Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aetherfest 2011

My husband and I spent a fantastic weekend in San Antonio attending the first Aetherfest. It's the first three day Steampunk convention in Texas and, at least from my point of view, was a huge success.

It was held at the marvelous St. Anthony hotel. This was absolutely the most perfect hotel ever to hold a Steampunk event. It was built in 1909 with all the opulence of the gilded age. This is the lobby:

From Aetherfest 2011

Put a bunch of riotously fabulous steampunks in this hotel, and it's the tourists in shorts and flip flops who look out of place.

The con started on Friday with the opening of the dealer room and opening ceremony at 5PM. We actually arrived late Thursday night and then spent Friday sleeping in, trekking to Joann's so I could buy some gorgeous brocade for a new costume item, and then in the long process of getting dressed. We made it out in costume about 5:15, in time to attend the opening ceremony. Then we napped until the Airship Dinner at eight. Ok, I didn't nap, as I was still laced into a corset. But I propped myself up on the bed and read.

This was my Friday night outfit:
From Aetherfest 2011

I made the skirt, petticoat, and jacket last week, so it's sort of half an outfit. And I don't have any really good pictures of it.

The airship dinner was a really nice catered dinner that was an extra cost to the con ticket. The food was good, and there was live music throughout.

Saturday started out in the very best possible way. At 11 a bunch of the attendees met up and walked the few blocks to the Alamo for a rally against The Dull and group photo. It was magnificent. First of all, I think it's impossible to be a Texan and not have some deep feelings about the Alamo. And then to be there with a group of gloriously creative and free individuals, celebrating free expression and a break with conformity? Goosebumps. And that's why this photo is pretty much the most awesome awesome to have ever awesomed:

From Aetherfest 2011

And here's more awesome pictures:
From Aetherfest 2011

From Aetherfest 2011

So, anyway, then there were panels all day. After the walk in the muggy Texas morning, I had to go lay in bed under the A/C for a while with my skirts around my waist. Justin went to the Antarctic Press panel. You may have heard of some of their comics, especially Time Lincoln and Steampunk Palin. We later picked up all the issues of Time Lincoln and a book called "Victorian Secret: Girls of Steampunk" with really fabulous art of steampunk pin-ups.

I think we then wandered around the dealer's room and spent money. The dealers had really nice stuff, and we mostly bought little things to add to our costumes. We went to Ay-leen the Peacemaker's panel on "Steam around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana." The panel was informative and interesting. I've got several new movies and comics and such to check out on her recommendation. The serious part of the panel containing the discussion of racism and cultural appropriation was really good on her part, but suffered from a combination of one loudmouthed attendee with tangential comments and much of the audience leaving halfway through to go to Airship Isabella's radio hour. (I assume. It's tough to keep people focused on discussions of race when the most popular steampunk collective in the state is putting on a show.)

After that, we changed into street clothes to go to our favorite restaurant in San Antonio: Boudro's. We do have priorities, after all.

After dinner we did in fact take a nap in preparation for the evening's festivities. The concerts started up at eight with a vaudville-style rotation of performances at first. We kept going in and out of the rooftop terrace where the music was for some reason and everytime we went out it was a new surprise. Like: ok, someone's playing sitar now. After all the short performances, Marquis of Vaudville took the stage. We'd seen them at Clockwork Wonderland in January, but I actually enjoyed their performance this time much more. It may have just been my mood. At CW, it was horribly hot, crowded, and uncomfortable, and at Aetherfest it was breezy, open-aired, and I was pleasantly drunk. Anyway, they did a really great Cure cover of "Burn" from The Crow soundtrack, and, you know, I can't not love that.

The final band was Hipnautica, and despite some set-up and sound issues, I actually really liked the sort of techno-goth-industrial sound they had. But much of the audience had left for whatever reason, and those that were left were not very sober. I myself went from "pleasantly tipsy" to "OMG I'm so drunk I can barely move" really, really fast and had to leave. I got back to the room and threw myself on the huge four poster, boots, corset, hat, and all and declared myself unable to ever move again. Unfortunately, our room was on the same floor as the concert and the con suite, and when the music finished at 1AM, all the drunk people came and had a party in the hall right outside our room, or in the suite directly across from our room with the door open. I don't know how late it was before I finally passed out, but I didn't get a lot of sleep.

Sunday was a bit tricky, as we had to pack and check out before anything started. We went to a panel on Persona Creation that was somewhat useful, and quite entertaining as it was given by Emperor Justinian Stanislaus of the Red Fork Empire and a great Texan gentleman of sixty-odd years, who sometimes is a steampunk Santa Claus. I haven't mentioned him yet, but the Emperor was one of the highlights of the weekend. His persona is absolutely hilarious, as he claims dominion over an empire that spans multiverses. It was exactly like I imagine meeting Emperor Norton would have been. Here's a picture of him leading the Rally Against the Dull in front of the Alamo:

From Aetherfest 2011

After that I went to a great panel on Organizing Steampunks. It was a small group discussing how people set up organizations in different cities. I would really like to find some people locally to get together with, and I've made some contacts for help, if I need it. Finally, we went to Airship Isabella's "So You Want to Be An Airship Captain" panel. I think most of the people left at the con were there, and many of them feeling quite a bit silly. I very quickly crashed from a combination of lack of sleep, lack of food, and increasing back pain, so we left a bit early and hit the road.

I'm still filled with inspiration and optimism from the incredible vibe from the con. This community actually feels like a community, and I can't wait to do this again.

There's a bunch more pictures of people's awesome costumes in my Picasa album or my facebook album.

1 comment: