Steamposium Report

Yeah, it's a week late. You want punctuality? I'm a writer, dangit.


I decided in advance that I wasn't going to care about making a profit this time. This one was for the boy, and for Jenny.* We hadn't gotten into the dealers room, so I was dependent on the kindness of non-strangers anyway. The boy was excited beyond measure to stay in a hotel, go to the City Museum and have adventures in costume.

As usual, we didn't get going nearly as quickly as I'd planned. The show had been going for some time when we arrived. My stuff was already set up in the marketplace, which is a brilliant idea: a room with trinkets and products set up like a shop, but you don't have to stay with your table and the show takes a percentage for the charity. Excellent.

That left me free to get settled and feed the boy. I can highly recommend the Clayton Crowne Plaza. The on-site restaurant is not bad and the first I've seen in a hotel with actually reasonable prices. The room is quite comfortable - the bed is the best in any hotel yet. The boy discovered the pool and free (!) video arcade with ancient classics like Frogger, Galaga and Ms. Pac Man. When adults heard about this arcade, their eyes lit up brighter than his.

While the boy wandered into the dance lessons, I went to Nick Valentino's panel and discovered a steampunk movie/literature discussion in progress. I got a lot of ideas and insight from that group, so when they departed to the bar I determined to follow them. But first I got the boy settled in the room with a few cookies and "Princess and the Frog." He was thrilled that they have bathrobes for our use. Bathrobes, Mom!

Then to the cocktail hour, and I ended up outside with the smokers. There was much fun conversation, ranging from steampunk gadgets to zombie comics to the publishing industry. You know. Con talk.

I had a great time. My lungs were complaining by the time I left, but I didn't care. There were a lot of familiar faces, but quite a few new folk - it's not Conflation redux by any stretch.

I called it quits at the positively sane hour of 1 am. I must be getting old.


I think Murphy took over. The boy forgot his medicine, my credit card was missing and the bus didn't come for the first trip to the City Museum. The hotel sent us with a very nice driver who didn't have directions, but we eventually found our way and it's a glorious day.

As I write this part on my iPod, I'm sitting beside the ball pit while the boy makes new friends by throwing things at them. It's surprisingly effective. I left my camera at the hotel, goody. So I'm just killing the next four hours until we go back.

He's having a wonderful time.

Later: spied a t-shirt with a football-helmet logo and the unlovely slogan: I hit your honor student so hard I dropped his GPA. This was a father, a no-neck crewcut whose linebacker build is starting to run to fat. He has a daughter in a soccer jersey and a son who's short and scrawny. This man's story is already in my head.

The City Museum amazes and perplexes me. It is the sort of insanely dangerous place we imagine cannot exist, at least for long, in our litigious age of rounded corners. No system this complex can be completely mapped, much less made absolutely safe. In the circular labyrinth alone, I found one place where teenagers could snog and three more where a young child could fall asleep and not be found for days.

I know that people do get hurt here - I read the news reports about the woman who lost a finger and the boy who had brain damage. But more people get hurt on the highway, or stung by bees in the park.

And then I look at the material used to make this place, the pieces and leftovers of the old city, and I try to imagine how they keep old iron from rusting, the old shoes slides from collapsing, that school bus suspended in midair. 

Perhaps the real wonder of the City Museum is that it is allowed to exist at all. It is perhaps a reminder to all of us, old and young, that we are not so fragile as we like to believe, and adventure still exists when we take the chance.


Upon returning, I checked into the books and discovered, sadly, that none had sold in my absence. We changed quickly - Kiddo's "steampunk" ensemble was a maroon button-down, black slacks and suspenders, and his tuxedo jacket from my mother's wedding that somehow still fits him. (Roh?) He had neglected to pack more than two pair of socks, so I cannot describe the stench around his feet. He's only eleven! Could puberty please slow down a bit?

I wore my Victorian lady outfit - the floor-length black skirt, roses corset with black undershirt, and a black fringed shawl around my shoulders. I must find a black lace shawl to go with that one. What made it steampunk? Um, my only steampunk item is a key necklace I found at Strange Folk Festival last year: a key, surrounded by cogs and ribbons. It works like a choker, which would be noticed if my neck weren't so fat.

Many thanks to the Curious Cat herself, Karen DeGuire, who not only helped me get into the corset (as I was sans flunky this round) but was the original seamstress on both corsets. Her work is strongly recommended.

