A Writer's Journey

June 4, 2012

Steampunk

Filed under: journey,off topic,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I’ll be honest: I agreed to go to a steampunk convention for three reasons. 1. It sounded cool. 2. I’d be going with my dearest friends. 3. It meant I could wear a corset. As you’ll notice, nowhere in my reasoning was “I am interested in steampunk.” But we’ll do anything once.

So what is steampunk? Well, I’m probably not the best person to explain it. But I’ll give it a go anyway.

Picture a world where technology runs on steam power rather than electricity. It’s a world full of airships (dirigibles), the Victorian world. (This also includes the American West, though not to the same degree). There is some debate over its placement genre-wise. From what I can tell, it is placed under “science fiction.” I also argue that it can be considered “alternate history.” More on alternate history next week.

The one category I disagree with is fantasy. I can understand why some people think it is. I noticed a lot of steampunk has a paranormal feel to it as well. Makes sense, if you think about it. Steampunk is set in the latter half of the 19th century. For those familiar with either history or literature or art, you know that was the Gothic period. Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, etc. So it’s only natural to bring in the paranormal. (Which doesn’t necessarily make it “fantasy,” people).

So how did I prepare for the convention? Did some research, of course. I do it, you know. And looking for my costume helped. There are tons of steampunk sites out there that sell clothing (which are very expensive, I’m not going to lie). In the process, you learn about the types of characters you will see. My costume was a green corset with black lacing and rhinestones paired with a green taffeta skirt and a black floral lace sweater. I also wore my heeled boots. As for hair, I left it down but curled it. A friend loaned me a headband with a little top hat on it. Another friend lent me her a choker with a cog on it to complete the look. It’s my blog, so I feel I can blow my own horn a bit, and I think I looked good.

My friends and I created characters. There was Baron von Burgher, a wealthy airship captain. Also present was Sir Tobias Winthrop, another airship captain whose expeditions are funded by his wife, Lady Adeline. She was born into a high-class family but decided to marry for love. And last was my character, Mrs. Mercy Jameson. A widowed saloon owner who keeps the peace amongst her clients, she is a no-nonsense woman with secrets. I’m writing up a story with them.

The convention was held in Piscataway, NJ, between two hotels. This was the biggest steampunk convention in the country (or at least this side of the country). And I was surprised. There were six different ways into the hotels. Registration was at one hotel (and poorly labeled) while we were only checked for our badges at one other door. I’m not telling this as a “Psst, here’s how to go in without paying way” heads up. This is a sign of poor planning and I hope the convention planners rectify this.

The vendors were quite interesting and had some good merchandise. There were a few problems though. I was looking at a table filled with books. There was no vendor standing by the table. Who was I to direct my questions toward? And aside from my Irish Catholic guilt and morals, what was preventing me from just putting a book in my bag and walking away?

The other thing was that my friends and I were horrified to find that most of the vendors were set up in hotel rooms. In a few cases, it was okay. Those vendors knew how to set up their wares to hide the fact we were in a hotel room. And in the case of clothing vendors, used the bathroom as a changing room. But many vendors didn’t hide that you were in a hotel room and it seemed wrong. Like, “Hey, wanna check out these products that fell off the back of a truck?” I understand the convention planners may not have the resources to get a place like the Jacob Javits Civic Center, but if your plan involves hotel rooms, you need to rethink your strategy. Especially as traffic in the hallways was horrible.

Another thing was the scheduling of panels. Most seemed to be either Friday or Sunday. Other conventions seem to run the best panels on Saturdays. Why? Because that’s when the most people go! People work on Fridays or use it to travel. Sundays are when people travel back or may be Christians who, gasp, go to church. So reconsider your options.

This may seem like “accentuate the negative.” But there were some good points. Once again, the vendors had good merchandise as well as a genuine interest in steampunk. The people who run also have the same interest. There was a good feeling throughout the day. There are just a few things that need improvement but I think the con can only get better.

As for steampunk, color me interested. I bought a book (from a table with a vendor present) and gathered information as a writer. The short story I’m writing may be my only foray into steampunk. Or it may be just step one in a new direction. You never know.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] background-position: 50% 0px ; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } awriterjourney.wordpress.com – Today, 11:20 […]

    Pingback by Steampunk « A Writer's Journey | Science Fiction Books | Scoop.it — June 4, 2012 @ 12:20 pm | Reply


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