Tea & Automatons

Diana Vick's corner of the interweb


I was asked to be on a few panels at Dragoncon in Atlanta this year, so I am busy planning outfits and packing like a madwoman.   Dragoncon is a very costume heavy event, so it’s a lot of fun to wander and people watch.  They have an Alternate History Track that has a lot of steampunk content like the Mechanical Masquerade.

Panels that I am on at Dragoncon. If you happen to be going, please drop in:

  • Everyone’s a Captain: Finding a Fresh Persona in an Alt. History World – Fri. 2:30p in Intl BC (Main Room)
  • Tesla and Edison: The Men, The Myths – Sun. 5:30 pm in Intl A (Roundtable Room)
  • Organizing Your Steampunks: Airships, Clubs, and Others – Mon. 2:30 pm in Intl A (Roundtable Room)

Go check out some of the past Dragoncon Steam pics.






Steampunk University

In response to the many questions and requests we got, we began Steampunk University back in 2008.  Despite it’s lofty name, the aim of SU is really just to introduce people to the literary genre of steampunk and it’s subsequent subculture and help them figure a few things out, like what to wear to Steamcon and how to make cool stuff.  It’s pretty basic, intended for beginners but can be a lot of fun.  We also run a store at the same time, so you can get some fun items to wear and meet some of the many merchants that will be at Steamcon IV in October.  This year we aren’t even charging tuition or admission, so it’s the best opportunity to come and learn a little about our passion, steampunk.


12:00 – 1:00 – Intro to Steampunk: Diana Vick will give you an overview of how it all began and her take on the genre, subculture and aesthetic of steampunk.

1:00 – 2:00 – How to Dress Steampunk: Liz Spain says that your perfect steampunk outfit may be hiding in your closet! Learn how to find and alter easy-to-find inexpensive clothing to create sartorial fabulousness for all genders.

2:00 – 3:00 – Prop making:  Tony Hicks aka Shamus Tinplate and Sean Forbes will show you their fabulous gadgets and talk to you about their process.

3:00 – 4:00 – Leather working & Goggle making: Mac McGowan of SteamBaby has been doing leather work of various kinds for many years. In this talk he will cover some basic leatherworking ideas and show some tips and hints for goggle construction as well

4:00 – 5:00 – Steampunk Music: Jordan Block of Sepiachord, one of the leading steampunk musicologists in the world will talk about what he finds to be steampunk music.

The Steampunk University Store will be open from noon to 6:00 PM for your shopping enjoyment.


Steamcon IV: Victorian Monsters!

July 16th 2012


Contact: Diana Vick, Steamcon Vice chair, info@steamcon.org


Each year Steamcon draws several thousand fans to its Steampunk convention, one of the longest running in the world. This year’s theme is “Victorian Monsters,” a weekend long Halloween party featuring all the classic monsters of the Victorian era. Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Spring Heeled Jack, the Invisible Man, Jack the Ripper and many more were born in the foggy streets of Victorian London. With participants dressing as monsters and monster-hunters, this year’s event is the perfect setting for Steampunk intrigue, ghoulish frights and ghastly delights.

Kim Newman, the man who penned the thrilling alternate history tale Anno Dracula, will be the Author Guest of Honor. Joe Benitez, illustrator and creator of the gorgeous comic book Lady Mechanika is this year’s Artist Guest of Honor. The Monster Hunters of Honor will be the ever popular and outrageous League of S.T.E.A.M.

Headlining the Saturday Night Concert will be Musical Guests of Honor the cello ensemble Rasputina. The concert will also feature a performance by the fabulous Nathaniel Johnstone Band and the theatrical Eric Stern of Vagabond Opera.

Taking place indoors at the lovely Hyatt Regency hotel in Bellevue on October 26th -28th, Steamcon IV will feature three days of lively panel discussions, demonstrations, and talks about the literary genre/music genre/fashion/do-it-yourselfers dream that is Steampunk. The Convention will host an art exhibition, a huge merchant’s room, several games rooms, a high tea, dances, a concert and much, much more. Speakers, fans and Steampunk aficionados from around the world will attend this international renowned event.

