May 2012 Steampunk Events Round-up

May’s always been a peak time for retrofuturistic adventuring, and there’s at least one event happening every weekend next month. Reporting about them is my pal Kevin Steil, the Airship Ambassador and our guest contributor S.J. Chambers, best known as the co-author of The Steampunk Bible with Jeff Vandermeer and co-propagator of its associated website, The Steampunk Bible 2.0.

For those interested in having your event listed as part of our round-up in the future, email me at [email protected]. I’ll be accepting details for June events from now until May 19th. ‘Til then, get your steamer trunk packed and ready, and check out some fancy dress shindigs after the jump.

The Airship Ambassador recommends:

Waltz On The Wye Steampunk Festival – May 18-20, Chepstow, Wales

Waltz on the Wye is Wales’ first Steampunk and Neo-Victorian Festival, based in the beautiful Medieval town of Chepstow, which is located on the River Wye on the England/Wales border.


Clockwork Alchemy – May 25-28, San Jose, CA

From its website: FanimeCon, in partnership with the Steam Federation, is proud to announce Clockwork Alchemy: “All are welcome! Come steam explorers and mad scientists! Come naval officers and airship pirates! Come monster hunters and vampires! Be you a colorful rogue or a refined lord or lady, your destiny calls. Engineers, shovel in more coal; clockmakers, set your alarms; inventors, present your extravagant contraptions!”


Steampunk World’s Fair – May 18-20, Piscataway, NJ

Now in its 3rd year, the Steampunk World’s Fair is back under the management of one of its original founders, Jeff Mach. From its website: “At The Steampunk World’s Fair you’ll find more performers and shows than ANYWHERE in the Steampunk nation—all in a friendly, welcoming festival atmosphere!”



About our guest contributor: S. J. Chambers is co-author of the Hugo nominated The Steampunk Bible (Abrams Image), and has appeared in, Bookslut, and Strange Horizons (where she was Articles Senior editor for two years).  Alas, she is unable to participate in all the revelry described above, and envious of all you beautiful Steampunks who will have such wonderful experiences at any or all of these great events. Have an Absinthe-tinged sip for her!

To find out more, you can follow S. J. on her twitter (@selena_jo) or her blog Bas Bleu Zombies.

S.J. recommends:

Watch City Festival (formerly International Steampunk City) – May 12-13, Waltham, MA

Why S.J. recommends this: “Rechristened the Watch City Festival for its second run, this convention of firsts was a first for me last year, as well as several thousand attendees. I wouldn’t call this a convention, I’d call it an experience. With several areas of downtown Waltham (a town that thrived off of its watch factories during the Industrial heyday) transformed into a Steampunk city, participants get the full sensorial experience of what this movement has to offer.

I really enjoyed my time last year, and looking at the schedule of events, am thrilled to see how much this weekend long event has grown in just a year.  There are hot air balloon rides, a make your own adventure pub crawl, a film festival, ham radio signals so enthusiasts can tune in to special radio dispatches, dirigible races, and some of the movement’s best authors, scholars, artist, makers and entertainers.  I highly recommend catching any scheduled events involving our own Ay-leen the Peacemaker, chatting with The Wandering Legion, and you all absolutely have to catch the Jules Verne lecture by Aurorarama author Jean-Christophe Valtat and Steampunk!: An Anthology editors Kelly Link and Gavin Grant. These author events are hosted by Back Pages Books, a great store that is offering discounts to Watch City revelers.  Also make sure to take a tour of Jake von Slatt’s Steampunk Bus which will conjure the wanderlust in any aspiring wandering spirit.”


AetherFest – May 4-6, San Antonio, TX

Why S.J. recommends this: “Man, I don’t even know how to write about this year’s AetherFest (the “unconventional people’s convention”) without sounding like a total fangirl, but OMG the guest list is incredible! Magpie Killjoy, O.M. Grey, Unwoman, Doctor Q, Jaymee Goh, JoSelle Vanderhooft, The Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew, Airship Isabella, Gearhearts, and the Emperor of the Red Fork Empire, and my favorite bounty hunter Steampunk Boba Fett. Phew—and that isn’t all.  Texas is a large state with a large heart for Steampunk, and Aetherfest goers are in for a comprehensive, diverse, and rollicking experience under the roof of historic St. Anthony Hotel, a historical hotel located by San Antonio’s riverwalk.”  [Note: The Airship Ambassador will be in attendance there as well!]


Maker’s Faire Bay Area – May 19 -20, San Mateo Event Center, San Mateo, CA

Why S.J. recommends this: “The Maker’s Faire Bay Area is on my bucket list of events I want to attend.  Even before I knew of Steampunk, my West Coast friends were always touting the glory of Make magazine’s convention that emphasizes and highlights the art of Making and DIY. Also known as the “greatest show and tell event on Earth,” this is the premier venue where Makers and DIY enthusiasts engage in idea exchange, and where Steampunk legends are made.  

Of course, each year is different, and therefore different legends are woven and constructed, but this year, like any year proves to be epic.  For instance, Mythbuster’s Adam Savage will be hosting and presenting while Marnia Johnston, of TE+ND Rovers, will be demonstrating and discussing her “robotic plant-fostering environments.” If the Bay Area is out of your tower range, there are other mini-Faires around the country, including a New Kid on the Block in Orlando on May 26.

