Sunday, March 27, 2011

Direct from All-Con 2011 - Steampunk Fun and Fiction in Addition

(Mr. Ramon Leon del Mar, editor of the Art of Steampunk, was able to attend the All-Con 2011 this year... and was kind enough to provide an overview of the event...)

As you may already have heard this year’s theme for Allcon 2011 was “Steampunk” as special genre of retro-futuristic science fiction that takes the elegance, innovation, and indomitable spirit of the Victorian age and the science fictional imagery of it’s most imaginative writers and transplants it into very unlikely places in very unlikely ways.  Steampunk has also attracted very creative and imaginative people that have turned what was at first a special science fiction loving society into a real world subculture that strongly promotes “Maker Culture”, ecology, creative expressions of individualistic art in all it’s forms, and encourages forceful rebellion against the marketing messages that encourage mindless consumerism and the following of an endless stream of fashion trends. 

Local groups, like Kali’s Hourglass, The Steampunk Illumination Society, Airship Steel Rose, and Airship Nocturne came to teach, explain, and enlighten others about learning to make things the way they want them instead of settling for whatever Walmart has to offer, doing it on a budget, rebelling radically against consumer zombie cultism, and having great fun doing it!  They did this with about 17 panels, two film screenings, a dance performance, a comedic play, a demonstration table, and general spontaneous fun throughout the convention!  Kali’sHourglass provided 6 of the panels and included a brief comedic Steampunk play in one and a dance performance in another.  They also announced that their acting troupe had been commissioned to script, cast, and perform in an all Steampunk Murder Mystery Theatre Mini-Convention soon on June 4th called the “Difference Engine” in Fort Worth Texas as one more approach to spread this liberating message of the Steampunk sub-culture for Texas and the surrounding areas.

The thing that is most recognizable, and in many ways, the most fun about Allcon is that it exposes each fandom culture to others they might never have encountered otherwise.  Storm Troopers and Jedis conversed with gunslingers, Star Fleet Officers, and Klingon Warriors while Steampunk time traveling Pirates, “Maids” and Roller Derby teams rolled by in an endless stream of wonderful mad fun!  It was a bit like ending up in Alice’s Wonderland, but with a science fiction twist. 

People in Medieval Renfair “Garb” (but wearing Steampunk accoutrement) and many other colorful characters obtained, hid, then handed over “droids” (simulated by laminated cards with droid descriptions) to Storm Troopers that were on sort of an Easter egg hunt for missing droids going around to people and asking “How long have you had this droid?” 

Mr. Hatcher (Apollo and later Tom Serak) and Ms. Lockhart (Athena) of BattlestarGalactica fame were present and very charming!  They gave two panels on both Friday and Saturday in addition to autographs and Q&A sessions. 

The Roller Derby Teams showed off skills in some rooms that were pretty impressive including specific attacks used to take out opponents that sounded a bit like a discussion of some fighting video game.  It was a bit disconcerting to think that these same charming ladies would soon be using these “baseball slide” attacks on one another’s bodies just to “win at their sport, but that’s roller derby for you.  These female gladiators were the real deal!

The Maids were everywhere, but a little puzzling to us, so we asked a bit about them.  It seems that they enjoy enacting the role of “maids” from a variety of shows and actually study and maintain the great traditions of service expected from the finest examples of that profession. 

Circus sideshow performers, flag dancers, jugglers, contact jugglers, etc. also were evident, mostly from a local group that goes by the name “Circus Freaks”.  They gave workshops on various performance skills, and were a very significant part of the Steampunk Ball performer lineup.

The only really big news at the con, other than new Steampunk talent being shown, was that the Steampunk Ball got canceled, then rescheduled last minute.   After discussing this with both the con staff and the headliner band, it appears to have been a massive failure in communication.  When I asked the program director about the band cancelling on Friday, then changing their mind and agreeing to go on Saturday, he said it was his mistake entirely, and that the band acted very professional about the whole thing.  He said they also did a great job fixing the problem when it looked like things would fall through for the concert.  The concert had to start over an hour late due to problems adjusting the unfamiliar equipment in the strange venue, but in the end, it was a great performance! 

In the program director's defense, he handled everything beautifully for us, but then all of our events were set up and re-adjusted as needed more than 3 weeks before the event.  Things start to go wonky for most convention staff when they get overloaded the last week before hand, and they sometimes have catastrophic brain cramps, like in this case, when the overload gets too great or the situation, as in this case, is too unfamiliar to them. 

Our biggest complaint has always been that convention staff rarely posts a full list of who and what was performing until a week or two before the event, yet expected us to decide blind if we wanted to go.  Allcon, on the other hand, was entirely different!  They had over 75% of their lineup listed with times, days performing, and a detailed map of the venue over 3 months in advance.  When I offered panels to them I got a response in less than 24 hours that listed every panel they wanted in appropriate rooms with the exact day and time of the presentations listed. So in conclusion, in spite of the temporary setback due to miscommunication with the headliner band, I would rate this convention as one of our absolute favorites! 

For the full article click here:  Allcon 2011 review
All-Con photos are on FaceBook, here.

Ramon Fagan, LCSW (aka “Admiral” Ramon Leon del Mar) writes articles and reviews for 5 different online Steampunk magazines as well as for his blog at
He also writes fiction, songs, short comedic plays, and educational books and articles about world religion and cultures for other outlets.  “Admiral” Ramon is also the leader of “Kali’s Hourglass”, a nautical oriented Steampunk/Clockpunk performance art troupe, co-administrator for the North Texas Steampunks Facebook Website, organizer for the DFW Clockpunks and Renpunks Group, and a co-administrator for the Steampunk Illumination Society.

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