Steampunk Invasion 2014 – Review

At the risk of repeating myself in a convention review,

O.M.G. (insert your own G here).


While Asylum was happening in England, Steampunk Invasion was happening in Dallas, Texas during September 12-14. If you had thought about attending and missed this first year convention, you missed an amazingly immersive and entertaining event!

group shot

The excitement for this first year event built up with local articles (and here and here) and interviews.

And of course, there was this early video tour of the location by organizer Jim Trent.


The convention, like Dallas, was loaded with history.

Dallas’s history includes being a site for the Caddo Native American tribe, later being claimed by both the Spanish and French, a trading post which led to a permanent settlement, the arrive of the steam train lines doubled the city’s population in 1872. In the 20th century, Dallas became a center of banking, insurance, and fashion retailing among other things. Dallas also saw the first skyscraper west of the Mississippi River. There was the East Texas oil boom in 1930, and of course, one of the most famous historical events in American history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.


The grassy knoll of Dealey Plaza was only several blocks from the Hotel Indigo, where incoming guests and attendees stayed. It’s a nearly 90 year old hotel which boasts a good deal of old trim and woodwork after various renovations. Side note, for a bit of history about the hotel, it was built in 1925 for Conrad Hilton in response to the building of the luxurious Adolphus hotel.


The biggest bit of history for the convention really comes in the form of the Dallas Heritage Village, the location for the convention. It was an amazing location and really did create an immersive feeling for the weekend. The historic buildings, which include a bank, saloon, town hall, church, school, and homes, all date from the 1800s and really set the mood for a steampunk weekend.


It was easy to slip right into a steampunk world, walking away from the registration book and parking lot, down the cobblestone streets, past houses and fixtures that would be right at home in any steampunk world setting.


Friday night was all about mixing, mingling, and musical performances. Drinks could be had in the operating saloon, and the weather was perfect to sit on the street benches, just enjoying the evening, watching the endless promenade of people in their finest outfits. It was one of those relaxing, immersive moments when one might wonder why we don’t do this every Friday night.


It only took a look up and past the tree line, or the vibration of a cell phone, to be momentarily pulled out of the steampunk moment and be reminded of the 21st century world outside our bubble environment and the bit of real life waiting when the weekend was over. Thankfully, though, returning to our world was easy enough, and the gentility and enjoyment of the evening continued. This happened to me several times, where I was totally caught up in the immersion, and it was always a bit disappointing when I was pulled out of the moment.


Saturday was off to a rousing start of panels and performances. While I got to talk about Steampunk around the Country and The Steampunk Museum, the day was filled with great panels from Cedric Whittaker and the crew of the Airship Isabella, fashion and costuming, art, grooming, and mourning customs. One of my favorite panels was Victorian Medicine, held in the school house where attendees sat in the real wooden desk-seats of the time. It was a fascinating insight to medical “treatments’ of illness and injury.

Program book

One other exciting programming track was for the younger set. A full day of activities for children. Steampunk has often been family friendly and a fun time for everyone of all ages, but it was nice to see Steampunk Invasion create a set of panels and activities for the kids.


Something else I noticed at this convention was the great number of photographers roaming around. I was glad they were there since I know their photos were going to turn out far better than mine.

Here’s a few links

Steampunk Invasion 2014 – IMAGES

Steampunk Invasion — Friday Part I by Joseph Hernandez

Steampunk Invasion — Saturday Part I by Joseph Hernandez

Steampunk Invasion — Saturday Part III by Joseph Hernandez

Steampunk Invasion 2014 by Ron Wheeler

Steampunk Invasion Pictures – Friday

Steampunk Invasion Pictures – Saturday


Some of the Press were around, too

Steampunk Invasion Review: The Unofficial Rules of Steampunk

Video coverage – Steampunk Invasion 2014



Also filling the day were performances by Carnival Epsilon, a shoot out at the bank when the Mayoral voting box was being stolen, and several rounds of the exciting and dangerous art and sport of Tea Dueling.


