Over the Memorial Day weekend I worked the Up in the Aether Steampunk Convention in Dearborn, MI. My panels included writing and publishing and speculative fiction, but I was mostly there to run DIY workshops on building Victorian-style kites and lil steamboats. Although the DIY track was sort of an low-expectation tack-on to this con, all of the DIY sessions ran at capacity. After the con, I happened to see this post over on Facebook (just before they banned my book); it’s by far my favorite cataclysmic putt-putt boat failure *ever*:
I did make the boat. That sucker did only slightly better than the Titanic…inaugural trip around the tub went fine. But then, I tried to use a turkey baster to refuel my burner, and the alcohol dribbled (apparently) all over the bottom of the boat. When I lit it, it went up like a viking funeral, and then sank. Kind of entertaining actually. I did salvage my copper boiler, and there’s always more half & half containers . . .
Having done a Steampunk event or two in the past, I can tell you that the folks showing up to these here are increasingly into making and DIY, with a corresponding improvement in costumes. I was *shocked* that not only were most of the attendees costumed (easily over 80 percent, evenly split with men and women), but that most had *multiple outfits per day,* and that these were overwhelmingly high-quality construction, clever, and increasingly representing a wider swatch of the imagined populace (mechanics alongside officers, dirty grubbers and opulent ladies, more cowboys and pirates, a couple time-traveling Star Trek crewmen, etc.) Yeah, the Prussian aspect of many uniforms meant that the crowd often took on an unintentional “affable Nazi” look that I wasn’t not cool with, but even the Third Reich-iest looking folks were 1) super nice and 2) totally oblivious to how badly their costumes were freaking me out.
A few quick pics:
Those wings are articulated; really lovely movement.
(He’s one of the organizers, actually; a bona fide Lord of Steam.)
The night before I took this pic I wandered in to an “Open Knife Fighting” event run by these Western Martial Arts folks as a sort of on-boarding activity. As it turns out, foam knife fighting–which sounds sorta NERFy–is essential getting punched. I’m terrible at fighting, but great at getting hit. This gal stabbed me *so many times* in those two hours. For the next three days I was all bruises down both arms, with actual cuts on my knife arm, a bruised hip, and aching kidneys. Brutally delightful.
Steampunk Santa sat in on a couple of my workshops, and was actually a really rad guy. He totally, and totally unobtrusively, inhabited the best possible Santa persona: He was affable and friendly without getting loud or in your face, always had candy canes (I guess con goers are notorious for skipping meals and getting light headed–which is certainly something I do when running workshops; dude saved me from swooning on several occasions), and always happy to help folks on their projects.
This pic is a twofer, since it 1) gives you a glimpse of the corset effect–overwhelmingly adopted by female attendees, even those participating in the Monkey Knife Fights mentioned above–and 2) *That mask!* That mask is articulated, so that when she talks the jaw moves independently, and it isn’t leather: It’s thin, fired porcelain *super-glued to her face*!
This is one half of the team Whalen & Shimmin, Traveling Tin-typists, who use authentic antebellum materials and methods to shoot tintypes (which, fun fact, were traditionally actually done on steel, not tin). These are really great sharp, bright images–the website totally does them no justice. Tintypes in general have sort of a ghostly depth to them that’s fun, but these are exceptionally nice tintypes. Nice folks, too.
Last but not least, these noble wounded warrior:
And, yup, that pistol–here’s a zoom-in:
It is indeed an internal-usage-approved personal vibrating wand device. As an aside, I met the dude responsible for inventing this steampunk dildo-zap-gun-handicraft; he is very rad, and as perplexed by the fascination as you are (it started out as a gag gift for a lady friend–which is neither a pun nor a literal description). I’m being coy about his identity because he’s also a children’s book author.
Unbeknownst to me a professional photographer snapped a pic of me and the steampunk Robocop at the book signing. The resulting image looks very much like me meeting a much cooler version of me from an alternate continuity:
(I gave him that bespoke print edition of “Tucker Teaches the Clockies to Copulate”, because I was crazy geeked about his outfit, and also was drinking bourbon out of the paper cup resting on my table.)
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