Special events:

Friday night will be the third annual Airship Awards Banquet, an evening to honor the most outstanding creators in the steampunk community. On Saturday there will be the Sanatorium Tea featuring a best monster costume competition, and on Sunday there will be the “Wayfarer’s Brunch,” an event to honor multiculturalism in steampunk.

Who: Steampunk Conventions Inc.

What: Steamcon IV: Victorian Monsters

Where: Bellevue Hyatt Regency Hotel, 900 Bellevue Way Northeast, Bellevue, (425) 462-1234

When: October 26-28, 2012

How Much: Adults $45.00 and youths $40 if bought in advance.  Higher at the door.  Tickets available online or at the door.  http://registration.steamcon.org/

For more information, go to www.steamcon.org or drop us an email at info@steamcon.org.

Other articles on Steamcon IV: Steampunk Chronicles



Brass Screw Confederacy

On Saturday my husband and I made the trek, and ferry ride out to the lovely waterfront hamlet of Port Townsend, WA for their first steampunk festival, the Brass Screw Confederacy.  It is the brainchild of Nathan Barnett, owner of the Old Consulate Inn, natty dresser and long time Steamcon supporter.  Having injected a bit of steampunk into the town’s long standing Victorian festival, he then managed to convince the populace that they might enjoy a more fully fledged dose of steampunk.    Judging by the number of store fronts with steampunk displays, they were certainly eager to get into the spirit of things.

We arrived and got situated in time to attend a reading by Neal Stephenson from his book The Diamond Age at the Brass Screw Cabaret.  By my definitions, it is not so much steampunk as Neo-Victorian science fiction and perhaps cyberpunk, but it is still a wonderful book.  I read it a long time ago, but after listening to him, I may need to give it another reading.  His vivid descriptive prose is quite fascinating.  Neil himself was dressed in a very appropriate Victorian or perhaps Edwardian suit (I am no men’s fashion expert, by any means) and during the Q&A I asked him about it.  He confessed that he finds the style quite comfortable and will be acquiring more in the future.  Because my talk was immediately afterwards, I didn’t get a chance to speak to him at more length, but I certainly would have liked to.

I had been asked to give a talk about how to dress in steampunk attire.  I only had about a half an hour, so I tried to keep it to the basics, but during the question and answer portion it was obvious the audience really wanted more information on what steampunk really is.  I try to tailor my talks to my audience so I happily obliged.  They seemed to  both  entertained and educated, so I think I did my job.  I gave out flyers for my blog, shop and book at the end.  Denise Winters who is in charge of the Key City Public Theatre and the “cabaret” as it was called, appeared to be quite happy with me and asked me to return next year and possibly do my gun mod talk.

We wandered over to the Bazaar of the Bizarre  at the American Legion Hall next.  Most of the merchants were quite familiar, but it was a good variety of wares and the locals as well as tourists enjoyed looking at all the peculiar things.

A woman came up and asked if I was Diana Vick and I said yes.  She beamed and told me that her two daughters were big fans of mine and asked to take a picture of me with them.  They found my work in 1,000 Steampunk Creations.  I was quite tickled.  Several people who were at my talk came by with more questions throughout the day as well.   We also wandered the outdoor merchants, watched some artisans creating their wares and got some wickedly delicious doughnuts.  My purple outfit got a lot of attention and I used it to hand out Steamcon postcards.

We then strolled off to check out the quaint main street, which was marred slightly by all the construction work being done.  We found a pub that had gotten good recommendations so we had an early dinner.  The sun made an appearance so now the ensemble I chose was a bit too warm.  It is always difficult to decide what type of outfit to wear for events that have both indoor and outdoor components and a chance of showers.  It had been breezy all day, so my jacket and layers had been just about perfect up until now.   Due to budgetary constraints and far too many things to do this year, we had to make this a day trip only.  We said our goodbyes and made our tired way back home.  Hopefully next year we will be able to do more than just a day trip and partake of the evening festivities as well.

