Steampunks: Welcome or Unwelcome?

In the steampunk documentary, Vintage Tomorrows, photographer Libby Bulloff says “When you walk down the street in a top hat and spats, you are causing a riot. You’re making a statement.”

What that intended statement is will be different for each of us, and it may be quite different from what any audience may hear for themselves. Some people will be interested and intrigued, some will perceive it all to be an amusing oddity, and some will give a “What the…?” reaction.


Lindsay Dowd by MI Geek Scene

At conventions and the smaller regional and local events, we wear what we wear for the event, to embrace the festive spirit, and honestly, to look totally awesome. Those event spaces can also be safe spaces for our attire as we are among like minded people, and usually among accepting venue staff.

Sometime, however, we aren’t always among other who might enjoy the fun nature of steampunk. Several years ago, I commented on how the front desk staff of the St Anthony Wyndham made it quite clear they didn’t want us nor the convention there. Their attitude showed in every thing they did with the attending people. Aetherfest is sadly over, at least for now, and one can only hope that the hotel’s front desk staff has changed over and provides better customer service.


Diana Vick, co-organizer of Steamcon

Another public event where steampunks weren’t made to feel welcome was in 2014 when security at the Westfield Plaza Mall in Carlsbad ejected a group of steampunks for “wearing apparel that disguises, obscures or conceals the face”. The mall operators never really made a public statement about it and while the situation made the news for a while, it died out as such news stories do.

In August 2016, Sarah Chrisman blogged about her and her husband’s experience at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, Canada. In a nutshell, Sarah felt rudely denied admission to the park because of their everyday-wear, 1800s period style of garments. Apparently, there was sufficient feedback sent to Butchart Garden’s PR department, that they issued a public response. In summary, they said “No period outfits.”


Jaymee Goh, Silver Goggles blog

Regardless of the accuracy of Sarah’s account, or the brevity of Butchart’s response, the bottom line is that if you are in your finest steampunk-wear, you’ll be denied entry to the gardens. And Disney, and several theme parks, and some museums.

When in doubt, call ahead to see if there will be any problems.

Thankfully, these stories in the media seem like exceptions more than commonplace occurrences. From my own experiences, the vast majority of people like seeing steampunks and our attire. Some pay compliments, some want to get a picture with us, some want to chat and learn more.


Eric Larson, Teslacon, as Lord Bobbins

The hotel staff at the Madison Marriott West, home of the Teslacon convention, even get into the spirit of the weekend by adding some steampunk items to their workday attire.

When I fly around the country, I’ve taken to wearing at least a vest and dress pants, if not always a steampunk coat (even with those air vents, it gets HOT on the plane!), and my experience on almost every airline is that I feel treated with friendlier, if not better, service.

Lastly, I’ve been in full steampunk attire outside of the actual convention space – restaurants, stores, parks, etc – and while most people might have glanced my way but didn’t say anything one way or another, some people did pass along friendly compliments or inquired about what the outfit and event was all about. There was one time at Steamcon in Seattle, where a gentleman had follwed a group of steampunks back into the hotel, asked about what was going on, and wound up purchasing a ticket for the day.


Dr. Mike Perschon, Steampunk Scholar blog

What has been your experience?

Has your corset or top hat caused a riot in the streets?

Was there pandemonium and breathlessness caused by your polite mannerisms?

Did you find yourself surrounded by new fans and Facebook friends?


Share your stories below, and keep being awesome!


Published in: on August 17, 2016 at 8:55 pm  Comments (7)  
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Interview with Author Harold R. Thompson, Part 3

Welcome back for the conclusion of our chat with Harold R. Thompson, author of The Tunnels of Madness, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Read Part One here

Read Part Two here


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

Harold R. Thompson: It’s safe to say that I interact with other storytellers on a daily basis, due to the nature of my day job, and that’s great. I don’t really get to talk to other writers much, though that seems to be slowly changing. I don’t personally know many writers, believe it or not.


