On Friday morning, March 11th, we drove down to the Lake Lawn Resort at Delavan, Wisconsin, for the second Geneva Steam Con. It was a pleasant drive of a bit less than an hour, and we found the resort with out much trouble.

Lake Lawn Resort has been a vacation “destination” since 1878. The expansive grounds include a golf course, indoor swimming pool, and other recreational facilities, as well as a lovely view of Delavan Lake. Although none of the original buildings remain, the existing complex has a pleasantly rustic style while being fully modern in every respect.

We got checked in easily, and were given a very convenient room close to the main building and just a short distance from the conference center, which also houses the two main restaurants. The sprawling complex is rather mazelike, but one can learn one’s way around fairly easily.
Once settled in, we found Convention registration in the Conference center, and then took a look into the Dealers’ Room before the first panel. This was “How To Mentally and Physically Survive a Con,” presented by Leesa Almgren. As most of the people present were veteran con-goers, this was chiefly preaching to the choir, but Ms. Almgren gave an enjoyable presentation, and audience members swapped useful tips.

Following that, we went to “Arming Your Steampunk Vessel,” by Scott Logan, which reviewed artillery technologies ranging from the Napoleon cannon that was still standard armament at the beginning of the US Civil War to the Dynamite guns and TNT loaded projectiles of the early 20th Century. This was a pretty comprehensive though not too technical review that showed an impressive knowledge of the subject.

In the three o’clock hour, I dropped in on hat maven Greg Jensen’s presentation on Men’s Hats. Mr. Jensen gave a talk on Steampunk era men’s headwear, using his truly impressive personal collection of hats, and including information on care and maintenance.

Next, we went to “Wear to Begin: Women’s Fashion,” presented by Emily “Dragonweilder” Shultz, which was a nice introduction to Steampunk fashions for women, and how to find and wear them.
We then hung around for the first stage of the Costume Contests which were scheduled throughout the convention. This one was for “beginners” and had some very impressive costumes, many of which followed the “Fairy Tale” theme of the weekend. My favorite was the awesome Steampunk Big Bad Wolf by Timothy Smith, the centerpiece of which was a heavily modified wolf mask, which had had a completely scratchbuilt top hat (with visible steamworks) added. He also had a very impressive prosthetic clawed hand, and steampunk boot tops.

Having checked out the dinner options, we had made reservations for the Frontier Restaurant, which, as the hotel’s main restaurant, tends to be pricey. However, they had a seafood buffet Friday night which was not unreasonable, and promised to be edible for us. (The regular menu suffers from over-trendiness. Every dish has either cheese (which my wife can’t eat), exotic peppers (which neither of us like) or both (Jalapeno Cheddar Smashed Red Potato?)) The buffet was quite good. The cocktail shrimp had an idodiney taste which only indicated that they were deep-sea shrimp and not farm-raised, which is not a reflection on their preparation. Deep fried shrimp were very good, as was the battered cod. There was a very nice salad bar with a broccoli slaw that was good enough that we went back to it the following night. I tried the seafood macaroni and cheese, which was very good macaroni and cheese, but light on the seafood.

The dessert table was very nice, in particular a mandarin orange cheesecake that was just delicious.

Service was friendly and attentive but not obtrusive.

After dinner, we went back to our room and changed for the evening, which in this case meant “dressing down” for the evening’s Steerage Ball. On the way to the ball, we detoured to the Clan McSteam party, hosted by Henry Osier.

This was a very pleasant gathering, with good company and interesting drinks and snacks on offer. I took small samples of a Scotch whiskey, a small distiller Irish whiskey, and an oat-based whiskey made in Chicago. The Koval Oat Whiskey was interesting and different, but I’m not sure I’d care to drink a lot of it.

There were some nice Irish cheeses to nosh on, but I was disappointed that the advertised “haggis” turned out to be corned beef hash (as a joke mainly). Having had haggis when in Scotland, I liked it, and would much prefer it to corned beef, which I abominate. We have a company making haggis now in Milwaukee, and I shall have to bring some if there’s a Clan party next year--.

We then progressed on to the Steerage Ball, with Celtic Music by the Dublin O’Shea band. Dublin O’Shea plays a good lively set of danceable music, although they tend to have one tempo for pretty much everything. There was a lot of enthusiastic dancing, and both of us trod a measure or two, both in company and with others, before wearing out and retiring for the night.

The bed mattress, at least ours, was distinctly on the hard side, which made getting a restful night challenging. This was the least good thing about Lake Lawn Resort, which otherwise was very good in every respect. The staff in particular were extremely friendly and courteous.

Saturday, we got breakfast back at the Frontier, enjoying the view of the lake, as well as an excellent omelet and Belgian waffle. (People were out boating on the lake! In Wisconsin! On March 12th! The weather was indeed uncommonly fine--.)

We began the con day with Georgie Schnobrich presenting a lecture on “Radical Cinderella,” which discussed the numerous variations of the basic story occurring from ancient Egypt, to China and Japan, to the Zunis of North America. She also advanced her well-supported theories that Cinderella might have chosen initially to sit among the ashes in mourning for her mother, which then becomes expoited by her stepmother and stepsisters; and, that, far from waiting to be “rescued”, Cinderella takes an active role in bettering her position, and the Prince is the prize and reward for her efforts.

I then sat in on “Intro to Steampunk Literature” along with writer Bill Bodden, and engaged the audience in lively discussion of essential titles in Steampunk writing, comics, and film.
At noon, Georgie Schnobrich was back up, in her persona as “The Black Fairy”, doing “Weird Fairy Tales, A Reading.” This presentation was well received, although the audience was small both due to the noon hour and the presentation “Brazing and Melty Metals for the Impractical Steampunk” by Rory Sutherland was going on at the hotel’s firepit, using real fire.

At 1PM, we went to “Belly Dance in Victorian Egypt,” in which Julianne Hunter gave a nice historical presentation of the history of Ghawzi dance and performance in Egypt from the early to late 19th Century, showing how the once culturally important dancers were marginalized by the imposition of Ottoman and European mores, which pushed the dancers from performing at weddings and birthdays, first totally underground, eventually to resurface in cafes and cabarets. A short dance workshop ended the session.

We then attended “Fairy Tale, Myth, and the Importance of Telling Stories,” by Keith Green, which was a very good introduction to the academic approach to fairy tales and myths.

Then, I was on a panel with Georgie Schnobrich, “What Victorian Children Read (and What Steampunks Might Borrow From Them)” which was a survey of Victorian Literature for young people, ranging from the famous (H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson) to the obscure (Anna Letitia Barbauld, Bracebridge Hemyng), and adventure writers (Fredrick Marryat, Sir Walter Scott) to poets (William Brighty Rands, Christina Rosetti).

We were a bit late in line to get seats for Terra Mysterium’s dramatization of the German tale, “The Cold Heart,” (which was, by report, very good--), so we killed some time in the dealer’s room before dinner.

