Convoluted

Greetings, valued readers. It’s your resident loon, Chris Hoffmann here. Keith is absent at the moment (something about a SHIP?) so until he gets back I’m throwing you all a bone with an article on my experiences at BrickFair Virginia. What’s that, you say? BrickFair was over a month ago? Er, never mind that. Let’s just embrace the tardiness and I’ll take you back to Japan Brickfest and last year’s Brickworld along the way. Hopefully it’ll provide some context to those convention photos you’ve already forgotten about or ignored.

This is a sequel of sorts to Ted’s inaugural Brickworld 2017 article and will include a bit of autobiography. Like Ted, I was a con virgin until Brickworld 2016, and we were both solicited by none other than friend of the blog Simon Liu. As regulars to the Manifesto already know by now, Simon assured Ted that organizing a collaboration six weeks before convention wasn’t such a bad idea after all, and then coaxed me to join in the fun shortly thereafter. Flash forward another year and guess who talked me into a flight from Japan to Virginia for BrickFair?

Simon has a knack for this sort of thing, particularly with getting some of the younger talent to come out of their shells, see the bigger picture, and meet people in person at their first con. My roommate from this year’s festivities imagines Simon with a fishing lure, enticing and reeling in anyone who catches his eye. It’s a high-level social skill I wish more of us had, and the community owes a lot to the guy for it, more than is obvious from his public work alone. I’m no Simon, but hopefully this article will have a similar effect on some of you reading.

If this sounds like I’m sucking up to the guy, then you’d be right! I kind of screwed him and everyone else over this year at Simon Draft, but more on that later.

Hold up, did you say Japan?

Yes. I moved to Japan for work shortly after Brickworld 2016 and was fortunate enough to find the only international LUG in the country a doable hour and a half train ride away. We’re the main organizers of Japan Brickfest, which recently became the third official Lego “fan weekend,” joining Skærbæk in Denmark and Paredes de Coura in Portugal. It sounds big and important on paper, but really it’s just a standard con with slightly more support and representation from TLG.

The company has been trying to reach out to the Asian market and, as small as our group is, the show we put on is still the biggest horse in the race with 270 builders from 11 different countries this year. From what I’ve gathered from my fellow LUG members, there just aren’t that many Lego-specific conventions in the Pacific region, leaving fans to piggyback on the larger video game and comic cons. There are good people trying to change that, but for the time being JBF is the place to meet cool cats like Lu Sim, Benjamin Cheh Ming Hann, and all those silent Flickr profiles you didn’t know were from Asia.

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LHB-025 by Ryuhei Kawai

Side note: Some fans regard our corporate overlords as gods and go crazy whenever they meet one of them at a convention. Me? I’m indifferent. Lego artists are Lego artists and marketing goons are marketing goons, regardless of who signs their paycheck. The ones who work for Lego aren’t worth climbing over hundreds of bodies to get a few words in with when there’s plenty of others standing right next to you. Just be politely wary of the more “aspy” con-goers, whose social skills include vacuous staring, rattling off part numbers from memory, and generally derailing conversations.

Cultural relativity

Now, being conditioned by my experiences in America, I anticipated a certain amount of leeway with regard to convention shenanigans. But what seemed like an innocuous joke to me at the time involving obvious tampering with competition votes was rather lost on the genteel otaku from the land of the rising sun. Everything seemed fine until I caught wind of angry messages sent to the LUG’s email account—never expect the average Japanese person to give feedback about things like this out in the open.

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Photo courtesy of Takamichi Irie

Another thing that can dampen the con experience in Japan is that it’s only gonna last the weekend. The harsh work culture here and in much of Asia makes taking time off impractical at best, meaning you’ll never see the five-day conventions we’re used to in the west. Every day is a public day and this naturally means less time to meet people and hang out, which sucks since that’s the main draw of going to a convention in the first place. My few passing interactions with other builders were all too familiar: “Oh hey, I recognize this,” “This technique here is pretty cool,” etc. Nothing substantial as there wasn’t room to dig deeper.

