“The People Make the Convention” – A SPWF II Con Report by Ashley Lauren Rogers (aka Lucretia Dearfour)

A week or so before the Steampunk World’s Fair I was on a film shoot for the band Frenchy and the Punk and my friend Justinian, The Emperor of the Red Fork Empire, pulled me aside and said “You know it’s not about the convention, it’s about the people right?” What he was trying to tell me was that a convention could have some of the biggest stars, a working tilt-a-whirl, or a fountain of beer run by Playboy models (my lowly examples, not his), but what really defines a convention are the people who go to the convention, the people working the convention, and their attitudes the people have that make a convention truly wonderful.

I was being reminded of this because as I and my performance group, The Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew, were gearing up for the second installment of what had once been the first and only steampunk convention on the East Coast there was a lot of trepidation. Whether stated or implied, our group was very much not wanted by upper management. Stories and rumors can circulate as to the reasons why and they will but suffice, but I have to say as much as our group wants to move forward, have the space to perform, and enjoy our tenure in the steampunk community, our former associates would rather give themselves added stress by harboring ill feelings. It is sad, it is what it is, and that’s the last I’ll say about that.

Maybe I’ll say one more thing, given the unrequited animosity towards our group the smart decision would be to stay home, sit this one out, and just drink and watch some Doctor Who, because honestly who wants to deal with Drama? However the sheer amount of supporters we have on a personal level, and the amount of people who wanted us to be involved and help out their performances (The Steampunk Who’s Line, Underground Saucey Puppet Show, Beyond Victoriana and Jaymee Goh’s panels) or model their wonderful clothing (Knight Redfield Design and Festooned Butterfly I’m looking your way), or requests to see our friends from Georgia, Texas, and Merry ol’ England made it difficult to say no. It should be stated however that I was approached by one of the organizers to be granted guest access if I didn’t come as Lucretia Dearfour. Come as another character or as Ashley Lauren Rogers but NOT talk about The Wandering Legion. I thought long and hard about that and decided that there was no way to enforce this, and also without The Wandering Legion who the hell IS Ashley Lauren Rogers in the Steampunk community?

THE EVENTS

FRIDAY

After registration drama, the first commitment I had was to be on a panel that Pablo and Cameron (Mr. Saturday and Sixpence), the convention chairs of Aetherfest had invited me to be on dealing with Steampunk in Performing Arts. The pane went well, it was very relaxed and took place on the tenth floor of the hotel and saw all of the attendees sitting at tables and on couches. Pablo and Cameron express a very relaxed disposition and being in this particular room worked very well. While Mr. Saturday explained that Sixpence had trouble talking, a friend of theirs at Aetherfest built him a mime-english translation device. It was a fun panel where we were all able to stay in character while still being able to talk about what non-traditional performance art (mime, living statue, freakshow) and it’s role in steampunk was.

At the Steampunk in Performing Arts panel. Image courtesy of Ay-leen.

Following the panel we had some time to relax before Samara, Dancing Frozen (aka Abigail Mycroft of the Wandering Legion)’s panel on Living Statueing as well as Ay-leen and Monique Poirier’s “Steampunk on the Cheap,” panel. As we attempted to find the outdoor stage that Samara’s panel was to take place at we found a Tornado warning had closed the stage. I was very upset because I didn’t want anything to hinder my friends and teammates’ panels but it was what it was. That’s when the torrent of plastic totes, dollys, and less than happy faces exiting the vendor hallways. When I ran into Angie, the designer/owner of Festooned Butterfly she said, with a smile “Yeah. Apparently we’re being kicked out of our rooms. We’ve got until midnight or we’ll be fined.” I love Angie because she, like Pablo, Cameron, and myself, will be handed a problem and take a happy-go-lucky attitude, that still gets things done so they don’t get screwed over. I was a little miffed at some other con goers referring to it as “The Vendor Trail of Tears…” for obvious misappropriation of “The Trail of Tears.”