Saturday night, the Frontier restaurant has a prime rib buffet, so we were for that. Henry Osier joined us for dinner and we had a very pleasant time, good food, excellent wine, and again, very nice desserts (although the orange one from Friday night was the best of the weekend). We were particularly pleased to find Yorkshire pudding on the buffet, which was quite tasty. The Frontier has a good wine list, and the wines by the glass are generously poured.

After dinner was the “Grand Ball” featuring the return of Sir Pinkerton Xyloma and the band from Milwaukee’s Dead Man’s Carnival. This year there were no carnival acts, so the evening was all music, except for another installment of costume contest. This band is fun to listen to—they frequently remind me of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with their eclectic mix of retro and funky pieces, but they are not a great band to dance to. They did make an effort to include more danceable numbers in the show, but mainly it was the brave and the bold that took to the dance floor. The advanced session of the costume contest was won, in the couples division, by a paid doing “Wild West Cinderfella,” in which the good (but rather dim) poor cowhand is taken up by the wealthy female rancher. Individual honors went to “The Empress’ New Clothes” which displayed a creative array of colorful underthings, which the wearer insisted were completely covered by a gorgeous elaborately beaded gown.

Sunday morning, we got breakfast at the “Lookout Bar and Eatery,” which is one of the resort’s more casual dining venues. We both had the cinnamon battered French toast, which was good, but I was surprised to see that it was served with “pancake syrup” –i.e., maple flavored corn syrup—which was a bit of a let down for an otherwise classy resort. Juice, tea, and ham were all first rate, and service in the morning was cheerful and alert.

Back at the Conference Center, I began the con day by appearing with Emily Dragonweilder on “The Universality of Folklore,” which explored themes begun earlier in the con of the persistence across cultures of story motifs, not just with Cinderella/Ashenputtel/Coat o’Rushes; but others such as Rumplestiltskin/Tom-Tit-Tot, Bluebeard/Mr. Fox, and others. I gave a brief introduction to the study or folkloristics, and the Aarne-Thompson Folklore Index.

We finished up the con attending “Who’s Who and What’s What of Transgender in Victorian Edwardian History” presented by Edwin Cushing. Although Edwin wasn’t able to present his visuals due to the room’s monitor being remotely shut off (the one logistical failure I noted at the con), he was very knowledgeable on the subject, and I learned some things I had not known, which always pleases me.

We drove home Sunday afternoon with no difficulties, very satisfied with our weekend, and looking forward to the prospect of a third Geneva Steam Con. Interesting themes for next year are being bruited about.

TeslaCon 6

Nov. 26th, 2015 11:50 am
We arrived at TeslaCon 6 about noon on Friday, and checked in without difficulty. This year’s program, the “Cognitive Reasoner” newspaper, was useful and informative.

The first presentation we attended was “The Not-So-Wild West; The North-West Mounted Police,” which dealt with the origins of the forerunner to today’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The presentation included a great deal of very interesting information about the history of Canada and the founding of the North-West Mounted Police, but was somewhat difficult to listen to due to the speaker’s verbal tic, which at times seemed as though every other word was “ah” or “um.” I think that having the presentation copied out instead of switching between notes and reference books might have helped this.

The next event we went to was one of the “Immersion Events,” “The Story So Far,” which was described as “Totes McCoates, from last year’s ‘Time Travel for Tourists’ is back to get you up to speed on what’s brought everything to this point.” I’m sorry to say that this event was very poorly prepared. When Your Correspondent attempted to get the ball rolling by asking her to relate the significant events of the past year, she essentially responded that she couldn’t do that. “Beauregard Krieger”, also present, offered no help, although perhaps he felt he’d already done his share at the “War Stories with Beau Krieger” event earlier. After a bit of unstructured talk, “Ms. McCoates” attempted to address the request of another audience member, who was a new attendee, to fill in some of the more historical backstory. This was done clumsily, and the information supplied in many cases directly contradicted the historical timeline given in the Cognitive Reasoner. For example, referring to Lord Bobbins’ lunar adventure, she alleged that Dr. Proctocus had used a giant magnet on the moon to activate a robot army on Earth. According to the newspaper, Proctocus had pre-positioned a robot army on the Moon, which was de-activated by Bobbins and Krieger using a giant magnet.

At dinner time, we had purchased advance tickets for the “Krieger Family Barbecue.” At $21.00 a head the price might have seemed a bit high, but in my opinion made up for not having to either go out of the hotel for dinner or deal with the hotel’s rather small restaurant. The quality of the food was mostly excellent, with smoked brisket, beans, bread, and barbecue sauces being particularly good. Corn on the cob, which, at this season, has to have been frozen, was a bit spongy, but not too bad. The musical entertainment, “Milkhouse Radio,” was very good and entertaining, without being obnoxiously loud. Admiral and Frau Krieger worked the room, but, with 150 for dinner the actual interaction couldn’t be much.

After having stood in line for dinner, we stood in line for the Opening Ceremonies, which was the biggest disappointment of the convention. Entering the auditorium, we found that there were very few seats set up (presumably in order to leave the floor open for the Cotillion, which was immediately to follow), so the vast majority of people attending were “standing room only”. After having stood for an hour to get in, we did not feel like continuing to stand, so seated ourselves on the floor along the wall and attempted to listen. Unfortunately, the sound was poorly adjusted, and was largely unintelligible past the first few rows. Given that the other people in the back of the room couldn’t hear either, there was no reason for them not to mill around and chat, which made the whole thing a bust from our position. We eventually gave it up as a bad job, and, feeling too tired to dance, went back to our hotel room and to bed.

Saturday started off better. I was assisting my wife, Georgie Schnobrich, with her presentation on “Lies and Legends of the Old West,” which covered such storied characters as Wild Bill Hickok, Jim Bowie, Judge Roy Bean, and “Deadwood Dick,” the pulp hero. The presentation ran smoothly and seemed to be well received by the audience.

After a break in which we took a brief glance into the awesome dealer’s space, I did my presentation on “Weird Weaponry of the Steampunk Era,” which again the audience seemed to enjoy.
After that, we attended “From Disaster to Dashing; Steampunk Fashion for Men,” presented by Tony Ballard Smoot and DJ Doctor Q. The two gentlemen gave an entertaining and useful presentation on style basics for men, from shoes to hats.

This was followed by “The Pinkerton Detective Agency” presented by “Famous Captain Anthony LaGrange” a.k.a. Tony Ballard Smoot. This covered the establishment, founding principles, and history of the pioneering detective agency. The presentation seemed to be well researched, included lots of interesting information, and was skillfully presented by Mr. Smoot.