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

HT: I’m in the process of trying to get another novel ready for publication, and I wrote the first draft in 1999 and the final draft in 2005. As I go through it, I keep thinking, “I wouldn’t have written that today.” My interests have changed and my mind has broadened. Having a family will do that, I think.


AA: A constant sea of change for all the items vying for our attention. Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

HT: I’ve never really had a problem with motivation when it comes to writing. Once I start a project, I become obsessive until it’s finished. I may stop for a while in between projects, take a rest, but then the mood will come over me and I’ll start jotting ideas. That can happen anytime, anyplace. The actual discipline of writing, of assembling those ideas, is something I’ve been doing for so long now that it’s just part of my life. Every evening I sit at the computer and I usually get some work done, even if it’s only for half an hour. I guess I trained myself.


AA: How is Nova Scotia for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

HT: Nova Scotia has an old literary tradition and a fantastic and colourful history. It also has an inspiring coastal landscape. As a writer, you can live in a place like this and it doesn’t cut you off from your readers and publishers, because everything can be done through electronic communications, if you want. There are tons of resources on line.


AA: It does sound like a wonderful place to live. Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Tunnels? What kind of reactions have you received?

HT: So far, since the book has been out, aside from the steampunk fans, only my mother has said anything. Luckily, she liked the story.


AA: Yay for Moms, everywhere! If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?

HT: Taking photographs or making movies. Maybe getting more exercise.


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?

HT: It’s helped in the obvious way by generating income so I can live and so continue to write. For most people, writing is not terribly lucrative. That’s just a reality. I’m also lucky in that my day job is also in a creative field and involves a subject I love, which is history, so the two jobs have a symbiotic relationship.


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

HT: It’s summer, so I spend a lot of time on my mountain bike, but I also enjoy photography and video. I’d like to do more film/video, but it’s more complicated than other storytelling media because you can’t really do it on your own.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

HT: Getting out in the woods or on the trail always makes me want to get back to doing something creative, for some reason. As for the film and photography, they mesh with my writing because I’m very visual, and imagine every scene as a scene from a movie.


AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?

HT: All of the above! Especially video. And sleeping. There’s never enough time for that. I’m not kidding.


AA: I hear that! More sleep would be so nice. What other fandoms are you part of?

HT: I’m a bit of a quiet fan. Of course I’m a big “history nerd,” but I’m also a long time Star Trek fan, and Star Wars. I also enjoy comics and am still a huge Batman fan, after all these years.


AA: All very good interests! Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

HT: I admire the work of a great many writers and artists, too many to pick just a few, I think. I will say that one of the things that really inspires me while writing is music. If I can, I play music in the background and it helps me focus. I have pretty varied tastes, but most of the time I listen to prog, hard rock, and jazz. Right now I’m really into Rush (and by “right now,” I mean for the past thirty years). So that’s a big motivator.


AA: Rush has some great music, and there’s even a steampunk book, Clockwork Angels. What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?

HT: Having a family has had the biggest impact, and reminds me to count my blessings, which is probably my greatest challenge. Writing can be disappointing and frustrating when things don’t work out the way you hope or intend. My family helps me shrug and keep going.


AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite sea animal, action movie, and appetizer?

HT: Sea turtle, the last fifteen minutes of Last of the Mohicans, and bacon-wrapped scallops.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers?

HT: I’d like to thank those who’ve read the story and hope they enjoyed it or at least got something out of it. I never set out to write steampunk, but this anthology gave me the opportunity, and I’ve enjoyed the experience. Since then, three of the dozen or so short stories I’ve seen published in the last year have been what you would call steampunk. If there’s a steampunk bug, maybe I’ve caught it?


Thanks, Harold, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.  We look forward to hearing about your next projects!


Keep up to date with Harold’s latest news on his website.

You can support Harold and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on August 16, 2016 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Author Harold R. Thompson, Part 2

Welcome back to our chat with Harold R. Thompson, author of The Tunnels of Madness, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Read Part One here


Airship Ambassador: What kind of research, and then balance, went into creating the Tunnels world?