I think that the BSC has a lot of potential.  The town is charming and the inhabitants are friendly and open to the genre.  The organizers were calling this year zero, but that does this event a disservice.  You don’t really get to have a trial run for this sort of thing.  It’s jump in with both feet and hope.  I suppose if steampunk rewrites history then so can they, but for better or worse, it did happen.   Folks seemed to be having fun.  It will most likely get bigger and better over the years.

My photographer didn’t take many shots this time, but they are found here.

Clockwork Alchemy

Me with my handsome husband

Recently,  I had the privilege of attending the first Clockwork Alchemy as their Fan Guest of Honor.  It was even more special because it was my birthday on Monday, a very nice way to spend one’s birthday.  It was slightly lessened by the fact I had a very mild cold and was on decongestants, but I didn’t let it slow me down much.  Clockwork was held in San Jose over the Memorial Day weekend in conjunction with Fanime, a large and long standing anime convention.

My husband and I arrived Thursday so that we would be ready for Friday’s festivities.  We are very well acquainted with the Doubletree hotel where CA was held because it had housed several fannish conventions in the past including Baycon and Further Confusion.  There was a meet and greet going on that night but since it was rather loud, we chose to sit in the bar and chat with folks instead. The bar in this hotel is centrally located and open to the lobby so people can easily find you and join in the conversation.  You’ll note a trend in behavior beginning here.

Kory - The very dapper con co-chair

Friday morning, we attended opening ceremonies.   Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, the Author and Artist Guests of Honor were introduced and spoke briefly.  Kory the con co-chair said some very complimentary things about my role in west coast steampunk fandom.  I was touched and truly appreciated the recognition.  Erica “Unwoman” Mulkey, the Music Guest of Honor performed with her strap-on cello, which got a lot of buzz.

Steamcon promo table

Martin and I set up our promo table for Steamcon and chatted with the few folks who came by.  Attendance was light, but it was only Friday.  I did a talk called “Modding for Wimps” that was not well attended, but still enjoyable.  I did it as a Powerpoint presentation since bringing all my props down from Seattle on a plane is too difficult.

Fanime attendee

That night we took the opportunity to head over to Fanime at the convention center to check things out and do a little shopping.  The folks at Xcentricities have a fabric with a gear pattern that I had asked about getting it in purple with copper gears.  They made it as a waist cincher and my husband graciously bought it for me as an early birthday present.  My friend Margaret gave me some gorgeous purple lace and feathers to deck out a hat I had bought from her at another show.  I bought a curly purple wig to go with all the purple.  We met up with Paul, Anina and two more friends and headed off to dinner.  After food, we went to a private club and had cocktails.  The other patrons were completely enamored of the steampunk look and I think we made some new converts.  One gentleman offered to buy my goggles, and since they were a pair that I made, I was very flattered.

The Guest of Honor Group Interview - Photo courtesy Jean Martin

Saturday after breakfast I was booked on a large block of programming.  From 11:00 – 1:00 Jean Martin did a group interview of the Guests of Honor.  Kathy and Shannon O’Hare from Neverwas Haul were the Maker Guests of Honor and told stories from Burning Man and other events.  Paul and Anina talked about Boilerplate and their new book Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention .  I talked about how Steamcon got started and how that lead to me becoming a speaker, an educator and many other improbable things.  Erica spoke on her music and to my delight gave Steamcon a nod for getting her a start in the steampunk community.

I ducked out a little bit early to grab a quick bite (not an easy task) and get ready for my “Steampunk Litmus Test” talk.  It was a large and enthusiastic crowd and we had fun discussing the various things that really make a story steampunk.

Unwoman & I

The rest of the day, we talked to folks at the promo table and I managed to get some interest in my book, “Steampunk Archetypes.”  We had dinner at the sushi bar again and then I changed into the new corset and wig for the concert.  My feet were tired and my cold was wearing me down, so we adjourned to the bar with some new folks to chat.  You spotting the trend yet?