After that, we took a break to change for dinner. This year’s “Bobbins Dinner” was a bit bigger than years past, which made interaction a bit harder. (I note that the website posted that there were thirty tickets for the Bobbins dinner, but closer to sixty people were seated, some of whom, of course, were cast members.) The Marriott’s banquet staff is usually excellent, and the appetizer, salad, and dessert were all up to standard. The appetizer, shrimp on a rosemary skewer with chili barbeque glaze, was perfectly cooked, spicy but not too hot, and the shrimp were large and tasty. The salad was lightly grilled endive, with cheese and chicken garnishes, and a very nice lime and cilantro dressing. Dessert was a generous portion of flourless chocolate cake with bourbon infused whipped cream. The entrée, cider braised pork belly, was not a success. We were served a very pale piece of meat that some could not tell if it was pork or fish. Half the portion consisted of gelatinous fat, and the rest of nearly tasteless meat. No trace of cider was detectable. This was a misjudgment on the part of the chef. It is to be expected that pork belly is going to be fatty, but the braising method of cooking does not generate enough heat to render down or crisp up the fat as roasting or grilling would have. Nevertheless, since the appetizer was virtually an entrée in itself, the salad a goodly portion, and dessert filling, we did not go away unsatisfied.

After dinner, we lined up for the Night Circus, and were fortunate to get swept into fairly good seats. I was thrilled to enter the auditorium and hear the band strike up “The Big Cage: A Circus Galop”, which I had played in my high school band days. We were pleased to recognize Milwaukee performer Sir Pinkerton Xyloma of Dead Man’s Carnival as the ringmaster “T.E. Night,” and I was delighted to discover that the Original Baraboo Circus Band was being conducted by Professor Jerry Stitch, my old professor of Music.

The first half of the program was made up of acts associated with Dead Man’s Carnival, which are local people who are reinventing for themselves old-style circus and sideshow acts, with considerable success. The feats of strength, balancing, and juggling were truly impressive, all the more so for the occasional wobble or do-over which lets you know the effort involved is real, and the performers human beings like us.

The second half of the program was presented by Madison’s Cycropia aerial dance troupe, who performed a series of sets using fabric, trapeze, and custom equipment, including some I had never seen before. This show was beautiful, lyrical, and sensual and well worth seeing.
After the performance, the seating was broken down for dancing, but we preferred to decompress by finding a spot to sit in the hotel lobby to people-watch and chat with passers-by until we decided to call it a night. (People-watching at TeslaCon is always fun, but this year’s was exceptionally good. Perhaps the Western theme made dressing easier, but it seemed that the level and pervasiveness of good garb and gear was up a notch from years past.)

Sunday morning, I again assisted Georgie Schnobrich with presenting the second installment of “Wild Women of the West,” which dealt with Belle Starr, Martha “Calamity Jane” Cannary, Mary Ellen Pleasant, The Other Magpie, and Adah Isaacs Menken.

Following that, we checked out the Science Fair, which had some very amusing entries, but seemed down in numbers from years past. One of the highlights was the robot-drawn pony cart, which was actually pulled by a walking machine (based, so I over heard, on the walking action of a dollar-store wind-up toy), which was built to resemble a scaled-down version of “The Steam Man of the Prairies” from 1868 dime novel by Edward S. Ellis.

Next, we made a thorough inspection of the almost overwhelming dealer’s room, which was rather crowded, but crammed to the rafters with luscious merchandise of every description. After making a couple of purchases, we escaped with what little remained of our money.
By this time we were beat, and, facing the possible prospect of having to shovel snow walks and driveway at home, we took off before the closing ceremonies.

Conclusions: We had, as we always do, a very good time overall. There did seem to me to be, in some ways, a bit letting down of standards perhaps due to “Lord Bobbin’s Vacation” being a bit of a pause in the more intensively scripted episodes of the past and the promised future, but overall still a very impressive effort bolstered by a lot of very well prepared volunteer presenters. Next year’s outing is Paris for the International Mad Scientist’s Convention, which looks to be fun. Special guests will include Abney Park and Professor Elemental which will be “specially ticketed events” which I expect means they will cost extra, but probably within reason for those who are interested. We have our tickets for next year.
Friday, November 7th, we made the trip to Middleton, Wisconsin, for TeslaCon 5.

We started the program with the first afternoon round of panels, “Exploring Your Steampunk Story.” This story-telling-style presentation was lightly attended, but the people who did participate had some interesting and well-crafted backstories to share.

Next, I did a presentation on “The Melodrama and the Music Hall: Victorian Middle-Class Entertainments.” I talked about the genesis of the melodrama, its rise and fall, and the various genres of play within the type. The talk was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation with pictures and some sound and video clips. The Music Hall portion was similar, giving origins and history of the Music Hall phenomenon, with numerous illustrations of halls and performers, and some music and video. The audience seemed to enjoy the presentation and find it interesting.

At 4:00PM, we went to the “Owen Society” presentation, “Cryptomania: Cryptology, Cryptozoology, and Cryptobotany for Fun & Profit.” This was a performance rather than a factual presentation, giving purported preliminary findings about the world at the “Center of the Earth,” which was cleverly done and amusing.

After dinner, we got in line for seating for the Opening Ceremonies. We were pleased that things started close to on time and we got good seats. Augmenting the usual broadly humorous acting of Eric Larsen as “Lord Bobbins,” William Dezoma as “Admiral Krieger,” and the rest of the crew, this year’s video presentation was, in a word, fantastic. From the moment the “Freya,” Lord Bobbins’ new combination armored dirigible/mechanical mole combination hove in site of the glowing polar hole leading down, until arriving at the Pellucidar-like “Center of the Earth,” the visualization of the journey was unlike any other I have seen. Totally unscientific, even by “hollow earth science” standards, but fascinating and beautiful to watch. The ultimate Center was the expected Verne/Burroughs homage with dinosaurs, mastodons, and, ultimately people. Much to the disgust of Lord Bobbins, the Earth’s Core also proved to harbor arch-foe Dr. Proctocus (Heath Howes), rescued by his minions from exile on the Moon and again plotting world domination.

Filing out of the Ballroom, I was particularly struck by the magic Eric has his people work: while the opening ceremonies were going on, the signage had been changed to add “beware of dinosaurs” notices. There were also dinosaurs in the Hotel! “Dakota & Friends” (www.DinoParties.com), are a troupe that has some amazingly cool dinosaur “suits” (for lack of a better term) with “animatronic” effects, and were now on site.

After the Opening Ceremonies, we attended this year’s fashion show, which featured Dr. Proctocus as M.C. After all, he said, “fashion is evil.” Actually, this year’s collection was very good.

The first collection was by Steampunk Angel Couture and BEW Steampunk Design which featured outfits with very creative and fresh uses of brown and black, plus a very attractive metallic paisley greatcoat.

Revive Gifts presented an attractive dress with multiple stripe patterns, one ornamented with gold tassels and bead fringe, a brown slinky number, and a harlequin skirt in pale blue and brown.

The collection from Ugo Serrano had a “family theme” showing us a daughter, son, father and mother. Included were an iridescent blue skirt with plaid bodice, vest with multi-check patterned trim, and a brown bib-front waistcoat. We also saw a sophisticated skeleton bustle, armor (steel!) corselet, and a flowing net skirt decorated with garlands of ruching that gave the effect of flowers.

Scoundrel’s Keep began with a lovely turquoise-patterned cutaway coat, followed by a bronze corset and pantalette outfit, a black and bronze ensemble with exposed crinoline hoops, and a white bolero jacket worn over coordinating corset and black floaty skirt.
KMK Designs showed us an elegant cream-colored corset dress, a basic black lapelled waistcoat and rousers, a steel gray hourglass corset with black lace overlaid skirt, and a black tunic top with mermaid skirt.

