Aetherfest 2014 – Review

Another Aetherfest has come and gone, providing all of the attendees with the charms and big hearted friendliness that one would expect to find in the Home of the Alamo, San Antonio, Texas. As usual, the event is envisioned as a family reunion, a relaxing spell out on the porch while enjoying entertaining and educational discussions and debates.


Chaired by Pablo Vazquez with programming scheduled by Cameron Hare, this year’s return of the convention after a hiatus in 2013 highlighted a diverse collection of guests from within Texas and the steampunk community.


Author Guest of Honor and keynote speaker – Michael Moorcock

Artist Guest of Honor – Justin Stanley

Academic Guest of Honor – Kevin Steil

Fan Guest of Honor – Larry Amyett

Gaming Guest of Honor – Steve Jackson

Media Guest of Honor – Kevin Conran

Musical Guest of Honor – Marquis of Vaudeville

Special Guest of Honor – John Picacio

Toastmaster – Ben Hamby



The Menger’s older Victorian Lobby

People began arriving Thursday night, some flying halfway across the country, some driving many hours across several states, all ready to enjoy some serious pre-convention socializing at the Hotel Menger or down at the Riverwalk. The hotel, right across the street from the historic Alamo, was a gorgeous, welcoming historic space, with equally welcoming and wonderful hotel staff (completely unlike another hotel’s staff in 2012). Helpful, engaging, and entertaining, the Menger staff really helped make Aetherfest 2014 a very enjoyable time.


Just a few blocks away was the Historic Riverwalk, where lively shops, bars, and restaurants line the walkways of the river. Friends and families were out and about, enjoying the evening’s food and entertainment. Aetherfest 2012 was held in early May and could boast nighttime temperatures of 95F/35C and 100% humidity. This year was a much more comfortable (from a Pacific Northwest perspective) range in the 60s and 70s (15-23C).

mainlobby1The Menger’s newer lobby

Friday got started at 10am with the opening of the Con Suite, the gaming/vendor room, and the first panel, Steampunk: Past , Present, and Future, where we discussed some of the literary progression of steampunk stories, steampunk and dieselpunk fashion and communities, and where each retrofuturistic fandom may be headed next.

 Aetherfest-Marco-Bernal-2Cameron and Pablo

Photo by Marco Bernal

We also briefly touched on the growth of the steampunk community from its earliest days online at Brass Goggles, growing to other online forums, blogs and websites, conventions, and local groups. We had a chance to discuss the global nature of the community, as highlighted in the February 2014 (and upcoming 2015) Steampunk Hands around the World blog event. From there, we speculated, hypothesized and dream about how steampunk in all its forms will continue to evolve in the coming years.

Aetherfest-Necro-Kittie-1Photo by Necro Kittie

Starting with actual 1800s science fiction such as Frankenstein, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, and The Time Machine, progressing forward through such books as Crisis in Bulgaria (1956, Joyce Brooks), Worlds of the Imperium (1962, Keith Laumer), Into the Aether (1974, Richard Lupoff), Langdon St Ives (1978, James Blaylock), winding up with the current wave of literature within the last ten years.

 Aetherfest-Iris-Cox-1Photo by Iris Cox

Friday continued with a wonderful interview with Michael Moorcock and John Picacio, who created some of the covers of Michael’s books. Michael is a wonderful person with great stories and outlooks, and certainly one of the most prolific writers in the genre.

Saturday was the big day, starting off with Opening Ceremonies and a keynote speech by Michael.

Aetherfest-Marco-Bernal-1Photo by Marco Bernal

This is where I comment on one of the more, sadly, memorable items of the weekend. I had a stomach bug hit hard in the wee hours of Saturday morning. It was so bad that my roommate, Jim Trent (Mad Raven, Steampunk Invasion) was more than ready to call the ambulance and rush me to the emergency room. I’ve never been sick when traveling to a convention before (although certainly had the con crud after a convention) and it’s never fun to be sick away from home. I was alternating between feeling bad that I was probably keeping Jim awake at least part of the night, and rather grateful that he was there just in case I really needed some help.

Aetherfest-Necro-Kittie-2Photo by Necro Kittie

I missed Opening Ceremonies, mostly due to having no energy to even move and get out of bed. However, once I was up and about in the early afternoon, everyone I met in the hallways from the attendees, the other guests, and the staff, asked how I was feeling and did I need anything. It was humbling to see how much everyone cared, and how everyone wanted to do anything they could to make sure I was ok.

Aetherfest-Iris-Cox-2Photo by Iris Cox

It also made me wonder just what Pablo said at Opening Ceremonies aside from a probable “Kevin isn’t feeling well at the moment.”


