Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

TeslaCon 2, Day 1

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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Tags: conventions, steampunk, teslacon
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