The only convention catering to fans I've ever been to before last weekend was an X-Files one with my dad when I was about 15. I remember two things about the experience: walking through a stuffy, dark room with cheap black plastic sheeting covering the walls as I looked at depressingly unrealistic props from the show and seeing the Lone Gunman with the scraggly blong hair and Assistant Director Skinner waiting around by a side door in an alleyway while someone smoked a cigarette. It was gritty, bleak and smelled like unwashed teenagers.
The Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition couldn't have been more different. It was wonderful.
|Author Andrew Mayer|
The event was housed in rooms throughout the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, California and I couldn't help but wonder how the people not there for the convention would react to the attendees. Surprisingly, no one gawked. Instead, most seemed to have grins plastered across their faces as they enjoyed spectacles like the belly dancing performance.
Smallish rooms were filled with curiosities and vendors selling meticulously crafted goods. The experience was what I imagine marketplace scenes such as the floating one at Harrods in Neil Gaiman's Neverwere are like, crowded, dimly lit and each booth filled with strange and beautiful one of a kind items. The merchants took such care in displaying their goods, creating an atmosphere of wonder. Two of the most memorable items were a working ticker tape machine that printed out news from the internet via RSS feeds and another, an antique typewriter rigged to automatically type out text messages received from a cell phone. There was even a tea room on the 13th floor with attendants serving tea and women having a polite conversation while knitting.
|From the left: Strange, Eddy, Roberts and Mason|
There was so much more that I didn't get to experience: live music, a ball, and a costume contest as well as presentations on how to make items and vulgar language in the Victorian era. I wish I had been able to go to everything and talk with more people.
The 2011 Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition was such an enjoyable experience because ingenuity, creativity, individuality and science fiction were embraced and celebrated, a far cry from the convention I attended as a kid. I can't wait to go back next year.