Now at this point, regardless of any annoyance drama llamas want to enact upon us, I would not wish this fate upon anyone. Not only had they had to cancel and shut down a number of the events but the vendors who are the backbone of the convention were being told they couldn’t vend in their rooms because for one reason or another there were issues with the fire marshal. These problems could potentially bury a convention. Those in charge with quick minds simply decided that they needed to put the vendors somewhere, which leeds to Ayleen and Monique’s Steampunk on the Cheap panel…

The panel went well, attacking the topic from the angles of how to costume, where to find cheap materials, and reassuring that it’s OK to not have an amazing designer make a dress just for you (Did I mention Festooned Butterfly is amazing?). So imagine my surprise when a staff member walk through the door talking to vendors as if they were realtors: “Now you could have a space right here, it’s very nice, anyone in a panel would be able to see your products… oh no this is just one of many spots you could have…”

This is by no means a criticism, the organizers had to think fast and they acted as best as they could. And as far as I heard from my vendor friends “Well, Jeff Mach [the main backer of World’s Faire who had been thrown into a more active role] came by a couple of times to make sure everything was all right and see if he couldn’t diffuse any problems.” Though it was not ideal most of the organizers were working very hard to make sure the convention went on without any more hitches.

Later that night I waited for The Queen of Steam Pagent. This is an event I had developed last year and was unfortunately taken from me. Hortence, last year’s winner, and Uncle Yo as co-hosts were very respectful and understanding of this and as a result Hortence had allowed me to explain a little of why I started this event and introduce her and Uncle Yo. I arrived about ten minutes early and had a lovely conversation catching up with Uncle Yo. As time went on we grew increasingly worried as Hortence hadn’t shown up. When she finally arrived (looking FAB-U-LOUS) we encountered another problem. No one could reach judge number three, A Count Named Slickbrass. As we approached ten minutes or so late and counting Hortence turned to me and said “Well… Lucretia… Would you like to be a judge?” Trying to hide my glee I shook her hand, hugged her and said I’d be honored.

Waving the Wandering Legion flag at Queen of Steam. Image courtesy of Jessica Lilley.

I hit the stage and told the capacity crowd that we would be starting shortly, introduced myself, then Hortence, and Uncle Yo. They in turn introduced me, Renfield, and Megan Maude as judges. The contestants were then asked to take the stage. Each competitor was exquisite! One competitor had made wings that expanded, Danny of The Outlanders was so convincing I didn’t recognize him, the 11th Doctor immerged from a Tardis (and stopped the Rapture), the winner of this year’s queen of steam looked amazing and creating a rotating key for her back, but my heart has to belong to Baron. His outfit was not the most impressive of the group (but still worked just fine) was not what made his entry so special it was his makeup done up by Holly Hickerson, and his attitude.

Winners of Queen of Steam contest. Image courtesy of Jessica Lilley.

After the Queen of Steam had finished, we met up with everyone in the Red Fork Empire for the Imperial portrait, and a panel run by Holly and Samara (Also known as Leedelou and Abigail) all about makeup! The panel itself had some rocky moments but everyone in attendance enjoyed it and I loved my make up. Not to mention that I absolutely adore the chemistry between these two so I look forward to seeing how the panel shapes itself in the future but for a premier panel it was absolutely on track for great things! Then lots of drinking occurred. I’m sure other things happened… But drinking took precedence.

SATURDAY

Saturday was by far our busy day. We started the day off with Ayleen and Jaymee’s Beyond Victoriana panel. It was placed on the secondary stage, no doubt because of the HUGE amounts of people who saw the panel last year, but it presented itself with a new problem: con attendees who weren’t interested in the panel just in the vendors who already inhabited the stage area. Luckilly no one was interested in trolling so the panel went off without a hitch.

We had met SJ Chambers, one of the authors of The Steampunk Bible, at Steampunk International City and worked out a deal to record some material for the website since The Wandering Legion’s style is too full-scale to fit in print form (or at least that’s how we’d like to think of it). After waffling on locations we finally set our location to be outside of Jake Von Slatt’s bus. But more on that when it gets posted.

For a little while we took out our puppets and did a brief puppet walk. Some people were freaked out. Others were happy to see us and The General. The only one who was not happy was The Emperor of the Red Fork Empire when we gate crashed Miss Kitty’s Steamy Tea Service. For some reason or another puppets tend to confuse The Emperor… especially a puppet version of himself.