Sunday, we again manned the table and talked up Steamcon.  In the afternoon I did my talk on “Seven Steampunk Fallacies.”  I had not done that particular talk before and being a Sunday, I wasn’t sure how popular it would be.  I guess the title piqued their curiosity because the room was packed and stayed that way.  I took questions after I went over the initial points and the audience seemed entertained.  Afterwards we were supposed to go to dinner with the con chairs, but Spencer’s was unexpectedly closed.  Martin and I eventually resorted to bar food once again for expediency.  Shortly afterward, I spoke to a reporter from USA Today about all the fun that is steampunk, so that is something to watch for.

I changed into my copper gown for the Ball, but since I don’t dance we ended up in the bar chatting with some fabulous people.  It was a good weekend for lively conversation with fascinating people.

My Monday outfit

Monday morning, the con was still going, but many people used the day for travel, so attendance was light.  I hadn’t completely lost my voice yet, but it was getting squeaky and it hurt a bit to talk.  I was supposed to be on two back to back panels but they were both full of lively panelists, so I suspected that I would not be missed. Besides, it was my birthday and I wanted to celebrate a bit.   My husband and a friend took me over to Fanime to do some actual birthday shopping.  The majority of the booths were filled with figurines, and anime videos.  I love looking at the art books, but they are quite expensive.  The costuming is mostly too small for me, but I did find a gorgeous copper colored corset at Timeless Trends and my husband got it for me!  Two corsets for my birthday!  I am so spoiled!  I bought myself a couple of small Re-ment boxes of tiny food and a tea service, indulging in one of my hobbies.  I also got some colored reflective lenses for my goggles.  We took the opportunity to eat away from the hotel for lunch.  By the time we got done, the con was basically over and the dealer’s room was closed.  We took a few pictures at the picturesque Sainte Claire hotel before heading back to the Doubletree.  We found Paul and Anina in the bar and we spent a pleasant while chatting.  A friend whisked us off to a Teppanyaki place for dinner.  Prawns!  Yum! Then back to the hotel bar to chat.  My loving husband had procured a red velvet cupcake for my birthday.  No candle, but they are really unnecessary, not to mention a fire hazard, after a certain age.  Ahem.

Me & Thatch, the other con co-chair

It was a wonderful way to spend a birthday weekend.  My thanks to the convention organizers for having me as fan guest of honor.  I was quite proud to be instrumental in the launch.  For a first year convention, there were some hiccups, as there always are, but it ran quite well on the whole.  The staff was friendly and responsive.  I expect great things from this convention in the years ahead.

The main problem was not the con itself but primarily the hotel food.  It’s a decent hotel, but it’s major flaw is that it has very little food within walking distance, if you don’t count Denny’s which I don’t.  There is a coffee shop, a coffee bar, a nice bar with a sushi bar in it and a pricey steak house all inside the hotel, but as they cater to mainly business clientele the offerings became less each day through the holiday weekend, making it very difficult on those of us without vehicles.   The bar menu shrunk by half its selection after the first day and the sushi bar is closed on Sunday.  Spencer’s was closed Sunday and Monday.  Sprig’s, the coffee shop was only open for breakfast and lunch.  There was supposed to be a “grab n go” for quick sandwiches and such, but the hotel decided not to run it all weekend after it didn’t do well enough the first day.  The coffee stand was open sporadically and the sundries shop ran out of many things fairly quickly.  We muddled through as best we could, but it was frustrating.

