As a professional writer in the tabletop gaming industry, I visit a lot of conventions, most of which are plenty of fun in their own right, but TempleCon is different; it’s the only one for which I fly myself—over two thousand miles—on my own dime. Where other conventions appeal to narrow sets of fans (scifi, fantasy, steampunk, war games, board games, refrigerator enthusiasts, etc.), TempleCon is inclusive in the broadest sense of the word.
There is no other show that I can think of where I could spend an hour discussing the merits of various steam-powered robots before attending an extravagantly hosted high tea where I can stuff myself with pastries and be entertained by a brief lecture presented by a favorite author on the Victorian woman’s “language of the fan.” Better yet, no one minds if I drop a little bourbon in my tea, or if they do, they at least have the good grace to not complain to hotel security.
This wide array of possibilities is no accident. While TempleCon can be described as a “steampunk” convention, it in fact caters to virtually every flavor of retro-futurism known to humankind and fandom alike. Unlike other steampunk events, I witness none of the petty fights over aesthetic orthodoxy that seem to plague the scene in this foul year of our lord, two thousand and eleven. Steampunks and Weird Westerners rub shoulders with Diesel-fuelled costumers and those bearing Asian inspired neo-Victorians wardrobes. All the while, none of them even look askance at the other neo-Vics like myself, the ones dressed more for a funeral than a party.
The party, of course, is what drags me from beneath the grey skies of Seattle to the somewhat-less-grey skies of Providence, Rhode Island in the dead of winter. I’ve heard TempleCon described as “not a steampunk show, but as a party with some lovely steampunk costumes.” Actually, this is not entirely accurate and I am going to diverge for a moment lest I give the wrong idea.
There are, after all, any number of diverting panels and events to attend at TempleCon. Steampunk fashion shows exist comfortably alongside seminars on feminism in steampunk, social issues, and of course, Beyond Victoriana’s own “Steam Around the World” panel. The fact that these panels are considered headline events at TempleCon is a testament to the good things I have always experienced with the show’s community. It’s been my experience that some steampunk communities make a point of shying away from controversy, embracing the simple aesthetics without a thought for the mechanisms. I’ve always found this appalling. After all, one of the greatest joys of Victorian inspired retro-futurism is the marriage of form with function into a pleasing whole. But the TempleCon community embraces these discussions with an inspiring fervor. Gender, race, sexuality, and literature are all open topics among con-goers. This, of course, makes for excellent party conversation.
As you can see, I have a singular mind about this show. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that I and the rest of the Unhallowed Metropolis staff throw a pretty good party. I also am confident in saying that the diverse crowd at this show is the reason why we throw our favorite party of the year at TempleCon. Nowhere else do we meet such an interesting, brilliant, and amazingly dressed crowd. Then we give them cocktails that may or may not contain raw squid.
Simon J. Berman is a professional game writer, developer, and social media director. He is a staff writer for Privateer Press‘ award winning miniatures game, WARMACHINE, and a contributing author for Unhallowed Metropolis, the gasmask-chic role-playing game of neo-Victorian horror.