I don’t mean to bash Japan Brickfest. As I said before, JBF is currently one of the best places to meet AFOL from that corner of the world and I’m proud to be a part of that. It really feels more like a festival than a convention, right down to a courtyard with local food carts and live music. So it’s got a unique vibe from what you’re probably used to.

I’m sure much of my experience at JBF was colored by constantly being on staff. I’m not big on activities at cons because they interfere with valuable hangout time, so having a full schedule of them isn’t my ideal. Even after convention hours, there was hardly any downtime since we’d finish late, exhausted, and have to be on early the next morning. It didn’t help that we were short a few people, but I have a newfound respect for anyone who volunteers to help run these things. As a regular attendee, I can see the event being more worthwhile if you play it right. Lu Sim has recorded that perspective on his blog, which is probably the best you’re gonna find in English.

“Maybe things will be better in Chicago”

I’m generally pretty good at staving off homesickness, but after Japan Brickfest 2017 I began to miss my first con experience back at Brickworld Chicago 2016. I regularly mentioned to my fellow LUG members how amazing it was to be able to drink and chat in the convention hall all night long across the better part of a week. But there was an unscalable wall called the Japanese school year blocking me from going back over. So at the end of BW 2016, during the long goodbye, I was left wondering when if ever I would see the friends I made there again.

BrickFair Virginia 2017 was entertained as a possibility and slowly crept its way into reality over the next few months. In the end, I’m glad it was BFVA this year instead of Brickworld. Brickworld is a mere week after Japan Brickfest and I was creatively exhausted after helping with a sizable medieval collab for my LUG’s display, which I was admittedly halfhearted about. This was all in between trying (and failing) to finish builds on time for the Lego Speederbike Contest and the Real World +200 Starfighter Contest—plus admin for the latter. But the two month gap between JBF and BFVA afforded me enough time to recover and finish up some non-LUG projects I was more interested in but too burned out to work on before. BFVA became a point to look forward to, unlike JBF where the pressure was on to finish stuff for the collab. Many of the same faces from Brickworld 2016 were back at BFVA 2017, in what now feels like my second true con experience.

The second time around

I hate to get too grandiose here, but going to your first con is a transformative process. You will put faces to names from the online community and get to know people beyond your shared love of the brick. Flickr handles quickly crumble away to reveal real people behind all those builds you’ve been admiring. You may have interacted with some of them online from time to time, but that’s nothing compared to the convention, which is multiple straight days of sharing food, drink, and company. Some of these people will become your genuine friends by the end of it. It’s to the point that I feel like there’s a pre-con and a post-con version of myself as an AFOL, especially since I only communicated with other AFOLs online beforehand and hadn’t so much as joined a LUG.

Ted said in his Brickworld article that “you’ll always remember your first time,” but things only get better from there. Now that you’ve already passed the asshole test, you don’t have to deal with that awkward introductory phase again. And you’ll get acquainted even faster with new people through the ones you met last time. Before you know it, Simon has “blind date” roomed you with Sean Mayo, who then introduces you to Dan Rubin and Blake Foster. And wait, Red Spacecat is here?!

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CFX-7 Peregrine UCAV by Stijn van der Laan

If you’re lucky you can graduate from those cramped 2-bed hotel rooms and live the suite life. While it may not compare to Brickworld’s most outstanding feature of keeping the display space open all night, it does have its own cozy charm that lends itself to more intimate conversations. Sean Mayo will talk your ear off if you let him, and boy am I glad I did at BFVA this year. In the best of these alcohol-fueled convention chats, there’s so much to say and respond to that on your way to saying your piece you lose half of it, then promise yourself when you’re sober to pick up where you left off the next day, the next meal out, the next convention. But there’s never enough time.

