This Memorial Day weekend, I was Up in the Aether–at the brand new convention in Dearborn, Michigan. Although there were holdover staff and guests from World Steam Expo, which folded, this was an all-new con with all new staff. It wasn’t perfect. We had plenty of growing pains, some visible to attendees, more that weren’t. You know what, though? I had a blast. My favorite place was the vendor’s room, of course, which was chock full of goodies ranging from $5 to thousands. Of course I picked up a few goodies to augment my wardrobe–I’m only human.
Other activities abounded, though. There was an airship combat room. An airship-to-airship combat video game to test out. There were more bands than I can remember. There was a Mr./Ms. Steampunk pageant. And of course, there were lots of panels–history, costuming, food, DIY, and, of course, steampunk fiction. That’s where I came in. Yep, I was in charge of wrangling the authors (and, incidentally, one film crew.) Yes, that can be an awful lot like herding wet ferrets. In this case, though, everyone played together pretty well. Guests of honor included Pip Ballantyne and Tee Morris, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear, and Steven Harper. Other panelists were me, David Erik Nelson, Christian Klaver, and Colleen Gleason, plus the makers of the steampunk movie, “Wars of Other Men.” We had lots of great panels and even a few attendees showed up.
Yep. A few. Here’s where my learning curve on steampunk conventions kicks in. Science fiction conventions are about the product: the books, the movies, the games, and by extension, the creators of the above. Romance cons are even more so. But steampunk conventions are not about fiction. They’re about being steampunk. Make your costume, make your food, learn your history and dance to the music. Only a rather small percentage of the con-goers give a rat’s butt about the books. This strikes the average author as very odd, but the solid truth is that a lot of folks who identify as steampunk Don’t Even Read. (gasp) No, I don’t mean they’re illiterate. I just mean that fiction isn’t their recreation of choice.
Huh. Well, having come into steampunk via fiction, that just bloody well hadn’t occurred to me. So what to do next year to keep fiction as a viable part of the convention, and draw in more bodies to the literary panels. I have ideas, but not enough. More suggestions would be more than welcome. One thought is to run the writing panels as DIY models–where there are hands-on exercises and the attendees come out with some kind of product. One is to have fewer panels, so the audience isn’t diluted by too many options. More advance promo of the authors would also be a plus. Maybe integrate some of that into the main programming of the con itself. Mostly, though, I’m just going to have to work my butt off to come up with something. I have confidence in the steampunk community that we’ll pull something off. After all–we build worlds. Surely we can build an audience. 🙂
In these photos, you’ll see me, my spouse, and my younger offspring. The grand-spawn was also in attendance, which was fun. Thanks to the captain and first mate of the Airship Valkyrie for the props: deck gun, tentacle, and the Aerodrome Authority chalkboard. All three black top hats are from Blonde Swan, leather skirt, kilt and suspenders are from Shoptroll, and red men’s corset and my green silk outfit are from Ties that Bynde.