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Prudence for print -with trim -300 dpi -CMYKSibelle Stone is the pseudonym for award winning historical romance author Deborah Schneider. Sibelle writes sexy Steampunk and paranormal stories, filled with magic, witches, mad scientists, dirigibles, automatons, and creatures that would scare the panties off Deborah. In her spare time Sibelle enjoys dressing up in Victorian ensembles, modding play guns into something that looks a bit more sinister and wearing hats. Deborah/Sibelle works for one of the busiest library systems in the country and she’s been named Librarian of the Year by Romance Writers of America. Her first full-length Steampunk romance, Prudence and the Professor, will be released in May 2013. Visit her website at www.sibellestone.com to see what costuming fun she’s having throughout the year.
Steamcon – A Steampunk Adventure
by  Sibelle Stone
Steamcon III 052A few years ago I didn’t really know much about Steampunk. I’d seen some photos of Steampunk fashion and as someone who has written books set in the Victorian era as well as an adult who never, ever outgrew “dressing up” —I felt like I’d found my “people”.
Then, a friend emailed me and asked if I was planning to attend “Steamcon” in Seattle. Well, I live near Seattle and I was incredibly interested in the Steampunk sub-culture. So of course I said, “Damned right I shall be attending!” In my very best Victorian speak.How can I even describe attending an event where everyone seems to share an enthusiasm for all the wild, weird aspects of a pretend world? Better than Disney World? Well, there aren’t any rides but having the opportunity to be with like-minded folks who imagined, for even the expanse of a weekend, that we could be all be part of something bigger and better was intoxicating. (Not to mention the many social events at the bar).
steamcon2010-35There was amazing costuming, fabulous music—including ABNEY PARK and one of my favorite artists,UNWOMAN, plus workshops, a Victorian Tea, vendors, readings, gaming, and more. The weekend was packed with things to do, nice people to talk with and fun.
Since then, I’ve attended every Steamcon, including last year when the theme was “Victorian Monsters” which was perfect for the pre-Halloween experience. The costumes were even more outrageous, the workshops informative on a variety of topics, such as Victorian Mediums and Mortuary Traditions, plus the music, art, vendors and gaming.
2012-10-27_19-49-29_173If you can only afford to attend one Steampunk event this year, and you’re close to the West coast, I invite you toSteamcon V. It’s small enough to get to know people, but big enough for a variety of incredible programming choices.
The theme this year is “Around the World”. And say hello to me! I’ll be wearing the  Chinese silk jacket and amazing hat. There MUST always be an amazing hat!
~Sibelle

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First off, if you’re lucky enough to be going to Steamcon III in Seattle, Steamed is up for an Airship Award, so please vote for us. 

Speaking of voting, here’s a rather shameless plug.  You all know how much I love cupcakes.  Well, please vote for me, so I can be a judge at the Cupcake Love In, in Arizona in late October.   (You can vote daily and if I win, I will show up in Steampunk gear). 

I’m going to be teaching Writing Steampunk from A-Z online during the month of November, so come join us–even if (especially if) you’re doing NaNoWriMo.  I’ll be writing right alongside everyone else. 

It’s banned book week and to celebrate we’re giving away some H.G. Wells here

Also, Dr. Fantastique’s Show of Wonders Magazine is a huge supporter of Steamed and they’re off on an adventure to offer their terrific steampunk magazine in print.  Check out their kickstarter campaign

Finally, I have a copy of The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer to give away to one of you.  The anthology is based on the fictional story of Thackery T. Lambshead and the odd assortment of things supposedly uncovered beneath his estate.  In this rather large book of strange and fascinating tales, each author explores the story behind each discovered item.  

From Goodreads:

All-new stories and art from the doctor’s wondrous collection

After the death of Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, a remarkable discovery was unearthed: the remains of an astonishing cabinet of curiosities. Many of these artifacts, curios, and wonders related to anecdotes and stories in the doctor’s personal journals. Others, when shown to the doctor’s friends, elicited further tales from a life like no other.

