San Antonio Texas–it’s got The Alamo (unless you’d forgotten) but it also had Aetherfest, the first Steampunk convention in Texas! As a trans individual from the Northeast, I will admit to a little bit of worry travelling down South given the stereotypes. Having travelled to Houston last year, however, I had no trepidation in wanting to see more of the Lone Star State.
San Antonio as a city is, like anywhere else, beautifully gorgeous on one block and slightly dilapidated another. Where Aetherfest was occurring, however, was stunning. The hotel we stayed in was the favorite hotel of the royal family of Monaco so it was done up to the nines. Chandeliers hung from every ceiling, walls covered in gold decorations, and not to mention a staircase that reminded me of the one in Beauty and The Beast.
Due to some unfortunate travel miscommunication we missed most of Friday night’s activities which included a Burlesque show. After meeting many members of the burlesque troupe I am sorry I missed that, however, we stayed up most of the night talking to some of the volunteers, Sky of the band Hipnautica, and our good friend Justin, The Emperor of the Red Fork Empire.
We all made our way through the streets to The Alamo to have an official Aetherfest picture taken. Seeing the Alamo was monumental for me because we all know WHY we should remember the Alamao… OZZY PEED ON IT and was then kicked out of Texas for a decade! After the picture we were then treated to an impromptu speech about conquering the Dull which lives inside of us from The Emperor. On the way back to the hotel, I got to talk a little bit with Pablo, the convention organizer, who admitted that it was fun and couldn’t be resisted given where we were but it was also a publicity stunt… which worked! A number of people who had just seen us wanted to know more, wanted to see more, and came to the convention!
What transpired next was something you don’t often see at a con, a panel about politics in steampunk as a roundtable in a bar. It was nice because it was sort of a panel, but in reality it was an excuse to drink beer, relax, and have a leisurely conversation about some of our favorite political figures and discuss whether they had any influence on SP or not. It’s something I’d like to see more of at Steampunk events: more loose topics, meeting in a social space to allow for the meeting of other people rather than the soap-box delivering of facts and philosophical opinions being crammed down one’s throat. Some times you want to be in a panel and hear what experts have to say, other times you want to meet up with other people and lightly discuss topics, but really just socialize.
After a short break Ayleen and I set up for her Beyond Victoriana panel which, for the first time, she was given two hours! Having seen the panel which shares the name of this fine website dozens of times throughout the year, I recorded the first hour and sat in on The Emperor’s Red Fork Empire Recruitment panel. He handed me a bulleted list of topics that I should bring up and, since I can’t take ANYTHING seriously I decided to help the panel by giving it the structure of a morning news show which I titled “Mid-Afternoon Forking!” Justin facepalmed but allowed the shenanigans all the same.
Once recruitment was over we moved on to one of my favorite events “The Outlandish Tales of Baron Von Lahey.” This was a charity event I ran for the Rising Phoenix Fundraiser for Shelterbox (although you know the shpeal from this website) based on “Project Munchaussen.” The game as it stands is still in an experimental phase as we want to make sure we’re not just taking a few other people’s ideas but creating our own and the experiment worked! Myself, Emperor, Pablo, and Ayleen all recounted tales of Baron Von Lahey to the crowd’s enjoyment. By the end we raised around 70-80 dollars and I felt accomplished, even though my story about the Baron using popsicle sticks and bubblegum to build a trebuchet to launch a catapult (a “Trebupult” if you will) to launch The Baron and myself into space was far better than Pablo’s winning story about whatever it is that he and The Baron ended up doing.
There was about 2 hours of socializing time which was nice. It was a chance to decompress, just take in the surroundings, and meet new people. I (as seems like it’s always the case) had a brief opportunity to meet members of the Airship Isabella who are fantastic makers and artists, as well as steampunks starting to really make a name for themselves on the national scale. Everything’s bigger in Texas? Well, I think before the year is out they will be BIGGER than Texas can handle, but I digress, point is what little time I had to interact with them they were wonderful people.
The concert later that night provided by Marquis of Vaudeville and Hipnautica was smashing! Before the bands a belly dancer and a sitar player performed and it was a nice change of pace. Marquis of Vaudville are a band who can play electric but tend to prefer acoustic performances (Which usually scares me a little) but they are so talented it fully engrossed me. Not to mention they covered “Burn,” by The Cure which made my night (After I realized they weren’t covering I Want Candy by Bow Wow, damn those similar drum intros!). Hipnautica were fun and easy to dance to they remind me very much of a much more accessible Pure Moods sound with dark/darkwave/goth sound similar to Dead Can Dance or at times like Fever Ray but with a very optimistic attitude. Needless to say drinking occurred, had a very productive conversation with Emperor about life and The Legion, and continued to listen to a drunk man yell that he doesn’t care, and another drunk man state that he was going to start the A.S.S Asshole.
First on the docket was a breakfast meeting with Jess Nevins (You know, Q.U.A.I.N.T). We walked through the River Walk. If you’ve never been on the River Walk in San Antonio you must because it is absolutely gorgeous and the cafes you can visit are lovely. Jess is a great person and I was happy to meet him.
We ran from the River Walk back to the hotel for Ayleen’s social issues roundtable. These roundtables often go in VERY different directions based on the audience. This particular audience/roundtable seemed to go in the direction of Steampunks at conventions and what they present themselves as in relation to what that says about their role in society.
After that we walked around, talked with our new friends, checked out the small but impressive vendor area, and got some last minute interviews with Marquis of Vaudeville, Hipnautica, Pablo and Cameron, and a bunny!
We then went to get my own flight to Massachusetts to go to work. Low and behold my plane tickets didn’t exist… Panic struck but due to some quick action Pablo was able to give me sleep space at his home and I was able to get my shift at work covered. Point of clarification, tickets HAD been purchased for Ayleen and I but, unfortunately, they were scheduled during a period I couldn’t fly so these alternate flight arrangements had been made so I could leave the con on my own and get to work on time. These were the tickets that unfortunately didn’t exist. So by sticking with the original flight plan not only was a HUGE financial burden taken off of the convention but I got to enjoy the rest of it and hang around with my wonderful new friends!
After all was said and done I received a lovely poster and first issue of Steam Pets from the Author who was a very sweet man, and went to get BBQ with Cameron, Pablo, and Ay-leen where we ran into the only Steampunk Mariachi band I’ve ever heard of. They talked about how they were hired as a mariachi group to play SxSW and promote the event by dressing Steampunk. They were so enamoured with it that they wanted to continue doing so and wished that they had heard about Aetherfest. Who’s to say there WON’T be some goggle-clad Mariachi for 2012 Aetherfest though? ^_~
Aetherfest was a BLAST, not only because the programming was great, the organizers did a wonderful job of making sure that everyone felt special and as far as business people they went above and beyond what was required of them. Visually the venue was stunning , costumes were all at a very large high, and while I didn’t get a chance to interact with some of their main guests (Airship Isabella, and O.M. Grey) I’ve been able to meet up with them later and I can say that all the guests are some of the greatest people in the world and some of the most approachable. Aetherfest is the type of convention that all other conventions, big and small, should strive to be and I am honored that I was able to be a part of Texas’s first official Steampunk convention.
After finding her son in the zombie-infested city of Seattle, Lucretia Dearfour pretended to be a boy in order to become a soldier on a genetically mutated aircraft known as The Leviathan only to realize that she has special powers and can see ghosts, with only minimal pining on the moors. But, seriously, Lucretia Dearfour is a founding member of The Wandering Legion and also its head writer and producer of the Legion’s webseries, head writer for Steamfunk.com, and an avid transgender/gender variant activist.