Category Archives: Conventions

On Dragon*Con: Talking about Current Events and Steampunk

Ferguson_DCon_room

Dragoncon attendees stand with Ferguson at the Race and Gender Issues in Alternate History panel.

Dragon*Con has always been a highlight of my convention circuit. This year consisted of five panels, lots of interesting discussion, new faces and old, plus raising money for a good cause. I’m especially grateful for the sincere responsiveness and discussion at the Race and Gender Issues in Alternate History panel that happened on Saturday, where the audience showed their solidarity for the events in Ferguson. I also want to thank the many, many attendees who bought black ribbons and donated to the Mike Brown Legal Defense Fund while I was on-panel.

 

Ferguson_DCon_panel

With panelists (from right to left): Diana Pho, Emmett Davenport, Michael Martinez, Stephanie Osborn, Milton Davis, and Tony Ballard-Smoot.

I’ve received some pushback from readers who asked, “Why bring personal politics to an alternate history panel/ a steampunk blog?” First of all, I am mystified by the idea that people thought that my work in steampunk isn’t political, especially since the blog’s mission statement since its founding in 2009 states:

Steampunk, because it’s an aesthetic & a subgenre inspired by a time period fraught with a complex social and political history, is never apolitical. The nineteenth century was a time of intellectual achievement, innovation, and geopolitical expansion. At the same time, that greatness came at the expense of slavery, oppression, social inequality, and racism. These problems did not go away once the Victorian era ended, and in fact, the social scars are still visible upon our society today. So when speaking about steampunk from non-Eurocentric settings, difficult issues about race, class, marginalized histories, and cultural appropriation will be addressed.

Also, some thoughts about the role of alternate history in our lives. Speculative fiction is based on fantasies and people usually interpret that as irrelevant to daily life. But the power of a fantasy is related to everyday experiences and histories. Stories that intrigue are stories that people connect with, compare to, or contrast against their own personal stories — even when based on an alternate history or in deep space or in another world entirely. In fact, the significance of steampunk’s “what if?” premise is lost if the reader can’t compare that “what if” to the actual events that the story is playing against. The function of alternate history itself is based on exploring new stories based on the stories we already know (or presume to know).

Reading steampunk is not only entertaining, but it is engaging because it actively posits that the reader understands historical realities. For example, in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series, when she talks about the dangers that Captain Croggon Buearegard, a former slave and airship captain, faces, or the resistence of occupied New Orleans, or the importance of Mexican government officials investigating these yellow-sap zombies, or just the awesomeness of Princess (and she is awesome)–all of that conflict and adventure is forgrounded by the complexisies of the Civil War and the roles various minority groups had.

Another example is Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s “The Governess and We”  from Steampunk World: a story of spycraft in Siam during the reign of King Mongkut. This is also a story about three women, two fictional and one historical: Aunrampha the palace spymaster to the Thai throne, the tinker Ging, and Anna, popularly-known as the English governess to the King (and also not as known, a mixed race Anglo-Indian woman and a suffragette). The King and I is what the West knows about Anna Leonowens’ time in Siam, but Sriduangkaew changes our perceptions of the truths we take for granted from one fictional story by presenting us with another based on other histories.

So when we look at events like Ferguson and people say, “How could this happen?” they are saying this because they have only heard one particular set of stories about life in the US. If they blame the people of Ferguson for overreacting or putting their police force in a bad light, they are believing one story over reality.  Everyday we are bombarded by biased media and perceptions we take for granted as “normal”.  Speculative fiction — especially steampunk — overtly create gonzo, funhouse mirror reflections of our own society, but in that process show how our “normalities” are equally based on fictions.

In this particular case, taking a stance on Ferguson on this blog is taking a side with what I think steampunk does.  Storytelling itself is never neutral, apolitical, ahistorical, or a pointless fantasy, but communicates with the world around us. Stories can bridge the chasms of misunderstanding that form between people through empathy. For a genre based on lies about reality, steampunk requires you to understand our reality deeply in order to appreciate the lie. And by seeing through the lies, you can also find a reason to fight for a greater truth.

