Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in Steamcon II: Weird Weird West, in Seattle, Washington. Almost 2,000 people came to town for the weekend to enjoy a wide range of programming activities.
Last year, I just attended and soaked up as much as I could in every panel, but drove home each night since I was close by. This year, however, I decided to get involved, starting with attending the organizational meetings throughout the year and continuing right up to the Wake Party Sunday night after the convention had ended.
Those early meetings is when it sank in just how much fun this was going to be, and just how great some of the people were that I was going to meet because of Steamcon. For me, Steamcon wasn’t just about the informative panels, the creative art show, the entertaining music, or the parade of eye-catching outfits. It was all of that and more – it was about the people I met and the friendships that were forged.
At last year’s Steamcon, I had a chance to talk with Mike Perschon, the Steampunk Scholar, after his presentation about the facets and character development of Captain Nemo. That led to more discussions in the ensuing months, meeting his wife and their friends at another convention, and forging a really good friendship along the way.
At Nova Albion last March, I had a chance to talk with Exhibition Hall creator Chris Garcia, and last weekend, we had a chance to bond a bit more over a panel about blogging with author Cherie Priest, and drinks later that night. Chris is a pretty funny guy who kept everyone amused and entertained by dropping some celebrity name in every other sentence!
Of course, it’s difficult to be involved in Steamcon and not talk with the co-chairs, Diana Vick and Martin Armstrong. I have been fortunate enough to share in conversations about movies, ideas, and generally good geeky fun not just at the meetings, but also over dinner and at the local steampunk meet up group. I have had some good hearty laughs in those conversations, and I have always learned something new and very interesting from them.
It was at one of those organizational meetings when Diana said “There’s this little awards banquet dinner project, if someone wants to take it on,” and I thought, oh, well, if it’s a small project, sure, why not, I could do that. It’s just dinner.
If you’ve ever organized a wedding, then you know what “just dinner” entails!
It was all great fun, though, and I had a chance to correspond with many of the inaugural Steamcon Airship Awards nominees. They are all great people and I really enjoyed meeting them in person and talking with them.
You probably already know that these awards recognize the achievement and contribution of people and groups to the steampunk community. The winners in the five categories were chosen by the pre-registered attendees of the convention and were:
Written: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
Visual: Jake von Slatt
Aural: Abney Park
Community: Robert Brown
Potpourri: Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio and Cheyenne Wright
It was about this same time that I started doing the interviews for this blog. James Ng was the first and I quickly became enthralled with his artwork. I had a chance to meet him in person a few months later in Vancouver and tried to talk him into coming to Seattle for Steamcon. Unfortunately, he would be in Hong Kong at the time and wouldn’t be able to make it. Next year, James, next year!
Since James couldn’t make it, I volunteered to bring in my framed prints to display in the art show. To everyone who attended, I’m sorry his business cards ran out so quickly, but at least you can see his work online, and buy prints in his online store.
In the course of the year, I also met Diane Nelson through my friend Kym. Diane became a friend, too, while she was making my new Airship Ambassador coat. I was a bit overwhelmed when I saw the finished product, so it was only fair when she came to Steamcon to see the coat in action that she was also overwhelmed by the seemingly endless variety of outfits that people wore.
Steamcon, and especially the Programming director, Alisa Green, provided me with the opportunity to do interviews beyond my blog, for which I am most grateful.
Alisa reached out to a number of the guest authors and inquired if they’d be interested in doing an interview with me during the weekend. The replies started coming in and soon there were three, then four, then seven, eight, nine… Nine interviews during the convention in addition to the blogging panel and banquet! Some people thought I was a bit insane to take that on, but honestly, I could have done it all day, all three days.
It was so much fun for me to read up on each person weeks ahead of time, learning about them so I could ask questions beyond the basic “how did you get started”. Having sat in the audience at the Doctor Who Gallifrey convention for the last ten year, listening to Gary Russell (look, Chris, I can name drop, too!) interview the actors, writers and producers from the shows, I knew what I would want from an interview and I wanted to make sure I gave that to the audience now.
In the weeks leading up to Steamcon, I got to talk with each person, get to know them a little bit as a person, a bit more about their work, and a bit more about how their contributions to the steampunk community can impact all of us in positive ways.
My alphabetic roster included:
- Michelle Black, author of The Second Glass of Absinthe.
- Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate books, Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless.
- M.K. Hobson, author of The Native Star
- Caitlin Kittredge, author of The Iron Thorn, coming out next year.
- Jay Lake author Mainspring, Escapement and Pinion, who also blogs about his journey with cancer and the treatment
- Cherie Priest, author of Boneshaker, Clementine, and Dreadnought.
- Nick Valentino, author of Thomas Riley.
- Jillian Venters, the Lady of the Manners from Gothic Charm School
- Jake von Slatt, the famous maker of the steampunk keyboards and computers.
With each one, I learned something new, and found something in common.
- Michelle and I talked about her great Victorian style home.
- Gail and I talked about tea and our preferences thereof.
- M.K. and I want to have lunch with Tim Gunn (I tweeted about this, too, so if anyone knows how to help set this up, please let me know. Chris, of course, said he might know someone…)
- Caitlin and I both like cheese as comfort food.
- Jay is a total character and I really enjoyed the time I spent with him.
- Cherie has excellent stories and is such a great person to hang out with.
- Nick gave me a real appreciation for all the work that goes into writing and book tours. Perseverance, commitment and generosity are traits to be valued.
- Jillian was a wealth of knowledge about being true to yourself and how that can be a good thing to be a bit out of the mainstream. And she has the greatest everyday outfits.
- Jake was great fun to chat with about how his work has been credited with enlarging the scope of steampunk beyond the original literary roots to include functional artwork and an ethic of building, creating and recycling.
One other thing I realized is that I wish I was on the steampunk publisher’s ARC list so I could read the books *before* I talk with the authors.
For all the people I did get to see and talk with, there weren’t enough hours in the day to talk to everyone I wanted to:
- Ren Cummins, author of The Morrow Stone and Reaper’s Flight.
- Abney Park – granted they were a bit busy with their own panels and performances.
- James Blaylock, author of a sizable stack of books of mine that I didn’t get autographed L
- Phil and Kaja Foglio, creators of the web comic, Girl Genius.
- Everyone from the League of Steam.
- And many more.
There’s also a host of people I wanted to talk with but who couldn’t make it this year – Kyle Miller, Jordan and Zandra Straford, Liz Gorinsky, Ay-Leen the Peacemaker, Jha Goh, Katie Casey, The Wandering Legion, and Myke Amend among others. (Myke, you can expect an email about your work, shortly.)
Because of steampunk, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to correspond with people from around the world, literally, and begin to build new connections and friendships. I wish I could attend everyone’s local group and regional conventions. I wish there was more time in the day, more vacation time, lower priced flights and hotel rooms, and a faster airship.
At least I am thankful for email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, texting, and web translation services to bridge the physical distance between us. I’ve talked with people in Germany, England, and Scotland. There are places I want to see and events to attend in New Zealand, Toronto, and Edmonton. And there is so much more to learn about in Brazil, France, and Australia.
Steamcon was a fantastic and amazing weekend, and there are so many more stories beyond what I saw with my interviews and what I’ve written here.
Some stories are written in reviews:
Some of those stories are written in pictures:
Steamcon 2 on Flickr
And on Facebook
Steamcon III is already underway for October 14-16, 2011, and hotel rooms can be booked now. Looking forward to seeing you there!