Aviatrix at the Sainte Claire Hotel

I think I would have possibly forgiven all of it if it wasn’t for Tuesday morning.  I was feeling quite run down from my cold so grabbing a coffee and pastry for breakfast didn’t seem like a good idea.  I needed a real breakfast to get through a day of travel.  We went to Sprig’s in the hotel since getting to Denny’s seemed a bit daunting.  The waitress waved us at a table but didn’t bring menus.  When she finally came over to help us, still not bringing menus, she said simply “buffet? implying it was easiest on her, so we shrugged and nodded tiredly.  She then quickly waved in that direction and muttered something about the hot buffet was not out.  Slow restaurant, she said and did we want eggs?  What kind?  Anything else?  We both said scrambled would be fine and bacon for him and sausage for me.  She left and eventually we got two plates of scrambled eggs and hot tea for Martin.  Martin went and got a bowl of fruit for us.  My drink was missed, but the busboy kindly brought me an iced tea. We never did get any meat.  As we finished the eggs she came and asked if we wanted potatoes, but we really didn’t want to wait around and eat in shifts.  This was beyond ridiculous.  I went and got a bowl of oatmeal.  I really wish she had just given us menus to begin with and told us they didn’t have a hot buffet that day.    Martin said he had difficulties with that particular waitress earlier in the weekend.   I find it odd because most of the staff was fantastic despite the issues.  The waitress in the bar was so good that we felt compelled to give her manager a compliment about her.  I do understand the economics of the situation, so I am not surprised, but it definitely negatively impacted my weekend.

There was a mishap with a transformer in downtown San Jose on Thursday night, that didn’t affect us.  The five hour power outage did cause problems for Fanime, but they soldiered on from what we heard.  It caused registration to get way behind and by far the most oft heard complaint was about registration and having to go to the convention center.  I know the organizers have heard this and are working hard to make it better next year.


The photo Gallery for the pictures taken by my husband is here.


Whatever Shall I Wear?

RedAs I said in my last post, it’s that time of year.  So many events to attend and the big question is “What to wear?”   Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy figuring out new outfits for steampunk events.  I may enjoy it a little too much, but that’s a different topic.  It’s just that I don’t really want to wear the same thing over and over.  Or at least not in exactly the same way.  Many of my steampunk clothes can be mixed and matched to make new outfits. I have been wanting to have a large gallery of all my outfits that I can view on one page.  Unfortunately my computer doesn’t seem inclined to help, so I played around with some photo storage sites.  I finally found one that would let me do it.  Photobucket’s albums lets you view an entire album on one page.  Go and see my daunting 61 outfits all on a page!  That isn’t even all my outfits, but I don’t have full length photos of all of them.  It gives me a good overview to make decisions from.

Marshall & Bear

Marshal Hunter & the Bear - photo by D. Vick

The other huge question is what will work for the particular environment?  Will it be all indoors?  Outdoors?  Will it be too warm?  Too cold?  Steampunk clothing is generally layered and so fairly warm, often too warm.  Hats, gloves, corsets, tights, boots and such will all add to the warmth.  It’s great for fall, but summer can be tricky.  So each event poses it’s own problems.   I am working up a few outfits that are a bit cooler, with lighter fabrics for the outdoor events, but I am never quite as happy with them.

As they say at the Adventurers’ Club “Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you, but always dress for the hunt!

And then there’s what to take to a convention.  Travels a curse!  But that’s a post for next time.

Upcoming Steampunkery

As usual this month marks the beginning of the whirlwind steampunk event season.  I was very sad to miss both Victoria Steampunk Expo and Gaslight Gathering this year, but it’s being made up for by my wonderful birthday weekend adventure in California.  I have been asked to be the Fan Guest of Honor at Clockwork Alchemy!  I am going to be doing a few talks, and panels and we will be running a promo table for Steamcon all weekend.  It should be quite a nice way to spend my natal fete, getting to dress up, see my California  friends and help initiate a brand new steampunk convention.

While there are lots of steampunk events happening all over the country, I am only going to list on the ones that I might have a chance to attend.  You may want to check out the Airship Ambassador’s site for event listings for things that are further afield. If you are on the west coast or even better in Seattle,  check out the events below and click the links for more information.  I hope you can join us for some of these splendid steampunk events!

