Recently, I was invited to attend a local steampunk event, The Fantastical Mr Flip’s Carnival of Wonders and Curiosities 2013 in Bellingham, Washington, organized by Aron Beattiger and Karina Cooper.
This event is dedicated to Caleb “Flip” Kors, a budding local circus and street performer who died at age 10 while practicing. Donations from the event were part of a scholarship fund named for Caleb which provides opportunities for children ages 9-11 who live in Whatcom county to pursue the performing arts.
We first met Caleb at a steampunk event held in our local bookstore, Village Books. Small for his age, he stood in a room full of “giants” sporting a vintage gas mask and props he made himself, completely at ease. His father remained close, wearing casual clothes and keeping an eye on his boy, but otherwise allowed Caleb to mingle, charm, and finagle his way into all our hearts.
He became the youngest member of our Steampunk Society.
A skilled performer, he was a common sight amidst the talented members of the Bellingham Circus Guild. His stage name was Flip, and it was an apt name. He was charming, witty, and fearless. When he walked into the room, it was as if he brought the sunlight with him—standing in his presence was enough to remind anyone about the good things in life. He was that kind of boy. The one where they say that he “lights up a room”. He was a shooting star, and we miss him.
The open space of the Square was filled with attendees enjoying the sun and light waterfront breeze, ringed with a wide variety of vendors and wares. In the spirit of Caleb’s performances, the day was filled with music by The Penny Stinkers, Faerabella and the Nathaniel Johnstone Band. Exquisite belly dancing was performed by Tempest.
It was a great opportunity to catch up with friends and meet new people, especially those from the Bellingham Steampunk Society, who were helping run the event. par for the course of steampunk events, there were great people, great conversations, and a whole lot of fun.
During the afternoon, Village Books hosted author readings by Bernadette Pajer (Professor Bradshaw mystery series); Karina Cooper (St. Croix Chronicles), J. Cunningham (Secrets: Clockwork Series Volume 1), and Phil and Kaja Foglio (Girl Genius).
Bernadette’s mysteries are set in turn of the century Seattle, “in the time of Tesla”, where Professor Bradshaw is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington. All three books in the series thus far have earned the Washington Academy of Sciences Seal-of-Approval for Science. While some may not call these steampunk stories, the time period, the technology, the actual real science, and the intrigue will make these of interest to the readers in our community.
Event co-organizer, Karina Cooper, talked about her St. Croix series, including the soon to be released The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway and Corroded. Karina’s steampunk novels follow Cherry St, Croix, an unconventional Society lady by day in the gleaming heights of Victorian London, and by night a formidable adversary in a world of deception. If you like a strong female lead, the trials of a dual life, and a bit mystery+paranormal, this series will make for an enjoyable read.
J. Cunningham presented his steampunk novel, Secrets, following a tyrant king, and ambassador and servant, clockwork soldiers and airships. As a decorated veteran with thirty years of storytelling experience, J. presents this story of greed, betrayal, and murder. If those things whet your steampunk literary appetite, this book should be on your reading list.
The afternoon wrapped up with Phil and Kaja, giving a bit of Q&A after reading a passage from the next Agatha Heterodyne novel, which is the text version of their weekly web comic series and graphic novels, Girl Genius. I’ve been following this comic for years, and have found it to be fun and funny. If you enjoy the lighter side of storytelling, the adventures of Agatha and her friends would be a great way to fill your time.
As usual for a steampunk event, aside from the great music, performances, and readings, it’s all about the people in our community. There was laughter and smiles, new friendships and old, and a remembrance for Caleb, who brought us all together this day. That’s what our community is about, helping each other in so many ways and just being there for each other.
Please share your local and regional experiences below, and have a great day!