While I did participate in a bit of street dueling the previous night, I generally refrained from the afternoon’s challenges. However, I was “encouraged” to participate in a Celebrity Duel with Airship Admiral Joshua Cross, hosted and called out by Madame Askew. There were gentlemanly taunts, evil eyes, and a hint of another kind of duel at dawn, but after the suspenseful tension caused by dunking, a bit of laughter-induced wobbling, and the more advanced dueling techniques of standing, Dosey Doe, and a second dunking, this epic battle between the Ambassador and the Admiral came down to a decision in favor of … a tie!


Good duel, Admiral, good duel. But next time …


One other story related to Tea Dueling – my airship to and from Dallas was American Airlines, and was generally an uneventful trip. Aside from a problematic seat-recliner sitting in front of me. Having walked past me while I was clearly working on my laptop, on this very review, in fact, this person opted to fully recline into my work space, eliminating my ability to use said laptop. I was most peeved at this intrusion, but dear readers, take comfort that I was the model of restraint and decorum, and the incident did not escalate to the need to be settled by Tea Dueling, although the thought certainly crossed my mind.


Also, I didn’t want to cause the flight to be diverted, like this, or this or this.


Refreshed after a break for dinner and outfit changes, attendees were treated a night of grand music from the Marquis of Vaudeville, The Cog is Dead, and Montague Jacques Fromage. People sat on blankets and on the street benches, enjoying their Village popcorn and saloon drinks, while others danced the night away. It was an amazing evening, all around, and even better to share it with friends, old and new.


Sunday, with people moving a little slow first thing in the morning, brought the wrap up panels hosted by organizer Jim Trent. First was the commentary about this year’s convention, and the wish list for next year. This was followed by an engaging discussion about the Future of Steampunk, and finally wrapping up with the Closing Ceremony, thanking everyone who helped create this amazing first year event.


If you like a healthy dose of historical immersion in your convention location, a variety of panel topics by, for, and about our community, and rousing musical performances, this is a convention to add to your 2015 schedule.


If you did attend, Jim sent out this comment to all of us,

” Please send a Thank You email subject line “Steampunk Invasion” to their Executive Director at :

We want to let these folks know how much we enjoy the site, appreciate their efforts and look forward to doing it again. Please drop them an email today.”


Steampunk Invasion 2015 will return to the Dallas Heritage Village, and ticket information will be announced soon.

Published in: on September 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with author David Barnett, Part 2

Welcome back for the conclusion of our chat with author David Barnett about his latest book, Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon.

Read part 1 here.



AA: Have you done any book tours or conventions? What has the fan reaction been like?

DB: I’ve done a few events for the first book and gearing up for the second I have more to come. The reaction’s been great – people are generally so lovely. Haven’t been to America with the books yet, so if anyone out there wants to fly me over…


AA: What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?

DB: I have a family, so my wife and two children keep me utterly grounded, especially if I threaten to get to “authorish”. I also work full-time, so have no trouble filling my time. The hard part is finding time to write…


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

DB: I do like to meet other writers and have some great friends in the writing world – many of them people I admired greatly before I became a writer myself. Don’t do much constructive crit work with them though – mainly have a few beers.


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

DB: If I didn’t think my writing got better with each book I’d take a long hard look at myself and probably quit.


AA: How is the United Kingdom for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc.?

DB: Just hang on, it’s getting a bit dark so let me turn up the gas lamps and throw another log on the open fire. Now, where were we..? Nah, the best thing about the digital age is that writers can pretty much write anywhere, research easily on the net, etc. I imagine the UK is like any other first world country for writers.


AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

DB: I do work full time, as a journalist on a newspaper in Yorkshire. I suppose writing for my day job – though journalism and novel-writing are obviously two completely different disciplines – means I write fast, and succinctly, and hopefully quite sharp. As I said before, the worst thing is finding time to write the fiction – generally late at night is when I do it.


AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Brass Dragon or Mechanical Girl? What kind of reactions have you received?