Thus, in keeping with the bold spirit exemplified by Dr. Lambs­head and his exploits, we now proudly present highlights from the doctor’s cabinet, reconstructed not only through visual representations but also through exciting stories of intrigue and adventure.

A carefully selected group of popular artists and acclaimed, bestselling fantasy authors has been assembled to bring Dr. Lambshead’s cabinet of curiosities to life. Including contributions from Alan Moore, Lev Grossman, Mike Mignola, China MiÉville, Cherie Priest, Carrie Vaughn, Greg Broadmore, Naomi Novik, Garth Nix, Michael Moorcock , Holly Black, Jeffrey Ford, Ted Chiang, and many more.

Want it for your very own?  Just leave a comment below on what Steampunk object you’d like to uncover.  Contest ends October 2nd, 2011, at 11:59 PM PST.  Open Internationally.

 

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, Innocent Darkness, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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There’s long been a debate among those looking at steampunk from the outside if steampunk can really be anything but Victorian England.

I, for one, would argue YES. (And really this has nothing to do with the fact that my steampunk books in The Legend Chronicles are set in some part in the Wild Weird West–honestly.) If Jules Verne can write about being 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, then that isn’t Victorian England, is it? If H.G. Wells can write about the New York of the future in his work The Time Machine, that isn’t exactly London either, is it?

I choose to espouse the view that steampunk is more of a time period than a particular setting. You can write about or design costumes from any area of the globe (and a few beyond our own stratsophere) during that golden age and still be steam. The punk comes from being your own little creative mad genius self.  So why not have dragon ladies, courtesans of the far east? What about appearing as a Maha Raja or one of his veiled lovey wives? Certainly you could even been a Plantation owner from the Caribean or a Cattle Baron from South America. Truly the combinations are endless.

But I digress.

What really has me excited is the steampunk movement into the Wild Weird American West. If you haven’t already heard about the Wild Wild West Steampunk Con going on at Old Tucson Studios in Arizona in March, you should check it out. It’s the first large steampunk gather in Arizona. Not only will Abney Park and the League of S.T.E.A.M. be there, but there’s nothing quite like venturing into Arizona to get the authentic feel of the old west. (I lived there for nearly a decade–trust me.)

Not only do you get the Miner ’49er, but the cowboy, the saloon girl, the rancher, the townie,the gunslinger, carpetbagger and cardshark; so many new and fun ways to express all the goodness that is steampunk. I don’t know about you, but I have a LOT of sewing to do to prepare for the con. And Lolita Elizabeth will be there as well!

If you were going to be one character from the Wild Weird West, what would it be?

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If you’ve never been to a steampunk con, let me say, you’re missing something. It is emersion into the culture at it’s finest. Where do I even begin?

Just look at that arm!

How about Friday? Friday early I arrived at the location of SteamCon II, which was held between the SeaTac Marriot and SeaTac Hilton. (For those of you not familiar with the Seattle area, that’s right across from the Seattle airport, which means it’s great for people flying in, but not so fun to walk between the two up the hill and down the hill depending on which activity or workshop you were interested in.) The registration lines looped around a bit like Disneyland, and people in the pre-registered line were all in costume, and so were most of those who were coming in to register that day for the event. Unlike other conferences and conventions I’ve been to, the costuming is a huge part of the experience. There’s eye-candy everywhere.

Fabulously Dressed Ladies in Workshop

They gave us a newspaper-like program heaped with so many different workshops and events it was likely to make your top-hat spin. What a glorious array! Everything from steampunk modding and how real gun fights work to magic and steampunk, and chats with the likes of James Blaylock (one

Tuesday Lolita Theresa Meyers with James Blaylock

of the founding fathers of the genre), Cherie Priest, Gail Carriger, Jay Lake, Nick Valentino and the intrepid inventor Jake Von Slatt, and a set of Steampunk ghost-busting enthusiasts from The League of S.T.E.A.M.

Member of The League of S.T.E.A.M.

