“Remembering the Steampunk Industrial Revolution”–A Con Report by Geoffrey Smith aka SgtM. Maxwell Rodden

Geoffrey ("G.W.") Smith in his Scottish steamwear. Image courtesy of Jessica Lilley.The Steampunk Industrial Revolution was a number of firsts for me: my first all-steampunk convention, my first convention doing the free repair service for Thee-Gartisan Works, my first time entering a steampunk art show, and my first time on a panel.  Overall, it was a whirlwind, going straight through the whole weekend from the moment I put on the kilt, to the moment I walked to my the car the last time, a flurry of socialness and swagger, of music and dance, of fashions and gadgets.

After I checked in at the hotel, I had to bring all my stuff, the artwork for the Ethereal Exhibition, and the repair kit, to the room.  After locating a trolley, I was having some issues maneuvering the brass beast in the parking lot, and an event staffer stepped in and helped me all the way to the room.  This was a very helpful young lady named Ariana, who spent a good part of the weekend assisting me, helping with signage, located things, advertising, and directing people who needed the repair service to me, which was so beneficial to me that by Sunday, I actually hired her!

After gearing up into my Scottish Steampunk outfit, which I came up with after hearing Ay-leen’s panel on multiculturalism in steampunk, I headed off to the Ethereal Exhibition with all my artwork.  I found a table and laid out my pieces and the story that went with them.  I had two of modified dartarms: a shotgun & a barricade; a heavy nut & bolt topped cane; a number of “not dull” medals; and a “Scottish-sized” multi-flask I fabricated from PVC & ketchup bottles from TempleCon.

The story that accompanied them, in short, was how a couple from Thee-Gartisan Gunworks, while on a business trip to American gunsmithing companies, were asked to help fight off genetically-engineered Hellbenders in the Smokey Mountains, and after the battle, they were never heard from again.  Many years later, the items presented in the Exhibition were found during the construction of the Appalachian Trail, being the only traces of the couple ever found.

It was the first time I entered a steampunk art show, and I was so nervous.  I brought all my experiences from making and modding the previous four months into the Exhibition and I was hoping that they would not be seen to be lacking.  I have worked very hard in my custom mods work, trying to make dartarms look as artistic as I can, but I know that this, while not quite looked down upon, is not taken as seriously as an art form.  I had hoped to at least challenge this with my “Elizabeth” and “Eliza” mods.  This Exhibition also marked my first fabrications, a heavy cane & the multi-flask.  For luck, I put my favorite rum, which my father had always given for Christmas, into one of the four tubes.

Works by Thee-Gartisan

There was also a chess set that I thought was very clever.  The Red Fork Empire versus The Dull. I have made chess sets in the past, and my reaction to the one there was, “THAT’s how I should have made it!”  Ian Knox submitted a guitar that made me think that he made the ones currently on the wall at theCharles River Museum of  Industry & Innovation.  Drew Lydecker’s wood, paint, & pottery piece made me wish that I had a wall upon which to put it on.  Jessica Lilley’s (neé Coen) beautiful photography made me reminiscent for when I was a much more active photographer.

I started running a free repair service at S.I.R., and it was used three times within the first couple hours, which surprised me.  The most memorable of those three was when Ariana & I were still putting up signs. We were walking down the vendor’s hallway and just as we were passing a closed door, it opened.  Not before or after, but just as we passed in front of the door, The General of the Wandering Legion opened the door, stepped out, and said “I need you.”  My mind was blown at whether his sudden appearance was a coincidence or he planned to do that.

The repair service kept me running out of panels & missing out on some things, but after TempleCon, I am well aware of how it feels to break something, so I did enjoy helping people fix their breakages.  During the fashion show, I received a text looking for help, and as I left, Dr. Grymm noted, “Someone put up the cog signal!”  I was able to get back in time to see the beautiful & sexy fashions of Redfield Designs, made by one of my roommates, as well as seeing my friends model for Festooned Butterfly.  Speaking of which, I realized that looking at my roommates’ interactions always made me laugh and reminded me to sit or stand up straight.

Image courtesy of Geoffrey Smith.

It was such a whirlwind that I was not able to spend a lot of time with the vendors or the Ethereal Exhibition, so by Saturday afternoon, I decided that I was taking the evening off until the Post Apocalyptic panel with the Wandering Legion & Swagger 101 with the A.S.S. Titalus.  During the course of the afternoon, though, I was kidnapped by Airship Cloudbreaker, lured through a free dinner of ramen noodles offered by the pretty Lady Azaria.

I also finally hit every vendor I wanted to see. I found a kickass holster from Threads of Time, adjusted my belt from Chrononaut Mercantile, bought a tiny bottle of little gears from Dogtoon Media, saw a Steampunk Funk Frenchman with a hat of mythic proportions, acquired more stuff for my vest from Big Bear Trading Company, and I man-squeed over the curios at R.H. Mardigan.  To top it off, my big rifle mod, the Vera, got to see a lot of action, with notable victims being an intelligent ape and an author’s bustle.

Speaking of my mods, I was so busy that it was not until Saturday evening that I started to carry around the Crichton, my least steampunk mod that has been nicknamed “the stormtrooper one,” yet actually the one that matches many steampunk outfits because of the color scheme.  Combined with my hardware gun Victoria and Vera, I was able to take many pictures of people with my mods, which always makes me happy.

Modelling a mod. Image courtesy of Geoffrey Smith

I loved how friendly everyone was at SIR.  There was this young couple who were reclining outside the panel rooms because they were so tired.  I thought it made a cute picture, and most times I prefer the candid shot, but did not want to act like a creep.  Fast forward a couple hours, I was stopped on my way out by that same young woman I saw earlier.  She loved the rifle and hardware gun, had her picture taken with them, then bought two armbands, with the glow-in-the-dark blue gear patch that I sell to keep the repair service free, for herself and her boyfriend.