Puppet walk! Image courtesy of Ay-leen

With the puppets asleep we all went our separate ways for a bit. Ay-leen and I attended the Multicultural Steampunk Photo Shoot. Which took place in The Bar of the hotel… without their knowledge. After meeting up with people and having to fight for a spot in a convention sanctioned event space we decided to move the multicultural steamy party outside, got some LOVELY shots and relaxed in our friend Monique Poirier’s hotel room… Where I read some of her Lovecraftian Erotica aloud… Then it was on to “To Whome Does This Line Pertain!”

“To Whom Does This Line Pertain” occurred in a small, un air-conditioned room at the same time and space as a game of Baron Munchaussen and a tabletop game of BESM and no one had fun. That’s a complete lie. Like many things at this convention tragedy struck and we WERE scheduled to be in the same room as all of these things but seeing the large group that was already waiting to see us we knew one room could not hold this amount of awesome. So Cameron, Pablo (the organizers of the show), myself, and Slick Brass made the announcements to all around that it would take place outside. The front entrance to the hotel was the only area open that was large enough to accomidate the egos of The Emperor of The Red Fork Empire, Dr. Grymm, Miss Kitty, Renfield (of Gin Rebellion), V. Nigel Taylor (of Platform One), Doug Cowell (Of Dogtoon Media/Legion), myself, and A Count Named Slickbrass. Oh, and also the 250 or so people who crazily followed us outside. Were this a perfect space we would have been microphoned. Were this a perfect situation we’d have perfect light to catch it on tape. None of these things were true. But even though one could not hear EVERYTHING we said or performed the audience had a BLAST.

Swagger 101 went on from A Count Named Slick Brass but I was so tired I decided to take that time to re-coup knowing Slickbrass would be fine. Besides we had to prepare for a secret party (there’s a reason the Puppets Came out to play ^_~). Scheduled to perform at this party were Samara (Abigail) belly dancing, a very special Saucy Legion Puppet Show, and Eli August, Petal Blight, and Matt Deblass! We packed into the room very tight and very hot but eager for some hot Eli August/Puppet action, all thanks to Eli and A Count Named Slick Brass!

Samara, it goes without saying, is a top notch performer and delivered an amazing performance. Legion puppets were received AMAZINGLY well. The puppet show is something I am very proud of and look forward to keep offering at a number of other conventions, but this one in particular was made to make fun of A Count Named Slick Brass, the Titalis crew, and I think I added a line from The General Puppet saying that he would give Eli August a reason to sing sad F’in songs. Eli, Petal Blight, and Matt all performed together one of my favorite covers of Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” and a few other songs before it seemed like a better idea to just drink and hang out. At which point lots of drinking ensued in various places throughout the hotel.

SUNDAY

Ayleen and Jaymee had their Steampunk and Social Issues Round Table with more guests on the table than ever. We all got at least one good comment in but for the most part the conversation ran itself basically. This was one of the first times it started its conversation outside of the convention circuit, and what costumes people were wearing and delved into the sheer politics of steam. As much as I can equate the actual punk rock movement to the Steampunk movement this was the most political this talk has ever gone in my experience. I thank Magpie Killjoy and Jake Von Slatt for starting the bar away from costuming and onto the more political aspect but at the same time I was a lot less of a guest in that conversation and more of an engaged listener.

The biggest commitment we had was to be in the Fashion Show. We showed up when called and ran into Christophe (one of the organizers of the Fashion Show) who immediately said “I tried not to get her to pull out, I’m so sorry!” Which of course freaked us out as we had no idea ANYONE had pulled out let alone three or four designers. This was another one of those muddled he said/she said situations but the brass tacks are that miscommunication was abound from the start and a few of the designers could not show on Sunday. We still had a few designers willing and able to show off their amazing fashions and I was determined to make sure Festooned Butterfly had a showing. We talked things over with Angie, who helped us into our outfits and unfortunately due to her place in the vendor room could not see us walk. There was a lot of miscommunication during the fashion show but when all was said and done the designers got to show their work.

Lucretia at the fashion show. Image courtesy of Philip Ng.

Afterwards Ay-leen and I ran to get ready for the Pro-Union Labor Rally.

