Last month I had the pleasure of attending Aetherfest, Texas’s first Steampunk Convention, as an honored literary guest. The fine gentlemen who organized the festival, Pablo Miguel Alberto Vasquez and Cameron Cody Hare, most certainly know how to treat their guests. Never before or since had I such a VIP treatment from a convention, but their courtesy did not stop with the guests. Much like the elegance of the historic St. Anthony Hotel in which the convention was held, the organizers and the entire event had the air of Victorian charm.
When I first walked into the St. Anthony, I was quite literally halted in my steps as I marveled at the beauty surrounding me. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and rich burgundy upholstery covered the myriad of couches and chaise longues that garnished the lobby. Once the room started filling up with steampunks, it was as if one had stepped directly out of a time machine into a wondrous past of adventure, invention, and beauty.
The premiere event on Friday night was a VIP Airship Dinner Theatre on the Starlight Terrace, and it was glorious. A four-course meal, including vegetarian options, for which I was very grateful, and cheesecake for dessert satiated guests, giving them the energy for what was yet to come. We all got to interact with each other under the stars on a cool San Antonio night. After an Airship Roll Call, where every airship present was acknowledged and honored, we were entertained with the sounds of Master Bones Jangles and the sultry striptease by the Devil Bunnies Burlesque troop.
The main event started on Saturday with a Steampunk Parade taking the streets of San Antonio and marching to the Alamo. After a large group picture in front of the historic building, Emperor Justinian of the Red Fork Empire gave an inspiring speech, stirring the blood of onlookers and steampunks alike to rally against The Dull. The rest of the day was filled with panels from “Steampunk 101” by the crew of the amazing Airship Isabella to “How to Build a RPG” by Cracked Monocle to the presentation based on this blog “Steampunk Beyond Victoriana,” given by Ay-leen the Peacemaker. I unfortunately had to miss it because my reading from Avalon Revisited was scheduled opposite, as was a room set aside for recruitment into the Red Fork Empire, hosted by none other than the Emperor himself. It was a splendid, activity-packed day that ended with a brilliant live radio show by the Airship Isabella. Every seat was taken, literally standing room only.
Saturday night was a non-stop party on the Starlight Terrace that went into the wee hours of the morning. This “Nocturnal Vaudevillian Extravaganza” included the amazing sounds of the Marquis of Vaudeville and Hypnautica. The steampunks mingled and danced. Groups gathered around fire spinners and hoopers as they moved and twirled and spun to the music.
Although Sunday proved to be much more relaxed than Saturday, largely because everyone had such a very late night, it was still a full day of activities and panels. There was even an improv workshop put on by Airship Isabella in which I made a royal fool of myself. But overall it was a blast. Some very talented people challenged each other through improv exercises, some of which had the entire room in stitches. As with every convention, there was a sadness watching steampunks checking out and leaving in the morning, knowing that it was all coming to an end soon. Vasquez and Hare were perfect hosts until the very end, and their marvelous first year convention left everyone looking forward to Aetherfest 2012. I’ll definitely be returning next year. Additionally on Sunday, congoers learned about two new Steampunk conventions in Texas: The Difference Engine (DFW) and Clockwork Con (Austin). Texas is quickly becoming a giant hub of Steampunks in the South.
Highlights of the show included Airship Isabella, Mr. Saturday and Sixpence, Emperor Justinian, Master Bones Jangles, the Marquis of Vaudeville, and finally getting to meet Lucretia Dearfour and Ay-leen the Peacemaker, albeit briefly. Who am I kidding? It was all great. Especially the reports of ghostly activity! The St. Anthony is reportedly haunted, and several people reported very strange experiences like a phantom bellhop stopping the elevator at random floors (or just stopping the elevator altogether). A member of Airship Isabella and con president Vasquez were trapped inside for over thirty minutes! Spooky!
The crew of Airship Isabella are always such a delight. They are the nicest people, and they are so very talented! Between their exquisite costuming, informative workshops, clockwork jewelry, Steampunk caricatures, and amazing leatherwork, they are not to be missed. They do many Steampunk and SFF conventions throughout Texas and the South, so be sure to introduce yourselves if you are ever at the same event. You will be glad you did.
O. M. Grey dreams of the dark streets ofLondonand the decadent deeds that occur after sunset. She dons a tight corset, a fluffy bustle, and a teeny-tiny top hat for fantasy conventions where she enjoys meeting fans and participating on panels. Olivia prefers to live in the cobwebbed corners of her dark mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist.