Yeah! David Lee Summers gave us this cool report from his adventure upon the Queen Mary for the HRM Steampunk Symposium earlier this month. He shared his report with us last yer, too, here, brought to us by nrlymrtl. David Lee Summers is an author, poet, publisher, and professional star-gazer. His website, http://www.zianet.com/dsummers/.
Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium 2013
David Lee Summers
Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium returned to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for a second year on January 11-13, 2013. Like last year’s Symposium, there was a good balance of fun, educational and social activities. There were panels and workshops, musical performances, dealers selling Steampunk wares, and many wonderful costumes.
For me, the convention started off at the “Meet the Guests” session with a rousing round of Go Fish with Thee Bluebeard and a couple of the convention attendees. Thee Bluebeard is a pirate from Chicago adorned with goggles, a kilt and a striking blue goatee. He’s also a wonderful performer called on to bring fun and anarchy to many of the proceedings around the symposium.
I left the Go Fish session for a signing in the dealer’s room. This year, the dealer’s room was in a more accessible, but smaller ballroom than last year. The good thing about the new location was that it meant more people saw there was a dealer’s room and dropped in. Unfortunately, this ballroom was smaller than last year’s meaning there weren’t as many dealers. I found myself on the stage between the merch tables for the bands Steam Powered Giraffe – a band of singing musical automata from San Diego – and Hello the Future – a one-woman filk band. We had fun finding ways to let people know where we were and enticing them to see what we had.
On Friday evening of the Symposium was a dinner theater featuring the music of Steam Powered Giraffe, Six-String Samurai and the magic of Dino Staats. Tickets for the dinner theater sold out fast and unfortunately, I was one of those people who missed out. I did end up volunteering to help distribute will call tickets to the event and was able to get inside to see the performances, even though I missed out on the actual dinner. My Friday night finished with a presentation on Victorian Astronomy that had a nice attendance in spite of being opposite the end of the dinner theater.
Saturday morning of the convention started with Dino Staats and me holding a discussion on Victorian Magic and Science. We talked about some of the scientific discoveries of the period and how they were incorporated into magic acts. I unsuccessfully tried to demonstrate electrostatic attraction, but Dino showed off the counter-rotating spirals optical illusion and I demonstrated table levitation using simple mechanics. We then ventured into a discussion of Jean Eugéne Robert-Houdin – the magician from whom Houdini took his name – and his wonderful clockwork creations, many of which may be found this day via the magic of YouTube!
Later on Saturday, Bruce Boxleitner arrived to discuss Lantern City, a new Steampunk series he’s working on. Also on hand were his co-producer and several members of the cast, including Mira Furlan (“Delenn” from Babylon 5). They remained after the presentation to sign posters and take a few photos.
The highlight of Saturday was the Masquerade Ball held in the Grand Salon. Cellist and perennial Steampunk favorite Unwoman led the show with her hypnotic vocals and strings. The energy kicked up during the follow-up by Lee Presson and the Nails, a 30′s-style swing band that features classics by Cab Calloway and Glen Miller. Some purists might not think they’re very Steampunk, but they fit the Queen Mary setting very well and the music was excellent. For those who stayed around until the end of the show, there was a light buffet supper.
During the final day of the convention, I hosted a Steampunk poetry workshop. I shared some of my poetry, talked a little about markets for speculative poetry in general and Steampunk poetry in particular, then handed out some writing prompts. The attendees took those prompts and wrote for a time, then shared the poems they came up with. All were enjoyable and some even quite profound. I finished the day sitting in on a team writing discussion held by David Drake and Katherine Morse who write the online series, The Adventures of Drake and McTrowell.
As with most conventions there was much more to do than one person can discuss. There were pirate battles and a Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. There was a special boiler room concert and make-and-take workshops. Phil and Kaja Foglio, creators of the web comic Girl Genius were on hand throughout the weekend. Although they weren’t on panels nor had a dealer’s table, they graciously signed books for anyone who asked. All in all, I had a great time at Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium and would certainly be delighted to return for another year.