Jeff Mach‘s Steampunk World’s Fair is the world’s largest Steampunk event! Everyone is welcome, from the veteran Steampunker to the simply curious. Come an join us for a weekend of merriment, we’d love to meet you!
New and don’t know where to start?
No problem! First, we recommend reading about Steampunk in general, and then also about what the Steampunk World’s Fair is. Then, take a look at our Entertainment line-up and our Merchant roster to get an idea of the things you can expect to enjoy at our event. Our VIP & Add-on event listings are a good way to see all the extra, premium content we have to offer, too! Then, when you’re ready, take a look at our Buy Tickets page to join us at the next SPWF.
The Latest from our Curators
In steampunk, as with any world of fantasy, when someone asks me for a definition, I tend to get the broadest definition possible.
Why would I want to do that?
Because inclusivity is part of the power of worlds of the imagination. Yes, obviously, we need to have a framework from which to start. But that framework can very much be open to interpretation–hell, geeks have been debating the interpretations of scifi, fantasy, and fandom classics for over 50 years now. But the power isn’t precisely in how strongly someone has defined the boundaries of a world; it’s in how much that world impacts us.
I could take a lot of examples from Steampunk – the simplest being that if you go to any Steampunk event and find two people who both have chosen Steampunk personae, I’ll guarantee that their personae will come from slightly different Steampunk “worlds”. That’s because there IS no one Steampunk world.
But I’d rather use an outside framework for our sample – say, Harry Potter, wherein J.K. Rowling makes magic absolutely magical by essentially giving us very little of the metaphysics behind it. We get lots of pieces of magical ideas and theories and spells–but no coherent magical system; “Magic happens when you do magic things, and it produces magic effects which are sometimes predictable and sometimes otherwise”. And it works – because the world is so deep and rich that we want to get lost in it, and we don’t worry that JKR didn’t tell us how it happened – we spend our time creating our own ideas of what was going on in the cosmology of that Universe.
(Here’s a fascinating article which discusses the effects of Harry Potter books on measured neurological response. I’d argue that Steampunk does the same thing.
Sure, you could theoretically invent a definition of Steampunk which makes no sense; “Steampunk is wearing an elephant on your head” for example. But you know what? If you do it to create something funny or interesting or interestingly surreal, people just smile and enjoy it. If you d it tot mess with people in a mean, unkind way, they’re just going to ignore you, and possibly ask you to leave. You’re not going to break Steampunk, or any other genre, by messing with its “logic”. This is a world of imagination; it’s everyone’s imagination, not just yours!
And that means that, with every action you take inside the genre, the community will tend to seek things which will make the community better and happier, and tend to reject things which are like the make you less happy. (There are of course examples of politics, drama, and people acting quite badly. I don’t mean to suggest that every scene is idyllic. But I do genuinely both believe that worlds of the imagination, given the choice, will go positive; and that if there’s negative and pain, our response should be to fight the causes of that pain–not to give up and just say, “Well, it’s drama, so I don’t want to be a part of it”.)
If I was the imagination are not yet as free and open accepting as they could be, then let’s focus on getting them to that place!)
What kind of Steampunk do you want to be a part of? What kind of Steampunk community do you want to see? That choice rests, not on some unknown mass of people or even on local politics. Ultimately, in the age of information and the Internet, that choice rests solely with you.
There’s nothing more steampunk than the plants that grow through cracks in concrete. Nothing can contain us and none can tame us. We make. We grow. We listen. HUMANWINE’s Mother has new songs for us.
I’m going to make a confession: I don’t know that much about fashion, even Steampunk fashion. And I’ve been a part of Steampunk fashion shows for nearly ten years now.
It feels rather wonderful, to tell you the truth.
I don’t mean that I’m proud of ignorance, or that I’m disrespecting knowledge of style – not at all. It’s just that I can ask these questions:
What is Steampunk fashion?
What era should Steampunk fashion portray?
What values should Steampunk fashion reflect? Victorian? Present-day?
…and feel really safe not knowing the answers.
I’m not like that about regular fashion. Do you know what’s in style this season? If you do, your understanding’s way beyond my own. I’ve always felt that, with so-called “real” fashion, that if I didn’t get it, I couldn’t be a part of it.
And that’s not unfair. Style is a specialized knowledge, and if you know what’s current, if you keep up with that whole skillset, you deserve the reward of being seen as someone who understands couture.
But you don’t have to do that in Steampunk.
There’s skill involved in looking splendid; that’s always going to be true. But nobody expects you to know it when you start out; in fact, nobody expects you to know it unless you decide you want to do so.
That’s pretty huge.
Picture a world of fashion with a maximum focus on talent, ability, doing interesting things, and choosing and wearing your clothes well…
….and a MINIMUM focus on drama, snobbery, or being mean to people who know less.
As a cultural phenomenon, this is essentially a new technology. I mean, I know at least a few people who are fashion designers, photographers, and models. Most of them don’t WANT a world that’s socially unkind or cruel. But to some extend, they are–ironically–going against the actual narrative of mainstream fashion as we know it. (There’s a reason why 2014’s hit fashion movie was called “Mean Girls“, not “Nice Women Sharing Good Clothing Advice With Each Other”.)
Having a method of finding and creating fashion, while dodging some of its most unkind aspects, is a little bit on the revolutionary side.
