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.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/226597.html. Please comment there using OpenID.