There was a Grand Mercantile with a huge array of things to be purchased – feathers, leathers, hats and tea, corsets, books and jewelry (oh, good grief, does that actually rhyme?) You could find numerous opportunities to practice your acting skills in live action role-playing events (LARP), or game away in the various game rooms. (I attempted to sit in on a card and dice game of The Good, The Bad and The Munchkin, and having never played any sort of Munchkin was still horribly newbie and lost despite the best efforts of my fellow players at the end of an hour. Thank you to those of you who were so gracious and patient.)

The devine Cherie Priest on her way to a workshop

Friday also presented us with the First Annual Airship Awards, where lovely little airship statuettes were presented for the best in written, auditory, visual and community support of the genre. (Winners and finalists in each can be found at the SteamCon II website if you are curious.) They had a lovely dinner, and big screen flashing various images of the finalist. A few funny speeches and a lot of fun talk around the tables with fellow steampunk enthusiasts.

Saturday saw more workshops and the hosting of a most memorable afternoon tea and fashion show. The designers had some absolutely stunning clothes (which I believe there might be pictures of at the SteamCon website shortly).

A good doggone answer to What is Steampunk?

Due to an unforeseen series of most fortunate events, I was invited to fill in for an author who had to cancel at the last moment, so I spoke on three different panels and gave a reading. May I say, if you ever get the opportunity to go to a workshop by Jay Lake, do so. He is a veritable fount of one-liners that are both groan-worthy and very humorous at the same time.

That is a HUGE hand, mister.

We talked about what is steampunk, dissecting the genre, as it were, and after an hour came to the conclusion that it’s as much time period and aesthetic as it is a particular feeling to the work which is based in the gilded age where excess reigned supreme and exploration was rather mandatory, vs. diesel-punk which has roots more firmly grounded in the dystopian elements of the great depression and world war, where scarcity rules the day and invention is out of necessity to use and reuse whatever one had on hand to survive.

A Teapot handbag! How brilliant!

I went to workshops on ghost hunting in the Victorian era, steam cowboys and one about Hoaxes perpetuated by newspapers of the time by the likes of writers such as Samuel Clemens and Edgar Allen Poe, who apparently made a decent enough showing of it to have their tales of airships being spotted over the city, and animals escaping zoos in the midst of busy down-town cities very popular – and gasp, news of the day. In fact, I found it most fascinating that fictional tales were often intermingled with actual news items in such prestigious publications at The Boston Globe, and not much was done to distinguish between the two. (Wait, how is that so different than today’s reporting?)

L to R Nick Valentino, Tues. Lolita Theresa and Wed. Lolita Elizabeth

I digress. I went shopping in the grand mercantile and purchased a new corset, some tea and some Christmas presents. I had fun lunch with fellow Lolita Elizabeth Darvill. Late in the day I gave a reading from my Weird West set steampunk The Hunter, which doesn’t even come out until late 2011. I let the audience choose, from two sections, action or spicy. They unanimously picked the spicy version. Unfortunately, we’d spent so much time chit-chatting to start that we barely even got into the spicy bit before my half hour was up.

They actually move up and down!

I also took time to visit the art gallery. Wow! Such creativity. (I didn’t know if we were actually allowed to take pictures, so I opted not to.) There were three-dimensional sculptures, prints, clothing, jewelry and more.

Saturday night was the esteemed Outlaw Concert featuring three different bands, including the well-known steampunk stylings of Abney Park. There were people crowded, spinning, dipping and doing what suspiciously looked to me like the Tango out on the dance floor in front of the stage. We were admonished at the beginning of the concert not to leap upon the stage due to the damaging of equipment in the past from such behaviors. While I had to leave early (because I was driving back and forth from home each day rather than staying at the hotel) apparently the high enthusiasm kept up until 3:30 Sunday morning.

Lovely use of top hat and corset!

Which made giving a workshop at 9:00 am Sunday morning a bit of let down. A few hardy souls trickled in to hear about Steampunk Young Adult books, but by far, I think people were likely still dealing with the affects of the concert the night before. I was part of another talk later in the day about Character vs. Setting which was better attended.

