Your intrepid reporters recently had a chance to visit the Third Annual Steampunk Symposium in Long Beach, California. As we were walking up to the Queen Mary, various attendees were bringing in luggage trolleys loaded with beautiful costumes and odd devices. Once aboard, we were immediately struck by how well the vintage décor, with all its brass and history, lent a lovely ambience and presence to the symposium. I think we half expected moorings to be tossed away and a steampunk zeppelin to lift the whole affair aloft.
As we made our way to A-Deck, we passed a variety of costumed adventurers. The Steam community went all out for this one; magnificent mustaches and clockwork hats, stylish ladies with clever accessories and intimidating bustles were all about. They showed the huge diversity within the genre, in that there were people who were from a variety of cultures and social strata, which was very cool.
The Queen Mary itself has an incredible story, and the pictures and artifacts are everywhere you look. The Queen Mary staff are all very polished at helping answer questions, and while the event was going on, there were regular tourists who were looking a bit bemused and delighted at the Symposium members. One thing I will say for the steampunk community: they work long and hard on their costumes, and are very gracious and poised at posing for pictures. On the Promenade Deck, the afternoon sun gave a lovely golden wash, and the various attendees would stop on the old wooden decks and pose for photos.
The event hosted pages of events and classes: everything from classes on building a steampunk personae to tours, classes on Victorian etiquette, LARPs, games, history (real and imagined), and much more including a haunted “Jack the Ripper” tour.
Personalities abounded. They had a Queen Victoria and court in full steampunk regalia, along with several personalities who acted as masters of ceremony and general instigators of fun. At dinner, everyone wore their finest and enjoyed a steampunk fashion show, which showcased the creative talent of the community, crossing fashion and gender boundaries impeccably.
The lineup of talent was impressive. I know how much some of the bands list out for, so I can say that the organizers definitely did not skimp! They had Steam Powered Giraffe and Lee Presson and the Nails on Friday to kick things off. SPG was awesome, and Lee Presson and the Nails did a fantastic job of getting people up and dancing to rocking swing. They also had Abney Park, Eben Brooks, and many other great bands and artists. The merchant area had a lot of unique merchandise; the merchants had really made an effort to give it a “boutique salon” feeling.
As I interviewed folks attending events, a recurring thing I heard was that, “everyone was so nice!” For an event that is as sophisticated as this one, I was really impressed at how smooth and easy-going everyone was. I want to offer a tip of the clockwork derby to the event staff and volunteers; it was truly a job well done. I heartily encourage folks to plan to attend the next one. I have no doubt, it will be the finest social event to sail the Æthertonic Seas.
Robert Seutter is a graduate of USC’s Navy-Marine Cinema Program; a professional storyteller, known as True Thomas; a sci-fi novelist; a scholar of folklore, myth, and legend; a proud geek and a gamer since D-20 dice were carved from mastodon bones!