DB: It’s funny, some of the best reactions have been from people who picked up the book thanks to a review in a mainstream newspaper or website and have no other links to the SF or steampunk communities, and really loved it. I love getting messages that begin “I didn’t think this was going to be my thing but…”


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests and topics fill your time?

DB: Sleeping and finding the perfect rum.


AA: What other fandoms are you part of in some way? (as a fan or other participation)

DB: Not much, really. God, I sound really boring, don’t I! It’s just that between writing, work, family and questing for the perfect rum, there’s not a lot of time. I’d like to spend more time watching live sport, actually, but my hometown football (soccer to you guys) team is quite a way from where I live now.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

DB: It’s a bit of a tightrope with the rum, to be honest. Too much and I can’t string a sentence together.


AA: Who are the people who inspire and motivate you as a writer?

DB: My wife, Claire (who, I feel I must point out, is NOT my editor Claire), who keeps my feet on the ground and tells me just to get on with it, and my kids who are secretly quite impressed that I have books out. I live to finally have my kids come up to me and say, wow, Dad, you’re actually quite cool.


AA: Three random questions – what is your favorite tv show, pre-2000 music group, and research topic?

DB: Favourite recent TV show has to be True Detective. That was a phenomenal piece of storytelling. Like a novel on screen. Oh, and Penny Dreadful is loads of fun. Favourite music group? Orbital, the progressive techno outfit. First saw them in 1994, I think, at the Glastonbury festival. That’s a bit of a cheat as they’re still going, I suppose. And still brilliant. Favourite research topic… how to make a 30ft tall steam-powered bamboo-framed mecha that shoots bullets from its wrists. But you’ll have to read Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon to see how that turned out…


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

DB: If you read the Gideon Smith books, I hope you’ll have as much fun with them as I had writing them. Drop me a line on twitter at @davidmbarnett or my website at I love to hear people’s thoughts on the books. Unless you hate them, of course. If you write as well as read, keep persevering. Remember – seven books before I got a bite. Seven. Keep at it, yeah?


Keep up with David on his website. You can support David and the steampunk community by getting your copy of both Mechanical Girl and Brass Dragon today.

Published in: on September 18, 2014 at 6:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Author David Barnett

This week we are talking with David Barnett, author of Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon.


Airship Ambassador: Hi David, thanks for joining us for this interview.

AUTHOR: Hello! I’m extremely happy to be here. Love what you’ve done with the place… all that brass! And so well-polished!


AA: Thanks! I try to keep the Embassy up to snuff in a warm and welcoming environment. This is the second book in a series. What is this one about?

DB: Well, it’s a direct continuation from the first book, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. In that, a young fisherman from the wilds of the Yorkshire coast found himself in the middle of great shenanigans in an alternate, steampunky version of 1890. He ended up becoming the official Hero of the Empire, and this chapter sees him off to America to recover the stolen brass dragon, Apep, an ancient weapon of mass destruction, and the only person who can control it – Maria, the Mechanical Girl of the first book.


AA: What was the motivation for creating Brass Dragon, as well as the whole Gideon Smith series?

DB: I suppose the prime motivation was to write something that was fun, exciting and relevant. I wanted to tap into the pulp-ish literature and movies of yore, but try to give it a sheen of contemporary sensibilities.


AA: That definitely sounds appealing as a format and structure. Authors often talk about how elements of their own lives, the reality and the dreams, make their way into their stories. How did this play into Brass Dragon?

DB: I suppose I drew upon my own love of fantastical literature, and pulps, and comic books, and tried to bring that into the “real” world of Gideon… what if such heroes were real? Would they necessarily be as they’re portrayed in the fictions? And if not, can an ordinary person really become a hero?


AA: Why choose a steampunk world setting for this set of stories?

DB: I wanted to set it in the late Victorian period because it’s just out of living memory, so familiar to us as recent history, but it was still a world of undiscovered territory and great scientific achievement. It was a world on the cusp of the future, really… as I suppose we are today.


