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

TeslaCon 5 “Journey to the Center of the Earth”

Friday, November 7th, we made the trip to Middleton, Wisconsin, for TeslaCon 5.

We started the program with the first afternoon round of panels, “Exploring Your Steampunk Story.” This story-telling-style presentation was lightly attended, but the people who did participate had some interesting and well-crafted backstories to share.

Next, I did a presentation on “The Melodrama and the Music Hall: Victorian Middle-Class Entertainments.” I talked about the genesis of the melodrama, its rise and fall, and the various genres of play within the type. The talk was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation with pictures and some sound and video clips. The Music Hall portion was similar, giving origins and history of the Music Hall phenomenon, with numerous illustrations of halls and performers, and some music and video. The audience seemed to enjoy the presentation and find it interesting.

At 4:00PM, we went to the “Owen Society” presentation, “Cryptomania: Cryptology, Cryptozoology, and Cryptobotany for Fun & Profit.” This was a performance rather than a factual presentation, giving purported preliminary findings about the world at the “Center of the Earth,” which was cleverly done and amusing.

After dinner, we got in line for seating for the Opening Ceremonies. We were pleased that things started close to on time and we got good seats. Augmenting the usual broadly humorous acting of Eric Larsen as “Lord Bobbins,” William Dezoma as “Admiral Krieger,” and the rest of the crew, this year’s video presentation was, in a word, fantastic. From the moment the “Freya,” Lord Bobbins’ new combination armored dirigible/mechanical mole combination hove in site of the glowing polar hole leading down, until arriving at the Pellucidar-like “Center of the Earth,” the visualization of the journey was unlike any other I have seen. Totally unscientific, even by “hollow earth science” standards, but fascinating and beautiful to watch. The ultimate Center was the expected Verne/Burroughs homage with dinosaurs, mastodons, and, ultimately people. Much to the disgust of Lord Bobbins, the Earth’s Core also proved to harbor arch-foe Dr. Proctocus (Heath Howes), rescued by his minions from exile on the Moon and again plotting world domination.

Filing out of the Ballroom, I was particularly struck by the magic Eric has his people work: while the opening ceremonies were going on, the signage had been changed to add “beware of dinosaurs” notices. There were also dinosaurs in the Hotel! “Dakota & Friends” (, are a troupe that has some amazingly cool dinosaur “suits” (for lack of a better term) with “animatronic” effects, and were now on site.

After the Opening Ceremonies, we attended this year’s fashion show, which featured Dr. Proctocus as M.C. After all, he said, “fashion is evil.” Actually, this year’s collection was very good.

The first collection was by Steampunk Angel Couture and BEW Steampunk Design which featured outfits with very creative and fresh uses of brown and black, plus a very attractive metallic paisley greatcoat.

Revive Gifts presented an attractive dress with multiple stripe patterns, one ornamented with gold tassels and bead fringe, a brown slinky number, and a harlequin skirt in pale blue and brown.

The collection from Ugo Serrano had a “family theme” showing us a daughter, son, father and mother. Included were an iridescent blue skirt with plaid bodice, vest with multi-check patterned trim, and a brown bib-front waistcoat. We also saw a sophisticated skeleton bustle, armor (steel!) corselet, and a flowing net skirt decorated with garlands of ruching that gave the effect of flowers.

Scoundrel’s Keep began with a lovely turquoise-patterned cutaway coat, followed by a bronze corset and pantalette outfit, a black and bronze ensemble with exposed crinoline hoops, and a white bolero jacket worn over coordinating corset and black floaty skirt.
KMK Designs showed us an elegant cream-colored corset dress, a basic black lapelled waistcoat and rousers, a steel gray hourglass corset with black lace overlaid skirt, and a black tunic top with mermaid skirt.

Silversark, who based her collection on the different colors and textures of obsidian, the volcanic glass, had one of the most spectacular collections, augmented by feather headpieces by Debra Olsen, and with jewelry by Muses’ Jewelry.

The collection opened with a yellow lace cocktail-length skirt under an exposed crinoline cage, accented with a black feather collar.

Next, was a black leather Empire waist tunic length dress with puffed sleeves; a black, off shoulder beaded number with elaborate feather headdress; and a largely sheer black negligee outfit, among others.

Enchanted Designs ended the show with a very unusual and imaginative collection, including a man’s firefighter uniform, an ensemble with wrap bodice and skirt hitched up to the hips, a red satin lapelled waistcoat, and some outfits incorporating very natural looking leather waist cinchers tooled by lasers. The final out fit was “The Gatekeeper,” which had a male model wearing a corselet of steel bars, and made ominously tall by stilts crafted to look like brick gateposts.

The designers took questions after the show, and talked briefly about the origins of each collection. After the formal show we were able to take close looks at the outfits and talk to the models about how it was to wear them.