* May 20th – Annual Seattle Steamrats Train Outing – Northwest Railway Museum

* May 25th – 28th – Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose, CA

*June 9th – The Brass Screw Confederacy in Port Townsend

*July 7th – Abney Park & Karina Cooper Rock Bellingham

*August 4th – Steampunk University and Store – All Pilgrim’s Church

* August 17th – 19th – GEARcon – Portland OR



Steampunk, It’s Complicated

When I began working on Steamcon, a lot of people asked me questions like what should they wear at the convention, and what should they read to prepare.  It seemed like there was a lack of good information.  As I began to do some research I ran into a lot of instances of things being called steampunk that made no sense.  There was no common thread.   I began to work out a definition of steampunk for myself.  I, like a lot of people, made some miss-steps at first, adopting fashion that was years too late and weaponry that was much too early.  As I observed more, my perception of what steampunk was began to coalesce.  Okay, so Victorian science fiction at it’s core, but generally written by modern people looking back and trying to figure out what the Victorians might have envisioned the future to be, so a type of retro-futurism based in the age of steam essentially.  Verne and Wells are the fore bearers, but technically not “steampunk”.  I did a lot of this simply for my own edification.  I wanted to understand so I could costume well, create appropriately and help others to do so.  I began to work with steampunk archetypes as a way to help folks figure out how to costume without simply copying others and I eventually created a book about it.  A friend said it was very scholarly of me, and I was amused.  I am far from scholarly, but I do have a need to dissect things sometimes, in my own clumsy way.

The more I delved, the more I encountered things that simply didn’t fit my template being labeled “steampunk”.  At first I chalked this up to a lack of understanding.  In some cases, it was obvious that if the term had cache then some people would try to capitalize on it.   This was sad to me, but inevitable.  I also encountered the “steampunk is anything you want it to be” argument, and was dumbfounded.  How can a genre be “anything”?  This argument meant essentially that the term was meaningless.  In time, I have come to think that there are three basic but vastly different ways in which the term “steampunk” was being used.

First there is the genre of steampunk, which although fairly quantifiable, is still in some debate, but generally is accepted as science fiction/fantasy in the age of steam.  Many people want to put the label on books that are more properly the next genre in chronological progression:”dieselpunk”, because steampunk is the more popular term.  I even had a publisher admit that he knew that a certain book was rightly dieselpunk but billed it as steampunk, because it would sell better.    “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” and “Rocketeer” are definitely dieselpunk, but again are often lumped into steampunk as if steampunk means retro-futurism, its parent genre.  I often find people with no comprehension of science fiction at all lumping things like the film “Brazil” and “Flash Gordon” into the steampunk category, so it’s obvious that the science fiction aspect is apparent to them, but understanding tropes from different eras can really help.  To the non-science fiction fan, Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon might seem as steampunk as Mad Max or Tank Girl.  In reality, none of them qualify.  They are all to a degree science fiction characters, but they are not from the appropriate era or level of technology.  So steampunk to the mundane eye has come to be equated marginally with science fiction, but not always the right timeframe.

The amount of people adding steampunk elements to things to try and make them steampunk is staggering.  Just adding goggles or airships to something rarely makes it steampunk.  Several online series feel to me like they worked up this alternate world, with a medieval/post-apocalyptic story and someone said “hey, steampunk is hot, you should make it steampunk!”   So they added a few cosmetic steampunk elements which really didn’t add to the already muddled stories.  A friends theory states that if you have a vampire story that still works if you take the vampire out of the story, then it isn’t really a vampire story.  It’s the same with steampunk.  Just adding goggles and airships doesn’t make it steampunk, you need to start with a base of science fiction/fantasy in the steam age.

