Though I attended all three days of Templecon 2011, I’m only going to cover Saturday, which was my busiest and most interesting day. This was my third attendance of Templecon, and easily the best planned of my attendances thus far – I knew in advance which panels I’d be attending and when I’d pencil in lunch and such. In 2010 I pretty much ran around doing whatever seemed interesting and I know I miss a lot of fun discussions due to lack of forethought. I was also -really- obnoxious with my camera to the point that I forgot that I was supposed to be having fun, not just taking pictures of everyone’s awesome outfits. I also spent much less time gaming this year than I have in previous years, something that disappointed me a bit.
I arrived on Saturday at the bright and early hour of 10am, just in time to attend Backstory 101 Panel with Miss Anne Thrope (Jocelyn Stengel Ahern) – an entertaining discussion of worldbuilding, character history, online resources for naming, historical events and alternate histories, time travel/dimension hopping and what little details can really set your sky pirate or mad scientist apart from all the rest. It was Miss Thrope’s first panel, and her co-panelist was called away halfway through, so we ended up having a very informal chat about her character’s backstory and participants shared their own personas and characters in various stages of development.
After lunch, I attended “What’s So Feminist About Steampunk?” , also hosted by Miss Thrope. It was a much more structured panel, with lively audience participation and tight adherence with the subject at hand: The panel was centered on US history in the 19th and early 20th century, and how that history is reflected in Steampunk expression. We discussed Steampunk as inherently feminist, comparing Victorian Era roles of women vs. common steampunk roles of women; airship pilots and mechanics, professors, scientists, engineers, pirates, adventurers. We discussed how Steampunk roles tend to be more gender-egalitarian than even modern roles for women, which themselves are hugely improved upon historical Victorian ones; that we were able to gather unchaperoned, often after traveling under our own power and with our own money, and attend a panel under female leadership would have been unthinkable in historical Victorian society. Women were only granted legal majority in the US in 1882.
Much discussion was made of the waves of feminism and the strides toward gender equality that have been made in the last hundred years, and of how far there is yet to go before we reach an egalitarian ideal, and how speculative play allows for us to explore a more equal society than the one we currently live in. There were illuminating stories from participants about what feminism meant for them and how they came to feminism. One participant talked about having a hard time accepting the label of ‘Feminist’ until her late teens because her upbringing had been very egalitarian and not understanding a need for feminism until meeting with sexism in ‘real life’; another discussed how she became a feminist as soon as she was introduced to the word and concept because her upbringing had been the polar opposite. During the list of ‘firsts’ in the 19th and 20th centuries, when discussing first wave feminism and women’s sufferage, I pointed out that ‘women’ getting the vote in 1920 applied only to women who were white; Native American women had to wait until 1924 (and, practically, until much later than then in many instances). This led to discussion concerning the problems of separating feminism from other aspects of kyriarchy, of intersectionality and inclusion – where feminism fit in with movements to counter the gender binary and gender fluidity in general. It was an awesome panel with a lot of participant discussion.
I attended the Beyond Victoriana panel, which was, as always, awesome – the room was pretty quiet, though toward the end there was a bit of lively discussion when one participant asked about what to do if called out by a POC for cultural appropriation even after having done your research – the room’s consensus answer was that it was important to respect the POC’s stance and understand their right to react poorly to perceived appropriation, to be willing to engage in discussion about your choices, and to redouble your research and keep trying – not to become discouraged and flee back to the safety of the familiar upon criticism if you’ve gotten it wrong on your first try.
I also attended Steampunk Props and Costumes, where we discussed the raw methodology of constructing a steampunk outfit or prop – be it made, bough, found, altered, or scavenged; where to get things (VIVA THRIFSTORES!), how to approach designs, and character building through costumes and props. We discussed the importance (and sometimes lack thereof) in creating cohesive ‘look’ from outfit to outfit, and of attaining character recognizability.
Monique Poirier is an author, costumer, maker, and gamer from North Providence, RI. Her short story “Concerning The Ars Mechanica” appears in the anthology Like Clockwork by Circlet Press.