Long Week

You remember the excuses from last week? I’m still using them. Convention, and official duties, and costuming – oh my! I am scheduling my highlight photos of the weekend for tomorrow, Ish. And I will be posting A VERY SPECIAL POLL this weekend, so stay tuned.

And I have some lovely shots of the roses I made in action. Thanks to Missy for the pictures. Check them out!

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Steampunk Empire Symposium!

We’re nearing the cut-off date for the discounted early bird tickets for the 2015 Steampunk Empire Symposium.

If you’ve never been to a con, this is a good place to get your feet wet. If you’ve been to so many cons you’re getting jaded, this is a good place to restore your faith in geekery. Full of friendly and enterprising folks from all across the country, this convention was voted the best steampunk convention in the Midwest. There are events for everyone. I’m talking dirigible races to dances, tea dueling to nerf dueling, film screenings to convention-wide bounty hunts. There is even a special track for writers. Every year, there’s something new and different.

This year’s guests of honor include New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger, the legendary Diana M. Pho (Ay-Leen the Peacemaker), Thomas Willeford, and many, many more.

Yours truly will be present in some capacity, possibly on a panel. Running about causing mayhem, at the very least.

It will be a weekend to remember! Join us!

The Pandora Society – Strange & Beautiful Events for Cincinnati & Beyond | About Pandoracon

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I spend a lot of time in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s always been a good place for the arts, but in the past few years it’s become a tremendous place for nerds, and that is due in large part to the efforts of the Pandora Society.

You know that masquerade I posed about several weeks ago? That was a Pandora Society event. They host monthly steampunk salons at an atmospheric pub downtown, and every year they hold two major conventions. The first, in the spring, is the Steampunk Empire Symposium – which, if you’ve been following for a while, you’ve also seen photos of that event as well. The second event is in the fall – Pandoracon.

What makes Pandoracon special is the level of interaction it promotes. Con goers are divided into Houses – Diamonds, Clubs, Spades, and Hearts. These Houses are led by Kings and Queens chosen during the Midsummer Masquerade, and compete against each other in games, tournaments and contests over the entire weekend.

Pandoracon is also a themed convention. Last year, the theme was Doctor Who. This year, the theme is derived from the ’80s cult classic, Labyrinth. In honor of the theme, not only is a real life labyrinth being constructed, but a special House has been founded – goblins! The goblins’ goal is to cause mischief and mayhem, interfering with the other Houses as they embark on a quest to discover the name of the Goblin King.

It’s great fun, and a truly unique experience. This year, the convention will be held from October 11th through October 13th. It’s well worth the trip, I assure you!

The Pandora Society – Strange & Beautiful Events for Cincinnati & Beyond | About Pandoracon.

Duels and Dirigibles

There will be three portions to this, the mother of all posts. First shall be nerf dueling, followed by tea dueling, and rounded off with some dirigible eye candy.

Nerf Duels

I find this section to be fairly self explanatory – it’s a combination of Eugene Onegin and games you played in the backyard as a kid (or grown-up). The duelists stand back to back in the center of the room, armed with the weapon of their choice, and then proceed at the count of the moderator to advance three steps. Sometimes it’s five steps, or ten, but that depends on little besides the age/accuracy of the duelists and the size of the room.

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Then, at the moderator’s call, they spin around and open fire.

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It’s all very dramatic, and duelists inevitably look quite epic as they spin around and level their weapons, expressions schooled into masks of intense concentration. They instinctively strike a certain pose, as well, which is wonderful for sneaky devils like me who show up to the party with a camera.

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There is one big rule worth noting about steampunk nerf dueling: thou shalt not dodge. A gentleman or lady does not duck in the face of danger. You just stand there, firing for all you’re worth, ready to take a hit. The results, if you’re in it for the right reasons (FUN!) usually look something like this:

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A graceful and gentlemanly defeat.

Tea Dueling

I bet you’ve never heard of this before. If you have, then you are a Victorian nerd – or you’ve been to a steampunk convention before. Either way, here are the basics:

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Each duelist is presented with a cup of tea (carefully brewed, of course), and a tray of ‘biscuits’  (cookies, to us Yankees) is placed between them. At the judge’s mark, they each select their weapon from the tray, and hold it at the ready. Then, when ordered, they dip their biscuits in the cup of tea before them, holding it submerged  as the judge counts to five.