Eventually the whole ordeal becomes a juggling act; you only have so much time to divide among all the people you want to mingle with. Simon is an ace at this; because of how far his reach is, he’ll bounce around the convention center like a pinball catching up with his mass of acquaintances. Try to catch him yourself so you can get in on laser tag or a Star Wars-themed escape room with a bunch of other spacers. Of course, there’s always events run by the convention organizers, but schedules are lame and I’d rather wander about and do my own thing with whatever kindred spirits I bump into. Shout-outs to Micah Beideman the table-jumping baby-flipper and his dad for bringing more tabletop games than MOCs this year.

My boy, you’ve been drafted

By far one of the best “extracurricular activities” you can get in on is Simon Draft. Simon Draft is an ancient ritual dating as far back as AD 2015. I won’t get into all the gritty details here, but it’s like a normal parts draft except first pick rights are decided by building skills with the draft parts in question.

Simon Draft 1
Photo and draft courtesy of Simon Liu

Having failed to appease Kaiser Liu in this feat of strength at Brickworld 2016, I was determined to redeem myself at BrickFair 2017. And I did… by copying what I saw win last year with a quirky Mixel character build (and a fittingly Japanese influence). The strategy made me feel kind of dirty, but I can’t argue with the results.

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Photo and beer courtesy of Simon Liu

We had to leave the convention hall shortly after, so the actual sorting and drafting would have to wait till the next day. But I overslept and got chewed out for not showing up until right before the draft, too late to help with sorting. Let this be a lesson that you should carry your own weight, whether you’re part of a collab, trying to escape the Death Star, or perhaps even doing something as vital as sorting Lego.

So I forfeited my first pick rights and was sentenced by a jury of my peers to pick a number from a bag like everyone else… only to draw number one anyway.

Take that, bitches! I’ll never learn my lesson! I made off with some of the best parts in the draft, in particular some that Simon had his eyes set on. I’ll brag about them here because I know he’s reading.

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MATANGO!!

I’m neither proud nor sorry for what happened.

The big picture

Come to think of it, that photo of my Simon Draft build with the alcohol in the background is a perfect summation of BFVA. There’s some mysterious creative mojo about the place that just compels people to build— moreso than at other cons, I’m told. I mentioned earlier that I was creatively burnt out after Japan Brickfest, but the complete opposite happened at BFVA, where the inspiration hit again and again as I discovered new and spectacular models and panned for gold in the vendors’ unsorted bins. And I’m happy to still be riding that high a month later.

The most extreme example of this building fever came from David Hansel Gabe Umland. Having recently come home from New Zealand, he wasn’t planning on going to BrickFair and didn’t have any MOCs to show for it. But—big surprise—Simon convinced him to pack up some Lego and make the drive down to Virginia. So he ended up building this impromptu beauty right in the convention hall with a little help from his friends and some minty fresh parts courtesy of Simon. Oh, and did I mention he got a frigging award for it?

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Photo, parts, and attendance courtesy of Simon Liu

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned a lot of individual MOCs in this post. If I have, it’s because there’s a story behind them. And this is the real point of going to a con, and where most convention recap stories fall short. Ted touched on this already in his Brickworld article, but I’ll repackage it in a novel way like any good sequel should. People mistakenly believe that you’re supposed to bring MOCs to display or show off (or perhaps for that old vice of gettin’ the prize), but the MOCs are really there as conversation pieces. It’s not about the show; it’s about the music. Gabe’s build is a perfect example. The dude didn’t have any MOCs to bring and didn’t care. He just showed up to hang out. And with that attitude he created something valuable. There’s the MOC itself, of course, the physical ABS parts arranged just so. But that’s secondary to the immaterial connections behind the MOC.

To all you lurkers out there, I speak from experience. I found the online community on MOCPages sometime in 2005 and didn’t share any of my MOCs publicly until 2013. I was another 3 years a con virgin and now I regret not joining in the fun sooner. So don’t be afraid to pop that con cherry. The first time might be a bit awkward or disappointing depending on who you’re with, but don’t let that deter you. There’s good times to be had if you take a chance and put yourself out there. You control the action.