Me with Kristina and Captain Robert of Abney Park- 2012

The second way the term steampunk is being used is as a subculture.  Way back in 2008, I first heard that there were people who considered themselves steampunks 24/7.  They dressed steampunk all the time.  They lived a “steampunk lifestyle”.  To my way of thinking, they must have time machines and aether discombobulators, because if you don’t have science fiction then it’s just Neo-Victorianism and that’s already been done.  Don’t get me wrong, if you are a steampunk maker, that’s very cool.  I just think that would be a “maker” lifestyle.  So perhaps the disconnect here is that they are referring to the subculture not the genre.  The subculture of steampunk is still in its infancy really, still growing and changing but I dare say that it has as little to do with steampunk the literary genre as the goth subculture has to do with things gothic.  There is overlap, but it is not expected or required.  As Captain Robert likes to say “Steampunk used to be Victorian science fiction, but now it’s what steampunks do”.    I believe that he was attempting to define the subculture and as sloppy as it is, it does rather work as a definition.  The steampunk subculture tends to be a movement of creativity, DIY, recycling, and making our slick mass produced world more beautiful.  Much like the airship pirates of the band Abney Park, it steals from all time periods and doesn’t worry about historical accuracy or definition.

Thirdly, there is steampunk as an “aesthetic”, for which I have never seen a satisfactory definition.  People will look at an object and say it looks “steampunk” and I am at a loss to tell you what that object has in common with other objects that are also called steampunk.  The primary characteristic is usually that it is not modern; usually older than the 1950s, but not limited to a particular time period.  It is often worn or dirty and will often be mechanical or at least made of metal.  The fact that it can be a car or coffee maker that actually existed and has not a smidge of science fiction or fantasy seems not to matter a whit.  So as to “steampunkishness”?  Not sure what the proper term should be, it usually has very little to do with the Victorian era or science fiction at all, but is simply old, dirty, and possibly mechanical.  Try to explain that to someone who wants to understand steampunk.  This may be where the maddening phrase “I know it when I see it” actually works, but for me as an educator it is a nearly impossible characteristic to explain fully.

I certainly admire all the lovely modded or steampunked computers and other such devices, but in those particular cases the maker was going for a steampunk aesthetic, adding ornamentation and brass bits to make something look like the whimsical invention of a Victorian tinkerer.  While it is all very fascinating, it is still a bit difficult to quantify, but more obvious.

In part the reason that I prefer the genre as a basis for the definition is that it is definable.   For the most part, there can be a consensus.  It is also why I believe that there is so much dissension.  If you are trying to discuss any of the three terms comparatively, I am certain you are doomed to fail.  Perhaps these three things need to adopt new names?  Maybe the genre could be steamfic?  Or Vernean steampunk?

The other day a friend was confused by the term “steampunkesque”, but if the author meant something had the aesthetic of steampunk but wasn’t within the genre, it makes some sense.  Language, especially English often gets tangled up like this and leaves me wishing for more clarity. Steampunk is an awkward and inelegant term for a genre that celebrates ornamentation and creativity, but it is the term that we have.  As someone undertaking  to help other understand just what “steampunk” is, these are the conclusions that I have come to and you may feel differently.  As I stated, it certainly isn’t cut and dried.  At the very least I hope that this helps you see my point of view.

Dragoncon 2008

Steampunk Exhibition Ball

On Saturday, the hubby and I attended the Steampunk Exhibition Ball, put on as a fund raiser for the Center for Sex Positive Culture.  It’s an event we look forward to each year.  Most people dress to the nines and tens, so it’s a very fun people watching event.  It’s held at the Museum of History and Industry which is quite a fascinating place.  There is a room for dancing, a small merchant area, a photo area, several bars and the main auditorium held the music and burlesque this year, but it was always packed and the low lighting made it almost impossible to make your way to a seat safely.  My main focus is talking to folks, so I tend to mingle all night.

