Thursday, October 6, 2011

Upstate Steampunk Extravaganza 2011

Gypsey Teague, organizer extraordinaire
David Merrit: The Art of Absinthe
As one of the best steampunk only cons in the southeast, I must applaud Gypsey Teague and Marla for another well orchestrated event.  Steampunks from all over the southeast were greeted by the new sign made by Gypsey as we descended upon the Garden Hilton in Anderson, SC on Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and 2 for an event filled with 16 quality panels, 2 Victorian tea ceremonies, an absinthe pouring, 3 indie films, musical acts IFB and Valentine Wolfe , 6 authors (Gypsey Teague, Winfield Strock, Tonia Brown, K.G. McAbee, J. M. Lee and myself,) numerous artists, a silent auction, gaming, a plethora of steampunk contraptions, A Victorian bathing excursion and that adventurous spirit of steampunk.
There are so many high points, it will be hard to list them all but I was especially impressed by the variety and high standards of the panels from academic to hands on construction or experimentation.

Shane McElveen, Gail Gray, Curtis Hart
Morlowe Miles and Tina Zukaitis of Rogue Fire
I can only speak to the panels I attended which were a sort of cross section of this growing subculture. I can't decided which was the best.  The Alterity of the Gypsies in and its Contribution to Steampunk Identity by Lynn Childress proved to be a fascinating was unfolding of insights by this Oxford scholar and professor. As she delved into the poem The Scholar Gypsey by Matthew Arnold and  and The Golden Compass by Philip Pulman in a brilliant discussion of how once we leave the safe path to explore other cultures we cross over into a liminal zone where we no longer find ourselves in a transitional doorway.  Her lecture offered revelations like a magical box or the golden compass itself, paced yet powerful manner explaining how such a path influences those who explore the various avenues of steampunk. A deep and profound lecture offering a call to personal  authenticity.
Christine and J.T. Thorpe, Cyndra Woods
And now for something completely different: The Art of Absinthe lecture, pour and tasting by David Merritt where fun was had by all.  David is an extremely charming speaker who can explain as well as pour, while at the same time offering a history. He gave us all the opportunity to learn and sample the various methods of imbibing the Green Fairy such as the bohemian method as well as the traditional techniques for attaining a louche offering first hand tastings and interesting stories gathered in his travels and experiences.
One not to miss was J.T. Thorpe fascinating Steampunk Influences form France  which took us into steam technology and machinery of the late 1800's and early 1900's. It was a shame only ladies were in attendance and highly interested.  The men really missed out.
I was very fortunate to have a standing room turnout for my presentation, The Psychology of Steampunk, which was great fun to address, thanks to the participation of the attendees. It was my first time ever using Power Point and I found it to be a valuable and fairly user friendly tool (blowing up all my previous assumptions). I was thrilled to see the crew of the airship Serpah in attendance and enjoyed the participation of Dr. Gus Dayafter in the discussions which could have gone on for much longer if we'd had the time.Thanks to all who attended. And if anyone did not receive a survey to fill out, please email me or leave a comment and I'll get one to you.

Karen White, artist
Gypsey also had the great insight to start a new feature of the panel this year - Independent Films.  She showcased Aurora, an Australian production, Nickel Children, a film directed by Kevin Eslinger and Browncoats Redemption. Gypsey  announced that next year we will have a full indie film festival with a $100.00 to the best film of the con.

Steampunk tech by Dave Lee of Hatton cross

Jet pack wings by Dave Lee
As with events such as this, part of the overall pleasure is seeing old friends and making new but it's so much more fun with steampunk because your friends always look different.  It was great to spend quality time with my dear friend, Cyndra Woods, watch Ben's performance, have more time than normal with Tina and Morlowe of Rogue Fire and Savage of Savage Emporium and enjoy the company of new friends. Everywhere I looked, the level of creativity was so high, I spent a great deal of my free time taking pictures of the amazing steampunk gear, technology and costumes. Including this awesome jet pack with wings made by Dave  Lee of Hatton Cross.
The vendors were a creative and varied bunch and it was fun to see new artisans breaking out their wares.
I also had a good time during my stint at the author's table while promoting my upcoming steampunk novel, Orchidelerium, since I was joined by Tonia Brown, author of Railroad and Wilhemina Thomas, who presented a panel on gentleman's steampunk gear and clothing earlier during the day. 

The silent auction brought in $196.00 and the Mr. and Mrs. Steampunk contest gathered 330 plus cans for the Clemson Community Care food pantry!   

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