People of ‘The Pages’: Nick Pascale

Welcome, constant reader to the inaugural entry of a new feature here at the Manifesto called People of ‘The Pages’.  ‘The Pages’ refers to MOCpages of course, that wonderful reservation inhabited by Brickarmz prototype enthusiasts, home-schooled teenage religious zealots and all the lovable disenfranchised dreamers of the Lego dream.  Although I don’t go to MOCpages for the social interaction or creations any longer, the site does offer one redeeming quality that keeps bringing me back for more…the home-page description.  Every MOCpages account has a space for you, the builder, to say a little something about yourself and your approach to the hobby….it’s like the ‘profile‘ feature on Flickr but not so inaccessible and underused.  On MOCpages the home-page description takes center-stage and it has inspired some truly great content over the years.  It is my great pleasure to share that conent with you, just the best of the best.  This series has less to do with building and more to do with finding out just who the hell we are as a tribe.

This feature is inspired by a shitty early 1980’s TV show called Real People, that seemed to be on constantly when I was a kid.  Because there were very few channels to choose from and options were limited, I watched more of this show than was probably healthy.

So with that preamble out of the way, I’m going to kick-start the series with perhaps the ultimate home-page description in all of ‘The Pages’.  I stumbled upon it years ago, quite by accident, during my time blogging for TBB.  Nick Pascale was (and probably still is) a frequent commentator on the Big Blog, rarely would a week go by without a comment or three popping up on various postings.  Never on my posts though…never on mine…which naturally pricked my delicate ego and peaked my interest, prompting me to seek him out in his natural environment.  What I found on ‘The Pages’ nothing short of astonishing….one of the single greatest pieces of writing I’ve yet encountered in the hobby.  In future editions of this regular feature I plan on highlighting key rhetorical segments and discussing them in some detail, but this mother of all home page descriptions is simply too pure…too magnificent…and defintiely too long to attempt a critique with any meaningful fidelity.  Nick covers everything from his biography, frustrations with Lego Ideas, MOC statistics, community spirit, personal Lego achievements, Lego related travels, 9/11, obituaries, a plea for greater MOCpages activity and much much more!  You will be amazed by his use of color and font!  You will be amazed by his spirit and creativity!  Indeed, there is a new member of the great pantheon of AFOLs named Nick (Barrett, Trotta and Dean)  I will leave you to your own conclusions and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments.  If you have any recommendations for this feature, constant reader, please shoot me a link at your earliest convenience.

 

WELCOME to my LEGO(R) Creations, my VISION and my DREAM

by Nick Pascale

ANNOUNCEMENT
My project based on my MINNIE’S BOWTIQUE here on MOCpages has just been accepted as a LEGO IDEAS PROJECT. As you know I need 10,000 SUPPORTERS! So please visit LEGO IDEAS and lend me your support! If you are not a member you can join for free! there are 5 simple questions to answer and then click SUPPORT and I am there! Thank you for your support in advance! I only posted this yesterday and I already have 1,952 views as of July 12, 2016 12:57 p.m. dst! It’s so frustrating trying to get the needed 10,000 SUPPORT VOTES needed for the LEGO IDEAS TEAM to decide “Should this become a set?” I need your help! Here on MOCpages I have 2,131 views and get this 4k (4,000) views on LEGO IDEAS yet I only have 72 votes I still need 9,928 more! Proud to inform you I now have 173 Supports only 9,827 more to go as of September 9, 2016! Please get to LEGO IDEAS AND JOIN & VOTE! I’ll ask you all once more: Please go to LEGO IDEAS Join, Verify your email and Support, do not forget to click on follow and please leave a comment and mention MOCpages! Minnie’s Bowtique LEGO IDEAS.
And this is the set right here on MOCpages: LEGO MINNIE’S BOWTIQUE

…and how it appears on LEGO IDEAS:

UPDATE: I now have 64 votes of SUPPORT I need 9,936 more votes to reach for the LEGO IDEAS TEAM to consider it! What I do not understand is it has been viewed here by 2,106 people, imagine if each one went and voted for it I’d be that closer and get this on LEGO IDEAS I have 3K views that’s 3,000 views adding the views here and the views there I’d be half way there. Just like in America this is an election year and we always hear YOUR VOTE COUNTS! you can see just how important you as MOCpagers votes for any LEGO IDEAS project is. Today is my birthday – July 26 what a great present to see it reach at least 75 maybe 100 SUPPORT Votes! Thanks!