AA: What kind of back story is there for Brass Dragon which didn’t make it into this book? Might it come out in the next book?

DB: The Gideon series has an over-arching plot thread which was begun in the first book and is basically the mystery of Maria, who she is and how she came to be. Each book is a standalone adventure that can be enjoyed in its own right, but it’s also a piece of the greater puzzle. So there are hints in both books of things that might not come into play until much later in the series. As for back-story, I did (at my wonderful editor Claire Eddy’s request) draw up a “secret history of the world” which filled in a lot of the historical context, and how things are different in Gideon’s world to ours.


AA: I think it’s always good to have a guide like that, not only for the author to keep track of details, but also if it was released to readers at some point, to fill in those information gaps and trivia which can help make the story world so much richer. What are the plans for the next book? How many books do you have in mind which readers can look forward to?

DB: Well, book three is already written. It’s called Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper and brings Gideon and Co back to London where they get involved in some very dark deeds. As ever, though it’s a standalone novel, it does add some more detail to the big picture. I’m contracted by Tor for three books initially, all of which have been delivered. I think the main story could be told in a six-volume series… but whether that happens depends on the reception to the first three!


AA: When people read Brass Dragon, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

DB: I hope they’ll have fun, but I also hope it’ll make them think a bit. The first book was sort of a meditation on heroism and what makes a hero; Brass Dragon is kind of about freedom, and how we’re all shackled to something, whether we know it or not. Book three explores identity, and whether what we do is more important than what we think we are.


AA: What kind of research, and then balance, went into creating the world of Gideon Smith?

DB: Quite a lot of research, especially into American history. Which I then threw out of the window. But carefully! Gideon’s America is a lot different to what we know – the American Revolution never happened, so Britain still controls the East coast. There’s a new Japanese community based in San Francisco (renamed Nyu Edo), a breakaway faction from the old country established in 1868. And Mexico is known as New Spain, as the Spanish never left. So I had to know what I was riding roughshod over before I did so.


AA: What elements did you include so readers could feel the Brass Dragon history?

DB: There are various points of view, Gideon’s which introduces us to the British-controlled areas and the territories in and around Texas, controlled by feudal warlords, then there’s that of a young Spanish girl and also a family from the Japanese territory, so it hopefully slots together quite nicely.


AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to Brass Dragon which you’ve heard about?

DB: It’s early days yet as the book is only just out, but there have been a couple of great reviews, from Publishers Weekly and others. I was blessed with some fantastic notices for the first book, so here’s hoping…


AA: What kind of attention has Brass Dragon, and the first book, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, generated?

DB: Oh, you know, I can’t walk down the street without being mobbed by gangs of screaming steampunks waving their books to be signed. Note: this is a joke. Seriously, it has got me some gigs at literary festivals and events, and I was given a very warm welcome at the Haworth Steampunk Festival in West Yorkshire last November, which I hope to visit again this year.


AA: Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience like?

DB: A long time in coming! I think Gideon Smith was the seventh novel I submitted to my agent John Jarrold, and the first to get a proper deal. It’s a case of writing the right book at the right time. I wrote the right books at the wrong time previously, or possibly the wrong books at the right time. Gideon Smith seemed to be the right book at the right time. You have to persevere, though. If I’d given up after rejections on the first couple, I’d never have written Gideon Smith.


AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?

DB: Editors and agents are utterly essential for my money. John Jarrold, my agent, is my first reader and tells me what works, what doesn’t, and then does all the hard work in getting it under editors’ noses. Claire Eddy, my agent at Tor, is an absolute gem. Her feedback, suggestions and support make the books so much better and my job so much more pleasurable. Every writer should have a John and a Claire!


AA: If you weren’t author, what else would you be doing now?

DB: I think I’d like to be an archaeologist, the Indiana Jones variety.



We’ll pause here in our chat with David. Join us for part 2 where he talks about writing, location and other interests.

Until then, keep up with David on his website, and get a copy of both Mechanical Girl and Brass Dragon.

Published in: on September 16, 2014 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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