Silversark, who based her collection on the different colors and textures of obsidian, the volcanic glass, had one of the most spectacular collections, augmented by feather headpieces by Debra Olsen, and with jewelry by Muses’ Jewelry.

The collection opened with a yellow lace cocktail-length skirt under an exposed crinoline cage, accented with a black feather collar.

Next, was a black leather Empire waist tunic length dress with puffed sleeves; a black, off shoulder beaded number with elaborate feather headdress; and a largely sheer black negligee outfit, among others.

Enchanted Designs ended the show with a very unusual and imaginative collection, including a man’s firefighter uniform, an ensemble with wrap bodice and skirt hitched up to the hips, a red satin lapelled waistcoat, and some outfits incorporating very natural looking leather waist cinchers tooled by lasers. The final out fit was “The Gatekeeper,” which had a male model wearing a corselet of steel bars, and made ominously tall by stilts crafted to look like brick gateposts.

The designers took questions after the show, and talked briefly about the origins of each collection. After the formal show we were able to take close looks at the outfits and talk to the models about how it was to wear them.

Saturday Morning, we stopped in on morning coffee with the Milwaukee Steampunk Society, and then went to the Tea Room for the Suffragette Tea and Conversation, hosted by Frau Krieger, (now “Baroness Munchausen”, since the Admiral’s inheritance of the family title--), which was very pleasant. Georgie read some bits from a suffragist text, Are Women People?, by Alice Duer Miller, which the attendees present professed to find very interesting.

At 11:30AM, Georgie went to the presentation “vTech: Real Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Technology” by Dr. Charles Tritt, which was very informative and covered a great deal of fascinating topics.

I went to “The Use Of Metafiction In Steampunk, And Steampunk Literature”. This was not “Metafiction as commonly defined, such as “Metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work's status as an artifact.” Instead, the presenters, including featured guest Thomas Willeford, discussed “the use and adaptation of various Victorian and non-Victorian characters and genre into the steampunk aesthetic.” This included both use of pre-existing fictional and non-fictional characters in new work and how to avoid the pitfalls that may exist. This panel had some useful information, not only for authors, but designers and actors as well.

Comic relief in the “Immersion” story was provided by “The Grink,” a troll-like puppet who enjoys singing, and whose idea of a good drink is a “grub smoothie.”

At 1:00PM, we went to “Cause Of Death II: The Sequel - An examination of illness and accident in 1880s America, with an emphasis on the medical advances and social issues surrounding contagious disease,” presented by Julieann Hunter. In this second installment, Ms. Hunter gave facts regarding diseases borne by insects and other vectors. This was again a morbidly fascinating discussion.

Our next presentation was “Our Lady Spies,” by Georgie Schnobrich. This program talked about Belle Boyd, Emma Edmonds a.ka. Frank Thompson, Elizabeth van Lew and Mary Jane Bowser, all of whom spied during the U.S. Civil War. A great deal of fascinating information was dispensed to a room packed with an appreciative audience.

After the panel we madly dashed to change, having tickets for the “Bobbins Dinner.” We’ve attended these in the past and always found them great fun, as well as a good meal. It’s a pleasant challenge to stay in persona for a social event such as a dinner and we enjoy that. Also, it’s a good way to get some hints as to what’s coming up next year, as well as some entertainment in the form of the banter between Bobbins, Krieger, and their spouses and children.

This year’s menu was particularly good: titled “A Feast for Otto Lindenbrock” (the protagonist of “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,”) the first course was “Otto’s Foraged Mushroom Bisque,” which was delicious, but I found the “en croute” cap over the soup to be a bit awkward to deal with. Axel’s Intermezzo, elderberry sorbet with St.Germain liquor and basil was unique, refreshing, and delightful.

The main course, “Mastodon Tenderloin with Mushroom Mousse, Fingerling Potatoes, Asparagus, Lemon Oil, and Bordelaise Sauce” was marvelous. We got a tender and flavorful serving of (beef) tenderloin stuffed with the mushroom mousse, which we were quick to pronounce “the best mastodon we had ever had.”

Dessert was “Anoplotherium Milk Cheesecake, The Professor’s Poached Pear, Marcona Almonds, and Micro Mint,” which was also delicious. The chef was roundly applauded by all.

After dinner, there was time to digest before the Grand Ball. This year, the wonderful First Brigade Band played again, and they were better than ever, having added more dance music to their repertoire. What could be better than the TeslaCon Grand Ball? There is beautiful music, beautiful attire, charm and good cheer for all. This year there were even dancing dinosaurs: yes, one of the “Dakota” group got out on the dance floor and bobbed around to the music.

Having danced our fill, we found some seats outside the ballroom, admired the passersby, and listened to the remainder of the music. We had wanted to stay for the start of the Steerage Ball, but it got too late waiting for them to set up, so we went to bed.
On Sunday morning, visiting the Steampunk Science Fair is de rigeur, and we admired the creatively designed gadgets on display. Following that, Georgie gave another presentation, “Wild Women of the West, “ telling stories of Lola Montez, Carrie Nation, and “Poker Alice”. It is likely there will be a sequel.

After both her presentations, Georgie got lots of good comments and feedback from her audiences. After “Wild Women of the West,” she was even asked if she would come and talk at a ladies’ tea!

I had to see the Closing Ceremonies, which involved a lot more fantastic video. For my taste, the “magma layer” sequence went on a bit too long, but it was all hypnotically beautiful to look at. The stage acting included a very good swordfight between new character Beauregard Krieger (the Admiral’s guerrilla fighter son) and one of Proctocus’ deep cover agents. Proctocus was foiled again, and given into the custody of the indigenous people, with a significant chance of being fed to the dinosaurs. (But, he’s not dead yet, so you know he’ll be back.) I did like the bit showing that Bobbins and Krieger are proper Imperialists, having loaded up the “Freya’s” holds with valuable “thorium ore” from the Earth’s Core before setting off.

Next year’s theme will be “The Wild West,” with Saturday evening having a “Night Circus” theme. We have our memberships--.

OddCon 13

Apr. 18th, 2013 02:33 pm
On Friday, April 12th, we drove over to Madison for Odyssey Con 13. The drive over had no problems, and we got in a bit after lunchtime.

We were surprised to see that the Radisson had been somewhat remodeled, with new garish carpets throughout, a new lobby layout, and a lot of new furniture, which was nice. Interesting, but a mixed blessing, was the major modification which created a passage connecting the two main corridors in the function area, which made it possible to go directly from convention registration in the “Basie’s Restaurant” lobby directly to the Oakbrook rooms without going through the bathroom “wormholes”. Looking at the map, I’m not sure if this actually reduced function space or not (had there been an Odana D room?), but the hotel’s expansion of their exercise room into the former consuite space certainly did. (The consuite was moved to Odana A—actually a bit better for that function since the room has two exits which improved traffic flow.)

