Steampunk World’s Fair— the self-proclaimed “largest steampunk festival in the US” had a huge turnout last year and raised expectations for many steampunks for repeat success. Over the course of the year, shifts in management and staff structure sprouted rumors of uncertainty about the success of the con, but this year’s Fair still held a strong and diverse showing of panels, workshops, and entertainments. Previous year’s favorites, including musicians Professor Elemental, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, Psyche Corporation, Eli August, This Way to Egress, and Frenchy and the Punk returned, with the addition of several other newcomers such as Murder by Death, Copal, Ego Likeness, and Left Outlet. Events expanded to include book launch parties for Tee Morris and Pip Ballentine’s The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Perilous Prophecy of the Goddess and the Guard, and Emilie P. Bush’s The Gospel According to Verdu at the Library of Lost Literature, an academic track, a Tweed Ride, a Dandy Stroll, a charity fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Queen Victoria’s Birthday Party. Other notable programming ranged from workshops on bartitsu and kimono-wearing to pro-union rallies and surviving the apocalypse.
Along with my own con report, which is featured on Tor.com, below is just a sampling of experiences offered by our guest reporters, including Daniel Holzman-Tweed, Austin Sirkin, Lucretia Dearfour, Sean Proper, Matt Deblass and Ekaterina Sedia. Fashion designer Kathryn Paterwic of Redfield Designs also presents her runway collection from the “Across the Universe” fashion show told in her narrated photo essay. Photography from Jessica Lilley, Babette Daniels, Michael Salerno, Monique Poirier, Philip Ng, and myself are also included.
Ay-leen the Peacemaker
The date was May 20th, and supposedly, the end was nigh. If you believed certain people, the worthy prepared themselves to be transported to Endless Happy Fun Times in the sky while everyone else was doomed. Tornado warnings hit New Jersey and heavy storms shut down the outdoor stage. Because of oversights with hotel regulations, the fire marshal had declared that the vendors were to move from their vending rooms by midnight or else be kicked out. As staff sorted this out, hundreds of attendees poured into the hotel, turning the ground floor into a miniature LobbyCon as people maneuvered and mingled. More than one person I ran into made a crack about how that Family Radio guy might be right after all. And so in the face of impending doom, what do steampunks do?
We party like it’s 1899 (or, perhaps, like 2099, if you’re into post-apoc steam).
The 2010 Steampunk World’s Fair marked Steampunk’s transition in my life from something I looked at in the ’80s and thought was cool, but hadn’t made it a significant focus in my life. That makes this year’s event something of an anniversary for me. Between that and very exciting memories from last year’s event, I went out to Somerset this year with very high hopes. If the event didn’t hit all cylinders this year, there was certainly enough to keep me engaged and ecstatic.
It’s a testament to the maturity and tenacity of the Steampunk crowd that instead of throwing hissy fits because things weren’t going their way, people just sort of rolled with the punches and had a good time in spite of it. It was a good litmus test for the mettle of the community at large, and I was pretty pleased by what I saw.
Ashley Lauren Rogers (aka Lucretia Dearfour)
…My friend Justinian, The Emperor of the Red Fork Empire, pulled me aside and said “You know it’s not about the convention, it’s about the people right?” What he was trying to tell me was that a convention could have some of the biggest stars, a working tilt-a-whirl, or a fountain of beer run by Playboy models (my lowly examples, not his), but what really defines a convention are the people who go to the convention, the people working the convention, and their attitudes the people have that make a convention truly wonderful.
As one of the largest events of its type anywhere, the 2011 Steampunk World’s Fair, which took place from May 20-22 at the Crowne Plaza hotel, was an extremely complicated machine, and at times it seemed ready to blow a few valves, but somehow through the efforts of staff, vendors and even some good-natured patrons it kept chugging along nicely.
I originally had delusions that I would set my entire itinerary for the weekend before I arrived. But glancing at the schedule was so overwhelming, all I could really do was highlight a few must-sees and otherwise plan things out a couple hours ahead of time.
We also briefly participated in Pro-Union Labor Flash Mob! People in Victorian garb chanting “What’s disgusting?” – “Union busting!” was pretty awesome. It really needs to happen a lot more.
Kathryn Paterwic is a fashion designer based in New York area. Her style is reminiscent of Girl Genius, and I took a shine to her collection, which features multicultural outfits. Her runway show is reproduced here.
This man, Lord Phineas Whisp, a well-known explorer for the Crown, has been around the world traveling by train, balloon, and boat. He commissioned this line to show you here at World’s Fair what he has seen in his travels.
Jessica Lilley is a freelance photographer, mixed-media artist, avid con-goer and Steampunk enthusiast. Stay updated and learn more at her Flickr, Lady of Graves (formerly named Alter the Earth).