I also went to a workshop about the history of steam propulsion that was incredible. Who knew the first hybrid steam/electric car was actually introduced in 1903 and the Prius in 2003? Makes you wonder what the auto industry has actually be working on in the last 100 years, doesn’t it?

Hey, Zombies! Mad Scientist with Brain Pack over here!

My overall impression is that steampunk cons are a meeting of the mind, the creative, social and intellectual (not to mention the dancing portion of one’s anatomy). If you really want to have a good time, prepared to bring comfortable shoes and costumes. Not just one costume, but at least one for each day, and possibly a forth for dancing or going to fancier dinners and events. And don’t be shy about being a mad scientist with a backpack brain on one day and an aeronaut hottie with brown bolero-length bomber jacket and brown leather and wool trimmed hot pants on another, and a high-society vixen with an outrageous top hat and bustle on the third. Everything goes as long as it relates back to the genre. And the array of hats is very impressive. One person at a workshop put it best, “I’ve discovered something about steampunk, there is no such thing as excess. One can never have too much of anything.”

No such thing as excess, I tell you!

Be prepared to shop for those things you’ll find it difficult to get elsewhere. Have business cards so you can share with fellow steampunk fans, and for the love of all that’s decent, if you are going to give a workshop, at least provide some type of handout to go with your brilliant Powerpoint so people will have something to take with them. There’s just too much information to store it all under one’s top hat and I found myself scribbling like a jibbering idiot to keep up.

All in all it was a fantastic event, so worthy in fact, that I’ve already pre-registered for next year! There’s steampunk conventions aplenty out there. If you are interested in the genre, think you want to write in it or would just like something fun and crazy to do for a weekend go to one! And of course this isn’t ALL the pictures…if you are looking for more check out the SteamCon II album over at www.facebook.com/TheresaMeyersAuthor or go www.steamcon.org and check out their gallery.

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In the last two weeks I’ve come across more references to Steampunk in the mainstream than I have all year. One was the episode of the ABC show Castle, where the main character, who’s a writer happens to stumble into an exclusive steampunk club as part of a murder case he’s following. The second is this clip by the band Sugarland, in which they describe their influence for their latest album–Steampunk of course! Check out their costuming and stage set up, it’s just awesome.

There’s also steampunk fashions at your local mall. Check out Wet Seal and the “military” look popping up in fall fashions. All of these show me how Steampunk is merging more and more into the mainstream. People are beginning to get a glimpse of the amazing Victorian idealisim, romanticism and creativity that is inherently part of what we love.

If you haven’t explored Steampunk, now’s the time to check it out! There are a dozen or more steampunk conferences and conventions all over the country, several in Canada and even more in Europe. Some are a weekend, some are just a day, all are a dip in an absolutely amazing font of creativity.

Right now (as I finish writing up The Hunter – my paranormal steampunk due out in Nov. 2011) I’m using the costumes I want to create for Steamcon II as my carrot to get my daily pages finished first. I’ve got my science assistant costume complete with a modified tan raincoat I’ve modded into a spencer length in the front with two long tails in the back (and replaced all the plastic buttons with gold ones – naturally), that I’m going to pair with brown knee breeches, brown boots, a white peasant blouse, a mini underbust corset from Clockwork Coture and my first set of goggles!  I’m still at work on sewing the Lady Vampire high society outfit (taken from my vampire countess in the second book of the series – The Legend). I’ll admit I had my tophat made for me, but I’m sewing the dress (with bustle, overcoat, skirt and underskirt) myself. And because Steamcon II’s theme this year is Wild Weird West, I’m working on a western outfit as well that’s got a fringed black leather jacket with beading on it, a high-necked white blouse, a longer skirt and of course a cowboy hat and boots. I’ve still yet to completely figure out how to mod a gun into a replica of my sting shooter in my stories…but I’m working on it!

Where else have you seen Steampunk showing up in the mainstream?

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While the other Lolitas were living it up large at the Romance Writers of America national conference in Orlando. Lolita Marie-Claude and I (with the cyber help of Lolita Suzanne) gave both a two-day workshop and a live chat on the glorious genre of steampunk.

