Monday, May 21, 2012

Steam Punk World's Fair 2012

Hallo everyone! For those of you who haven't heard of me, I'm Robert C Roman. I write Fantasy and Sci Fi, specifically the Artifice series (Urban Fantasy) and the Iron Angel series (Steam Punk). This weekend I went to one of the largest Steam Punk gatherings in the US, the Steam Punk World's Fair. It's a fantastic weekend of music, art, literature, and fashion.

This was my second time going to the Fair, and my first time as a literary guest. It was an absolute blast, although some parts of the weekend were a bit of a roller coaster. At any rate, let's get started, shall we?

First of all, for those of you who have never 'done' a con as a guest, it requires a lot of preparation. For the past week, I've been staying up half the night every night in order to prepare my con goodies. This time I took chap books (the first four pages of a novel), homemade pfefferneuse (traditional German cookies) and 'Punked out nerf guns (made baroque with paint, pipes, and knicknacks). Add on that the past week was a 'testing' week, and I was a touch tired going into the con. More on an (averted) disaster that caused later.

Look out, Steam Punk Batman!At any rate, I had to work Friday, so I got there a little late. The con started at six pm, I didn't get there until almost seven. I spoke with Stella Price, the always wonderful director of the Literary Track this year, in order to see if there was anything I needed to do other than show up for my scheduled panels and readings. As it turned out, they needed a touch of help running and putting, so I pitched in and got things ship shape and in Bristol fashion. That done, I poked about, meeting a few old friends, like Gil Cnaan and PJ Schnyder, until it was time for the book signing. Not much actual signing got done during the Friday night signing but I had a lovely conversation with my fellow authors. Next was the discussion on Sex in SteamPunk. I got to sit at the same table with Kady Cross! Squee! Sorry, PJ and Stella, you guys are great, but I've wanted to meet her since I won a copy of The Girl in the Steel Corset last year. Much fun was had by all, and as you might imagine, it got a little crazy. One of the coolest things of all was a lovely young woman by the name of Aleta, who was dressed as a Steam Punk Poison Ivy. Very cool stuff.
 You must listen to this woman tell fairy tales. You MUST!
At any rate, after that I listened to Lillith Lore's fairy tales, then went cruising the area where some vendors were set up in their ground-floor hotel rooms. I wound up in Brute Force Studios' room. While some of you guys may know the authors I've been talking about, and those who don't know, don't know, lots of you know Brute Force, most without knowing you know. Remember the episode of Castle where Nathan Fillion dresses up with the mechanical arm? That was one of Brute Force Studio's pieces. Also, if you've ever seen Lady Clankington, she's the 'other half' of the pair.

Around one thirty in the morning I decided that I had time to drive home, bake more cookies, get a few hours sleep, and be back before things started up in the morning. I didn't count on NJDOT deciding to close down three quarters of the lanes on the Turnpike with no warning, causing a two hour standstill. I had barely enought time to get an hour nap, a shower, and a costume change before I had to be on the road.

Saturday was a very full day.

It started for me with the Tor presentation, where I learned a bit about the history of that lovely house, got some free books, and scored some buttons and temp tattoos for my little boys. I listened to Emilie Bush read her new children's book to a group of fascinated kids while I helped Stella plan and set up for the book signing. I bought a copy of her book for my little one's birthday (the 20th! He's four now!) and, short version, he loved it. Three cheers for Steamduck! She and I and Tom from Brute Force were seated together, and we had fun chatting, signing the occasional book, and giving away knicknacks. My remaining cookies and nerf guns found good homes. The two hours of the signing passed quickly, although that may have been a sleep-deprived time compression on my part. I was rather loopy by this point.

Hopefully the folks at my reading didn't mind. I read from my three Iron Angel books - The Strange Fate of Capricious Jones, A Christmas Evening Vigil, and a sneak peek at the still in-progress The Desert Fox and the Iberico Clavel. All three got smiles and applause, so I'm calling it a win.

