“On the Ground at Steampunk World’s Fair II” – A Con Report by Sean Proper

Sean Proper as Steampunk Napoleon Dynamite.

Here is an account of Steampunk Worlds Fair from someone who hardly ever goes to cons (I’ve been to this one and the SPWF 2010):

Thursday night I headed up to Ay-Leen the Peacemaker’s apartment where we waited for Lucretia Dearfour to arrive from Massachusetts. Our friend Kat was there in the process of making an outfit for the weekend at the last minute. Lucretia arrived fairly late and was quite exhausted from a long day of work. So I got to drive (a rarity for me since my move to New York from the West Coast three years ago) her car to the hotel in Somerset, NJ.

We eventually arrived at the Crown Plaza hotel just after 3am, and were delighted to see some of our other friends were already there, hanging out in the lobby. After a brief time of meet and greet, we unpacked the car and headed up to the hotel room. Over the course of the weekend my room felt like a mini hotel itself. We had a total of 8 people sleeping there, though not more than four people on any given night.

Around 9:00 am Friday morning I went downstairs and got breakfast with a few friends, then spend the next couple hours hanging out in the lobby. It was exciting to see so many of my steampunk friends arriving from various parts of the northeast.

At 1:00 pm was the opening ceremonies. Just a brief time of welcoming, and they also played a beautiful short film called Eye of the Storm.

Over the weekend I got so see several musical acts at the Fair, including Katie Kat, Copal, Frenchy & The Punk, Eliza Rickman, Psyche Corporation, and of course, Professor Elemental. Among my favorite musicians that weekend though, was Jason Webley. All Friday night performances in the outdoor Courtyard Stage got cancelled due to a hurricane warning in the area. However, as the evening progress, the weather was fine, and so Jason decided to head over to the stage just to see if anyone showed up. There was a small gathering of about 8-10 people so he just sat down on a chair in the audience chatting with them and messing around on his accordion. He played covers of various songs, including at least two by They Might Be Giants. After a while a proper crowd started to gather so he got up on stage. The best part was when he played Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and after just a couple lines into the song a STEAMPUNK ZOMBIE came staggering by! The timing was perfect. After Thriller, he began a set playing his own music (which I highly recommend checking out).

An extensive wardrobe in place for World's Fair.

Any airships carrying artifacts to sell to the Steampunks this year would have been greatly disappointed. Last year at the hotel in Piscataway, in addition to a couple large vendor rooms, all hotel rooms on the first floor were designated for vendors and converted into shops. It worked out really well last year, so they planned to do the same thing at this hotel. Unfortunately, when the fire marshal came by, he said the hotel rooms could not be used as vendor shops, due to some fire or safety regulation. Of course he said this Friday afternoon well after everyone was all set up. So Friday evening for the vendors, hotel staff, and event volunteers was mostly a time of scrambling all over the place trying to find places to put 40 displaced vendors. Some were squeezed into the large vendor rooms, others were worked into other meeting rooms which were designated for panel discussions and other workshops. Many got placed into the larger rooms set for concert performances. They even stuck a few in the hotel dining room. It was a rough weekend for all of the vendors, except I heard that one guy’s business actually increased because of the relocation… They moved him to the hotel bar!

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. In addition to all the musicians mentioned above, there were so many workshops, discussions, and attractions I wanted to go to. Sadly, there are often time conflicts, and you can’t do them all. And sometimes you can only catch half of one, cuz you need to leave early to go to something else. I got to catch all or part of some great discussions, including “Steampunk on the Cheap”, “Steampunk and the Apocalypse” (where I learned why the Zombie Apocalypse is a good thing)“, “Theology in Steampunk”.

One of the best events at the Fair wasn’t even on the official schedule. On the last day my friend Miriam led a Pro-Labor Rally in the Courtyard Stage, in character as a Steampunk version of Emma Goldman. The Rally featured various speakers, some emotional readings, and performances by Painless Parker and Eli August, all addressing issues of unfair (and unsafe) labor conditions and unions of both the past and present. While the entire weekend was fun time to be had for all, the activism of Steampunk Emma Goldman and her Rally brought fun as well as real meaning to the Worlds Fair. I’m certain we haven’t seen the last of her, and that she will be a strong force of change for the better.

Tongue-in-cheek capitalist "protestor" at the pro-union rally: a sign while steampunks can be serious, we still have a sense of humor too. Image courtesy of Michael Salerno.

In a period of less than three days I wore six outfits comprising of no less than four hats, two pairs of goggles, one kilt, and a plethora of other accessories. It was a great weekend, and I can’t wait for next year.

Sean Proper [shawn | prop-er]
proper noun: eclectic, quirky, nocturnal male bookkeeper who has a bedroom as a bedroom and a bedroom as a closet. Proficient thrift shopper and collector of treasures, this somewhat shy extrovert has a rich, varied social life, offset by a surprisingly reserved personal life. Debonaire and self-possessed, he is willing to go the extra mile for the people who matter and is an avid observer of the strange and curious, especially if it has a historical bent. Has a tendency toward downgrading rather than upgrading, lives out of many vintage suitcases, never fails to dress for the occasion, and is often associated with The White Rabbit.

Bio written by Calamity H. Wayward.

One response to ““On the Ground at Steampunk World’s Fair II” – A Con Report by Sean Proper

  1. Pingback: Convention Extravaganza: Steampunk World’s Fair II | Beyond Victoriana

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