Review of Teslacon VII – 2016


Teslacon VII 2016 was another great experience presented by organizer Eric Larson and his entire team. Whisked back to Europe from last year’s outing in the United States’ Western frontier, attendees enjoyed the ambience and delights of Paris, France.


Photo by Donna Machen

For four days and three nights, steampunks reveled in culture, fashion, food, and social functions. There was definitely something for everyone at all times, be it panels and presentations, live music or conversation in the Tea Room, or constitutionals and promenades along the walkways and vendor room.


Photo by Lisa Sell

Ben Watkins kept the gamers busy with Superfight!, Noir!, and Cards Against Humanity. For other games, have you tried Teslacards Against the World or Twisted Skies from Mad Raven Productions?


Paris was surrounded by alphabetical explosive devices which attendees scrambled to find. Here is the dreaded F-Bomb. Photo by Sos Boss

There was a bountiful tour of Parisian culture including The Decadent Paris by Stephen Poe (Was Paris really more decadent than the rest of Europe, or did it just have better PR?), Les Theatres du Paris by Thomas Boice (a tour of famous and infamous theaters and playhouses), and the Republic et Empire 1871-1918 by Rory Silverstein (a multicultural history of the third French Empire).


Photo by Heather Cushing

Need language lessons beyond the “International Language” (Love)? How about The French They Didn’t Teach You in School by Marsha and Melissa Conroy (Cursing, Complaining, and the fine art of the French Insult).  Perhaps the history of American Sign Language by Bethany Davis. Or the excitement in The Daily Life of a French Translator by Marsha Conroy, who is a Supreme Court certified French interpreter.


Steampunk Spaceship by Mike Gosda

History may be more to your liking with Boiled Leaves: An Intro to Tea and Tea Culture by Tony Ballard Smoot, Catacombs and Sewers of Paris by Douglas J. Dahlberg, or Paris’ Theatre of Terror “Le Grand Guignol” by Gregory Rihn. More? Then there was the History of the Corset by Andrea Marcinkus, Blood on a Leaf: a Dark and Bloody history of Tea by Danial Meyers, and Vive Les Revolutionaries by Thomas Boice (a look at various French revolutions).


Photo by Ed Downes

After all of that, one may need a chance to sit and relax. The world famous Teslacon Tea Room returned, with staff-served tea and biscuits. The Kreiger family hosted a fine Germanic dinner, and the President of France hosted his own Little French Dinner. Those fine people of SWARM held their own dinner, which, ahem, may have ironically started late, running afoul of the schedule.


Image by Teslacon

Properly recharged, Parisians and tourists alike enjoyed premiere musical entertainment by Frenchy and the Punk, and Professor Elemental. Further entertainment was provided in the atrium by Gin Rebellion and other performers. There was also a very entertaining interview with Karianne Gottschalk, from the 2015 TV show, Steampunk’d.


Image by Teslacon

Enough to fill your time? No, no, no, there’s still more! The Care and Feeding of your Beard by Jim Best, Steampunk Hair Braids by Janine Wardale, and How to Grow a Might Mustache by Brad Fleener. Time to get dressed! Steampunk Fashion for Men by Tony Ballard Smoot, Boutonniere Gear by Carol Thomas, and Ascots to Spats by Jason Merrill.


Photo by Steampunk Angel Couture

Looking for something more, gasp, modern? LEDs for  Props and Costumes by Hollis Lumen Lovelace, CAD Software and 3D Printing by Amy and Lance Larsen, and Basic Animatronics by Claude McDonald.


Photo by Kathryn Poe

Oh, it’s bloodthirsty competition you crave? Tea Dueling by Gretchen Jacobsen, Teapot Racing by Travis Feirtag, and an American vision of Airship Racing , imported from New Zealand, also by Travis Feirtag.


Photo by Bob Archer

Oh wait – Fashion Show, Maker’s Room, and Wedding Vow Renewal!


League of Extraordinary Clergy! Photo by Gregory Mann

Whew! Can you believe there was still much more on the program schedule?


The ever wonderful Stephen and Kathryn. Look at that trim detail! Photo by David Wagner

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There was one unfortunate event which happened at the convention which I must relate. A beloved tentacle prop, which has been seen at numerous conventions for several years, made by the late Sue Watts for her husband Don, went missing for a while. Over the years, the playful tentacle did make it into stranger’s rooms for the night, but it always discreetly crawled on home in those early hours,. Apparently, a woman and man couple decided they needed it more than Don, and the steampunk community, and planned on taking it home with them. The woman claimed she was drunk when she took it, but then hid it in their car under other items. Thankfully, witnesses came forward with photos and statements, leading to recovery of the trapped tentacle. The couple were rather reluctant to produce their identification, aside from the known license plate of their car, but once told of the five-figure value of the item, and that they had thus committed a felony and the police would be called, they finally showed their ID. While the police were not called, this time, several convention organizers were in attendance at Teslacon, and this couple has been banned for life at all those conventions.