Those patches! I was so stoked that I was able to sell as many as I did! I sell them to fund the maintenance of the repair kit, and I was able to respond to every need except the Baron’s missing brass vest button, but now I know what to add to the kit!  I also had free button pins available, and it always lifted me up whenever I saw someone walking around with a blue cog gear button or patch or armband.  It was especially cool when the General wanted our attention Friday evening, so he turned off the lights to the panel room.  I heard a lovely Pixie exclaim, “I’m glowing!” followed by everyone wearing one of the patches or standing near someone who was oooo-ing at the glowing gear!

Modelling gear patches

And they glow!

One panel room had a lot of memories.  There was Celebrity Munchausen with The Baron, who looked very much like Oscar Wilde, was uproarious.  Austin Sirkin, A Count Named Slick-Brass, Lucretia Dearfour, and Leanna Renee Heiber all sitting around discussing the Baron and one-uping one another to the point where a rhinoceros ended up gelded and Abigail finally abandoned her duties.  There was a post-apocalyptic panel with the Wandering Legion that was interrupted when someone thought it was a brilliant idea to have the Gypsy Prince himself, Maxwell Huxley, lead the Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, which he did…right through the panel room.  There was Swagger 101 with the crew of the A.S.S. Titilus, where by Rule #3, I was laughing so hard that the slippery liner of my kilt caused me to fall out of my chair.  There was a small concert with Eli August, where at one point Ian Knox was drumming on the General’s brass casings epaulet, who was drummed on Wyck, followed by Slick-Brass, then others, and ended with Cobra Commander.  That is not a spellchecker mistake.  The human drumming line concluded with Cobra Commander.  Also, a pith helmet was groped at some point.  At the end of the song, Eli August, who did not miss a single beat during the shenanigans, said, “You people sure wear a lot of noisy shit.”

I met Jake von Slatt…then forgot Vera on his bus…and was informed of this by one of my workshop Gremlins (who absolutely loves von Slatt) from three states away who follows his Twitter feed.  Those were a confused few moments between us.

More memories from the con: There was a young woman who asked me about making her a 5’7” key for a future cosplay outfit.  Xin the Cute was surprised to see me wearing pants at breakfast.  I saw a donut that received a steampunk modification!  I saw a Contessa that I claimed was a medieval steampunk.  There was Saturday morning target practice with the A.S.S. Titilus crew.  Confusing the civilians at the hotel and in McDonald’s.  Swiping pineapple juice cans (empty!) to use in future mods.  A new airship captain with an impressive replica that made a Marine smile.  A gypsy who looked like Princess Jasmine at the Queen of Steam competition.  A bawdy Grace who sang about grinding gears with Dr. Grymm.  I discovered just how big my coat was when it was donned by Gremlin Claira.  Lady Azeria and her over foot-long slices of cucumbers.  A Roman steampunk wearing the fleece of Grimace around his waist.  I could see on Lucretia’s face just how tired she was and how much she put into the event, and everyone who went to SIR should give her a hug of thanks!

I was on a panel for the first time.  Slick-Brass’s Shake & Bake Maker’s Panel with Brad Harrison, Otaku King, Sebastion Barros, Brendan Lyons, and the crew of the A.S.S. Titilus.  It was a surreal experience sitting up there instead of sitting in the audience.  I must admit that much of the panel was a blur.  I do remember that right afterwards, The Legion requisitioned all my ammo for the dueling panel.  Upon which time, Gremlins Claira & Ariana starting to twitch to take mavericks and go join in.

Around this time, I returned my items to the Ethereal Exhibition and noticed that one of the medals I had made for a Pride event in a few months was missing.  My daze continued.

I remember people moving around very fast, and then I was at the closing and awards ceremony.  Illustrator Don Higgins won the grand prize, and then there were the Judge’s Choices: Nick Perry & Ian Knox, both makers of amazing things, and then the General said my name.

“Huh, what?” was my reaction.  I was promptly blinded by the lights.  I was so mixed…overcome with joy at placing and standing among such Makers, but confused and hurt over the missing medal.  Then the General pinned us with Order of Mercury, Second Class Medals, and I remembered seeing these at TempleCon, and wanting one…and there it was.

I know that I missed a lot, but I also experienced a lot, so no regrets.  After having an early dinner on Sunday before leaving with those who remained, I called home to check in and let them know I was about to return.  Then I walked back through a connecting hallway, where I could see Airship Cloudbreaker leaving the hotel in one direction, and the Wandering Legion of The Thomas Tew in a different direction.  I knew that the weekend was truly over, though I did not want it to be.


Geoffrey Smith, (aka G.W. Smith) is from Connecticut and is the Co-Proprieter & Head of Design of Thee-Gartisan Works, a company that mods dartarms & makes other types of steampunkery.  He has a background in indisciplinary arts & photography, and is currently the Director of Vocational Arts at a Connecticut-based company that helps people with acquired and traumatic brain injuries re-learn marketable job skills.  He is a new citizen of the Red Fork Empire, the host of the Guild of Retro-Futuristic Artisans, the Gunner of the Airship Cloudbreaker, cosplays as a Scottish Steampunker (SgtM. Maxwell Rodden of the Clan MacRodden), and rarely wears pants at conventions.

One response to ““Remembering the Steampunk Industrial Revolution”–A Con Report by Geoffrey Smith aka SgtM. Maxwell Rodden

  1. Pingback: Convention Extravaganza: Steampunk Industrial Revolution | Beyond Victoriana

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s