 One of the things I love about giving workshops is that most of the time you learn something in return for sharing with others. This time around I learned a few vital things.

 1. Writers are very confused about what is steampunk.

 For most writers (especially those in the romance genre) steampunk elicits a plethora of questions. What is it? When is it set? What do I have to do to turn my romance into a steampunk? 

 The (highly) condensed version of the answer Marie Claude and I gave is this: Steampunk is part steam, part punk. The steam comes from setting your story in the Victorian steam era (anywhere from 1830s to 1890s), before the use of the combustion engine. And while you may have outlandish inventions for your characters to use, they must be created from era appropriate materials (glass, wood, metals, natural fibers, clockworks, electricity, gun powder, steam).

The punk comes from tweaking your characters, clothing and history to suit your modern sensibilities rather than adhering strictly to Victorian social structure and morals. This means women can have far bigger roles than possible. They can be airship captains, military leaders, captains of industry, explorers, inventors and if they are past 18 and not married, their hardly spinsters. They can be set anywhere (even alternate universes, timelines, etc.) as long as they are based in the steam era.

 Steampunk is actually a very well established sub culture created from people who appreciate science fiction the likes of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. They like hand-crafted items rather than mass-produced machined items and they are a bit obsessive about details, crafting and history.  You need to respect this sub culture if you want to write in this sub genre. They are as passionate about steampunk as Star Trek fans are of their sci-fi fix.

 2. People are curious about the archetypes in steampunk.

 There are several beloved archetypal characters in steampunk. You can mix and match these archetypes and even set them in other locations to change them up a bit. Here’s a partial list, but certainly not everything, and again, these are broad, general character types: Adventurer, Aristocrat, Dandy, Explorer, Lolita, Hunter/Fighter, Cowboy, Mad Scientist/Inventor, Airship Captain/Crew/Aviator, Mechanic, Military, Femme Fatale/Soiled Dove.

 For more specifics may I suggest you look at http://www.squidoo.com/dressingsteampunk  Putting this together with any location you could certainly see how a Femme Fatale in China might come across as a Dragon Lady or a Dandy in the Wild West might have a more Southern Gentlemen styling to his clothing. 

 3. Writers are worried that their work won’t be Victorian enough.

Stop worrying so much. There is something for everyone. Yes, editors in New York might be looking for something with a more clear Victorian setting or flair, but if the writing is good, you will find a home for the story no matter where it is set. I predict you’ll be seeing a lot of growth in this segment and a broadening of the concept of what is steampunk in the next few years.

 For the most part a more Victorian feel comes not only from the clothing styles of your characters, but also with the way they speak. People were much more formal in their conversational styles at the time. For instance a man didn’t call a woman by her first name until they were practically engaged (or intimate) with one another. It would be a social faux pas. But then, normal society rules don’t apply to airship pirates, now do they?

 4. Writers are unsure what kind and how much research they need to do.

As Diana Vick, organizer grand dame of SteamCon is fond of saying, “steampunks need historical accuracy like dirigibles need goldfish.” 

You are looking for a taste of the time period, but inevitably you are going to punk it up. Things aren’t going to be the same. History might even be different. It’s like having a taste of vanilla in your whipping cream rather than actual ground vanilla bean, if that makes any sense.

Yes you can use historical facts. But you can also have things that never happened, like the great airship wars, or submarine travel or even cities underground.

If you don’t understand mechanics, fake it. As long as your inventor/mad scientist/ genius/ heroine understands how to make it work, let them fiddle with the knobs, springs, gears and levers. They’ll know how to work it and your reader will be fine with that.

 Now obviously this is hardly the complete two-day workshop in total, but if you happen to be going to any of the conferences we’ll be attending in late 2010 and through 2011 you might be able to catch the whole thing…

In the end steampunk isn’t as confusing, nor as difficult as writers are making it out to be. It should be fun. It should be filled with wonder, excitement, adventure, discovery and science. If it isn’t, well, all I can say is you’re not doing it right.

