O.M.G (Insert your personal “G” word here)
Teslacon IV The Congress of Steam was amazing! Four days of events and entertainment, October 31 – November 3, 2013, was enough to make the most energetic person drag home in grateful exhaustion and fatigue.
The excitement started before the convention with a series of radio announcements, which detailed events leading up to the convention itself.
Some people started arriving on Wednesday as there were already panels and events on Thursday. There were panels on writing, 19th century history, and mixed media to get things rolling. After that, there was the Masquerade Ball, and even though it was only the first night, people really brought their “A” game with their outfits.
One thing I really love about our community is the creativity we bring to everything we do. Some people make their clothes, some pull purchased items together very well, but everyone, from waif to aristocrat, looks great.
Another great thing about our community and fandom, which was again evident at Teslacon, is how steampunk is not only family friendly but inter-generational friendly. It was great to see whole families dressing up to enjoy the weekend as well as seeing people from eight to eighty talking together without hesitation for any reason. We are all steampunks together, and we often converse and discourse like one. Our interactions for fun and education are definitely not bound nor restricted by age, or gender, or any other externally imposed factor.
Panels for the weekend thankfully started at a civil 10am, except for a handful on Saturday which started at the rude hour of 9am. Thanks to all of you who came to the panel I was on at that time.
A big thanks is deserved to the programming team at Teslacon for the varied and enjoyable panel topics and events they pulled together for the weekend. I was on eleven panels and participated in the Opening Ceremonies, which meant there were a large number of panels that I missed .
Friday included panels on cosplay and fashion, history and reviving older traditions today, writing and literature, and music and performances. The highlight of Friday was the Opening Ceremony. I always appreciate opening ceremonies at conventions because not only is it a definite marker of the official start, but it’s also a great way to bring everyone at the event together, united as a con family at least for that moment. We’ll see each other coming and going during the weekend, but for that moment, we are all together as one.
This year’s ceremony for the Congress of Steam included a processional March of Airships from around the world, including the US, France, Canada, Belgium, Ukraine, England, Saudi Arabia, China, and Spain. It was quite a sight to see groups large and small, well known and not so much, parade in with their banners. The ceremony also included dancing by the Stoughton High School Norwegian Dancers. They were absolutely amazing and I was so caught up in watching, that I suspended my disbelief completely and completely forgot I was at a convention in a hotel in Madison, Wisconsin and felt like I as a delegate at diplomatic proceedings in Oslo, Norway.
Because the room parties on Thursday weren’t enough, there were even more on Friday, and still more on Saturday. Snacks, foods, birthday cake, and drinks of all concoctions, virgin and definitely not, were all part of that grand entertainment supplied by other guests and groups. Anecdotally, it was remarked that Out From Behind the Curtain had the best party with absinthe, drinking vinegar and gluten free spice cake, along with an amazing locally made steampunk birthday cake.
Saturday also sported the same type of programming tracks and reflected a real diversity of topics. There was definitely something for everyone at every hour of the day. Sunday morning started with a non-denominational worship service and wrapped up with a handful of panels before the closing ceremonies.
While some people had to sadly check out and hit the road to head home before the closing, almost every seat was still filled as our friend and host, Lord Hastings Robert Bobbins III, Prime Minister of England, graciously sent us on our way with several things to think about and a few easy things for us to do.
He reminded us that steampunk is OUR fandom, and that while we each have our own definitions of steampunk, beyond that we create our fandom and events in the way we want them to be. WE decide what our conventions look like – panels, performances, presentations, fashions, and socializing. We also create things – even if some commercial group or company came out with amazing and quality items that we would gladly buy (and sadly, so many big companies trying to chase the steampunk dollar genuinely don’t understand us at all) we will still take that thing and gleefully change it anyway to suit our personal needs, wants and tastes.
The action item we were challenged with by Lord Bobbins was this: in February and July, bring two new people to any steampunk event, big or small, local or regional or international. It’s a small and easy thing, one where we can share our enthusiasm and interest with others. Not everyone we bring will stay and be involved, but there will be those who do and who will thrive in the community just as we do.
This isn’t some plot, as some have speculated, to get more people to Teslacon, which has a capped attendance, or about any one individual. It’s about all of us around the world including other people we know in something we enjoy. There is no ‘saving’ of steampunk, or any other fandom, in this. There is no agenda, no grand vision, and certainly no conspiracy, LOL – it’s about sharing.
While Madison is not on the major travel routes in the US like Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta, it does have a very nice airport with efficient and friendly staff. The Madison Marriott was also a wonderful hotel with a free airport shuttle, and with staff who look forward to seeing us each year. The restaurant (Hi Pearl!) serves good Midwestern fare, including gluten free bread, and a great breakfast buffet with made to order omelets. The standard rooms are nice, with the usual basic amenities (no fridge), and internet connection for a fee. Unlike some other convention hotels, I had decent cell phone signal in the actual convention space. The one amenity I wish they had was a computer and printer to print out my boarding passes before I left for the airport. Maybe that was in their business center and I just missed it.
If you like a medium sized convention with a variety of programming tracks and panel topics, and a thematic storyline and performance running through the weekend, then Teslacon might be a good convention to attend next year. Be quick to get your tickets, though. Pre-registration is already half sold.
See you in 2014 as Lord Bobbins takes us to the Center of the Earth!