The convention overall was somewhat low-keyed, pleasant, but not terribly exciting. Attendance was low, a bit over 300, which may have contributed to a lower energy level. It appeared that there was a “perfect storm” of other competing events that weekend—a game con in Green Bay, an academic conference in Eau Claire, the Madison Film Festival, ect.

Georgie had been put on two panels, and I on four, so it was going to be a busy con for us. I got right into it at 2:30 Friday with “No Free Will? So What?” At my suggestion, the panel did not get into defining “free will,” which could have taken up the entire panel, but instead took a generally accepted loose concept, and went on from there to justify our individual takes on the subject, taking into account recent research with brain scans indicating the unconscious parts of the brain react as part of the decision-making process. Here are my thoughts: Even if it is true that our decisions and actions are governed entirely be past experience and memory, this fact would be of no use. Not even we ourselves have full knowledge of what memories we retain, consciously or unconsciously. Even if there were a full video and audio record of an individual’s life, no one would be able to determine what one remembered, what one forgot, what one recalled unconsciously, so there is no possible way to predict how any particular individual will react in any given situation. So, functionally, we have free will and it makes sense to act as though we do. As Mr. Spock said, “A difference that makes no difference is no difference.” Also, I do believe that our brains/minds have a randomizing function, possibly as part of dreaming. After all, I’ve had many experiences in dreams that I have not and could not have had in the waking world. I’ve acted on dreams—writing stories based on dreams—so they have the capability to consciously and unconsciously affect behavior. Even if all the elements of a dream come from your experiential database, they are shaken up and rearranged in new ways.

After a quick check of the dealer’s room, we caught part of the “Madison Horror” panel, which gave us some interesting information about recent works by local writers in the horror and urban fantasy genre.

For dinner, we went out to Nile, a nearby Mideastern restaurant, with Bill Bodden and Tracy Benton, and had a very good meal and pleasant chat.
We got back to the hotel in plenty of time to take in the Opening Ceremonies, which had a “Steer Trek” theme. Written by Jim Frenkel and Jim Nichols, this was one of the more cohesive skits of recent years, and used a clever name-tag switching device to portray temporal “flickering” between Original Series and Next Generation characters. (Kirk/Picard, Spock/Data. McCoy/Crusher--.)

After the Opening, we dropped in on the Art Show reception. We were a bit startled to observe that the art show panels were less than half full, although local artists like Darlene Coltrain, J.J. Brutsman, and Trinlay Khadro were well represented.

We sat in on the SF poetry slam, which had only three participants this year, but some particularly good pieces, including Richard Chwedyk’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Robot.”

Curious as to the “Dominance and Submission in Real Life” panel, we joined a small but interested audience and talked about how this variation is different when played out between real people from common fictional tropes and social misconceptions.

Saturday morning we got up in time to take part in the “Basic Victorian Street Defense” presentation by David Crawford. He gave an of-necessity very basic but broad ranging survey of “Antagonistics” from the period.
Next, we went to “Tolkien and Jackson in Middle-Earth,” which touched on differences, for good or ill, between Tolkien’s novels and Jackson’s movie adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.”

Then we went to scrounge some lunch and thoroughly go over the dealer’s room. As expected, with OddCon’s game programming, there were a couple of sellers of dice and game-related stuff, and various arts and crafts, but no sellers of new books other than GoH books at the ConCom table.

At 2:30, I was on “Leadership in Combat” ably lead by Dr./Col. Rich Staats, who shared a lot of his fascinating experience as a commander in Iraq. While I was the one on the panel with no actual military experience, I thought I was still able to contribute some good points. Meanwhile, Georgie moderated the panel on “Whatever Happened to Ghosts?” which went well, covered a lot of territory, and sparked conversations later in the convention.

The 4PM panel was “Weapons of the Victorian Era,” with me, David Crawford, Lee Schneider, J. Shaul, and J. Watson. We did a pretty thorough historical survey of weapons common and uncommon. The PowerPoint I had put together came in handy for visual reference.

For dinner, we went to Maharaja with Jim Leinweber, and had a good meal and chat while other fans filled in the restaurant around us.

Alex Bledsoe gave a short and funny history of his early interests that lead him to writing, followed by Kevin Hearne’s humorous slide show covering the current state of cover art in Epic Fantasy and Urban Fantasy. Lynne Laakso finished with her story of her life as a fan and librarian.
After that, we went to Richard Russell’s always interesting talk on Fantasy Films of the year, and took part in the discussion until fatigue overtook us and we retired for the night.

We were up early Sunday morning, too, so I could get set up for my talk on “Mad Science in Real Life,” which was well received and the audience seemed to enjoy.

I was also on the following panel, “Potent Potables of the Victorian Age,” which was an enjoyable chat but somewhat lacking in direction.

Georgie finished up our con participation by moderating “And This is My Husband. . .”, the panel which attempted to answer the question, why aren’t there more married couples portrayed in science fiction.” The panel and audience surveyed SF, fantasy, detective fiction, and mainstream fiction without reaching any conclusions, but it was a very interesting exploration.

We took our leave of the convention and had an uneventful drive home, had dinner, and were in time to watch the latest installment of “Mr. Selfridge” on TV.

TeslaCon 3

Dec. 7th, 2012 09:32 am
We spent the weekend of November 30th through December 2nd at TeslaCon 3 in Middleton, Wisconsin, and had a very good time. This was the second TeslaCon for us, so things went a bit more smoothly (for one thing, I packed lighter, although I still brought along props I didn't use (this time, anyway.)

We got to the hotel about 10AM Friday and checked in with the con with no difficulty. There were a couple of glitches, in that "pocket programs" or matrixes weren't initially available. We did have the copy of the schedule I had printed off from the TeslaCon site, so we had that covered, but there were no site maps. Labeling of rooms with the TeslaCon designations (i.e. "Selenite Salon") was incomplete and inconsistent (and gray-on-gray "metal" signage was hard to read, which made finding rooms a job. There were two poster-size maps located in the hotel corridors which helped, but we eventually more-or-less memorized where the rooms were.

After scouting around and orienting ourselves (and taking a first quick look at the croggling dealer's room)we chose some programs. We were intrigued by the appearance of the Madison Ballet, and so saw their interesting presentation of a couple of dances from their upcoming production of "Dracula"--not Michael Pink's "Dracula," but a new production which has a soft-rock score and a distinctly Steampunk aesthetic. We were shown the "Ghostfire Waltz," a pretty and sensual pas de deux, (in which I nevertheless percieved bits of "The Time Warp"--), and "Revolta", a dance for four women which borrowed from "The Dance of the Cygnets," and the "Can-Can" with a distinct nod to "Cabaret." The concept looks like good fun.

Next, we went into "War of the Worlds: Which Side Are We On?" Presenter Jason Leisemann lead a free form discussion on imperialism and militarism as critiqued in the works of Wells and others, but it was rather directionless with frequent gaps, and gave the distinct impression of under-preparation.