HAPPY 5TH ANNIVERSARY, Yes, guys and gals I just celebrated 5 years on MOCpages this past January 22nd, where does time go?

NEWS FLASH:

Unfortunately None of my Lego Ideas were accepted!

Continue reading “People of ‘The Pages’: Nick Pascale”

Fire for Effect: Alas Alas That Great City LUGNET

This is the fifth salvo in Michael Rutherford’s regular column, Fire for Effect. Take it away Mike…

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The planet LUGNET… The Lego User Group Network… The Home World.  Once the undisputed hub of the entire AFOL sector, it was a powerful marketplace of ideas.  Almost 20 years later,  LUGNET hangs invisible from the ceiling of cyberspace… like a gigantic, arthritic bat… hidden from view in the darkness, but still clinging defiantly to life.  A desolate place… its once thronging multitudes are long gone, fled to the promise of a better life in the off-world colonies. Those few who remain on the Home World are merely stewards who live in the ruins, creatures of habit who hold out hope for better times and new track geometries.  The mighty stream of message traffic that once flowed in from every corner of the AFOL sector has now slowed to a trickle of Ones and Zeros… Occasionally, the dusty silence of litter strewn streets is broken by a distant sonic boom, a recon drone swooping down from orbit on a preprogrammed census sweep.

LUGNET was a good thing and nothing like it exists currently.  In its heyday, the site was a communications nexus, a cognitive disco and an atomic snow globe of creativity. Announcements of MOCs were the mainstay, but not the only commodity to be had. Ideas, conversations, debates, arguments, product news and other deliberations were all available in seemingly inexhaustible supply.  And links?  Links a go-go!  Links to LUGs. Links to images.  Links to other more specific groups.  Links to other blogs.  Links to contests.  Links to Keith’s mom…  It was the allure of this perpetual tumult that lured me into my first public utterance as an AFOL.  It was Sunday, the 24th of October, 2004… at exactly 04:14:42 GMT.  The transcript of this first transmission remain in the abandon archives even today!  Prepare yourself, it was both insightful and inspiring.

Rosco,
Nicely put.  Apparently I couldn't handle the dictionary after all.
Mike

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Yet for all this activity, LUGNET was swept from majestic cultural centrality into the margins of the AFOL world in the blink of an eye.  The thronging population crashed… seemingly overnight.  Historians would argue about the cause of LUGNETs collapse… if they cared.  But of course, historians, like most other people, could care less!  But trust me… if they did care… they would argue!

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What happened to LUGNET?

I think the AFOL race should ask itself, and perhaps ask beings from other races, this question.  The answer to the question may be an unpleasant but valuable cautionary tale.

Why is our home world all but dead?

Well for starters… I sure as hell don’t know!  I have deepened and broadened my ignorance by steadfastly refusing to do any serious historical research.  Further, I have carefully cultivated a massive cataract shaped exactly like modern consumer communications systems.  I don’t know an iPhone from a xylophone (Wait wait!  I know… the iPhone is the one you play with little mallets!) On the upside, failing to back your opinion with research means you don’t have to worry about the age-old question: APA or Turabian? So, in the unlikely event that you are STILL reading… know ye this: Every word of this article is based on the subjective opinion of an aging white man!  I’m also pretty sure my world view is mired in the Western tradition… and further tainted by years of work in the service of the state!  Also, my daughter says I’m a misogynist, but she is incorrect… silly girl!  So read on, only at the peril of your plaid wearing, Panini eating, Seattle’s Best drinking, hipster soul!  And get your rebuttal in gear… because I think I’m setting myself up for some rotten tomatoes here… Oh, Shush… here comes my thesis!