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By Diana Vick

And Then There Was Steamcon 

I’ve been in science fiction fandom for a lot more years than I am going to cop to right now.  I’ve attended well over two hundred conventions.

 They have always been a great source of wonder, creativity and surreal adventure for me that I have never found anywhere else.  My husband and I met at a convention.  It’s still a shared love of ours.  We had been talking about getting more involved in running cons or maybe even beginning one, when we found ourselves swept up in a new community… steampunk . 

We knew that we had found the perfect new subject for our convention.  Up until that point, most steampunk events that I had heard of, had been music festivals or one day events or the theme of an existing general science fiction convention.  I saw a huge potential for a bunch of like minded folks to spend a weekend completely immersed in the world of Victorian science fiction, or steampunk. 

Steamcon was born. 

We based our convention on the armature of a science fiction convention, but we fully intended to expand the model.  Having attended anime cons, goth cons, furry cons and lots of general science fiction/fantasy cons, we had seen many different ways of running things.  We felt we could select some of the best aspects and combine them to the best advantage. 

We began to gather a crew made up of old con runners and some complete newbies.  We swore that the words “because that’s the way it’s always done” would be seldom heard.  Of course we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel either, so we got advice from many old hands at this.  Having not much starting budget, I went the route of viral marketing, using social networks on the internet, and creating communities specifically for Steamcon. 

I taught myself the skills and posted everywhere I could think of.  The veteran con runners told us not to expect to big a crowd.  First year cons in this area usually attract about 500 attendees, they said.  When our pre-registration numbers were almost double, we began to worry.   We suddenly found ourselves in the awkward position of needing to cap the membership so the space wouldn’t be too crowded.    

Our final numbers were 1350, which includes the small amount we could take at the door.  Amazing and gratifying.   The result of all our hard work was a bustling, lively, successful steampunk convention.   We had gotten the word out far and wide, and folks came from so many places.  New York, Texas, California… all over, even Europe. 

My greatest fear was that as the “face of Steamcon”, people would approach me to solve their problems all weekend long.  As the first few came up to me, I internally cringed, but they just wanted to say “Thanks!”  I spent the entire weekend meeting people and hearing about how much fun they were having.  Despite the things that went wrong behind the curtain, the audience was well pleased. They were having fun.  The best outcome a con runner can hope for really.   I am so proud of my fabulous staff and my wonderful husband, the convention chair.  I was the creative director or visionary but he was the details person.   It’s an unorthodox teaming, but it works for us.

As we gear up for yet another Steamcon, we are aiming even higher.  There were so many ideas that we simply didn’t have time for last year.  This year, with two hotels and twice as much space, I imagine we can be more than twice as entertaining. 

Our theme this year is the weird, weird west, a nod to our western roots, and it’s got so much potential.  From clockwork sharp shooters to Indian shamans, we expect the eye candy to be spectacular and that’s just the attendees. Many fun schemes are in the works.   Steamcon has come a long way from the fanciful idea we had to a fully fledged steampunk convention.  And we couldn’t have done it without our attendees.  You beautiful, creative, steamy folks!  Hope to see you all again in November at Steamcon II!  www.steamcon.org

(If you want to see some of the amazing attendees from last year: http://www.flickr.com/groups/steamcon/)

Diana Vick is vice chair, creative director, and co-founder of Steamcon, the largest steampunk convention held thus far.  For the past several years, she has been speaking on the topic of steampunk at many conventions across the country, beginning with the infamous “guerilla steampunk panel” that she instigated at Dragoncon in Atlanta.  She has been interviewed by Women’s Wear Daily Fast, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine and Marie Claire, and appeared on King Five News.   She has written many articles and guest blogs on the subject of steampunk and has many more in the works.  She has a few short stories and serials in the works as well.  One of her steampunk costumes took grand prize in the masquerade at Orycon in 2009.  Even her art has taken a decidedly steampunk direction lately and you can find examples of this on her Zazzle site at http://www.zazzle.com/artvixn*.   To find more of her art, costumes and articles, you may go to http://www.dianavick.com

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