I was already in pain from the City Museum. The boy had dragged me through the caves, and I swear he chose the most narrow and uncomfortable passages. I duck-walked. I crawled on hands and knees. I scooted on my decidedly large ass. I commando-crawled. On a few uncomfortable occasions, I inchwormed, both on back and on stomach. One would think all this work, combined with little food, would cause me to lose weight. Heh.

First we caught the second half of a Three Pints Gone performance, including a couple of new songs. We both love the 'Pints, and it was great to see them in a more intimate setting than Faire. Then I made him come get pictures taken with me in our Saturday-evening finery. Finally I released him to go play videogames, and I wandered back to the patio.

There was poker, at which I truly suck - before long I had exhausted the pennies we were using for chips and was playing with coffee stirrers, to the general amusement of all (and a serious reevaluation of monetary systems from Karen DeGuire, who was raking in the dough. Ms. Moneybags there is not to be trifled with at the poker table, my friends.)

There was the charity auction, hawking stuff to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I made a mad dash to the book rack to grab a COLD ONES and toss it in. I stood up front at Alesia's request, and I attempted to drum up the price by offering to sign it any way you want. Then I realized what I said and probably blushed like mad. I meant whatever WORDS you want, but I was informed later of the snickering suggestions in the back row. Y'all are pervs.

Nick Valentino also donated a book - he and I got to chat quite a bit, as he and Jon Klement and I were the only authors at the show. Nick is burning up the circuit with his new book THOMAS RILEY, folks - a steampunk adventure of the Indiana Jones variety, as I hear. We're carrying it at the Literary Underworld, and I personally plan to read it as soon as I finish Keith DeCandido's new book.

Nick has an interesting observation that pretty much any story can be steampunk, if you put the effort into your worldbuilding. (Forgive me if I'm oversimplifying his point; this blog entry's already pretty long.) It got me to thinking, because honestly the thing that turned me off steampunk was the idea that it was too limiting. A Victorian era with modern technology, run on gears and steam. A clothing style that tried to be a subgenre.

But I'm gaining a different perspective, the more I read about it and listening to the people I met at Steamposium. The Victorian era was many things, but it sure wasn't boring. It had a wide variety of fun possibilities, and I'm fascinated by some of the possibilities for adventure and horror. I will definitely have to play around with it once I'm done with the nineteen other things currently on my plate.

I ran away from the scary dancing, because I hadn't attended the formal dance lessons on Friday and I don't dance in front of humans anyway. It's aesthetically displeasing to watch me dance.

During all this, the boy dashed upstairs and changed into his swimsuit so he could paddle around the pool and pretend he wasn't looking at the St. Ignatius girls' volleyball team that was sharing the hotel with us. It's highly amusing to watch him grow up. Eventually he got bored of swimming and changed back into his tux, so he could join us at the patio and watch me lose at poker. Badly.

Finally I stashed him back up in the room, cuddled into his jammies. I retrieved my tarot cards and went back downstairs, where I read tarot for them what wants it. The cards were funky that night, kept tossing weird cards at me in places they shouldn't be. I am the world's worst tarot reader - I have to look everything up in the little booklet because I can't memorize for shit. But it was fun.

At long last I went to bed, muscles aching from the combined abuse of the City Museum and corset. One tired puppy was I.


We luxuriated in sleeping until a shocking 8 a.m. before we got rolling. Breakfast in the hotel restaurant turned out to be toast and yogurt unless we paid for the full buffet, which they didn't tell us until after we'd loaded up on eggs and bacon. I disapproved, but hell with it - boy was hungry.

First we packed out of the room, which as always took longer than you would think, only being there for two days. Then I sent the boy off to the arcade while I stationed myself by the book rack with my laptop. Plaintive eyes. Don't you want to buy my books? Apparently everyone drank too much, because we sold maybe two more books. Meep. What's worse, I had an attack of the stupids and left one of my two white folding tables at the hotel, which I will sadly never see again. I'm really mad at myself for that, because those tables are awesome and not exactly cheap.

Still, we had a wonderful time and the hotel was great. The boy and I escaped a tad early because I promised him a few hours at Six Flags before we headed home. It's always worth the trek out to Eureka so I can see the utter joy and delight in his face as he crests the waves on the rollercoasters. The only thing that comes close is the giant waffle ice cream cone he always manages to wheedle out of me on our way out the gate.

But best of all - and the reason I waited a week to post this, so I could get the total - is that we raised more than $1,100 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, plus the small amount our internet orders raised during Steampunk Week. That, after all, was the point.

And it was fantastic.

* Those who are unaware: my friend Jennie Sutton died last March waiting for a lung transplant, after struggling her whole life with cystic fibrosis. Steamposium was founded to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.