My best guess regarding the cause of the great population collapse on LUGNET is three-fold.  First, the rise of the specialized sites.  Second, the triumph of the visual over the verbal. And third, some technical stuff that I can neither comprehend nor articulate… but I’m pretty sure it’s in there some place.

The first horseman arrives.  Behold, the rise of the specialized sites!  And like so many catastrophes, it sounded like a good idea at the time… As I recall, it was the castle community that inadvertently broke the first seal in 2003.  The castle heads were the first sub-community to strike out from the home world, they were the first brave souls to seek a better life on a distant planet, which their wizards had named Classic Castle.

In the interest of clarity, I don’t mean to point an accusing finger here.  I think the castle heads, as a culture, have always been one of the more refined and dignified AFOL sub-cultures.  They embody a sort of renaissance ideal.  They strike a balance between the icy, unblinking technical competence of the Train Heads and the aggressive emotionalism of the Spacers.  The castle heads are a calm, restrained and tolerant people.  They are by and large a friendly lot and enjoy a culture of gentile artisans and hearty drinkers.  Always willing to make room at their table, always ready to laugh (Come to think of it… Castle Heads might actually be Halflings…).  No, my intent here is not to admonish.

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Photo Credit: “Very old Friends” by the always entertaining Pate-keetongu.

Continue reading “Fire for Effect: Alas Alas That Great City LUGNET”

SHIPrites Vol 3: The Childhood Spaceship Dream

The Manifesto is proud to present the third installment of a month-long series by friend of the blog and creator of SHIPtember, Simon Liu.

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Welcome to volume 3 of SHIPrites, the SHIPtember Sunday spectacular. The Last two weeks I went on and on about the Journey.

This week we talk about the obvious: SHIPs.

SHIPtember is frankly the most obvious theme month and it was a just a matter of time before someone took the usual theme month concept and said, let’s focus on the thing most builders aspire to create in all of Sci-Fi/Space-dom.

But why is a SHIP so special? Let’s start with the definition of a SHIP.  Despite what some claim, SHIP stands for: Seriously Huge Investment in Parts. And I can prove it. I asked some OG spacers for help and we actually found this original LUGNET post concerning the coining of the phrase. In 2002, James Brown first proposed SHIP acronym: Seriously Huge Interstellar Plastic, and it was the great Jon Palmer who was first to christen the phrase:  Seriously Huge Investment in Parts. And ever since then it’s been some what of a communal aspiration to create a SHIP.

A great builder, Mark Kelso once said: “You’re not a man (or woman) until you’ve built a SHIP.” And judging from his latest, he is da MAN.

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But what makes SHIPS so special to Space builders? We have said it’s a rite of passage. Heck, this whole series is dedicated to the idea of building this milestone, in a month none the less!

If you look at all the other themes there isn’t really a comparison. Sure in castle you build.. well a castle. And trains you build… trains. That’s like saying space builds space.

No other group seems to be so obsessed with defined categories of builds. There are some strict limitations in say train – to build on the LEGO based train chassis but that’s because it’s effectively defined by LEGO. In town, in recent years there’s a pretty big shift to build on the Cafe Corner ‘modular’ standard – but do town builders aspire to build their ‘dream modular’?

Maybe there is, and please let me know, as I’m a primarily sci-fi or space builder. I like to think that I’m a well-rounded builder and know all the various facets of the community, but really I don’t, I’m heavily biased towards the groups that I tend to build in, and even going to the ‘big three’ conventions in the United States, that’s still a drop in the proverbial bucket of LEGO builders out there.

It’s kinda interesting if you think about it, sci-fi and space themes are all about exploring the new and different, strange new world and civilizations and such. Where anything can happen. And Space builders are encouraged to build weird and funky designs of the impossibilities.

Yet the Space/Sci-fi theme tends to have the most constrained rules to build the most unconstrained imaginative builds. Look at the plethora of Sci-fi theme months:

SHIPtember

MA.kTober

Novvember

Dronurary

FebRovery

Marchikoma

That’s 1/2 the year right there! And yet each one of these so-called open construction months have a very specific requirement and/or aesthetic.