After that, we went and took a first thourough look through the dealers room, which was purely fun. If you needed a steampunk outfit, you could get everything from hats to boots and most inbetween; guns and other gear; pouches, bags, and strps to hold it all together, and pins, medals, jewelry and other accessories to finish off the look. There was a definite emphasis on finery, though. I was looking for a "driver" or "newsboy" cap for my "steerage" outfit (of which more later) but no one had brought any, although some of the more comprehensive dealers, like River Junction Trading Company do stock them in their store. (On reflection, I didn't notice anything I might call "practical underwear" such as drawers or chemises either, but I don't think most people worry about that for Steampunk outfits.)

At 1:30, we wnet to "Tesla Hall" to hear Lord Bobbins give a run-down of the TeslaCon story history so far, of particular interest since we weren't at number one and didn't know the early parts. This was interesting, since it included not only Lord Bobbins' life story, but also a precis of the dreadful events that resulted in Dr. Proctocus' madness and gave rise to his reign of terror.

For some reason we got disoriented as to time after that and missed some things we would have wanted to check in on, but got back on schedule in time to join "Madmen and Miracle Workers," again by Jason Leisemann. Leisemann had some interesting material, including people I had never heard of (the very eccentric Karl von Cossel) or bits I hadn't known about people like Wilhelm Reich, but again really only had about half an hour of material to fill an hour-plus timeslot.

We got dinner at the hotel restaurant, beating the later rush, and had a very tasty meal, with reasonably fast service, at least initially. By the time we were done eating, the dinner hour was in full swing, the servers were swamped, and it took a very long time to get our check.

After dinner the main attraction was the "Opening Ceremonies" which featured the S.S. Silverstar's trip to the Moon. "Lord Bobbins' Amphitheatre" was the hotels' largest room and unfortunately not well suited to theatrical events, having only floor seating. Georgie and I were only about a third of the way back but still couldn't see a bit of the live action portion of the program, annoying since there were large screens used for the video projection, so why not project the speakers as well?

The "blast-off" and initial space travel sequences were nicely done and clever, "shot" from the spacecraft point of view. The trip was complicated by a midcourse collision with Santa's sleigh (!) and some evident sabotage by the depraved Dr. Proctocus. Systems "failures" extended to the outside cameras, so there was a rather pointless period of static on the screens while lord Bobbins ranted at the Captain for restoration of the picture. System problems also included the braking rockets (a non-trivial issue, since at ten minutes to the Moon, the ship had to have an average speed of at least 1,433,400 miles per hour). This was overcome in time to save the ship from destruction, but not to prevent a belly-landing which required the eventual assistance of the Selenites (moon people represented by puppets) in order to re-launch for Earth.

Expecting that we were going to have a late and strenous night Saturday, we went to bed relatively early, after some chatting with con-goers and a lot of people watching. (Being able to look closely at people's outfits and gear is worth the price of admission alone--).

Saurday morning, we helped get Mary Prince's presentation "Making Memories" off the ground, and then went to "The Murdoch Mysteries," about a Canadian quasi-steampunk detective drama Georgie had heard of.

Henry Osier and I did "Keeping the 'Punk' in Steampunk" to a good sized and engaged audience. We talked about keeping the punk edge in Steampunk characters, while dealing with issues raised by non-PC bad guys. This is significant for the TeslaCon milieu, since the newly released "history" of the United States Civil War reveals the existence of a new villain group, the racist and pro-slavery "Knights of the Golden Circle" (As if meglaomanic Dr. Proctocus and his fellow-travelers the anarchistic S.W.A.R.M. aren't enough to deal with--).

At 12:30, I presented "The Cthulhu Cult in Literature," with notes on how the Cthulhu Mythos could inter-relate with the Steampunk milieu. Again, I had a good sized audience that seemed appreciative.

At 4:30, Georgie gave her lecture on "Amazing Women of Our 19th Century," which featured Ada Lovelace, Jane Digby, Lakshmi Bai, Victoria Woodhull, and Aurore Dudevant/George Sand, each of whom was quite remarkable. The audience took quite a few notes and several thanked Georgie for her work.

After that, we got dinner from the hotel fast-food counter. The fish and chips were tasty and hot, although the breading of the fish was soggy due to being made ahead and kept warm in a steam table. We took time to relax and to prepare for the Grand Ball that evening.

Getting the 1st Brigade Band for the ball was a definite coup. Other cons have live music, but how many have a fifty-piece period authentic brass band? The band looked and sounded wonderful, and the guests were marvelous to watch as well. Georgie and I got in a couple of waltzes and polkas much to our enjoyment. Much of the first set was taken up with group dances, which were enjoyed by the attendees, with literally hundreds taking part in the "Train Polka."

We left during the second half in order to make our third change of clothes for the day, and show up at the "Steerage Party". The party also had an excellent Celtic band, Airat (listed in the program as "The Air Rats"--). Georgie and I "dressed down" for this event, me wearing a flat cap, tweed waistcoat over collarless shirt, dungaree pants and boots; and Georgie's outfit having a shorter bohemeian-looking skirt that showed her striped stockings and sturdy boots. These inspired quite a bit of amusement and appreciation among our friends. We got there early and set an example of crude jigging that established a "dance as though no one is watching" tone that really make the event lively and fun. Worn out, we left about midnight and went up to shower and sleep.

Sunday morning, we had the hotel's buffet breakfast, which was good enough, and I remembered to tell the server we wanted the check right away, which was cheerfully complied with. Getting baggage down to the car was a hassle, in part due to the fact that the hotel has only two elevators. All the baggage carts were reserved at the time I wanted to be moving, so I resorted to hauling the luggage one man-load at a time downstairs, where Georgie sat watch on the pile until I could pull the car up and load it all in. This worked, but may call for more planning next year.

Georgie got many complements on her "Downton Abbey" inspired outfit on Sunday. We took in parts of the panels on "Sneaking Around," and on 19th Century Swindles and Con Games, both of which were interesting and well prepared and presented. We bailed out of the Steampunk Bellydance program when it appeared that it was a 'workshop" in which everyone was expected to participate. That left us with a big gap of time before the Closing Ceremonies, and we were tired, so we decided to head home.

We really did have a fun time. We are signed up as "Delegates 003 and 004" for the "Congress of Steam" next year.

We had a very good, if somewhat low-keyed time at this year's OddCon for 2012, "The Year Earth Gets Creamed." This year's Mad Cow by Georgie was very well received and a lot of t-shirts were sold. Just to note, the cow's head-dress and regalia are based on those of a genuine Mayan astronomer-priest, although his staff was replaced with the femur bone that appeared in the very first (2001) OddCon cow drawing--.

We got to the Con after noon on Friday after a good drive over, and started our convention by listening to the "Deconstructing Green Lantern" panel, which I mainly agreed with--the film was marred by having been constructed "by committee," and by having too much crammed into it. The panel made it a very entertaining and not mean-spirited deconstruction and we enjoyed it.

Next, Georgie had her panel, "Werewolves; Embrace Your Inner Beast!" She and the panel got their teeth into discussing this most popular species of shape-shifter and its current popularity. This was a well-attended panel and the audience seemed to enjoy it.