This year, I was asked to be one of the judges for the costume competition.  There are three categories per their website:

  • Most Impressive Beard and/or Moustache: Judging criteria includes size, styling, originality and incorporating steampunk themes,such as how facial hair complements the overall outfit. Preference will be given to naturally grown facial hair, but an amazing prosthetic moustache can still win.
  • Fabulous Hat: Our judges are looking for not only the most fetching hats, but also most original, marvels of engineering and hats that compliment the overall theme of the outfit. Preference will be given to milliners sporting their own haberdashery (hats you made yourself).
  • Enticing Ensemble: New this year is the Most Enticing Ensemble competition. We want you to show off your steamiest attire for our viewing pleasure. Judges will choose finalists based on the overall look of the ensemble, not just a sexy corset, flattering trousers or appearance of the wearer themselves. This isn’t about if you got it, it’s about how you flaunt it.

I was asked to choose a few finalists for the last two categories and I found some wonderful contestants.  Winners were chosen by audience vocalization, which I find to be an incredibly unfair and inconsistent method of judging, but there you go.  The first two competitions went well and suitable winners were chosen.  In the last category however, the announcer failed to make it clear that you had to be given a finalist chit to enter and the stage was flooded with people, mostly women in skimpy outfits.  Having been instructed to look for sexy, but well thought out ensembles and ask about whether they had a hand in the construction, I was a bit disconcerted.  I went to the contest official and voiced my concerns, but when the MC was apprised, he blew it off entirely.  So what?  As long as the audience is having fun, who cares, right?  Well, I didn’t appreciate putting work into something that was then completely ignored, so I departed.  I had better things to do than watch a competition that was now so obviously going to be the steampunk equivalent of a night at Hooters.  I am told that despite the chaos, the winner was one of the other judges picks and her costume was quite good and showed almost no flesh.  I am glad to hear it but surprised at it.  I guess one never knows the mind of a mob.

Aside from that, the evening was very pleasant.  I met a lot of wonderful people and had some great conversations.  The outfits were grand, people were convivial and the absinthe was flowing.  All the ingredients that steampunks appreciate most.

My husband only took a few photos but you can view them here.

International Steampunk Day?

Today, I’ve noticed that the internet is filled with cries of “Happy International Steampunk Day!”  While I am all for the celebrating of the genre that I love, I had to wonder about the reasoning behind choosing June 14th to be ISD.  After all steampunk clothing is generally layered and quite warm.  When looking at dates for Steamcon, we tried very hard not to schedule it in an extremely warm time of year so that our attendees could go all out and not roast. My steampunk ensembles tend to include boots, tights, gloves, hats, wigs and then several layers of clothing.  Sweating is not very dignified and so we do avoid it, if we can.

I did a little digging and I still cannot figure out whose knuckle headed idea it was, but I did find out why they chose this particular day.  It is H.G. Wells’ birthday.  Mystery solved.  Although, if you wanted to choose a birthday to honor steampunk, why wouldn’t you choose Jules Verne’s birthday?  After all, he is even more associated with the genre and his birthday is February 8th!  That is a much better time of year for steampunk regalia!  And if you will notice there is not a fabulous Google doodle for the day like there was for Monsieur Verne’s birthday.

I am not sure who to petition about this matter, but I would like to see this day re-scheduled to February 8th.  I am not even going to discuss the “Worldwide Strut Your Steampunk Stuff Day” that is proposed for July 10th.  Aside from a terrible title, it is once again an uncomfortable time of year to choose.  Not that I won’t join in, but it will take a bit of work to find the right clothing.  Summer steampunk events are already the bane of my existence, but I will do what I must.

So, I will stop my whining and go back to my steampunk task filled day.  No outings planned and I have no voice so it’s for the best.  Plenty to do though and almost all of it genre related.  I hope that you enjoy yours in whatever manner suits you.  Happy Birthday Mister Wells!


Hold the presses!  Wells wasn’t born on this date.  He was born on September 21st?!  Okay, then why the heck is this IDS?  it makes absolutely no sense at all.  I am baffled.  Can anyone tell me why they chose this stupid date then?

About The Author

Diana Vick

I am an illustrator, writer, costumer and steampunk enthusiast.
I have done illustration for comic books, animation and collectible card games such as Magic the Gathering and Legend of the Five Rings. Currently, I do art for my own line of cards and gifts in my Zazzle shop.