A new look for nerds
Goggles and gears: Steampunk themed Clockwork Con invades Austin this weekend
This weekend, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Austin, I’ll be in the midst of hundreds of fun-loving retrofuturists for Clockwork Con 2012. I’m excited and a little scared.
Clockwork Con is like any convention where enthusiasts gather to share their performance of the things they share in common. But whereas businesspeople go to conventions to discuss new financial ventures and technology advancements, Clockwork Con is a convention dedicated to a science-fiction subculture known as steampunk that, according to some, has been brewing in the collective imagination of humankind since H.G. Wells invented the time machine. In other words, Clockwork Con is a raging nerd party.
Steampunk—reportedly named such by Kevin Jeter, author of a celebrated Wells spinoff fiction called Morlock Night—is a pulp genre come to life. The milieu of Clockwork Con exists in an alternate reality where steam power and mechanism remain the height of technology. Caitlin Kittredge, a fantasy author whose works borrow from (and contribute to) the steampunk canon, describes the genre as “sort of Victorian-industrial, but with more whimsy and fewer orphans.”
For the uninitiated: expect top hats and stovepipes, aviator caps and goggles, corsets, vests, fat ties and pocketwatch chains. Expect blimps, airships, dirigibles and propeller balloons. Expect entertainment in the order of burlesque, mime, staged combat and live action role playing. Live music will be furnished by the likes of steampunk bands with names like Steam Powered Giraffe, Marquis of Vaudeville, DJ Doctor Q and Master "Bones" Jangle & the Voodoo Island Cannibals.
Friday’s panels feature discussions on the steampunk bestiary, steampunk spiritualism, steampunk taxonomy, and steampunk literary tropes. The day closes with a comedy show, a magic show, a burlesque show, a dance party, and a mysterious offering called “Meet the 5 Emperors” which may or may not be an initiation ritual.
Saturday is the densest of the convention’s three-day run. In the morning, members of Austin tabletop gaming outfit Cracked Monocle take center stage for a two hour demonstration of their flagship project, a meticulously crafted clockworks-and-steam dice game that’s created substantial buzz on Kickstarter in the last few weeks. Throughout the day, attendees can pick up tips on corsetry, haberdashery, steampunk piracy, vintage hairstyling and proper roleplaying techniques and etiquette.
Panels on leatherworking and alchemy kick off the day on Sunday, followed by philosophy, millinery and a mad science contest. A brief entrée into steampunk belly dancing leads us to the final panel of the event, “An Airship as a Business”, after which a round of closing ceremonies will put Clockwork Con to bed.
Day passes are priced at $30, $35 and $25, respectively. Three-day admission runs a cool sixty bucks. A tea room and vendor’s quarters will provide refreshments and souvenirs throughout the mornings and afternoons. If you need a pair of cog earrings, a leather watch strap or a new pneumatic actuator for your pet automaton, the steampunk dignitaries at Clockwork Con might be able to help you out.
Are you ready for it? Because this is nerd to a whole new level. I can't wait.
Clockwork Con takes place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Austin. Follow Justin on Twitter for dispatches from the belly of the steaming beast.