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Back Off, Man. I’m a Steampunker.

MattSchapsProtonPack.jpgAt the first annual Anomaly Con in Denver, at the Tivoli Building on the Auraria Campus downtown. It’s a specialty SF convention, catering to the steampunk subgenre. I came up Friday night and met Jim Strickland Saturday morning as the con opened. Jim had set up a panel for us with the concom, and readings from the two halves of our double novel.

I freely admit I had no idea what to expect. I have never been to a comics or media con, and in fact haven’t been to a traditional SF con in four or five years. I used to go to three or four every year, back long ago when the world and I were young and I was writing a lot of SF because my life was simple and I had not yet broken into computer books.

This was, well, different. There have always been a few people at cons in hall costumes. At Anomaly Con, probably 85% of the congoers are in hall costume all the time, and some of them are doozies.

Most, as you might expect, were Victorian gentlemen and ladies, plus the occasional mad scientist. But beyond that were some western card sharps, a few outfits clearly adapted from Civil War re-enactments, a couple of pirates, at least one pith-helmeted explorer, plus a scattering of zombies and a handful of imponderables that might be from some subsubsubgenre I haven’t heard of yet.

The effort and ingenuity that went into some of these costumes was boggling, and the cleverness factor off the charts. My vote for Best of Show goes to Matt Schaps, a young man who created a steampunk Ghostbusters proton pack out of the guldurndest collection of retro junk, including a 3-gang variable capacitor, a Model T Ford ignition coil, a J-38 Morse Code key, five or six vacuum tubes, a couple of IF cans, and a biggish woofer behind a brass shell salvaged from a ceiling fan.

At our panel, Jim and I discussed the necessary conditions for the evolution of a Victorian-style industrial age, and whether it was a fluke or an inevitable stop along the path from mud huts to interstellar empire. We used my Drumlins universe as an example, and explained how factors like freedom of thought, economic freedom, relatively benign religion lacking monasticism (and the nasty dualism that monasticism inevitably carries with it) and cheap energy would almost invariably create something like the England and the US of the 1890s. The panel was well-received, and afterwards we spent a lot of time at the tables in the hall tossing ideas around with interested attendees.

I’m about to head over there again, and will post additional photos this evening or tomorrow. My own hall costume is limited to a western-style vest and the ill-fitting top hat I bought for the Coriolis Millennium Christmas Party in late 1999, but it will do for now. Next time I might well lean a little western, since the Drumlins stories I’ve done so far tend toward space westerns more than steampunk. (Drumlin Circus incorporates some of both.) It’s been a lot of fun so far, and the setting is perfect: In the room where we held our panel, a huge two-cylinder stationary steam engine with a 10-foot flywheel lay in state, with small boys dressed like Oliver Twist scrambling all over it and spinning the handwheels. Crazy world, yes, but a good one.

One Comment

  1. Matt S says:

    Thanks for the review on the pack, its great.

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