DragonCon_Ferguson

Over $200 dollars was raised on-panel from attendee donations.

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Dragon*Con Announcements: Black Ribbons for #Mike Brown and #Ferguson

Viceroy Chang, cyborg steampunk panda and my convention companion,  has an very important message to our readers:

Viceroy_hands-up

“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

See? He’s a pretty up with current events and both of us have been upset about the violence happening in Ferguson against protesters after the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO.  Often, it’s easy to slip into the “convention bubble” and ignore the serious issues affecting others. Like how we should keep the “punk” in steampunk, we should also work toward dismantling historically-created systems of oppression when we see it, and not just make it our Alt Hist fantasy.

Dragon*Con is coming up in less than a week. Along with conducting an array of panels and meeting with book people (contact me for available appointments), at the convention I will be wearing and selling black ribbons in protest against police brutality and the death of Mike Brown. Ribbons will be “pay-as-you-wish” — I’ll accept anything from a copper Abe Lincoln to a Benjamin.

Black Ribbon Against Police Brutality

Black Ribbon Against Police Brutality

All proceeds will be donated to several organizations to help the citizens of Ferguson & the Brown family when I return from the convention. The orgs haven’t been chosen yet, because I don’t know which ones will still need support in a couple of weeks, but it will be one or two on this list of grassroots organizations (EDIT 8/25: NEW LINK HERE). People are, of course, welcome to donate directly to any of them now.

For those of you who don’t know my face (and hey, with thousands of congoers, it can get pretty hectic), I’ll be sporting this arm band while walking around the con. Feel free to flag me down to donate and ask for a ribbon.

hands up

Look for the black armband

Please signal-boost widely, and I’ll see some of you in Atlanta!

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Dragon*Con 2014 Schedule

Alt Hist Dragon Con logo

Excited to announce my schedule for Dragon*Con this year! I’ll also be taking appointments with any interested authors & agents — feel free to email me at attic [dot] hermit [at] gmail [dot] com to get started.


Title:
Fiction & the Silk Road
Description: Open discussion about scifi & fantasy literature written about and inspired by the Silk Road.
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Piedmont – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-

Title: Adventurous Women-Traveling in the 19th Century
Description: This roundtable discussion will encompass women and detailed travels during the 19th and early 20th century.
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-

Title: Race & Gender Issues in Alternate History
Description: Do we pick the best parts of the past and ignore the rest? How do we handle gender and race roles? This discussion panel explores this and more.
Time: Sat 07:00 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
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Title: TOR To Come
Description: TOR gives us a glimpse of what is upcoming from them in a good opportunity to plan your reading.
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Regency V – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
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Title: Crossculture in History
Description: Non-English and non-American cultures in history focusing on Africa and India. Warning: may blow the mind.
Time: Sun 05:30 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel

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Detcon1 & San Diego Comic Con Schedule

Detcon1

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be convention-hopping across the country.  First up is Detcon1, which is doing some amazing things for the sci-fi and local community. Afterwords, I’ll be hitting up the Mecca of all Geek Cons, San Diego Comic Con working at the Tor Books booth and appearing at the Witty Women of Steampunk panel. Details are below.


 

DETCON1 SCHEDULE

Friday

The League of Extraordinary Black People – 12 PM – Mackinac West
Multiculturalism has become a hot topic in the XYZ-punk community. How does this impact creators and their work in Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Alternate History? What issues arise in moving toward a more diverse retrofuturistic community?
Panelists: Emmy Jackson (moderator), Balogun Ojetade, Salathiel Palland, Pablo M.A Vazquez III

[I can assure you that I am the token non-black person on this panel.  :) ]