I’m not actually sure why this is the case, or why that Sci-Fi has a disproportionate number of yearly theme months. There are definitely some others out there, but these are the established ones that almost run themselves. I believe the first true theme month would be Novvember, started by the late, great NNENN:

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With this first theme month he created the standard which we have all seemed to have prescribed to, define an objective – in his case a specific type of starfighter – two forward prongs, two rear fins and a big ass vertical stabilizer.And there it was, magic. Everyone bought into this seemingly simple criteria and built a slew of some of the best styled starfighters in LEGO form.  And others started repeating the pattern, creating a simple set of criteria and letting the imagination run wild. But again, mainly in space.

I look at the Classic Castle Contest – which has been running longer than all these theme months and their approach is slightly different, the categories usually state ‘what’ to build but not ‘how’ to build it. For instance build a ‘battering ram’ not ‘build a battering ram with 4 wheels and a skull head’ – when placed in context of the castle theme, these rigid design criteria seem totally draconian!

Yet in the sci-fi months – this is what happens time and again, and builders thrive on it, flexing and building around the rigid constraints! I don’t get it – Someone please explain!

Though the most hallowed design criteria of all sci-fi/spacers is the SHIP – the 100 stud long golden yardstick. How did this happen? The LUGNET thread isn’t exactly specific how the 100 stud marked was chosen, though it’s probably safe to surmise that it’s simply a nice round number. But it’s interesting that this number is extremely arbitrary to most builders, many SHIPtember vets don’t really aim for 100, just aim to be MORE than 100. I think this relates directly to the fundamental childhood dream of building a big spaceship. And it is just that, a spaceship, it’s not defined by 100 studs when we were younger. SHIPtember facilitates a bit of that dream – and there have been some builders that used the theme-month as their first time to finally build that bucket list item, not just spacers, but all sorts of builders.

But I think we’re missing a critical element that defines a SHIP.  I don’t know about you constant reader, but when I was a kid, and was dreaming about building a big spaceship it had an interior. Note that for all the restrictions in theme months SHIPtember is pretty lax in terms of design criteria, interiors are encouraged but not mandatory. And that’s MY mistake and shame to bare. SHIPtember has almost come to redefine what SHIPs are, and it was an unfortunate choice that interiors or minifig-scale wasn’t more of a defining design criteria for SHIPtember. But if you ask enough of those same OG space builders – it WAS.

In an effort to accommodate builders with various collection sizes and styles, this one design criteria was purposefully de-prioritized. Andrew Lee eloquently pointed out how I basically screwed over the definition of SHIP. Over the years definitions do change as do building styles and capabilities,  a decade ago  a SHIP used to be such a huge deal to get to the 100 studs mark, now with LUGbulk, Bricklink, PAB walls, 100 studs is actually pretty easy for most people. But with a full interior ?  …

Even 4 years later, and after some deep thought over this article I still debate that off the cuff decision. It was a pretty fundamental design criteria from the ‘childhood’ spaceship dream. But if we had added that to SHIPtember, would it have made the challenge too difficult?  We’ve talked in the past about how SHIPtember is only as hard as you want to make it, but if minifig scale with interior was such a requirement, would that make it simply too hard?

The reasons I think SHIPtember is so popular is that it’s fun. It’s probably only the only ‘collaborative’ theme month and people latched on and worked towards building in this month. For the most part most people are able to accomplish what they set off to do. Those more ‘advanced’ builders choose to build harder builds, with more advanced techniques, or even stupidly brick intensive designs. But would this still be what it is today if we had made it much harder to start off with?

At the same time there’s been a huge resurgence in giant SHIP building these last few years. At BrickCon 2015, one of the higher SHIP nexuses in the United States, we counted I believe 15 SHIPs on display, 12 of which were built just the month before in SHIPtember. We may have gained a new era in SHIPs by burying one of the key designs of the old era.

So I now sit here staring at my hull pieces and I ask myself, and in turn you constant reader, what’s does a SHIP mean to you?

Cheers,

Simon