The Little Death Ray also has anti-aircraft applications.
By this point, though, I was starting to fade. With nothing to do for an hour and a half, I snuck out and got some food from the midway. I got some more written on Desert Fox. Finally, I went around to Brute Force and picked up a book for my wife (a guide to making Steam Punk gear and garb; she's a Maker), as well as a poster for my brother Dusty and another for my friend John. All three signed by the inimitable Lady Clankington. I'll have Dusty's to him when we visit next week, but John's is waiting on a mailing address (insert Jeopardy music here). All that done, I returned to the Literary Salon for the talk on Steam Punk and Social Media. This time my lil sis PJ was on the panel, so I could kick back a bit. Banter with da Peej comes as naturally as breathing, and we had the audience laughing at her longsuffering tolerance of my goofiness for most of the panel. I saw a young lady in the crowd with a wig that would have been perfect for a Pinkie Pie cosplay.

I *know* the cosplayer has a name, but she will *always* be Pinkie Pie to me.
Then came the Long Dark Teatime of my Soul Day. I had two and a half hours of nothing much to do. I tried to do productive things, like writing, but it was no use. I was falling asleep sitting up in hard wooden chairs. I retreated to my car and slept for an hour, then, with an hour to the panel, I forced myself to get up and walk in order to wake up. I wound up in the lair of the Queen of the Cat People, the Gotham Embassy, which was the vendor room of the Queen, Morgana's Designs, and Dark Side Customs. They fed me spiced brownies. I paid homage to the Queen. I met Frank Todaro, radio personality and one of my panel-mates for my eight thirty panel, and we stood there talking for a good half an hour, then traipsed across the room to the panel on Paranormal and Media. We talked about everything from my use of paranormal in novels, to Jonah Knight's use in his songs, to Kevin Meares' real world experience with hauntings.

Now, in the middle of this panel, I saw the girl with the pink wig. This time she was standing up. I noticed she had a pink shirt, which my tired, wandering mind thought would be perfect for a Pinkie Pie cosplay. All she needed was a set of balloons on her hip and... At this point I realized I'd been staring at a set of balloons for nearly ten minutes. There was a cosplaying Pega-sister in the audience! A big shout out to all my Bronies out there! Brohoof!

However, this was good evidence of how tired I was. A cosplayer of my favorite animated show in the crowd, and I didn't notice for nearly an hour.

After the panel, Kevin hung around, and Pinkie Pie came up to talk with us, along with her inimitable companion Holly. Now, at this point we all started talking about Ponies. Because, y'know, Ponies rock. Trust me. Pinkie tells the others that Cap Jones rocks, and they ought to get some chap books.

So I give the others some chap books (first chapters always free!), and we chat about what I write. I mention my Artifice series, and how I pulled the names from the titles of makeover shows (Fae Eye for the Golem Guy, What Not to Fear, and the in-edits Drag.Race). Holly gets this funny look in her eye and asks about the Pixies.

I squeed.

I met a wild fan! Not someone I knew from elsewhere who read my books and liked them. Not a family member or someone I'd gently persuaded at a con. A young woman who had read my work, loved it, and simply hadn't realized I was that Robert C Roman. She immediately bought a copy of Yule Be Mine to get A Christmas Evening Vigil, and her ardor was such that even Frank was convinced. Behold the power of the fan! Worship them, entertainers, for they make our worlds go round!


The sight of a two hundred fifty pound man in a kilt going squee was too much for some sensitive eyes, so the four of us retired to the midway for burgers, hot dogs, and hours of conversation about paranormal activity (Holly and Kevin both investigate), my books (Holly's a fan! Squee!) and gaming. All four of us are old-school tabletop gamers. Get any two tabletop gamers together and you will hear stories. So we chatted until eleven, when I went to pull up a video for the others on my iPad.

Which was nowhere to be found.