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The duelists then hold their wobbly, tea-saturated biscuits, hoping that the other will just bite the bullet and eat theirs first. Because, you see, that’s the trick. To win the duel, you must eat your biscuit last – BUT approximately 96% of the cookie must make it into your mouth for a “clean nom.” There are lots of funny phrases to describe different places your cookie may fall apart (over the cup, on the table, on YOU), and one of the best is “splooging.” This is amazing purely because you get to look your competition in the eye and say, “You just splooged yourself.”

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In case you can’t tell, tea dueling is less refined than nerf duels. Competing with anything that even remotely resembles a gun adds a certain gravity to the game, and due to the history (deadly) nature of the duels the nerf variety is based on, honor and dignity are more important than just about anything else (besides hitting the other person first, of course). But tea dueling, well, it’s dunking cookies and trying to get a “clean nom” without “splooging yourself.” There’s only so serious you can get. Also, unlike nerf duels which are usually only fought between airships, tea duels are often grudge matches, which means the contestants are never short of smart remarks and sarcasm.

A successful tea duel looks something like this:

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Eat the cookie. Taste the sweet, sweet taste of victory.


Yes, dirigibles get an exclamation point – because they’re dirigibles!

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These helium-inflated flights of fancy are usually the high point of any steampunk convention. Why? Freakin’ dirigibles, man! They fly like your great grandmother’s fictional airplane, and they look incredible.

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In case you don’t know what these beauties are, let me explain: they are remote-controlled airships constructed of balloons and paper/cardboard/wires/etc. The main point is that they fly at the command of whoever holds the remote (more or less), keyword being FLY.

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By the way, see those wings on the last little dirigible? Those actually function. It’s a mad pixie ship! I could die happy now. Almost. Not quite.

Just so you know I love you, I put up a Youtube video for you. And, of course, Youtube is like, “Oh, you’re video lasts less than a minute? Give me an hour and I’ll get back to you about that.” So I consider this a real sign of dedication. Just so you know. Enjoy!


Cincinnati Steampunk Empire Symposium – 2013

Alright, so I am going to photo bomb you with the general awesomeness that was my weekend. I met lots of cool vendors and attended lots of fascinating panels. Most importantly, I met some really amazing people. You will be hearing about these over the next few weeks, but I will give them to you in bite-sized, easy to digest pieces – except for the introductory photo bomb. That’s happening right here, right now.

Steampunks, and goggles, and monsters, and wings!

Top hats, and nerf guns, and heroes and things!

Bustles, and waistcoats, and corsets galore!

Writers, and builders, and singers, and more!

Eventually I’ll share more about duels (both nerf and tea – yes, TEA dueling!), exceptional costumes, nifty shops, some writers, and even some music. I will also dedicate a post the the dirigibles – because they freakin’ deserve it! This is steampunk, after all. Where would we be without our airships?

Function and Frippery

What is Steampunk?

Many have been asked, and there are a lot of great (and rotten) definitions floating around the internet. I get asked this a lot, and I never have a really good answer. So I’m composing a response here.

First, the simple. Steampunk is a genre that incorporates many forms (literature, cosplay, film, art, etc.), all with a fantasy or scifi twist revolving around elements of the Victorian period. Steam tech is a big part of that, and that’s where you get the word ‘steampunk’. Classic steampunk would be the works of Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. Modern steampunk covers a huge range of media, from small business artists to Hollywood spectacles.

But I’m always more interested in what a thing is about. On a grand scale, steampunk is about a lot of things, and I’m sure I’ll think of more along the way (especially since I’m fairly new to the community), but I see a couple worth mentioning now.

On one hand, steampunk is about the beauty of use. That’s where all those gears come in. They’re beautiful because of their function. And steampunks don’t just use them for decoration; they build airships and machines and wonderful things bound to surprise and amaze. At the same time, steampunk is about the opulence of the era. While cities like London were filled with filth and grunge and poverty, we remember the big bustles and top hats and tight corsets designed for squeezing women into fancies of lace and brocade. So you have an interesting dichotomy at the heart of the genre: love of function, and love of frippery.

Steampunk is also about rebellion. As I said, we remember those corsets. There’s something primal and thrilling about taking a society bound so tight in its own rules and just tossing the whole thing on its head. Steampunk is the genre of dark alleys and secret meetings, hidden laboratories and monstrous experiments, absinthe and opium. Messing with the Victorians’ prudish rules is all too easy and entirely too much fun, especially since they set such a marvelous example by doing it all themselves. If you doubt me, read Oscar Wilde. Then you will know.

Trying to tuck all of steampunk under one common umbrella is like trying to explain all sword and sorcery fantasy with two or three sentences. You can paint a general picture, but all the good stuff gets left out. Several explanations are needed, and if they contradict each other, all the better.