This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the inaugural Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition (Twitter) which occurred just outside of Toronto.
(Steampunk in a nutshell is a revival of Victorian-era sensibilities, often with a rebellious ("punk") edge. It manifests itself in fashion, music, and machinery, as well as in fiction.)
Unfortunately, I was only able to go on Sunday, so this is not a comprehensive review. From what I was able to see, the convention was well attended, the programming excellent, the dealers many and varied, the guests well dressed and very friendly.
Jaymee Goh ran a thought-provoking session on steampunk around the world and related multicultural issues. She usually presents it with Ay-leen the Peacemaker, who was sadly absent, but Goh did a fantastic job of talking about some of the writers and artists who are engaging with steampunk outside of British history, and then sensitively moderating a discussion that ranged into broader topics around diversity and fandom. If you're interested in reading more, see Ay-leen's blog and Multiculturalism for Steampunk.
The con organizers provided plenty of space for dealers, both at tables on one of the programming floors and in suites taking over the entire second floor of the hotel, which was great fun and allowed for lots of variety. Jewellery predominated – everything from pricy but gorgeous works of art to simpler, cheaper pieces (I bought one of these lovely keys), though as an entry-level steampunk, I would have preferred more selection on the cheaper side. (I do recognize that non-sweatshop products are worth more, and one jewellery artist – I think it was Clockwork Zero (Twitter) – told me that popular raw materials such as pocket-watches are going way up in price due to demand.) There was also a fine selection of leather merchandise , mostly vintage clothing, raw material, décor, books, and so on.
The Mad Science Fair featured everything from a steampunkized Ghostbusters proton pack to a moving weather ray to my favourite, a giant prototype of a cell phone. You can see some photos on the CTV website at Kris Abel's blog. Other programming events I took in included the Clockwork Opera Singer, a bellydance workshop featuring the music of Abney Park (sadly not live), and finally Professor Elemental (Twitter) (live, hurrah).
That last deserves some more explanation. Picture a fellow in a full Victorian explorer's outfit, complete with pith helmet, onstage with multicoloured lights flashing. Picture a crowd of excited people in mostly waistcoats or full skirts. The performer bounds about the stage with limitless energy as he...raps...about tea?
It's even better in person, with audience participation at the appropriate points. And I love that in fandom, this is cool, because fandom is all about celebrating the weird and wonderful. Many kudos to the con organizers, and may the con grow even bigger and better next year!
If you are a steampunk fan, what aspects of steampunk do you love? Any recommendations for authors/musicians/artists?
What is your favourite SFF convention, and why?