Steampunk Month

Gogglicious: A Steamcon Report

Steamcon has concluded and the intrepid organizers of the convention likely all spent Sunday evening unlacing their corsets and taking the goggles off and drinking copious amounts of some libation well deserved. From my perspective, the convention was a great success, especially when considering that it was a maiden voyage, so to speak. While many of the organizers had been involved in other conventions, none of them had created one from the ground up before. Bravo. I knew the convention was off to a good start when on the shuttle from the airport to the hotel I counted no fewer than five excellent hats, and none of the baseball or trucker varieties.

(Aside: Gentlemen at steampunk events, consider tipping your hat to a lady. Just a thought.)

While I doubt anyone involved in designing the Seatac Marriot had retrofuturism in mind, the plentiful browns and greens certainly didn’t detract from the aesthetic vision of the convention. Those of us in costume were, I believe, more at ease among the dark woods and plants than we’d have been in a more intentionally modern hotel.

I must say it’s a good thing I liked the atrium so much, as that’s where I spent the first three or so hours of the convention, waiting in line for registration. The wait was frustrating; I won’t lie. But the spirit of the crowd enduring it along with me was so positive, so supportive of the first-time con-runners, no one freaked out about how long it was taking. Great slack was cut.

Meine Damen und Herren, allow me to pass on a bit of advice: pre-register. This convention, I averred with great consternation as I waited, would be the last time I failed to pre-register. I will pre-register for every convention from here on out. I will pre-register for my own funeral if I can. Never again will I shuffle like an obedient cow zombie waiting in interminable convention registration lines.

Part of the registration problem, and really, the convention’s largest problem, was in many ways not a problem at all. There were one hell of a lot more people than expected. When the convention was first thought up, they expected four to six hundred people. They ended up with around fourteen hundred. This meant the panel discussions were overcrowded, the vendor and art rooms too small, and other logistical troubles. But what this also means is it was a big, fat success numerically and next year will in all likelihood be even bigger. And for those of us who think that axle grease and jodhpurs go marvelously well together, this is welcome news.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this convention was that about 98 percent of the participants dressed accordingly. I know that costuming is but one of the many facets of steampunk, but it is perhaps the easiest facet to take part in if you have no particular costuming skill or money (viz. the author of this post). And had the dress-up factor have been closer to 50 percent, it would have all felt lazy.

Speaking of lazy, I had originally planned to come with not only a talking brain in a jar but also a self-opening personal ornithopter. Alas, these have not yet come to be. But never mind; my derby hat, cravat, waistcoat and, most of all, moustache, saved me. Never before had strangers at conventions asked to take my picture. I felt pretty jaunty, I must say, and I have thrift stores and Clubman Moustache Wax to thank for my Mackie Messer-ish dapperness. Cherie Priest thought I looked like a villain out of a Sherlock Holmes movie, and for those words of kindness she has my eternal gratitude.

(Penultimate aside: I prefer moustache to mustache. It feels more curly.)

Along with my previously lamented lack of judgment regarding registration, I also failed to obtain a ticket to see Abney Park and Vernian Process. Double-damned alas and a side order of dash-it-all! However, I did get to spend some time demonstrating contact juggling and entertaining (I hope entertaining; at the very least, not injuring) the lucky ones with tickets as they waited in line for the show. Contact juggling, one passer-by informed me, is not in the least Victorian, to which I replied, neither is a Nerf gun. Or the lear 2009, for that matter. Leave us not lose perspective.

(Final aside: French cuffs, gentlemen. What could it hurt?)

An atmosphere of amiable approachability pervaded the convention, and you couldn’t swing a rusty spanner without hitting someone interesting and fun to talk to, as you apply the bandages. I saw a number of fine science fiction authors, such as the ever-affable Tim Powers, the afore-mentioned and complimentary Ms. Priest, the lanky and splendid Paul Guinan, and Jay Lake, resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt I’m led to believe once belonged to H. Rider Haggard. I also met Liz Gorinsky, the mastermind (should that be mistressmind?) of’s entire steampunk month, who is quite tall besides. Oh, and I had my picture taken with two members of Abney Park and Jake Von Slatt. That equals 423 steam-cred points. I’m well on my way to earning a Zeppelin.

And so, the convention is over, steampunk month is nearly over and this post is especially nearly over, but I am thinking of it all as a beginning. I’m filled with a sense of optimism and adventure when I think of the future of steampunk (which is turning out to be far less a fad than many had considered it to be) and I have no doubt the next Steamcon will live up to the promise shown.

(Special thanks to Yaquina Photography for permission to use the super cute kid photo.)


When Jason Henninger isn’t waxing his moustache, reading, writing, juggling, cooking or raising evil genii, he works for Living Buddhism magazine in Santa Monica, CA.


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