Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention 2011

Very recently the leaders of the Steampunk Illumination Society made the journey in the family wagon out to Arizona to see the first ever Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention in Arizona (yes this was definitely a Steampunk journey out west even though the wagon ran on gasoline this time).  They also visited Tombstone, and a fascinating little town named Bisbee that they actually enjoyed more than the overly touristy Tombstone.  As Wild West Steampunk is, in this writer's opinion, a very important and relatively new sub-genre of Steampunk, this convention was important in more ways than most to the overall community, and as such, the entire experience should be explored.  While doing so; however, my readers should be reminded to recognize that any new group, community, or event organizers should be given some degree of tolerance and support as they struggle to overcome the challenges of their very newness and build experience in order to most effectively deliver services and showcase the wonder of all that this sub-genre has to offer. 

One significant problem with the event had little to do with the event organizers, and was endemic to the wondrous nature of the beautiful setting on a famous old west film set.  The public park that was around the Old Tucson Studios had representatives that continued to sell tickets to see the rest of the area and made the enormously problematic statement to everyone entering that “everything in the park is included with your price of admission implying that the entire convention, a private event, was also included with the minimal price the park was charging just to look at the old movie set.  In point of fact, the movie set offered a wide range of additional activities such as stage coach rides, horseback rides, and panning for gold, that they always charged extra for and today was no exception,  in addition to the entire convention and all of it’s activities that they deceptively suggested to tourists was totally covered in their minimal price to enter the park.  
There were other problems, mostly lack of organization and communication, which is a common problem with any new event, but there were also wonderful aspects to the event such as the wonderful setting, and the incredible spirit of those in attendance.  Entertainment was especially good on Saturday, when most people were in attendance, as there was not only the usual “gunfights” in the park, but The League of Steam was out in full force with all of their elaborate gadgets and good natured charm.  Airship Isabella was there giving panels and offering the zaniness of the Mad Hatter and the Haberdasher.   That evening they even gave a full concert, than ran for hours, by Abney Park.  It probably would have worked better if the concert had been at the Masked ball, which was scheduled in a much larger venue back at the hotel and cost extra to attend, but was poorly attended as most (but not all) Steampunks  would rather hear Abney Park playing in a matchbox than enter the grandest hall imaginable (and this one was nice, to have a masked ball without them. 
The local news was out in force and had many interesting things to say about the convention.  Some of it was good, but one fashion Nazi blogger decided to give the Steampunk Convention the same rough harshly critical eye and acidic pen that she liked to give to other events.  She may have greatly underestimated what the “punk” part of Steampunk means and how seriously we band together to defend people’s rights to wear what they like and to be as iconoclastic, in any venue, as they wish.  In fact, that’s part of the whole point to have fun with breaking the rules about Victorian strict fashion codes, so all that was really accomplished was to make the writer look foolish and too lazy or disinterested to do even minimal research about the subject of her article.  
It did substantially raise the hits to that electronic newspaper’s site, but only due to the unbelievably powerful response telling them their writer was unbelievably unprofessional and making their journal look foolish.  It also gave Steampunks an excellent opportunity to air their views on the subject of fashion Nazis and of narrow minded self created experts which seemed to bring out the unity and cohesiveness in a way rarely seen in such a transparent and (to me heart warming) fashion.  While we are sort of avoiding her site, in order to minimize giving her attention in return for being a poor, sensational controversy seeking journalist, this one article and, more importantly,  the response to it, may be an icon of study for both the fashion industry and any anthropology types of psychologists studying the fascinating phenomenon of Steampunk Culture.  I will now direct you to the very informal, (you know, sit back, kick your shoes off, and get ready for a funny convention war story type of first person review! LOL) review of Stephanie Moran’s (co-leader of the Steampunk Illumination Society) experiences on this trip to the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention titled “The Good, the Bad, and the Frustration”.

If you really want to see the article by the fashion Nazi blogger, I’ll post a link to my own response to her article which has a link to the highly questionable and seemingly self serving article enclosed.

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