Photo by Kollig

The lesson here? STEAMPUNKS DON’T STEAL! Bad people steal, get caught, and pay for their actions! The weed of crime bears bitter fruit!

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Check out all the excitement for yourself in 2017 when we travel to the dark lands of Bucharest, Romania! We’ve been told there are no vampires, but that still leaves plenty of other things to go bump in the night. Sign up ASAP!



Published in: on November 27, 2016 at 3:01 pm  Comments (4)  
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Recap – Motor City Steam Con 2016


tl;dr The inaugural Motor City Steam Con was fantastic, you should have been there, and you should sign up right away for next year’s event on July 14-16, 2017.

If you missed the inaugural Motor City Steam Con just outside of Detroit, Michigan, on July 22-24, and sadly, that means most of you, you missed a fantastic event!


Organizer Salathiel Palland watching the fashion show.

Photo by Heather Kenya Cushing


Just under seven hundred people gathered at the Holiday Inn for an amazing assemblage of guests, entertainers, vendors, panels, and events.

Things officially kicked off with a rousing and very energetic opening ceremony. Con organizer Salathiel Palland sang “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon while automatons from the Dance Centre studio danced around her. The Detroit Mass Choir accompanied her.


Gabriel Brass Band, photo by Ofeibea Loveless


Next came the Gabriel Brass Band playing Second Line immediately followed by 30-some airship groups.

Sal introduced the guests and entertainers, and the ceremony wrapped up with a medley of songs by the band, which got people out of their seats and dancing. It was a high energy performance which set a great tone for the whole weekend.


Diana Pho, photo by Ofeibea Loveless


James Neathery and Ofeibea Loveless, photo by Ofeibea Loveless

The weekend continued with a who’s who of steampunk creators – here’s just a few of the people who were there:

Myke Amend

Eli August

Bethalynne Bajema

Philippa (Pip) Ballantine

R.S. Belcher

Steampunk Eddie

Frenchy and the Punk

Karianne Gottschalk

Sarah Hans

Leanna Renee Hieber

Tee Morris

James Neathery

Diana M. Pho

Ashley Rodgers

Kevin Steil

DJ Vorteque

Arlow Xan

Eric Larson, Teslacon

Aloysius Fox, International Steampunk Symposium

Mike Zawacki and Scott Norman, Wars of Other Men


Samantha Stephenson and Scott Helland, photo by MIGeekScene


Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine, photo by MIGeekScene

There was continual musical entertainment in the main room, author readings, a tea room, vendors, parties, and of course, plenty of panels.

Among the many remarks attendees made by attendees was the pleased amazement at how well and smoothly everything ran, especially for a first year convention. Registration had badges for everyone and VIP bags waiting. Rooms were well marked with schedules, security and badge checkers were on hand but unobtrusive, and the hotel staff was wonderful and helpful at every moment. Aside from the inferno raging outside the hotel, I didn’t hear one negative comment about the convention itself.


Sara Neathery and Azriel le Fey, photo by MIGeekScene


Karianne Gottschalk (2nd from left), photo by MIGeekScene


The Friday night party, sponsored. by Rusted Crow Distillery, and hosted by the Crew and Captains, Bret Daly And Courtney ‘Splintercat’ Stoll, of the Corsair Iniquitous, was great fun. Great drinks and jello shots for those who imbibe, music for those who dance, and an accommodating hotel which let people take their drinks and dancing out into the much cooler lobby area.

The Sunday closing ceremony not only had a great shout-out to the guests,  the con staff and volunteers, but also had a touching tribute to Michael Wiggins, a valued and much missed member of the community.


Lindsay Dowd, photo by MIGeekScene


Fashion Show, photo by Heather Kenya Cushing

The weather may have been desiccatingly hot around the country during the entire weekend but this a was cool convention to attend.

If you like an opening ceremony that makes you want to jump up and dance,  a wide variety of music and panel discussions,  along with great venue staff and the ever friendly fellow attendees, Motor City Steam Con should be added to your convention list.


Eunice, handling the Green Room, photo by MIGeekScene

Special thanks to Sal for inviting me as a guest, Eunice for the airport transportation and green room noms, and the Ops and Security team for such a low stress and fun filled weekend.


Published in: on July 31, 2016 at 7:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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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