Thus began The Great Hunt for Robert's iPad. We took three laps around the Fair. We visited both building Lost and Found desks, as well as the con Lost and Found. Nothing. I thanked the others for helping and slunk home, defeated and exhausted, determined to come back the next day and be 'up' for my fan(s). (SQUEE!)

Sunday Morning started with cake and presents for my little. He got his (signed) copy of Her Majesty's Explorer. (Three Cheers for Steamduck!) I read it to him. Just for reference, he had my wife read it to him at least four more times before I got back from the Fair. Said Ur-Goth chastised me gently for failing to put tracking software on my iPad. I felt saddened, and trundled off to Fair just a touch early, in order to retrace my steps one final time before my two thirty panel. I went from place to place, even ducking into the men's room I'd used. Finally I wound up back in the lair of the Queen of the Cat People. I asked. They were sympathetic, but had no idea; none of them had seen an iPad about.

I thanked them and was about to leave when I saw something odd on an end tablenear where I'd been standing the prior night. An iPad with a cover similar to mine. I walked over while we were talking and looked at it. Atop it rested one of my chapbooks. I opened it, and two of the ladies in the room reacted with a startled 'wait, that's not a leather-bound writing pad?' I put in my password and, viola! my iPad was found! Huzzah!

It turns out that with three separate vendors in the room, none of whom were any better rested than I, each of them thought the odd leather-bound book belonged to one of the others, and the two less technically inclined members of the group hadn't even recognized it as an iPad. We all cheered huzzah, and I went happily skipping off to breakfast. Because I, after all, have a Fan. Squee!

Leather pants on women is not Victorian. I am SO not caring about that right now.
Pinkie Pie, now out of costume, found me and pulled me over to a quiet table where I could write. However, we mostly talked. Eventually, we were joined not only by Holly, but by the Baroness as well. Remember Ivy? Yep, same lass. She's really a whiz with costuming, and we four spent a few enjoyable hours talking about everything under the sun, including the fact that Desert Fox has a character who, at least in physical appearance, is inspired by the Baroness. The GI Joe character, not the cosplayer, although I found her quite inspirational.

What? She was charming. And she had a corset and guns, two big plusses for any pin up, in my book.

After a lovely extended breakfast, Pinkie Pie and Holly (My fan! Squee!) had things to do, so I chatted with Aleta I think she'd realized that even after the few hours sleep I'd gotten, I was still a bit off. When I went to watch Coveilance dance the dance of a thousand pratfalls veils, she left, but returned in time for the panel, mostly because we started late; the reading of the Girl Genius novel went over a touch, mostly because all but two of the panelists (myself and Peter Woodworth) had to cancel. We drafted Emilie to join us, and the three of us had a fine old time discussing what dystopias are, what punk is, and why they both meet and meld in SteamPunk so often.

Sadly, the Fair was coming to an end, but not before my good friend Draven Kane went up on the main stage and proposed to his lady love. You go, Draven. Best of luck to you crazy kids, anyone with the stones to ask in front of two hundred screaming Steampunks deserves it.

So. The Fair is done (for this year). I found my first fan in the wild. I got free books, free scones, and free brownies. Children were pleased with gifts, and I found my iPad (and installed tracking software thereon!). All in all, a good con.

Oh. One final thought, just because these two, who had nothing to do with one another out-of-costume, met in the hall and I had to document it.
See you next month!


Annie Nicholas said...

I've heard so much about this con on the inter webz this weekend. It's like so much fun!

steph beck said...

Super cute!! It looks like you had a blast!

Stephanie Beck

Robert C Roman said...

@Annie - it IS fun. If you're in the area I highly recommend it!

@Stephanie - yeah, the con was great. Sadly, my camera ran out of space and I missed about 90% of the cool costumes I saw, including Aleta's Morgan LeFay.

Rebecca Royce said...

I would love to write Steampunk...I'm a little afraid of it. I know everyone takes it really seriously and I wouldn't want to do a poor job. I LOVE reading it.