Dealing with Bad Apples – 2 PM — Ambassador Salon 2
Trolls, creepers, or just plain jerks. We’ve all encountered them at cons and online. Panelists discuss tools–like comment moderation and harassment policies–for keeping foul and prejudiced people from chasing others out of our community spaces, events, and organizations. And what to do when “they” are “us.”
Panelists: Steven H Silver (moderator), Tim Miller, Mark Oshiro, Jesi Pershing, John Scalzi

Steampunk Style — 3 PM — Duluth A
What makes a costume “steampunk”? What props do you need to do it right? Why is steampunk the hottest costuming craze right now?
Panelists: Janine, Balogun Ojetade

Saturday

What Am I Looking For? — 12 PM — Mackinac East
Agents and editors talk about the sorts of projects that interest them individually and answer general publishing questions.
Panelists: Self (moderator), Richard Flores IV, Kate Baker, Neil Clarke, Sam Morgan, Bryon Quertermous

Welcome to Night Vale: What You Should Know About It – 3PM — Mackinac East
Turn on your radio and hide. Our panelists share their love for Welcome to Night Vale, the viral podcast drama that combines surreal humor, human relationships, and weird creeping horror into a delightful community radio show. If you know Night Vale, come. If you don’t know Night Vale, come and bring your friends. There will be no hooded figures.
Panelists: Anne Harris (moderator), Rachael Acks, Bill Sutton


 

 

SAN DIEGO COMIC CON

Witty Women of Steampunk
The Witty Women of Steampunk — Friday, July 25 at 2:30 PM – San Diego Convention Center, Room 24ABC
Come join us for this witty panel, now celebrating its 3rd year at San Diego Comic-Con International!
While the Victorian era was known for its constraints on morals, behaviors and bosoms, steampunks have turned things on their head by reimagining a history that never was. Women creators have loosened those traditional corset laces and have begun to explore multiculturalism, science, sexuality, class politics and much more. Come join us for this always lively third-year panel as we explore just how liberating the age of steam can be with witty women Anina Bennett (Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel), Ay-leen the Peacemaker (Editor for BeyondVictoriana.com & Tor Books),Claire Hummel (Bioshock: Infinite), Robin Blackburn (The League of S.T.E.A.M.), Sarah Hunter (Steampunk Model/Performer), Sheyne Fleischer (The League of S.T.E.A.M.), and moderator Dina Kampmeyer (Lady Steam Designs).

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Updates: New Books & New Conferences

SteamingVictorianPBK-2

Click to order on Amazon.

Exciting news everyone, which as news tends to do, comes in threes.

First of all, Steaming into the Victorian Future is now available in trade paperback! Now instead of paying $100+ for this collection, you can get the trade paperback for less than $25. This is the very first academic collection of steampunk essays, and, for those interested in helping this scholarship grow, please purchase a copy of the book. I’m being honest here — we have been very grateful for the support our publisher as given the editors Julie Ann Taddeo and Cynthia Miller by creating this low-cost edition, but in order for steampunk academia to continue, we have to show support with our wallets as well. If you are interested in writing or teaching about steampunk for the classroom, consider adding this to your bookshelf.

Already, this book has earned some great press from the Academy and the SFF community.

Winner of the 2013 Peter C. Rollins Award in Popular Culture Studies

Steaming into a Victorian Future looks at the potential that steampunk has to be a contributor to social change through consideration of its past and present. This collection is vast in its scope, critically evaluating ‘texts’ from an array of genres from the past, present, and future of this literary movement and its surrounding subculture, and is as valuable as an introduction to steampunk and its possibilities as any of the fiction collections available.” (Monsters and the Monstrous academic journal)

“The English major in me just finished up dancing a little jig. I always enjoy reading essays on steampunk, but there are essays… and then there are essays. Oh, yeah. I enjoyed it. Every. Single. Page.

If any fellow steampunk fans out there want some solid validation of our favorite genre and its literary effects, this is your book.” (Wired.com)

In other news, Steampunk World is on its way to the presses soon, you can check out the Table of Contents posted on SF Signal.

