There and back again…
October 30, 2012
I’d meant to post yesterday, but things got away from me. I picked up Lily from my parents, then realized I forgot her bag of stuff, which was frustrating. I voted. I’m trying not to panic at my list of things to do before my next trip, in two weeks (vacation! diving! yay!). But it’s a pretty big list, and other chores keep intruding.
But Steamcon. I had an excellent time. I’ve never been to a convention where everyone so clearly came from the same planet and was pretty much on the same page, at least compared to the usual pan-topic SF convention. I wasn’t expecting that. And it turns out, when everyone’s pretty much on the same page, the panels can go into much more depth and spur a higher level of conversation. Over the course of my career I’ve been on probably a dozen or so panels on “urban fantasy” and “strong women characters,” and I can tell you they’re all pretty much the same, and they never really get past the surface. (An urban fantasy panel will always have someone in the audience raise their hand and ask a very confused question about how urban fantasy used to mean something else and why aren’t we talking about that, and there will always be a long discussion about the differences between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and someone will bring up Laurell K. Hamilton and how her series went off a cliff — unless Hamilton is actually on the panel, which did happen to me once. Anyway.)
But Steamcon: I was impressed with panels — all four of them went well and got pretty darned intellectual and academic. I saw someone carrying around Edward Said’s Orientalism. At the werewolf panel, an audience member pretty much nailed the underlying great divide between werewolves and vampires, at least in a Victorian/metaphorical context: vampires are the aristocracy, werewolves the unwashed working class, so of course everyone wants to be vampires. The most wide-ranging, info packed panel I was on, with author and Kickstarter celeb Jordan Stratford, was about the 19th Century Spiritualist movement, and we covered everything from the Fox Sisters to the Cottingley Fairies and the role of photography in 19th century supernatural belief and the Doyle-Houdini rivalry and early paranormal investigation and the British Society for Psychical Research and issues of gender relating to the medium phenomenon, skepticism v. unquestioning belief, and the impact of the Civil War and World War I on the spiritualist movement. In hindsight, we probably could have done a panel on each of those topics, and we tried to cram it all into 50 minutes. We could have gone for another hour, and I think the audience would have stuck with us.
And then the convention had music. Lots of music. I’ve written about my fondness for steampunk music on several occasions, and I very much enjoyed the two nights of concerts I got to see at the con: the Toy-box Trio, Unwoman, Curtis Eller, Eric Stern, Nathaniel Johnston, and Rasputina. Rasputina covered “Breakfast in America,” which was a moment of pure awesome. The other moment of awesome came when Curtis Eller sang “Sweatshop Fire,” and stopped in the middle to ask his awfully young audience, “Do you guys even know who Jack Ruby is? Jack Ruby is the guy who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, and Lee Harvey Oswald is the guy who single-handed shot. . .Abraham Lincoln!” And he kept singing.
And so many costumes. So many lovey costumes. The average steampunk costume, like the kind I’ve been putting together and posting about — at a convention like this, that’s not a costume, it’s just clothes. To stand out, you really have to go above and beyond, like this:
Spring-heeled Jack joins the army? Anyway. Yeah.
And then I got home to find my author’s copy of Steampunk Revolution, and discovered that not only am I in it, I’ve got the lead story. Eeek!
Now, I must go tackle that to do list…