I have no words for the Rally. No words that can describe how incredibly necessary these are. These events that (even though they are not on the schedule but SHOULD be) speak to steampunks on a political level need to happen. Music, readings, speeches, all of them were filled with such passion that as much as we try to connect with others on an emotional level of fun providing a place for serious business gives legitimacy to Steampunk as a movement and even when ridiculous elements pop into it (like the anti-union steampunk upper class that raided the rally) we can still look at this type of event and say that no we’re not just wasting our time. We are pushing for something greater. I thank Painless Parker, Pablo, Matt Deblass, Leanna Renee Hieber, the Holzman-Tweeds, Monique Poirier, Ayleen, Samara (Who unwittingly gave up a few minutes of her half-hour belly dancer set), and most importantly Miriam (Steampunk Emma Goldman) for crafting this and following up on her convictions.

I was then off to go video tape a monkey and Professor Elemental! It didn’t work out at first (Sadness). But I got to see Elemental’s set which was splendid as always; made more splendid by Professor Elemental removing his title and performing a song simply as “Elemental.” It was, he told me later, a bit nerve wracking to drop the persona he had been hired to be and spin some rhymes about subjects that were more personal to him. His less caricature driven work is a lot more aggressive but act or not he is always Elemental and therefore it was still amazing albeit a bit more aggressive in nature. After most of his set was over he invited The Extraordinary Contraptions onstage and did an impromptu version of The Quest for the Golden Frog which was fun… but a bit rocky. The Contraptions played a number of their songs before Professor hit the Stage again and by the timer all had shared some stage time they found their groove and the set’s closer “Fighting Trousers,” was a highlight of the convention.

After Elemental, Platform One took the stage. I missed most of their set as this would be the last time in who knows how long, we would have to record some promo material with The Absynthe Minded Professor but what I did hear I loved, and what I saw (The incorporation of brass pipes on drum kits, and a number of other aesthetic changes to their keyboards and overall stage presence) proved to me that Steamgoth IS becoming a thing past a bunch of Goths just showing up at a Steampunk night. Platform One you and Leanna Renee Hieber are bridging that gap nicely.

CONCLUSION

Shit happened. Some people dealt with it like troopers and it is with those people I say these words. It is not the Convention but the people who made Steampunk World’s Fair 2011 an absolute win. There is a huge opportunity for Steampunk World’s Faire 2012 to be even bigger than the first one if there is a large shift in management and those in charge pay closer attention to the details of the business as opposed to other less important factors. There were so many people who supported each other in SPWF’s time of need and who supported us in our time of need so with that I will end by stating simply: Steampunk is entirely too small to hold grudges and have enemies. The people will take notice when others are treated unfairly and they will do anything in their power to make sure balance is achieved. For it is the people who make Steampunk amazing, not the conventions, not the music, not even the art itself it is the people.

A FEW THANK YOUS IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

Savan Gupta, Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez, Cameron Cody Hare, Christophe Schneider, Jeff Mach, Gil Cnaan, Anthony Pomerleau, SJ Chambers, Miss Kitty, Justinian, OM Grey, Professor Elemental, Big Bear Trading, Angie and Festooned Butterfly, Dr. Grymm, Knight Redfield, GW Smith, Mardigan and Jillian, the Holzman Tweeds, Sean Proper, Kat, The Outlanders, Austin Sirkin, Megan Maude Mchugh, HM and Renfield (The Gin Rebellion), Uprising Steampunk Fashion and Fabrication, V Nigel Taylor and Platform One, Jake Von Slatt, Magpie Killjoy, the crew of the Titalis, Melanie Rosenbaum, Frenchy and The Punk, Eli August, Matt Deblass, Gen and Psyche Corporation, Eric Badger, Painless Parker, Monique Poirier, Dorothy Winterman, K Tempest Bradford, Leanna Renee Hieber, The crew of The Airship Isabella, Miss Kitty, Mikayla, Panda, Jess (Lady of Graves), Holly (Leedelou), Ian (Sir Ian), Paul (The Baron), Douglas (The Professor), Samara (Abigail), Jeff (The General), but most importantly Ayleen the Peacemaker, you are family and no one can touch that. I am SURE I have forgotten a name or two in this list, some that are very important and for that I am sorry but there were just SO many of you that made my experience in this field so wonderful I can’t even count anymore. I love you all and know that no name was omitted out of spite.

***

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.

One response to ““The People Make the Convention” – A SPWF II Con Report by Ashley Lauren Rogers (aka Lucretia Dearfour)

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

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