IAFA

Finally, I’m excited to say that I’ll be attending the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, an annual academic conference about SFF in Orlando, Florida. I won’t be presenting, but there representing the Tor Books crew, since the theme this year is “Fantastic Empires” and Guests of Honor line up include Nnedi Okorafor, Ian McDonald, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay (Scholar), Jr., and Brian Aldiss (Emeritus).

A summary of what to expect at the conference:

From space operas to medieval tales to seminal works of fantasy, imaginative fiction abounds in fabulous empires. ICFA 35 will investigate the widest range of topics relating to empire, including discussions of particular texts, analyses of the hegemonic and counterhegemonic forces of empire, evaluations of individual resistances to imperialism (and of empires striking back), and assays into various other aspects of the theme. We welcome proposals for scholarly papers and panels that seek to examine, interrogate, and expand any research related to empire and the fantastic.

Authors, agents & academics interested in meeting at the conference, feel free to contact me! I’m really looking forward to this. ^^

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Upcoming appearances: Anatomy of Steampunk, TeslaCon & Eastern Connecticut State University

teslacon4

I have some convention reports overdue — namely, I’d like to take New York Comic Con to task, the good and the bad — but I’m waiting until the full media coverage of my panels from NerdCaliber comes out before posting (so readers can get the full experience!)

But until then, giving a shout-out to a few more events I’ll be at before 2013 ends.

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Dragon*Con, ahoy!

A brief post to update y’all about my schedule for Dragon*Con this year. I’ll be attending as a professional guest and presenting as part of the Alternate History Science Fiction, and Silk Road tracks. This will also be my second year representing Tor Books at the convention — if you are an author/agent and would like to make an appointment to see me during the convention, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

My schedule is below — hope to catch some readers there!

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Watch City Festival this Weekend

waltham

Convention alert! This weekend, I’ll be presenting at Watch City Festival as part of their Academic track. You can find me at the Author’s Den at the following times:

Saturday

11 – 11:45 AM :  “Steam Around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana” – My standard panel about multicultural steampunk, tweaked and upgraded.

12 – 12:45 PM:    “Steaming into a Victorian Future” Panel with Prof. Catherine Siemann and Prof. Cynthia Miller

We’ll be discussing the recently published steampunk anthology Steaming into a Victorian Future, and all of the intellectual critique that goes on in the steampunk, and what trends we see in the current community.

3-5PM: Birthday Toast at Watch City Festival! at The Mad Raven.
Need a breather from Watch City? Going in for a late lunch? Need an excuse to booze it up? An informal get-together to celebrate an early birthday with those who are attending Watch City Festival. I’ll be there, chilling for a couple of hours after my panels and would certainly enjoy your company!

Sunday

11 – 12:45 PM:  “Envisioning a Better Steam Society” My other standard panel to discuss the historic problems of the 19th century into today and what we can do about them.I’ll also be tweeting and tumblr-ing my adventures too, for those who can’t attend. Otherwise, I hope to see some familiar faces at a panel or for a pint.

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Steampunk Empire Symposium this weekend!

Already have my bags packed for my early morning flight to Cincinnati for the Steampunk Empire Symposium. My schedule is under the cut — hope to see some of you guys there!

I’ll also be on tumblr and twitter throughout the event, so you can follow me there!

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Gearing up for 2013: A Steampunk Convention Listing on Tor.com

Gearing up for 2013: A Steampunk Convention Listing

2013 is the year to get ready for some pseudo-time-travelling, what-if wanderings, and speculative festivities of the dapper variety. I have a list of 39 steampunk and steam-friendly conventions and one-day events from around the world, gathered with help from Kevin Steil, the Airship Ambassador.

Since new steampunk cons spring out of the gearwork every so often, if I had missed yours, please drop a comment (and email me about featuring it for my monthly steampunk events roundup).

All descriptions taken from the convention website or Facebook page.

[Read on Tor.com]

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