Tea & Automatons

Diana Vick's corner of the interweb

Training Day

Today I have a mild head cold and have lost my voice, but I am determined to finish a few things.  My day was brightened by finding out that I was singled out on my other blog site for what they call the “Lens of the Day” for my article Dressing Steampunk.  It’s nice to get recognition and it’s helping a lot of new folks find out about steampunk as well.  Yay!

On Saturday a group of us from the Seattle Steamrats went up to Snoqualmie and rode the train.  Naturally, we dressed up for the occasion.  You can see the entire gallery here.  Afterwards many of us went to the Woodman Lodge for lunch.  The food was great and the staff was very accommodating of our large group.  I highly recommend the place if you are every in the area.  It was a wonderful day even if I did lose my voice.


Gaslight Gathering’s Maiden Voyage

I went down to San Diego to attend Gaslight Gathering, southern California’s first steampunk convention.  Conveniently for me, my copy of Morlock Night arrived so I had new… well recently reprinted reading material for the flight.  I arrived on Thursday night so I could get a fresh start in the morning.  My main purpose was to run a promotional table for Steamcon III.  I also had a few panels and one talk to give.  The venue is a truly curious mish mash of former hotels, motels, convention facilities, restaurants and a spa that is now called Town & Country.  On my way there I discovered that we were going to be sharing it with a swing dance convention as well as a few others.  Luckily, it’s a big place, sort of an overly ornate rat maze for humans as it turns out.  There were many gardens, trellises and gazebos scattered about as well as lots of quite random statuary.  The room we stayed in was quite sumptuous.  I did have the good fortune to ride the elevator frequently with many curious mundanes who were quite charmed and intrigued by my description of our gathering for the weekend.  I suspect some of them dropped in on the festivities.

On Friday morning, after a very mediocre breakfast at the Terrace Café, I investigated the convention space.  The spacious merchants’ room was still getting set up and happily my Steamcon table was right inside on the right hand wall.  Registration, due open at 10:00 A.M. did not open until after 11:00 A.M. as often happens the first year, but I got tech support for my talk “Steampunk 101”, which was to occur at noon.  I feared that no one would make it since they couldn’t get registered in time, but I did have a small but enthusiastic audience, nonetheless.  It went well and I later heard a few people comment that they really wished they could have attended.  Afterwards, my roommates and I had a quick nosh and I went back to man my table and answer Steamcon III questions.  I must admit that this review will be a bit incomplete due to my table duties which prevented me from seeing the entire convention.  I bought a plushie octopus and a miniature brass diving helmet from a merchant in the room, which made wonderful table décor to go with Steamcon III’s 20,000 Leagues theme.

At one point I ventured out to get officially registered and found the door to registration closed.  I looked unsurely about and a spritely young thing asked what I needed.  When I told her that I was a panelist, she flung open the door and pranced inside announcing my status.  I was served promptly.  The program book is lovely and Steamcon’s ad is right on the inside front cover.  Sadly, there is a conspicuous absence of a map.  The membership badge is ungainly, approximately the size of a flattened paperback novel and attached to a lanyard, which I find less than useful.  I usually bring a spare clip to rectify this, but I had neglected to repack it.  My badge had a blue ribbon stating “Second Class” and a red ribbon that said “Panelist” already attached.  Anastasia, the fan table liaison came by and gave me a lovely little cloth insignia to wear.  I also purchased one of their handmade Gaslight Gathering pewter medals which are quite fabulous.  I spent the rest of the day talking up Steamcon and enjoying the enthusiasm of the attendees.

Food that night was found by walking across a bridge to the mall.  Dressed up as we were, we got a lot of strange looks and several inquiries.  People were generally bemused.  When we came back we checked out the dance.  It was up a flight of stairs.  The foyer was almost impossible to traverse due to all the photographers and their victims.  Once through, we discovered that the entrance to the dance let out into the middle of the dance floor.  This meant that the flow of traffic was blocked by new arrivals and once again … photographers.  We chatted a bit, wandered a bit and finally decided to call it an early night so we would be fresh for the day.

Saturday morning I went to the Terrace for breakfast again, and it was again fairly mediocre, but food is food.  I wore my Nemo’s Daughter admiral outfit complete with tentacle fingers for the day.  It got lots of attention for the special effects and the hat.  I sat at my table and was so busy promoting Steamcon III that I was a tiny bit late for my panel, which was down the courtyard, across a pool area, and up to the 9th floor of a neighboring building.  The lack of a map in the program book was inconvenient and since it is the most confusing space, I think it might be a very good addition for next year.  The panel was on faux finishes and it was very well attended.  My fellow panelists were quite knowledgeable and the hour flew by.  I think we could have gone on for a while, as we sort of did with random audience members afterwards.  I think that appointing a moderator might be helpful as there is a certain amount of chaos if there isn’t one.  Afterwards I ducked in to get my photo taken by “Tobias Eastman”, a professional photographer, since I was in the vicinity.  While waiting, I got an opportunity to talk to one of my fellow panelists, Arabella Benson, who is an absolute delight and very creative.

