Steampunk Journal at the International Steampunk Symposium 2017

The International Steampunk Symposium 2017 Report

It’s been a couple of weeks since my weekend at the International Steampunk Symposium. My apologies for the wait! I’ve been having some technical difficulties and I couldn’t access all of the photos I needed to bring you the full report. So better late than never, here’s the scoop on ISS.

The annual Cincinnati convention was the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of the word “Steampunk” and the three decades that brought us to this point. For the first time, your favorite roving reporter was not only on the scene to cover the event, but to impart some wisdom and whimsy as a presenter. Last year, I spent most of my time watching the teapot and dirigible races. Unfortunately, the timing never worked out this year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to report. ūüôā

I often begin my event reports by commenting on the location and amenities. However, (due I’m sure in no small part to the leaking roof) the ISS organizers have already announced their plans to change to a different venue next year. So, let’s not waste our time on the location except to say that the 2018 convention will be taking place at the Ramada Plaza, Cincinnati. (You can find out more about booking your room here.)¬†The ISS team sure is on the ball for next year already! In general, I always prefer to stay in the same hotel as any event I attend. And I am definitely not the only one! So, booking early is always a good idea.


photo Phoebe Darqueling

Special Guests Discussed the Status of the Steampunk Genre

Despite the less than ideal building, the event had plenty of Steampunk’s stars to stud it. This year’s Symposium celebrated the creation of the word “Steampunk” by author KW Jeter in 1987. He was on the scene all weekend to attend Q&A sessions. Along with fellow panelists Cherie Priest (Boneshaker), Diana Pho (Tor Books), Sarah Hans (Steampunk World), Leanna Renee Hieber (Strangely Beautiful), and Maurice Broaddus (Pimp my Airship), Jeter commented on the state of the Steampunk genre. (I also sat¬†next to him during Ashley Lauren Roger’s funny and touching one woman show, “Pass/Fail.”)

At July’s Motor City Steam Con, I will also be on a panel about the Steampunk genre. So, you can imagine I followed their conversation with an especially keen interest. Much to my¬†astonishment, Jeter talked about a time he was all but shunned by the European steampunk¬†event for not being “Euro-Steampunk” enough. He also told us about a battle of words with a podcaster who insisted Steampunk is just white privilege with some gears on it. When the dust settled, the podcaster ignored all of Jeter’s points and went forward with his own agenda. Cherie Priest also told a story of another presenter getting in her face (quite literally) over the superiority of Dieselpunk or Steampunk.

But on the whole, the message was positive.

The second half of the panel offered some heart-warming stories of love and acceptance. Steampunk as a community and genre is getting wider and wider. And for the most part, people feel free to explore their favorite fandom however they cho‚Äč‚Äčose. Sarah Hans also made a splendid point about Steampunk I’d never thought about. On the whole, science fiction can get pretty bleak. But Steampunk seems to tend towards the positive, towards hope, more often then not. And we could all use a dose of something splendid these days.


Steampunk Journal Presents 30 Years of Steampunk

30 Years of Steampunk

Al Fox approached me several months ago about putting together an exhibit to celebrate Steampunk’s birthday. Of course, I leaped at the chance! Our concept was to create a timeline that featured some of the important works and moments in the history of the movement. But with only enough space for 18 panels, some of the great recommendations and interesting stories I found couldn’t fit. That’s why the convention also offered two opportunities for people to attend my 30 Years of Steampunk talk.

Missed your chance at ISS? No problem! My layout wizard and fellow Steampunk author, P.R. Chase and I hope to expand the exhibit in the future. We’d love to feature more bands, as well as games and artists. During 2017, Steampunk Journal will also run a series of articles based on the talk. So, even if you can’t see the exhibit in person you can get all the info sent right to your inbox by subscribing. I’ve also reviewed several of the books and movies included in the exhibit, and you’ll also find those reviews coming your way here on the Journal.

Phoebe Darqueling delivering 30 Years of Steampunk talk at International Steampunk Symposium

Science Met the Supernatural

During my How to Punk Your Steam: Make it Supernatural talk Friday night, I regaled the crowd with the historical and literary context for the belief in supernatural creatures during the steam era. As people left the countryside to seek industrial employment, they brought their appetite for stories with them. Major magazines needed to fill their pages with the stories readers wanted. This included many fairy tales, ghost stories, and vampire tales that had never been recorded before. The same way fairy tales had served as lessons in morality for people in countryside, these stories became the equivalent of urban morality tales for a newly industrialized public.
Headless Portraits From the 19th Century (1)
The struggle between science and superstition continued as photographers tried to catch spirits in the act. I spent time going in depth on three particular beasties that went bump in night, ghosts, vampires, and mummies. Plus, we touched on some fears specific to Victorian-era London like the dreaded doppleganger. Robert Scott, the Pandora Society’s leading expert on Victorian Spiritualism, also offered an in-depth presentation on his favorite subject during the weekend.
Thom Truelove photo Phoebe Darqueling
At last year’s Symposium, I attended a lecture about aether science, and I was one of only a handful of people in the room. Apparently, the magic ingredient that got my own aether-centered talk a standing-only crowd was, well, magic! My Saturday night lecture called Of Aether and Alchemy packed in lots of people interested to learn more about the intersection of these arcane sciences. But no matter how funny and out of date their thinking may seem to us, the characters and worlds we create for Steampunk to flourish would be operating within their framework.
On Sunday, I attended a talk by Thom Truelove on Magic and its Elizabethan Legacy. This lecture rounded out the weekend by bringing in demons, fairies, and witches to the supernatural offerings for the weekend.
Find out more
For more coverage on the 2017 event or plans for Symposium 2018 by visiting the website for The Pandora Society.
Read an interview with the founder of the International Steampunk Symposium, Al Fox.
Looking for a speaker at your Steampunk or general geekery event? Find out more about Phoebe’s talks.

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