Convention Extravaganza–Reporting from Nova Albion: The Wild, Wild East

 First stop in this Con Extravaganza series is Nova Albion, based in Santa Clara, California. This con was formerly named Steam Powered, and I first heard about it from Mike Perschon‘s blog years ago. This year’s Nova Albion is the first steampunk convention to address a non-Western theme, and I was intrigued when they had invited me as a speaker back in the fall of 2010.  Obviously, having a theme like this was an opportunity to break a lot of ground in the community…. or it could’ve easily been flooded with cultural objectification (because we all know how much white people love consuming and commodifying Asian stuff & people) without any equally reciprocal interactions with, well, other Asians & Asian-Americans and our history and culture.

To be honest, this con was great in a lot of ways, but its treatment of the theme wasn’t perfect. I had a bunch of fantastic experiences and a bunch of uncomfortable ones. The reports and footage from this event, then, address a lot of different aspects, and our guest reporters and myself definitely walked away with dynamically different impressions of the con.

In addition to my own report, the Airship Ambassador Kevin Steil returns to give an event-by-event account, as does my intellectual comrade-in-arms Jaymee Goh. Krishna Raghunath also did some film reporting about the con for a class project and graciously offered to post her project here.  All images from Nova Albion are provided by myself and Astra Kim, one of the many new friends I had made at the con.

Check all this out after the jump.

The Reports:

Ay-leen the Peacemaker

Nova Albion‘s theme could’ve been a game-changer for steampunk. But what was the purpose behind that? Are they challenging ideas about what steampunk means? Are they interested in engaging with the local Asian-American community and get them involved? Did steampunks just want an excuse to wear corsets over their kimonos? During a year when SteamCon II hosted a theme called The Wild Wild West, did the organizers only desire to put a cheeky spin in reaction to a fellow con?

In other words: would they treat Eastern cultures as the “ethnic twist” that spices up their lives? Or did they want to do something that challenged the status quo in our community?

Read more on “The Good, the Bad & the Weird.”

Jaymee Goh

But still, Nova Albion is in California! And I heard California is like, land of Asians in the realm of America! We both made suggestions that the organizers look up local organizations to speak at the convention, because, what an opportunity to highlight the local Asian populations! Bring in history that’s rarely discussed in mainstream spaces! Or just lend exposure to local Asians who might not have such a platform otherwise! I was looking forward to meeting some awesome Asian intellectuals and academics and, of course, fellow steampunks!

ISSUES, THERE WERE SOME

Read more in “”The Awesome, The Not-So-Much, and Other Stories”.

Kevin Steil

The weekend of March 25-27 was a busy convention filled one. Steampunk Industrial Revolution was in New Hampshire, Anomalycon was in Colorado, and Nova Albion was in California.

Steampunk friends, Matt Delman, presented Roots of Steampunk at SIR, and author Michelle Black presented Absinthe: The Green Muse at Anonalycon. Reviews of those conventions are here and here.

That leaves me presenting at Nova Albion with a wonderful host of new and old friends and acquaintances. It was a great weekend and the experiences left my clockwork heart and steampunk soul energized with creativity and filled with great happiness.

Read more in “Friends, Fun & Festivities”.

The Video:

Filmed and produced by Krishna Raghunath. Krishna is an artist and aspiring filmmaker in the SF Bay. She likes loose leaves, ginger tea and walks in primeval forests.

The Pictures:

Astra Kim is a Bay Area-based photographer, independent filmmaker (www.skeleton-crew.net), and social justice advocate. As a Steampunk enthusiast, she can be found running around with the St. Clair Aeronauts and participating in discussions online under the moniker of TempestedBird. The full set of Astra’s Nova Albion pictures can be seen here.

One brave puppy against one Tiki Delek. Who will win?

Mo Awobo and her pup Switzerland of Opera Scura

Members of The League of S.T.E.A.M.

Stan Chiao of Steampunk Garage

Alice Bentley, Kaja Foglio’s assistant, presiding over Girl Genius merch

One of the coolest ideas I’ve seen at a con: the Aetheric Message Machine Company hand-delivered messages that people either wrote by hand or typed to their friends. They also accepted text messages or emailed notes, which they then typed out to give to the recipients.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Convention Extravaganza–Reporting from Nova Albion: The Wild, Wild East

  1. I see you liked our Aetheric Message Machines. That’s Bex Li operating the machine and running our telegraph office.

    It’s all real. The messages come in as text messages from people’s cell phones, and are printed automatically. Bex cuts them off the paper roll, stamps them, puts them in envelopes, sort them into bundles by destination, and hands them off to the Aeronauts for hand delivery. The Aeronauts deliver them around the convention. It’s fun to see people’s reactions as they realize this is a real service.

    We’d like to see more operations like ours, where working steampunk equipment is used to do something useful.

    • John, it’s a lot of fun to run around conventions delivering the machine’s messages. As you say, it’s great when people realise that it’s something real that adds a little bit more flare to an event. I love that the security staff of Nova Albion has actually turned the Aetheric messages into a running joke/game with one another.

      I agree, I’d love to see more stuff like that in the steampunk scene where people are *really* blending technology and the older aesthetic into something that’s both pretty and actually functional.