to fiction is “yes, and”. If there is a fandom I love, I love the book AND movie AND tv series AND graphic novel AND fanfiction AND roleplaying game AND radio drama AND reboot. And if I don’t love one version of the story, that’s okay, too. It’s for someone else. Retellings (Maleficent) and mirror universes (StarTrek) and adaptations (every version of Pride and Prejudice), I love them all, even when I don’t like them.
Going into Costober 2021, I knew I would end up doing at least one Loki Variant because I am low-key obsessed with the series (pun intended). I’ve always loved Loki and the Thor films as a whole. MCU Loki is a try-hard prince with magic powers and rage issues aka exactly my type. But Loki gave me a variety of Lokis, every one my favorite. And Loki gave me Sylvie.
I’ve noticed a trend in all these prequels, sequels, and reboots (Oh my!): “what if girl?” Way back in 2003 the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (a series all about cast a woman in the role of Starbuck. The fandom erupted in outrage but Kara Thrace ended up one of the most popular characters. The last five years or so introduced new-old gender-flipped characters across all the giant mainstream genre franchises. Some of these are adjacent storytelling: Star Wars gave Rey a parallel plot to Luke and the internet has been arguing about it nonstop for six years. Star Trek: Discovery‘s protagonist, Michael Burnham, is such an analogue for Spock she was literally raised by his parents. This is not to say Rey and Michael are the same as Luke and Spock, merely that they hit the same beats. How the story changes as a result is what excites me.
And some of the genderplay is more explicit or even part of the plot. In the most recent Doctor Who series, The Thirteenth Doctor regenerated as a woman. Star Wars: The Bad Batch introduced the teen girl version of teen boy Boba Fett, both clones of Jango Fett. And Sylvie is a Loki. But because she was a girl a paternalistic organization desperate to maintain the status quo hunted her across time and space, forcing her to grow up alone surrounded at all times by crisis and chaos and death. And that story of a society trying to erase her, of her witnessing suffering on an incalculable scale, and of her determination to burn it all down — that story is so personal to me. As is the parallel story of Loki and Sylvie figuring out that intimacy isn’t a trap.
I will adapt.
My interest in Variants is an extension of my interest in identity. It’s human nature to grapple with questions like “who am I?” and “who do I want to be?” But my favorite origin or coming-of-age stories, and the ones I relate to the most, follow Sylvie’s same pattern: childhood is disrupted, limitations and expectations are forced on them, they get angry and rebel. Anakin, Natasha, Gamora, Daenerys, Selina, Seven of Nine, Sucker Punch. They ask “who am I in response to who you want me to be?” “Who did you make me?” “Who would I be if that trauma didn’t happen?” Those stories aren’t for everyone, but trauma is part of my narrative.
But trauma isn’t my only narrative. It doesn’t define me, or any of my favorite characters. We adapt and we evolve. That’s Variance, too.
I’m excited to show you what I’ve come up with for Costober 2021!
Costober is an annual event where I create thirty-one distinct looks in the style of characters from a variety of fandoms. These “stealth cosplay” looks evoke some combination of the character’s design, attitude, and traits. They are created with off-the-rack clothing and accessories, cosmetics, and props. I wear these looks to pursue my regular day-to-day activities. Enjoy!
Costober 2021 begins October 1 and runs through Halloween.