It was rather more like:

“Who took the vegetarian to a steak house for dinner?”


“The Airship Ambassador cannot die at this convention!”


There was also a comment from attendees speculating that perhaps the Prussians had poisoned me in an opportune moment. I wonder what Captain Krieger would have to say about that?

Thank you, everyone, who was looking out for me all weekend and made sure I was doing OK.

 Aetherfest-Marco-Bernal-4Photo by Marco Bernal

The show went on and people were treated to ad hoc games of Mad Raven’s steampunk card game, Twisted Skies, and a few cups of tea during a few rounds of Tea Dueling, called by dueling favorite, Madam Askew.

Saturday panels included Power of Myth, The Future of Steve Jackson Games, Retrofuturist Fashions, and a very interesting discussion with Kevin Conran about his design work for Sky Captain and the City of Tomorrow. Personally, I love that film with its spot-on sci fi Golden Age feel where pulp covers and contemporary artwork depicting the future came to cinematic life.

Aetherfest-Iris-Cox-3Photo by Iris Cox

Saturday night’s entertainment was provided by Marquis of Vaudeville, who also performed at the previous Texas convention, Steampunk Invasion, a few months before.

Sunday was the time for looking forward during the State of Steampunk panel, a book exchange, a charity auction, and a Rant and Rave session before the Closing Ceremonies.

Original_execThe Aetherfest Con Suite

Special personal thanks go out to Pablo, Cameron, Jim, Robb Bates, Bryan Callahan, Wayne Lundquist, and Jocelyn Simone for all their help during the whole weekend, including an afternoon tea, and a special cheese shopping trip.

Not exactly a sequel, but related to people, and only somewhat related to the convention, is this blog.

Entertaining as ever, Aetherfest 2014 was an enjoyable, relaxing, and very sociable convention. Not only did attendees get to chat with Michael, John, Kevin C and many others up close and personal, there were many opportunities to meet new people and make new friends. That’s what our community is really about – the personal connection with others, the sharing of knowledge and experience, and the collaboration to make the world a better, and far more interesting, place. It is we, the people, who take The Future That Never Was and use it to create a better Present That Is.



Published in: on November 30, 2014 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Steampunk People are the Best People

I often comment how steampunk activities all come down to the great people involved.


There are the people with the drive and motivation who step up and make things happen. They create our small local events, and ongoing local social groups and airships, as well as the larger events like concerts, vendor events, and conventions. Without these people leading the social charge, many of us would never meet in person. We’d all still be only online in forums and social media.


There are the content creators, artists, makers, and musicians who bring some amazing creativity to life. We have ongoing blogs, interviews, articles, and discussions forums to keep us informed and connected. From them, we also get to see, and emulate, some spectacular props and artwork. The music of our community is as varied as it was in the 1800s, and there’s something to entertain everyone.


All of these things bring us together as a community, one where it’s easy to start a conversation, and make new connections, and ultimately make new friends.


All of us have great stories after an event where we stayed in touch with people via social media, or met again at the next event. Our community is global, and it’s not a difficult thing through modern technology to reach out to others and meet new people with similar interests.


It might be emails, or instant messages and texts, it might be afternoon tea with visitors from out of town. It might be endless temptation of tea, cheese, chocolate, and late night chats. However we express it, the steampunk community is so rewarding in so many ways.


Thanks to all of you for your warmth, support, and friendship. It’s always fun to chat with you at events, and to exchange emails all throughout the year.


Repeating my parting remarks at Steampunk Invasion 2014:


Be who you are.

Do what you do.

Encourage each other.

Support the community.


Published in: on November 30, 2014 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Review of Teslacon V 2014


Well, that’s another Teslacon adventure in the can, or as Captain Krieger said, we all survived until the end credits! After you read this, there are other reviews here and here. Also, check out the Facebook pages here and here for great photos and comments.


Eric Larson, aka Lord Bobbins, and his staff put on another entertaining show this year as the attendees were all passengers aboard the Freya, traveling to the Center of the Earth!


Friday started off right at 10am with panels on publishing, history and theory, costuming, and the opening of the vendor rooms. Attendees got to hear tips and suggestions on writing their stories and how to go about getting published. There was a talk about the daring and duplicitous women who traded in secrets in the 1860s. There was a standing-room-only discussion about time travel. The vendor rooms were loaded with couture, books, accessories, and plenty of gift ideas.