We sat in on the "The End Of The World As We Know It" (literature) panel, in which Richard Russell and Jim Frenkel gave a good presentation on books about The End, and the various kinds of "ends" there can be.

After that, we got checked into our room, drifted around, chatted with people and quickly checked the dealers' room before meeting Bill Bodden and Tracy Benton for dinner. We went out to Takara for Japanese food, which was as good as I had remembered.

We got back well in time for the opening ceremonies, which were actually more coherent and tightly scripted than is usual for OddCon skits, ringing the changes on the "The End Of The World As We Know It" theme. Georgie was quite flattered that Janet Lewis, who appeared as "The Apocalypse Cow," had had a headdress made that referred quite well to Georgie's drawing.

After the Opening, we hung around and chatted with Leah Fisher, among others, until the Poetry Slam started. We heard some interesting pieces from the contestants, but were lured away by the Chocolate Reception in the Art Show. (Besides being yummy, I do think this is a marvelous way to lure people in for close looks at the art.)

My first panel was 11:30PM Friday night, "The Space Invaders Hall of Fame," which started with H.G. Wells' novel "War of the Worlds," up to the present day--concentrating mainly on movies and TV, since books would have been too numerous to mention. Lee Schneider, I, and an audience of insomniacs had a good time dragging out our favorite or un-favorite menaces from space.

I was up early for the first panel of Saturday morning, "Under the Moons of Barsoom," with Richard West, Richard Chwedyk, and Jim Leinweber for a far-ranging discussion of Edgar Rice Burrough's "Barsoom" stories and those inspired by them. I had put together a PowerPoint presentation of cover art from the early days on, which I, Reena Noel, a gentleman from GeekCon whose name I didn't get, managed to have flowing out of the projector just in time for the panel to start.

After that, I was on the panel "Steampunk: Is There a Canon," with TeslaCon Mastermind Eric Larson, and Professor Janice Bogstad. After an interesting discussion defining what a literary "canon" actually is, we more or less settle on the answer "yes AND no," and went on to mention what might be considered "essential" works of Steampunk.

After that, we had a break until we were both on panels at 4:00PM. Mine, about games based on other works, was staffed with game industry professionals and turned into an interesting, gossipy, where's-the-dirt story session about the ins and outs of adapting literary properties to games. Georgie's panel,"Innkeepers and Bartenders of Fiction" went well and both panelists were well prepared and played off one another nicely.

Out for dinner again, this time with Steve Johnson and Darlene Coltrain. Darlene's talented daughter, Fritha, was dancing at Shish Cafe, which was an extra treat besides Shish's excellent Mideastern food. That went pretty late, so we didn't do much on getting back to the hotel before going to bed.

Sunday, Georgie had her panel, "The Muse Feels No Respect," which talked about the tensions between creative cross-pollination and increasingly restrictive ideas of copyright, and was very well done.

Next up was "The End Of The World As We Know It" (Media) which focused on the apocalypse in film and television. Georgie had been a bit chagrined to end up on this panel, since she'd wanted to be on the Literature one, but contributed strongly to what was quite a fun panel.

We ended the con with "Improv GM'ing," a panel on what to do when the players break your game, or when you're all there and the game-master calls in sick, or you just need something else to do. Lee Schneider, "Nix", and I shared anecdotes and ideas with an enthusiastic audience.

That done, we disengaged and rolled home, another enjoyable OddCon behind us.
Sunday morning, we got breakfast again at the hotel restaurant, this time off the menu: omelet for me, Belgian waffle for Georgie, both pretty good.

We stopped in on Lord Bobbin's presentation, then went on to "Magic and Occultism in History and Steampunk," which was a nice presentation, but could have been broken down into two, one on "history", focusing on the Order of the Golden Dawn, etc., and the Spiritualist movement, to name a few, and one on incorporating (or not) magic into Steampunk. As it was, topics were touched lightly on, which went well for an audience on Sunday morning.

At 11:30 AM, we caught the action segment of "The Dragon's Tear,"--the third installment of the ongoing plot--, then went across the hall for "Scientists, Inventors, and Naturalists of the Victorian Age," which was a companion to the "Explorers" panel of the previous day and similarly formatted. This actually had what was to me more new information, perhaps because a lot of the interesting scientists are more obscure than interesting soldiers--.

At one, we went to the Closing Ceremonies, carefully choosing an escape route in case things got too loud. This time, that didn't happen, so we got to see and hear the latest developments in the struggle between Lord Bobbins and the fiendish Dr. Proctocus--to be continued next year!

We were rather tired due to not having slept very well--the Sheraton is a nice hotel, but the beds are 'executive hard', and there was a noisy open-door party down the hall from us Friday night--so we ducked out and made our way home.

All in all, TeslaCon 2 was a very good time for us, and we joined almost a third of attendees in signing up for next year, when Lord Bobbins & Co. will be going on a voyage to the Moon!
Saturday, we started with the breakfast buffet at the hotel, again, OK, but it was just as costly as ordering off the menu, and for Georgie having only toast, tea, and fruit that morning, not a good deal. It would perhaps have been good if the only eggs on the buffet didn't have cheese on them, but I found it all quite good.

Our first event was the "Bartitsu" lecture demo, which had a good balance of lecture and demo. We both picked up some useful information on Victorian-era fisticuffs and the unique style of cane fighting developed by Barton-Wright.

At 11:30, we went to the "Lost Worlds" presentation, introduced by notable explorer Captain Kreiger, and presented by Professor William Dezoma. Again, very thoroughly researched, and presented in an informal and entertaining fashion.

We broke for lunch at the Tea Room, which had an impressive variety of teas. It was nice in a way to have volunteers seating and serving people, but we could have done just as well serving ourselves. There was a nice selection of tea cookies on hand also, although I suspect that the liquorice allsorts that came along with were pretty much wasted-.

After that, we caught the latter part of the "Multiculturalism" panel, which in large part covered the same ground as similar panels we have seen at WisCon: respect the culture you are writing about/enacting, do real research. At least they had one of the more creative and exciting ends to the panel we have seen. "Authenticity" did seem to be a big theme at this convention, but that leaves unanswered the question of "how do you keep your 'punk' in steampunk?" What if your character would authentically be a cultural snob, or boor? What about fantastic elements? Hmm--perhaps a panel to be proposed, here--.

At 2:30, we went to "Explorers and Adventurers of the Victorian Age," which was pretty informative and well presented. It was interesting that the presenters included some local figures, such as Lake Michigan's most notorious pirate, although I was a bit bemused to hear that Captain Fredrick Pabst, famous Milwaukee brewer, supposedly participated in the Klondike gold rush at age 60? I've been to the Pabst Mansion several times and that was never mentioned in his biography as given, nor can I verify that anywhere else. Oh, well, the rest of the data given in the panel matched what we knew as far as we knew it. Again, there was an emphasis on using historical information as a basis for creating steampunk characters. (I gave my background for "Dr. DuQuesne" as an example of a persona with a military background, and got complimented on it--.)

