Full Circle

2001: A Space Odyssey space suit and monlith

Back of Suit with Monolith
© 2001 D. M. Dubé

Suit with Monolith
© 2001 Ken Warren

© 2001 G. Anderson

© 2001 G. Anderson

© 2001 G. Anderson

© 2001 Ken Warren

This is the first competitive costume I have ever made.  Built from January to May, 2001, it was first shown at Balticon 35 (Memorial Day weekend, 2001).  It won Best In Show Workmanship, Best In Class (Novice) and Best In Show.  Its second and final showing was at the 59th Annual World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in Philadelphia, where it won Best In Class (Journeyman), Most Creative Use of Materials (Workmanship) and a Most Promising Newcomer award from a costumer's amateur press association.

It was intended to be as close a duplication of the real Discovery space suits as I could manage with limited materials, budget and time.  There were some corners I deliberately cut, and some mistakes I made which are only apparent now.  But I like to think I did at least as well as the IBM commercials that aired over the Christmas, 2000, holidays.  At least my suit fits no worse than theirs do.

The costume is made from quilted blue metallic nylon, grey vinyl for the boots, Pleather® for the gloves, 1.5" black webbing, embroidery hoops spray painted silver, yellow foam-core, yellow poster board, yellow electrical tape, duct tape, corrugated black tubing, and lots of found objects for the details.  The helmet is a buckram and plaster tape mold with cardboard sides, reinforced with duct tape, and finished with blue masking tape.  The mask is liquid latex, molded in a children's gorilla mask, and colored with brown shoe polish.

The monolith stands 90 inches tall (not counting the wheels), 40 inches wide and 18 inches deep (I sacrificed authenticity for stability - the "true" proportions are supposed to be 1x4x9), consisting of a frame of 2x2 posts, black-on-black foam core, and a television-screen-shaped opening backed with plexi-glass and grey cotton fabric.  Behind the television was a "Big Ball Of Lite" disco ball to make an old-style sci-fi swirling-blobs-of-light display.  The monolith doesn't appear in the Balticon official photography (courtesy of Gordon Callahan) because it was in the ballroom, and photography took place in a corner of the green room.  So we staged a few shots behind the house the following week.  However, in the official WorldCon photography (courtesy of Ken Warren) we were able to roll it over in time. 

The presentation ran just under a minute.  You can hear the soundtrack here:   fullcircle.mp3 - 861KB

The stage sets in dark, with the stage ninjas positioning the monolith, switched off, in the center.  As the soundtrack starts (the hissing, breathing noise from the 2001 EVA sequences), the monolith is back-lit in silhouette with orange lights.  I come out as the sound transitions to Also Sprach Zarathustra, and, also silhouetted, touch the monolith.  As we get to the end of Zarathustra (around 20 seconds), I hit the switch on the front of the monolith, turning on the disco ball.  We begin fading down the back lighting and fading up a blue twilight in the front and a spot on the space suit.

A few seconds later, we have a tenth of a second of brown noise intended to sound like an old TV changing channels, and we abruptly segue into six seconds from the beginning of Star Trek.  I cock my head quizzically.  Then we transition into the theme from Friends, and I clamp my hands over my helmet as though in pain (a la the TMA-1 scene).  Then we transition into the theme from Survivor 2, and I hunch over and writhe.  As we transition into the Beverly Hillbillies, I pull the helmet off and face the audience to reveal that the television has devolved me back into an ape (hence the gorilla mask).  Looking as simian as I can, I roar at the audience a few times, via the sound track, as I shamble off stage, just in time to hear, "Y'all come back now, y'hear?"  The lights go down, and the stage ninjas switch off the monolith and roll it back off-stage.

Hence the title, Full Circle.

Details, more pictures, and discussion of the costume's achievements and shortcomings can be found under the Construction Page.  Until the video comes, expected several months after the convention, we won't have any shots of the presentation in action, so we'll have to make do with what we've got photographed here.  For the impatient, or those less interested in a long, rambling tale about how the costume came together, there's a Reader's Digest version here.

Poole In His SuitBowman's Suit From the BackHowever, you might find it useful to look at pictures and out-takes from the movie to see the original suit construction.  Starship Modeler, a web site all about modeling classic science-fiction space ships and other elements, has a good collection of images in support of models they have been involved with, including a section all about the space suits worn in 2001.  I have also included images I captured from the film itself, using a venerable old Snappy® video device, within each of the areas of the Construction Pages.

Thanks for dropping by.  I hope you enjoy the show.

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