Later in the afternoon, I chanced upon the League of S.T.E.A.M. in the courtyard.  I would have chatted longer, but they are just so popular it’s hard to deprive others of their awesomeness.  I did get to chat with Baron Von Fogel for a bit afterwards and we are already scheming for Steamcon III.

Dinner was found at the mall again.  The manager at The Art of Shaving called out to us as we passed and was very interested in our endeavor.  He gave us some samples to take to our men.

We didn’t have concert tickets, so we didn’t bother to check it out although I later heard good things about Steampowered Giraffe.  The dance that evening was period dancing, which I am atrocious at, so I didn’t partake.  One of my roommates did choose to stay and dance but after chatting with folks for a bit we wandered off to find more people to chat with.  One never really lacks for entertaining people to talk to at a steampunk convention, and this one was no exception.  We found the charming Anastasia and she introduced us to more folks.   I talked myself hoarse, but that is nothing new.

Sunday morning, third time’s the charm, breakfast was better.  Or maybe you simply can’t screw up oatmeal?  Due to having to pack up, move all my things to the table and check out, I decided not to dress up.  I really hate being at a convention and not being dressed up.  I just don’t feel like me.  I had a panel on Thrifting at noon and then a panel I wanted to attend, so I knew I might be too busy to change.

Once again, I was deep in conversation when time for my panel came.  Luckily it was very close this time, so I wasn’t horribly late.  It was a full house again and it seemed to go quite well.  Arabella was there again and had a lot of show and tell, so I didn’t feel bad about slacking somewhat.

Right after my panel, there was a talk I was very eager to see, so I rushed off.  Gavin Scott, the creator and writer of the television series: The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne was going to be talking about it and showing some episodes.  The room he was scheduled in was changed, so I took the opportunity to walk with him and introduce myself.  I explained that I was a big fan of the show, had seen some of it when it aired and had done some casual campaigning to get it released on DVD.  He was gracious and seemed pleased of the attention.  The panel was sparsely attended, but it was Sunday and not everyone is aware of the show.  Rick Overton, one of the actors had been scheduled to appear as well, but had a family emergency, which I must say I was sad to hear.  I am a fan of his comedy as well as some of his past roles.   Gavin told us some of the history behind the show and then began showing episode 2.  He gave commentary and took questions during it since the sound was very faint.  To my deep chagrin, I really had to go and eat so I could not stay for the entire talk.  I debated finding something quick and returning but I also had an obligation to go back to my table, so I did.   Happily Gavin came and found me after his talk and gave me a copy of the newly released soundtrack, which I had him autograph.  He showed me his book of clippings from the show.  I wish I could have spent more time looking at it, but he did need to get going.  I told him that in many ways I felt that show was ahead of its time.  I mean think how popular it would be now, with all the steampunk interest.  I always point to that show when someone asks if there is a quintessential steampunk show.  It even has Jules Verne himself in it!  He seemed to feel that I just might be right.  Maybe we’ll see something come of it.  Meanwhile he says to write to Talisman Films and let them know you would love to get a copy on DVD.  I know I’m going to write them.  If they do put it out on DVD, I hope they take the time to create some extras and let Gavin tell the history behind it.  After all, he was steampunk before it was cool.

So that was a great end to my fabulous weekend.  I met so many wonderful people.  Saw so many interesting costumes and gadgets!  I heard that they got three times the number of expected attendees, but it never felt crowded.  It’s a quirky venue, but it works for our quirky crowd.  Well done Gaslight Gathering crew!  Book me on next year’s excursion!

My photo gallery for the event is here.

Jeter to be Author Guest of Honor at Steamcon III!

Have you ever wondered what the man who coined the term “steampunk” thinks steampunk is?   We definitely have, so we’ve asked him to join in the conversation. Steamcon is extremely proud to announce that K.W. Jeter will be our author guest of honor for our fabulous third year!

K. W. Jeter is widely credited as having coined in 1987 the term “steampunk,” and is the author of Morlock Night and Infernal Devices, two of the earliest novels in the genre. In addition, he has written many other science fiction and thriller novels, including Dr. Adder, Farewell Horizontal, Soul Eater, and In the Land of the Dead. In addition to his writing career, he has worked as a researcher for the University of California Medical Center on AIDS-related bereavement issues with heroin addicts, and as a creative writing instructor for Portland State University in Oregon. After residences in England and Spain, he currently lives with his wife Geri in San Francisco, California – though that might change.