Saturday and Sunday panels continued with entertaining discussions by makers and crafters, authors, and community groups. There were tips on creating your own steamsona, book trailers, and steampunking Shakespeare. People learned about the steampunk multiverse, talked about starting and growing a steampunk group, and participated in LGBT discussions. There was even a good discussion about how to handle the reactions of “normal” people when steampunking in public.

 panel by Lisa HagerPhoto by Lisa Hager

The new Maker’s Room had tutorials on using paper, leather, and even Lego Mindstorm Robotics! There was an Iron Tailor (sewing) event, a swap meet, an ever busy Fix-It table, and the Promethean Science Fair.

 attendee-mapThere were quite a few attendees from other countries, as well

The Games Room, led by the Victorian Gamers Alliance, had live and demo sessions running for Twisted Skies, Leviathans: Monsters In The Sky, Journey to the Center of the Earth, DINO Hunt, Adventurers, Elder Sign, Forbidden Desert, among others.

 Alex-BrendanTwo of the Bobbins Boys staff – Alex and Brendan

In order to get ready for Saturday’s Grand Ball, there were classes covering the waltz, polka, and country dances. Dancing is always a good skill to know, so take advantage of free classes at any steampunk event.



For those who needed a respite from all that activity, the Tea Room provided a nice space to relax with a cuppa, some biscuits, and friendly conversation with friends old and new.


Unwoman, Erica Mulkey, among others, was on hand to perform in the hotel’s atrium to the musical delight of convention attendees. Always wonderful to see her again.


The party and adventure really got started on Friday with Opening Ceremonies. The line of attendees snaked through the hotel, and it’s amazing how fast 1,200+ people can get settled when they are motivated. Watching everyone file into the ballroom was like a non-stop cornucopia of visual delights. The creativity of steampunks is second to none, and every outfit was worth seeing.

1pound note-matthew-duncanOne Pound note created by Matthew Duncan


Welcoming speeches were made, thanks and awards given out to people who made the convention possible, and then, it was time for the Freya to seek out passage to the underworlds. Helped with Teslacon movie magic, we flew through the ice and snow of the Arctic Circle, and from the view screen, we could see the majesty of nature all around us. Over the mountains and through the valleys, we made our way closer and closer to the hoped-for, nay, expected, entrance to the Center of the Earth. And then there it was, lit up by the aurora borealis.


As we approached, we were met by a welcoming committee of flying saucers. Well, maybe not welcoming, exactly. I believe this was the moment when Captain Krieger got to use his new toys – laser cannons! He got to use them a few more times as we descended into large caverns and tunnels, and eventually out to a new world.


Nothing to fear here, though, and we promptly disembarked from the ship to explore. We made new friends along the way. I don’t recall hearing anything about anyone being eaten, so that’s a good thing.

 Dinos-by-Diana-PhoPhoto by Diana Pho

How does one carry on from there? A fashion show right afterward, more tea, Saturday story line immersion performances, and the Grand Ball where people dressed up in their finest. You know you are at a steampunk event when wearing a tuxedo might leave one feeling a little under dressed.

 tricera-by-Diana-PhoPhoto by Diana Pho

With so much going on all day and night, “some people” were moving a little slow Sunday morning. “Some people” needed six cups of tea with breakfast to really get going.

 Teslacon by Peter BaumPhoto by Peter Baum

Like many other conventions, Teslacon offers the opportunity to pre-register for next year. People could pre-reg for the regular ticket, and the patron level tickets will go on sale soon. Teslacon does offer some nice and personally creative items in the patron passes. One perk is being able to sit in the first few rows in the main room, but others include pins, artwork, photo room gift certificate, and drinkware.

Victoria-pin patron-tickets

The weekend wrapped up with the departure of the Freya from the underground lands, drilling it’s way home through the perilous strata (and plenty of Krieger firing his lasers!). Surviving another year, we were treated to teasers about the next several year’s themes.


2015 is a trip to the Wild Wild West with Saturday night entertainment at the Night Circus.

2016 is the Battle of Britain, The Return of Swarm.

2017 is the Murder on the Orient Express.

www-star-posterWWW-colorsOfficial color palette for The Wild Wild West

Night circus-colrosOfficial color palette for The Night Circus

Everyone has a year now to get ready for the Wild, Wild West theme. Get your boots and britches, ruffle those petticoats, and learn how to Square Dance and Two Step!



Also, remember the Bobbins Initiative all year long – share your love of steampunk and share it with two friends. Bring them to events, share new books, show them how great they’d look in steampunk fashions. There’s a whole world out there, and new friends to be made!


Published in: on November 15, 2014 at 5:26 pm  Comments (3)  
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