Saturday Morning, we stopped in on morning coffee with the Milwaukee Steampunk Society, and then went to the Tea Room for the Suffragette Tea and Conversation, hosted by Frau Krieger, (now “Baroness Munchausen”, since the Admiral’s inheritance of the family title--), which was very pleasant. Georgie read some bits from a suffragist text, Are Women People?, by Alice Duer Miller, which the attendees present professed to find very interesting.

At 11:30AM, Georgie went to the presentation “vTech: Real Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Technology” by Dr. Charles Tritt, which was very informative and covered a great deal of fascinating topics.

I went to “The Use Of Metafiction In Steampunk, And Steampunk Literature”. This was not “Metafiction as commonly defined, such as “Metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work's status as an artifact.” Instead, the presenters, including featured guest Thomas Willeford, discussed “the use and adaptation of various Victorian and non-Victorian characters and genre into the steampunk aesthetic.” This included both use of pre-existing fictional and non-fictional characters in new work and how to avoid the pitfalls that may exist. This panel had some useful information, not only for authors, but designers and actors as well.

Comic relief in the “Immersion” story was provided by “The Grink,” a troll-like puppet who enjoys singing, and whose idea of a good drink is a “grub smoothie.”

At 1:00PM, we went to “Cause Of Death II: The Sequel - An examination of illness and accident in 1880s America, with an emphasis on the medical advances and social issues surrounding contagious disease,” presented by Julieann Hunter. In this second installment, Ms. Hunter gave facts regarding diseases borne by insects and other vectors. This was again a morbidly fascinating discussion.

Our next presentation was “Our Lady Spies,” by Georgie Schnobrich. This program talked about Belle Boyd, Emma Edmonds a.ka. Frank Thompson, Elizabeth van Lew and Mary Jane Bowser, all of whom spied during the U.S. Civil War. A great deal of fascinating information was dispensed to a room packed with an appreciative audience.

After the panel we madly dashed to change, having tickets for the “Bobbins Dinner.” We’ve attended these in the past and always found them great fun, as well as a good meal. It’s a pleasant challenge to stay in persona for a social event such as a dinner and we enjoy that. Also, it’s a good way to get some hints as to what’s coming up next year, as well as some entertainment in the form of the banter between Bobbins, Krieger, and their spouses and children.

This year’s menu was particularly good: titled “A Feast for Otto Lindenbrock” (the protagonist of “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,”) the first course was “Otto’s Foraged Mushroom Bisque,” which was delicious, but I found the “en croute” cap over the soup to be a bit awkward to deal with. Axel’s Intermezzo, elderberry sorbet with St.Germain liquor and basil was unique, refreshing, and delightful.

The main course, “Mastodon Tenderloin with Mushroom Mousse, Fingerling Potatoes, Asparagus, Lemon Oil, and Bordelaise Sauce” was marvelous. We got a tender and flavorful serving of (beef) tenderloin stuffed with the mushroom mousse, which we were quick to pronounce “the best mastodon we had ever had.”

Dessert was “Anoplotherium Milk Cheesecake, The Professor’s Poached Pear, Marcona Almonds, and Micro Mint,” which was also delicious. The chef was roundly applauded by all.

After dinner, there was time to digest before the Grand Ball. This year, the wonderful First Brigade Band played again, and they were better than ever, having added more dance music to their repertoire. What could be better than the TeslaCon Grand Ball? There is beautiful music, beautiful attire, charm and good cheer for all. This year there were even dancing dinosaurs: yes, one of the “Dakota” group got out on the dance floor and bobbed around to the music.

Having danced our fill, we found some seats outside the ballroom, admired the passersby, and listened to the remainder of the music. We had wanted to stay for the start of the Steerage Ball, but it got too late waiting for them to set up, so we went to bed.
On Sunday morning, visiting the Steampunk Science Fair is de rigeur, and we admired the creatively designed gadgets on display. Following that, Georgie gave another presentation, “Wild Women of the West, “ telling stories of Lola Montez, Carrie Nation, and “Poker Alice”. It is likely there will be a sequel.

After both her presentations, Georgie got lots of good comments and feedback from her audiences. After “Wild Women of the West,” she was even asked if she would come and talk at a ladies’ tea!

I had to see the Closing Ceremonies, which involved a lot more fantastic video. For my taste, the “magma layer” sequence went on a bit too long, but it was all hypnotically beautiful to look at. The stage acting included a very good swordfight between new character Beauregard Krieger (the Admiral’s guerrilla fighter son) and one of Proctocus’ deep cover agents. Proctocus was foiled again, and given into the custody of the indigenous people, with a significant chance of being fed to the dinosaurs. (But, he’s not dead yet, so you know he’ll be back.) I did like the bit showing that Bobbins and Krieger are proper Imperialists, having loaded up the “Freya’s” holds with valuable “thorium ore” from the Earth’s Core before setting off.

Next year’s theme will be “The Wild West,” with Saturday evening having a “Night Circus” theme. We have our memberships--.

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Tags: conventions, steampunk, teslacon
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