Morlock Night and Infernal Devices have been recently reprinted, with additional material, by Angry Robot; more details can be found at Mr. Jeter’s steampunk-related blog, or at the K. W. Jeter Information Site. His long-awaited sequel to Infernal Devices, titled Fiendish Schemes, will be available soon from Tor Books.

Norwescon: Eggs, Tentacles and Steampunk

As I try to recuperate and unpack from Norwescon, I will take a quick break to write up a review.  As usual, it all went by much too quickly.  The main goal for the weekend was to promote Steamcon III, so the Steamcon lobby table was our main focus.  A scant couple of weeks before the con, I came up with a crazy idea to draw more folks to the table, the Golden Egg-stravaganza!  Essentially a bunch of candy, badge ribbons and mystery prizes in gold colored eggs.  Each egg was a one dollar donation.  I didn’t have much time to find the prizes, but I used some Steamcon stickers, buttons and such as well as a few little compasses, dirigibles, hot air balloons and little octopi.  We also gave away four full Steamcon III memberships, which really delighted their recipients.  The eggs were very popular.  Too popular!  I realized that we would sell out completely on Friday morning, so I put half of them aside for Saturday.  We still sold out before noon each day.  Live and learn.  I am already plotting for next year.

Nemo's Daughter

As another ploy to draw attention to Steamcon III, I dressed in somewhat 20,000 Leagues regalia.  My Saturday outfit was Nemo’s daughter as an admiral with a little bit of the sea in her blood as it were.  It was quite well received.  I participated in the Under the Sea fashion show, which was very creative.

On Saturday night, I did a second version of Widget the automaton.  The lightning goggles and makeup were a huge hit.

I had about five panels, almost all on steampunk or related themes.  Despite having done this for so long, I am always learning more about steampunk.  I want to say thanks to Lou Anders of Pyr for some great insights and stating that Sherlock Holmes is not steampunk.  One of my favorite people, Claire Hummel was on many of my panels as well and she is always a fount of new information and good insights.

Social anthropologist, James Carrott followed me around to my panels to record the discourse in preparation for a dinner at the Dahlia Lounge on Sunday hosted by Brian David Johnson, the futurist at Intel.  Brian’s goal was to gather steampunk “luminaries” to discuss steampunk with an eye toward what we could add to future technology.  The dinner was lovely and the discussions quite lively.  The Foglios, Paul Guinan, Anina Bennett, Kevin Steil, Claire Hummel, Thomas Becker, Jordan Bodewell, Marshal Hunter, R. “Martin” Armstrong and myself along with James and Brian discussed steampunk past, present and future while the cameras rolled.  I confess to being quite intrigued by what may come of this.  If nothing else, hanging out with James and Brian during the convention, was very entertaining and thought provoking.  Thanks to both of you!

It was a marvelous but exhausting weekend.  You can see the photos my darling husband took on Flickr.com.

Widget the automaton and Steam Wench

My Steampunk Archetypes Book Is Now Available!

For the past few years I have been dressing up in steampunk attire for events and gatherings.  I enjoy it immensely and try to be as creative as I can.    When I first got started I found it immensely helpful to imagine a few steampunk archetypes and think about what they would wear.  Since then I have been writing and lecturing about that topic.  Since I had so many photos, I decided to take advantage of the current print on demand services and make a little book on the topic as well.  You can preview and purchase a copy here. I hope you find it entertaining.

Seven Steampunk Fallacies

I’ve written an article over on Squidoo about some things that have been bothering me.  Just a few of the things that people will tell you about steampunk that I don’t think are necessarily true and might be doing more harm than good.  Go and check it out.

Steamcon II

Copious apologies for my prolonged absence.  I do have a good excuse however.  My work on Steamcon, which is fast approaching, does take precedence over pretty much everything else.  And now that I think of it, I probably haven’t spent any time here talking about my beloved Steamcon.  I feel quite remiss.

Steamcon is a Victorian science fiction convention held in Seattle in the fall.  This is our second year and we are only about a week and half away.    Last year was a delightful success and this year is shaping up to be even better.  Our author guest of honor, Jim Blaylock is a dear man and one of the father’s of the genre.  Jake Von Slatt is an esteemed maker and our artist guest of honor.   Shane Hensley, the creator of Deadlands is our games guest of honor.  The very talented Kambriel is our fashion guest of honor.  Along with those wonderful folks, we have Cherie Priest, Studio Foglio, Gail Carriger, Nick Valentino and a whole bunch of other talented people helping us entertain and edify throughout the weekend.