Harold R. Thompson: I had to look up a few specific things in order to get them right, such as a description of what the Exchange Coffee House (which is long gone) looked like, and also the legend of the Poison Tree of Java, which figures in the story. In the final edit, these things just get a brief mention, but they’re important. You don’t need to go into great detail about things you’ve learned if they’re not directly relevant to the story. While writing the Empire and Honor novels, I learned how not to bore my reader with all the neat things I’d learned. Story first.


AA: Supporting information is great, too much extraneous information is distracting. What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Tunnels history?

HT: Plenty of details and textures. So I describe clothing, I describe buildings, I mention certain tools and weapons and even hair styles. I really want to put the readers in this time and place.


AA: You certainly succeeded in that. How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Tunnels? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

HT: I thought about the story for about two weeks, gathering and tossing ideas. When I was ready to write, I had a draft in two days and went through two more drafts in about two or three more days. The deadline, like all deadlines for me, told that this was the story to work on at that time. I always have a bunch of ideas in production, and so deadlines help me line them up. After that, the publishing schedule was actually fun, because it was fairly quick as those things go, and every now and then I (and the other contributors) would receive progress reports.


AA: What kind of attention has Tunnels generated?

HT: Aside from a mention in the review, a local steampunk society has asked me to come and talk to them about writing steampunk fiction. We haven’t yet been able to coordinate our schedules, but I hope we work that out.


AA: Amongst all of your works now in print, what have your publishing experiences been like?

HT: I wrote a few short stories back in the ‘90s, and even though all of the submissions were done by regular mail, it was easier to get published, at least for me. In the last three years, I’ve written about sixty short stories and only about a dozen have seen (or will see, as I write) print. It’s easier to find appropriate markets now, but the ease of submissions via email and so on I think has meant the competition is much greater than it was twenty years ago. So my return to short story writing has been a little frustrating. As for the longer works, I had a terrible experience with the first publisher of Dudley’s Fusiliers and Guns of Sevastopol. Poor book production, poor distribution, long silences, financial issues, you name it. The current publisher of Empire and Honor, though small, is very attentive and good to work with. Exile has also been like that – great at communicating with and encouraging their writers.


AA: How are new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?

HT: My own web site has generated some interest, as has social media to some extent, and also online book sellers. I hope there’s some word of mouth, but I don’t know how to track that. I haven’t been to any conventions, not as a writer anyway, because up until the last two years I was known by my small fan base as a writer of historical adventures. Of course, that’s no longer the case.


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

HT: Editors are going to change things, but that’s good. They bring a fresh perspective, and quite often it’s hard for a writer to see the forest for the trees. A good editor can sometimes identify what you were really trying to say and make a suggestion that really helps improve your work. With Tunnels, the editor actually pointed out something that I’d seen but didn’t want to admit was a problem. So I had to face it and fix it, and the story was made better. Editors keep you from being lazy. Aspiring writers should always remember that edits don’t mean your work is bad. If the publisher bought it, they already think it’s good.


AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?

HT: I haven’t been to any conventions, though I have done book signings for the first two volumes of Empire and Honor. It was actually a great experience, and though no one had heard of me, I think I generated some interest in my work. My strangest fan reaction, if you can call it that, was during a book signing by the historical writer Bernard Cornwell. I was actually there to assist him,  having brought some artifacts and military costumes and so on to the event, and one of the fans looked at me and said, “Hey, aren’t you a writer, too?” He’d been to one of my signings and had my books.


AA: Ha, that’s great to be recognized like that. What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?

HT: I wish I had more time for writing! I have a wife and two kids, who are my main concern and so they always come first. I also have a dog and a house and a day job that can be pretty overpowering, especially in the summer. I write at night, between ten o’clock and whenever I go to bed.


We’ll pause here in our chat with Harold. Join us next time when he talks about his writing process

Keep up to date with Harold’s latest news on his website.

You can support Harold and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on August 15, 2016 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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