Due to potential loudness, we passed on the "Battle of the Leviathans," and took a break in our room while dressing for dinner. We had reservations for 'The Captain's Table," and were looking forward to it. This was GREAT fun. Doing an entire dinner in persona is a great idea, and it gave us a chance to interact closely with "Lord Bobbins," "Captain Krieger," the Aquitanian (sp?)ambassador, and our co-attendees. I was charmed to discover that the couple next along the table from us were "Mr. and Mrs. Schlitz, from Milwaukee," which I though was a wonderful persona idea. I had the Sea Bass dinner, which was excellent, and Georgie pronounced the Apricot Chicken entree to be good, as well.

After dinner was the Steampunk ball, which we also enjoyed. Georgie had to go back upstairs to pin up her skirts so she wouldn't step on the hem, but in the mean time I cadged dances with Miss Mary Prince, and Mrs. Judy Seidl, who were both most gracious partners. When Georgie was able, we waltzed to "Tales of the Vienna Woods," polkaed to "Thunder and Lightning," and waltzed again to "Music of the Spheres". It's been too long since we danced together, and I was very glad that we could. The ball was a lovely occasion, and we speculated on where else these days you could see so many gentlemen as well turned out, "white tie" occasions being pretty much a thing of the past everywhere else.

After the ball was over, we adjourned to the Imperial Anti-Piracy Squadron party room and enjoyed some wine while catching up with friends Tracy Benton and Bill Bodden, before retiring for the night.
Having had good report of it from friends that went last year, we attended TeslaCon 2 in Madison, Wisconsin, with great anticipation and were not disappointed.

TeslaCon is one of the fastest growing SteamPunk conventions, and is unusual among Fannish events in having an overarching theme/plot, this years being the voyage of the dirigible/submersible HMS Trident from London to Peking via Cairo and the Indian Ocean, which involves making diplomatic contact with a race of mer-people, and avoiding the machinations of the evil Dr. Proctocus, oppressor of half of Europe and would-be dictator of all of it.

The convention is more-or-less "immersive", with it being quite possible to remain in your steampunk persona through the whole convention. Since we've never done SCA events, this was a new experience for us, and I must say we enjoyed it immensely. The hotel staff were well coached and played along to the extent necessary.

We spent a good deal of time before the event preparing and packing, some of which we needed (I used all five hats I packed) and some I didn't (there just wasn't an occasion really to drag out my doctor's bag or my guns), but I was generally glad I packed it all along just in case. Georgie and I both got several compliments on outfits or gear, so we were pleased with how things worked out. I enjoyed the effects of some little touches--seeing people's faces light up when I paid for some small item with dollar coins, or being asked for the loan of a pen, and handing the gentleman my fountain pen--.

We arrived at the hotel Friday about 9:30 AM and checked in with the Convention with no problems. Our room wasn't ready that early, so we left worrying about getting our stuff in to later, and went to the welcome speech by "Lord Bobbins". At the 11:30 time slot, I was taking part in the Jules Verne panel, lead by the impressively well-prepared Dr. Nautilus, and was able to add some remarks and historical notes that were very well received.

After that, we were able to check into our room, and the bellman was very competent and patient in handling our odd collection of luggage. We got lunch from the snack counter in the lobby (technically a Starbucks' but set up though the cons' intervention to dispense very good fish and chips) and found the F&C very good, with one order enough for both of us. After unpacking critical items, we caught the very end of the "Phantom Airships" presentation.

Next, we went to the "Arte and History of the Duel," which we found too much history and too little arte. The presenter, Sarah Lash, has an encyclopedic knowledge of her subject but went on too long before demonstrating anything. We ducked out and went to the dealer's room instead.

(General note to concom for next year: even for the demonstrations such as this, or dancing lessons, it is a mistake to take ALL the chairs out of the room. There is a wide range of physical ability even in the relatively young-skewing steampunk fandom, and not everyone can either stand up through an hour-and-a-half-long lecture demonstration, or sit on the floor comfortably. The A and B ballrooms easily had enough room to have had a single row of chairs against the walls and still have room to work.)

The dealer's room was most impressive, full of good stuff, and overflowed to both a "Couture" room and a "Dieselpunk" room. We had to shop fairly frugally this year, but made lots of notes for the future. Lord Bobbins threat--er, promise that next year there will THREE TIMES as many dealers is rather croggling in retrospect.

At 4:00PM, we went to Gail Carriger's solo reading, and found that she is as delightful in person as her books would make you hope. She read a bit from her forthcoming work "Timeless," answered questions most accommodatingly, and gave overviews of her forthcoming serieses (yes, plural-).

After that, we got dinner at the hotel restaurant. The buffet was reasonably priced, tasty, and had a good variety. The one quibble might be that we, and a number of other people of our acquaintance were notably headachy afterward, which might have been due to the presence of MSG in some of the prepared food? On the other hand, the hotel air was quite dry during much of the convention so that might have been a factor as well--.

After dinner, we attended the Opening Ceremonies--briefly. I say "briefly" because the seats we found were unfortunately directly in front of a speaker, and the volume on the animated movie sequence was literally tooth-rattlingly loud. And yes, I mean literally. We could feel them vibrating, not to mention the basso rumble in the chest which is particularly distressing to Georgie as it aggravates her asthma. When the sequence started to replay, we fled the room and contented ourselves with people-watching outside the ballroom. This was actually quite fun, as this con had some of the best people-watching, given garb and gadgetry, of any we have been at.

(Second general note to concom: There were approximately two sound settings for public address: TOO LOUD, and barely audible. The latter condition afflicted several of Lord Bobbins speeches. You need to get in and set up and check sound levels in advance as part of the setup for major events. Lord Bobbins also needs to be miked in larger non-ballrooms such as the "Leviathan" room. As a final comment on AV, it would be helpful to have some dedicated people who know how to run the video projectors and interface them with both Mac and PC equipment instead of letting presenters figure it out. This would be in ADDITION to Rena Noel, who did a great job but was looking run a little ragged by the end of the con--.)

We went back into the Ballroom for the Mummy Unwrapping, which was indeed a Victorian entertainment. Live projection of the process was a fine thing, although the narration sometime suffered from under amplification and occasional failure to describe what had been discovered (still too small to make out, even on the big screen). Both these issues got better as the event went on. The mummy itself was extremely well done, and, if it had any fault, was in looking a bit too-well preserved compared with real mummies of my experience.

Next, we attended the screening of "Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’ Adéle Blanc Sec", which was a lot of fun once it got running. The film is worthy of a full review on its own, which will follow.

After the movie, Georgie went up to bed, and I followed, after a short prowl of the parties on the first floor. The parties were remarkable for: 1) Charging admission: This was OK with me, since proceeds went to charity, a very common thing at TeslaCon; 2) Being pretty dark: not so good in my opinion; 3) Music actually at tolerable levels, OK; 4) LOTS of hard liquor available. OK by me, I've missed cons where people can be adults; 5)Almost no snacks, rather surprising. On Saturday night, Lord Bobbins made an announcement cautioning people against excess imbibing. It might be a good idea to encourage, if not require, party givers to offer some form of munchies, which acts to slow down absorption of alcohol.



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