Additional events from around the World

Aether and Iron at MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) – April 28, Western Springs, Auckland, New Zealand

What would the world have been like if history had taken a different path? Let MOTAT show you what Steampunk is all about at our Victorian science fiction event.

Discover a world of futuristic innovations as Victorians might have envisioned them, with workshops to “Steampunk” your ray gun, character creation workshops, steam train rides and prizes for the best dressed on the day.

Kids and adults alike will have a blast as they learn about the history of “Steampunk” at the information kiosk and take part in the fascinating activities including making your own pair of “Steampunk” goggles, airship registration and a competition trail.


Neo-Victorian & Steampunk Fashion Show – April 29, 3:00pm until 4:30pm, Brooklyn, NY

Showcasing work by five contemporary designers inspired by the fashions of the 19th century, the New York Nineteenth Century Society presents the 2012 Neo-Victorian and Steampunk fashion show at the historic Old Stone House Museum in Brooklyn, New York. Featured designers: Kambriel, Purevile, Berít New York, I Do Declare, Morrigan New York.

The fashion show is part of The NYC 19th Century Extravaganza, a three day festival of hands-on events, lectures, and performances celebrating Victorian-era New York City history, and culminating in a full-day Sunday picnic at the Old Stone House Museum! 


Steampunk Tarot Launch Party – May 5, 7:30 – 9:00pm, Minneapolis, MN

Celebrate the release of this stunning new deck with co-creator Barbara Moore at the Eye of Horus Metaphysical Store. Come in your finest steampunk attire to be eligible to win prizes. The Steampunk Tarot takes us to the place where the past and future converge. Artist Aly Fell, in collaboration with Taroist Barbara Moore, have retooled the gears of the Rider-Waite tradition with a steampunk edge with renderings which evoke our complex relationship with science and technology. The included manual by Barbara Moore provides tips, original spreads, and guidance in reading the tarot cards.


“Tomorrow’s World…Today!” A Clockwork Watch Transmedia Experience – May 6, London, UK & worldwide

Beneath the London Bridge Station, the launch party for a new storytelling project begins; “Tomorrow’s World…Today” is a one-day theatrical interactive experience where the tunnel beneath London will be transformed into an alternative Victorian street market and announce the unveiling of a new automaton.  Produced by award-winning creator Yomi Ayeni, this event as part of Clockwork Watch, a planned three-year transmedia storytelling project that will include live theater, graphic novels, online adventures and culminate in a feature film. “Tomorrow’s World…Today will also feature a steampunk market, guest musician Professor Elemental and The Bohemianauts, a Victorian Cocktail Lounge by Alchemist Dreams, and room for lots of adventurous participation by the audience.


Jupiter Olympus and Sensorium Editions present The Touring Pop-Up Sideshow Saloon – May 6 in San Francisco, CA and May 14 in Brooklyn, NY.

“Come revel in vintage mixology and spectacular entertainment inspired by the great saloons and sideshow attractions of the 1850s. Prepare to be amazed! Cocktails, oddities, singular performers and curious mechanisms worthy of P.T. Barnum! This event will be touring across the country: first at The General Beverage Co. iSan Francisco on May 6th and The Counting Room in Brooklyn on May 14th.  Showcasing a stunning Contortionist, a Real Mermaid, and astoundingly interactive displays of archaic technologies by The Museum of Interesting Things. The mixologists of Jupiter Olympus will fabricate vintage cocktails and operate a hand-cranked Imperial Cocktail Shaker. Conjoined Anomaly Jillian Lerner will be on site to confabulate and sign copies of her graphic novel The Peerless Prodigies of P.T. Barnum. Costumes are encouraged. RSVP via Facebook or [email protected]


Gaslight Gathering II – May 11-13, San Diego, CA 

Southern California’s First Steampunk and Victorian convention is planning for a “journey to the center of the Earth.” Guests are to be announced soon, but it looks like it’s going to be an interesting con, featuring maker workshops, teas, and a Victorian swimsuit competition (oh my…)


Steampunk Travel Gallery Exhibit at Steam at Harper’s Ferry – May 12-13, Harper’s Ferry, WV

Pith Helmet Provisions and Jason Edwards are showing their steampunk travel works at Steam at Harper’s Ferry. See Napoleon’s Necessities and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 3D!


World Steam Expo – May 25-28, Dearborn, MI

From its website: “In 2010, we presented you a show 120 years in the making, and in 2011 we produced one of the largest Steampunk experiences in the world. Now we return in 2012 to bring you an event beyond the scope of your imaginations! Join us once again this next Memorial Day Weekend for high adventure and exploration galore!  From elaborate events to a vendor’s hall that is beyond compare, we will bring the wonders of the world here, all for your enjoyment and entertainment. We look forward to meeting you, and your expectations.”

Ay-leen the Peacemaker really, really wishes she had more time to go to all of these cons. But, when not dealing with grad school woes, she runs the multicultural steampunk blog Beyond Victoriana and flutters about on Twitter.


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