On the music front, we welcome back Abney Park, and they will be joined by Bakelite 78 and Ghoultown, along with a host of folks in Mr Bodewell’s Cabaret.

Some of the other activities:

  • Riverboat Gambler Night
  • Airship Awards Banquet
  • Pearl de Verre Cotillion
  • Grand Mercantile
  • Art Exhibition
  • The Artful Bodger’s Guns and Gizmos Show
  • The Girl Genius Radio Show
  • The Great Maker Debate
  • And many other panels, talks and diversions

Something for everyone, I should think.  I do hope you will consider joining us!


A Salute to Military Jackets

Captain Heliotrope

For a costuming like myself, who doesn’t sew, the abundance of ready to wear steampunkable faux military jackets is a god send.  I have been seeing and buying them all over, from Target to Nordstrom’s.  For the purposes of steampunk ensembles, we are looking for jackets that are either Victorian/Edwardian or purely fantasy.  I’m not a historical costumer, so the jackets I pick up are usually going to end up being airship or submersible captains or crew.  As the age of steam generally ends with the rise of diesel, world war one is generally accepted as the end of steampunk, so you want to avoid uniforms that look more modern.

Lately though, I’ve been seeing a lot of unacceptable jackets hitting the market.  I thought I’d share with you a few tips that I go by when buying jackets.  Material.  The jackets made out of sweatshirt material really just don’t say steampunk.  They say “ I picked up whatever was on the floor of the dorm room”.  You could wear one to slightly steam up an everyday wardrobe, but all out steampunk requires better fabric.   Also, denim, can be tricky.  Yes, denim existed, but it was not widely used and definitely not by the military, especially pale blue denim.  Another reason for nice fabric is structure.  You are looking for garments with tailoring and style.  A heavy cotton will look nicer for our purposes.  If the jacket has a cloth tie at the waist, take it off and dispose of it post haste.  It looks dreadful.  Replace it with a nice leather belt of the proper size or remove the belt loops if need be.  The trenchcoat is often mistaken for military, but it is too modern for our purposes.  Pass it up.

When deciding on color, the olive drab that many of them come in is simply too modern and camouflage is right out.  If the green is light enough, and you really like the styling, I would suggest dying it.  If it’s not synthetic this should be easily done.  Do remove the buttons first and reattach them after dying so as not to damage the finish, unless you want them damaged.  Try a shade of brown, burgundy or even purple.  Black or an emerald green would also work.  Not only will this fix the drab green problem, but you will have a much more individual garment when you are done.  On the topic of buttons, I will often replace the buttons on a jacket if they are not shiny brass or interesting.  Large plastic buttons just don’t say steampunk.  I recently exchanged the cloth covered buttons on a cropped corduroy jacket for brass domed buttons and it looks much sharper.  If you have enough buttons, you may add some at the cuffs for a more interesting look.  And epaulets, which look very dapper, will often have buttons giving you another area to add sparkle.  Also, avoid zippers when choosing a jacket.  Zippers just scream modern.  You can add hook and eye closures or a nice double ended clip to hold it closed if need be.

One way to jazz up your jacket is to add a faux medal or two.  You can find some of these faux medals in stores currently, or try your hand at making some.  Craft stores have a lot of fun things to utilize these days.  I’d caution you not to use actual military medals unless you earned them because it is quite disrespectful to those who did.  Patches can also add an interesting touch, and can be found in craft stores.

So, do search for a military jacket or two for your steampunk wardrobe, but keep my tips in mind for maximum steampunk style.  At ease.

Steampunk: A dictionary definition

So according to the Oxford Dictionary of English, steampunk is “a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advance technology.”  It kind of misses the mark in my opinion, especially for a definition from such an esteemed source.  Well what can you expect from a book that  includes such words as “Chillax”, “Staycation” and “Bromance”.

Sourced from  this article in the Village Voice.

An interview and randomness

My friend Kevin asked if he could interview me about Steamcon and steampunk in general.  The first part is here.

Victoria Steampunk Exposition - Bengal Lounge

The picture above is from the Victoria Steampunk Exposition.  I borrowed a friend’s gun.  When asked if it was a tiger hunting gun, I replied “I guess it is now”.  The tiger looks like he might be plotting revenge.

I am working on my wardrobe for Dragoncon.  I am doing one panel on the alt history track about costuming for women, so I guess I’d best have some spiffy costumes.  I promise pictures when I return.  I’m sure there will be lots of wonderful steampunk outfits there to get photos of as well.  So, back to work.

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.