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Steampunk World's Fair (revised)

I had a delightful time this weekend at the Steampunk World's Fair. The event was a great success. Attendees were plentiful, and a number of the vendors said they did much better than they expected. It seems likely to me that it should easily become an annual event.

Steampunk is not really my thing, of course, and since demongrey couldn't make it after all, I didn't have a lot of motivation to get to most of the programming. I did see and hear the things I was most interested in.

I had thought about driving down Friday night after work, but decided I was already tired enough that I didn't want to deal with crowds of strangers that night. Instead, I arrived Saturday morning quite promptly, and only had to wait ten minutes or so for the person with the pre-registration list to show up so I could collect my badge. I had not even finished reading the program and getting my bearings in the hotel when hughcasey and his traveling companion tickly_girl (henceforth TG) arrived. I surmised (accurately) that it would likely take Hugh an hour or more to talk to everyone he knew in the lobby, so I wandered off and figured out the layout of the hotel and the locations of all the functions rooms and dealer areas and so on. Eventually I found my way back to the lobby and joined Hugh and TG.

We started to look at vendors, then Hugh was tapped to help with the unloading of a large SUV full of food and beverages for the performers and staff. Of course I went to be useful as well, and upon realizing that I was the youngest and most agile person present, I volunteered for climbing in and around the back of the SUV to rearrange things so they could come out in the right order. By the end of the day, I'd completely forgotten about this, so I spent all day Sunday trying to figure out why one leg was so much sorer than the other, and hours this afternoon wondering what on earth I'd done to get such a massive bruise on my forearm. Yes, the climbing and crouching and hefting can do a number of unusual things.

We went to see the premiere, using the term somewhat loosely, of Jeff Mach's steampunk rock opera Absinthe Heroes. It, um, has potential. The actors had only had three weeks of rehearsal, and only two rehearsals with the accompanist, so it's entirely understandable that it was a little rough. I had trouble hearing most of the first half, due to some rude people chatting behind us. The ending was very entertaining, however. They did have what I judge to be one major casting failure; a musical with a cast of five really can't afford even one actor who's tone-deaf. On the flip side, they also had a major casting success with one woman who pretty much carried the show. The whole thing will get better with some work, though.

Following that, we lobby-lurked for a while, and Hugh checked with the front desk every fifteen minutes to see if his room was ready. While we waited, another of Hugh's friends overheard the desk staff say "These people are stranger than the Jews." That's amusing in and of itself, but it was much funnier when TG pointed out that the Jews in question had occupied about half the hotel at the time when the other half was the overflow hotel for Wicked Faire. Apparently the desk staff hadn't distinguished between the groups!

When at last the room was ready, I helped Hugh and TG carry their things up from the car, and waited while they changed. I didn't get a picture of TG's outfit, but here's Hugh the Aviator:



If you've heard the Mal-and-a-half story, that's the same outfit as this one, but without the cap and goggles.

Then we went back downstairs and toured through the vendor rooms. There was a lot of neat stuff. It was much more heavily weighted toward clothing than other cons have been. I could've bought myself an entire steampunk outfit quite easily. Instead, I made some mental notes and picked up a couple of business cards. One of the vendors had some awesome buttons, which I could use to replace buttons on almost any of my work shirts. Along the way, we bumped into holly_evolving, who daeron had introduced me to at Medfest. I'm pretty sure she didn't remember me and was very confused by what I said.

It was very crowded and noisy, and after a couple of hours, overstimulation and crowding and low blood sugar combined and I had to Get Out Of There Right Now. I found a quiet piece of hallway floor, and then after a few minutes when that wasn't enough, I went back to my car. Eating a granola bar and then lying down and closing my eyes in the quiet for fifteen minutes worked wonders for my composure, and I headed back in.

We went for dinner at Red Lobster, which was both tasty and a welcome change of environment. Then we went back up to their hotel room, where Hugh and TG changed outfits, and then TG dressed me up in some extra things she'd brought.

Here's a very dapper Hugh, wearing his gorgeous new cravat. (I fell in love with that cravat when we walked in the room where it was being sold, realized I couldn't possibly give it as a gift to anyone I know, and started plotting how to make Hugh buy it. Fortunately, he spotted it on his own, so only a little flattery was needed on my part.):




tickly_girl:




And me:




By the time we were dressed and ready to go, it was almost time for me to go to the first of the scheduled events that I actually cared about. This was the Art and History of Kissing. While that sounds like the title of an art appreciation lecture, it was actually a skills workshop. There wasn't really new information presented, so much as making us all remember and think about what we already knew. And oh, my, did it get steamy! For one thing, the room was overcrowded and the air conditioning was not working correctly – but it also was a very sensual experience, even for someone mostly sitting on the sidelines. I very much wished I'd had a lab partner, so to speak. I was pretty much ready to jump someone at the end of it, so I imagine that the couples who were there must have had a very good night indeed.

The following hour in the same room was Project Munchausen. I'd heard about this at Wicked Faire, so I was very excited to get the chance to actually see it. It's a game wherein each player is given a prompt by the previous player and asked to tell a completely false but hilarious story, interrupted by challenges (added embellishments) from the other players. An actual example of the prompts: "So Hugh, tell us about when you tried to give your grandmother a 21-gun salute and ended up hitting the moon with a banana." Once all of the players have managed to finish their stories, they vote on a winner. The added twist at the cons is that there is an audience vote as well, with each vote costing a dollar, all proceeds going to charity. From what I understand, this means that there's almost always someone who skews the vote by throwing a lot of money at it. I'm afraid this time that was me. I only had a twenty-dollar bill on me, but I figured that since it was for charity, I didn't mind spending that. I gave half my vote tokens to TG, who had no money on her at all. Well, Hugh's story was really dreadful. I don't mean this as an insult - creativity on demand is difficult (God knows I can't do it), and he's usually a gifted storyteller. It just wasn't a good night for him. He missed part of the prompt entirely. On the other hand, he had a lot more audience participation than the others (not usually part of the game). TG and I both gave him most of our votes out of sympathy, as did another of his friends who was there. Due to low attendance and buy-in, it turned out that he "won" the audience by just one vote over the real winner – whose story included the priceless phrase "Cthulhu ate my poundcake!"

We went looking for room parties, but didn't find any. So, instead, we went to the dance. It was there that it struck me: It's been just about six months since I kicked off this wild adventure of con-going by attending Philcon. Even with this as an eventual goal, I could never have predicted then that I would now be able to have a completely wonderful time spending an entire day with friends, one who I've known only a few months and the other I just met that day, plus scads of other friendly strangers. It's been almost fifteen years since I made new friends in any way other than someone else bringing people into the established group. It is very strange, and very scary, and exactly what I wanted to do.

I headed home about quarter to one. It's a tradeoff, commuting instead of staying at the hotel. Hotels are expensive, but it's convenient to have a home base, and to be able to just go upstairs and sleep when it's time. Staying at home is much more affordable, and I sleep better in my own bed, but I hate missing anything.

I went back down in the morning for a few hours. We finally made it to the overflow hotel, which had overflow events as well as rooms. I got almost as many comments on my T-shirt that day as I had the previous day. Wearing interesting T-shirts is definitely one of the best conversation-starters for that kind of thing, which is why I do it. However, I need to find a few new shirts - I'm twice through on all of them now, and they'll start to lose their novelty factor. I went home again around two o'clock, which is just as well because I crashed HARD around four, and had trouble waking up enough to drag myself out to get food around seven.

Next up: Balticon in two weeks.

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