Two weeks ago, on May 1st, the coffee table book The Steampunk Bible (Abrams Image) by myself and Jeff VanderMeer was released. We celebrated with a book release party in Austin, TX at the U.S. Arts Authority.
I’ve recieved a flurry of inquiries as to why I picked Austin as the location for the book’s launch, and it’s because it has some amazing steampunk roots in writers like Rick Klaw, Michael Moorcock, and Bruce Sterling, who all contributed to the book. There is also a very amazing and newly active group called The Austin Steampunk Society.
Austin itself is a steampunk kind of town in that there is a huge DIY art and maker scene, which manifests itself in festivals such as SFSX. It’s downtown area is filled with historical buildings revamped into retro and gothic conjuring bars like The Bat, The Ghost House, and most notably the absinthe bar Peché.
A wabi sabi mixture of wood paneling paired with brick walls, Peché has the feel of a speakeasy within a captain’s cabin, you know, if that Captain were Oscar Wilde. Replete with handsome staff in waistcoats and sideburns, an absinthe menu that’d make Baudelaire speechless, and a playlist that shuffled from Billie Holiday to the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Louis Armstrong to Texas’ own Reverend Horton Heat, the Green Fairy is alive and well here.
Austin is 100% a literary city, and its bookstores reflect that fact with pride. At Half-Priced Books, you’ll find coveted and obscure titles among Remingtons and printing ephemera. Austin Books & Comics has a very kind and knowledgeable staff that helped me out at both World Horror and at the U. S. Arts Authority, where they were co-sponsors of the event. They’ve got an amazing selection, and are always throwing awesome events, like with 30 Days and Nights’ Steve Niles. I highly recommend that this store be on all Austin itineraries.
The book release party was held on Sunday, May 1st, and thanks to a wonderful piece by Marc Savlov in The Austin Chronicle, aforementioned Austin Books & Comics, Peggy Hailey, Rick Klaw, Brandy Whitten, and the wonderful word-spreading of World Horror friends like Nick Mamatas and Jaym Gates, there was a great turn out at the U.S. Arts Authority.
The evening began with a panel discussion between myself and contributors Rick Klaw, Liz Gorinsky, Jess Nevins, and Michael Moorcock. We all discussed our various takes on steampunk, its history, its evolution, and its future. We were also treated to a nice chat with Austin Steampunk Society members Admiral John Wilhelm and Arvis, both who discussed steampunk as a gateway to exploring and discussing cultural diversity and history, as well as just making cool stuff. Rick Klaw ended the panel with a crash course in steampunk television, and showed some episodes of Riese while we all signed books.
It was a wonderful night, and I want to thank everyone who came out and helped make such a fun night. To celebrate the steampunk in Austin, and Texas, and those who participated, my auto-blogger Mecha Underwood is running a Texas week over at www.steampunkbible.com.
S.J. Chambers is an independent Poe scholar and the Articles senior editor at Strange Horizons. Her first book, The Steampunk Bible, co-authored with Jeff VanderMeer, is out now. To celebrate its release, she is embarking on a fortnight tour throughout New England starting May 20th. More information about dates and appearances can be found here.