Steampunk keeps doing that. It has an odd advantage: we choose to do it, so we can choose to keep things that we like about the “regular” world, and discard at least some of those we dislike. This gives Steampunk fashion a serious advantage. After all, there’s tough competition to be the top fashion in a particular year; there have to be winners and losers. Steampunk embodies something like a century, and more than that, it’s an imaginary century. The Top Steampunk Fashions of my imaginary Steampunk world don’t have to be the Top Steampunk Fashions of YOUR imaginary world. They don’t have to compete; they can compliment each other.
What do I know about Steampunk fashion? I get to enjoy it, and I don’t need to worry that I’ll get it “wrong”. I love that.
Professor Mark P. Donnelly (S.S.S./ E.A.A./ B.F.H.S./ S.W.A.S.H.) has been studying armed combat in various incarnations since the age of thirteen. After years of research and training in the disparate disciplines of western martial arts, sport fencing, stage combat, tournament fighting and eastern martial disciplines, he moved from the US to England in 1996 to undertake a PhD in Medieval Archaeology through York and Oxford Universities.
Professor Donnelly is joining us for several events this year, more information coming soon!
“I’m sure life would be quite worth living without bacon; but I have no intention of finding out.”
-Steampunk Oscar Wilde
Here’s another recipe from The Steampunk Cookbook!
Bacon is rather like Steampunk: People keep saying that people will get tired of it, or that it will become overexposed. As we’ve seen, the opposite has happened. People seldom even go around talking about how bacon makes everything better; it’s just something that everyone knows, just as we know that absinthe causes inspiration, the best green cheese comes from explorations of the Moon, and top hats look better with goggles on them.
This is another of our extra-easy recipes, and that’s a good thing; we recommend making several batches, because we can pretty much guarantee that a horde of Steampunks will descend upon you and eat every single scrap. It’s quite flexible, too; it can go anywhere from movie night, to the gaming table, to a sophisticated cocktail party.
Yield: 1 dozen
Skill Level: 2
8 slices bacon
1 tomato, chopped
½ onion, chopped
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 (16 ounce) can refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease a mini muffin pan.
In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until evenly brown. Drain on paper towels.
Lightly sauté the onion in about a teaspoon of the bacon fat until it just starts to turn clear. Set aside.
Crumble bacon into a medium mixing bowl, and mix with tomato, onion, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise and basil.
Separate biscuits into halves horizontally. Place each half into cups of the prepared mini muffin pan. Fill each biscuit half with the bacon mixture.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Waves of steam are, as always, a plus.
I know some people who talk about having done Steampunk for literally several decades. I can’t trace it back that far myself; while I fell in love with K.W. Jeter’s “Infernal Devices” when it came out in 1987, I had no idea that his “Mad Victorian Fantasy” (as the cover put it) would spawn an entire Universe.
But I’ve been a part of the active Steampunk community for over a decade now, and doing Steampunk events for almost that long. I’m starting to see people meet at our events, fall in love, get married, and have children. And then they bring the children to events. And that leaves us with a fascinating question:
What world do we want for Steampunk kids?
Ordinarily, when someone talks about the kind of world orthe kind of future you want for our offspring, it is in reference to some titanic question of legality or ethics or perceived morality. It’s also used not infrequently as a judgment, sometimes by people who suggest that the actions of others might set a bad example. Those are gigantic issues, and that’s not what I’m talking about.
(Besides, I’m pretty sure I am a bad example. I fear that if your kids take after me, they will grow weird. Be warned!)
I’m talking of something that is both smaller in scope, and yet oddly has more far reaching implications then many arguments which might take place on national or even global scale.
We, all of us, all the people participating in Steampunk–we are the people creating Steampunk. And that means that we actually truly get to decide what kind of Steampunk world we want to leave our kids.
That is such a rare thing. It’s hard to have a true legacy that will affect an entire culture, and what Steampunk is not as big as or far-reaching as the mainstream world, it is still a living, vivacious, irrepressible culture that is deeply meaningful to us. Whether you do Steampunk for a living, like I do, or are just a hobbyist who picks it up sometimes for fun (both of which are perfectly fine and neither of which is better than another)-–
Either way, you, you right there, whoever you are.… You are part of deciding what steampunk should be.
Because who else makes the rules? It’s all of us. We’re all deciding what Steampunk should be, when it could be, what it will do, how we will act.
What will that be? It’s not up to me. It’s up to all of us. But I can tell you some of what I think it should be.
Steampunk should be inclusive. It should recognize, welcome, and accept people of all sorts, all backgrounds, all races and identities and political views and orientations.
Steampunk should be friendly. I don’t mean you have to like everyone in Steampunk, or be friends with everyone. Just that we should generally acknowledge that what we seek is warmth, cordiality, a genuine willingness to accept and meet others. It’s okay to be shy, it’s okay to be antisocial, but there have definitely been social movements which prided themselves on guarding the gates to their worlds very jealously. (For example, I was a Punk in my youth, and the Punk movement had a lot of reasons why it had a lot of distrust and a lot of questions about who was a “real” or a “sincere” Punk. I’m not saying it was wrong for doing so; it had good reasons.) But we’re not that kind of Punk.* We are Steampunks.
Steampunk should look after and respect our creators. It’s a difficult and challenging thing to get away from the mainstream audience and tried to build something in a small, peculiar world many people haven’t even heard of. When you find someone who does that, give that person support, be it financial, or recognition, or maybe just some cookies.
Steampunks should respect each other. It’s easy to tear someone else down. It’s also easy for a subculture or genre to tear itself apart by being judgmental. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any sort of standards, I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about effort or energy or investment of time and resources. I’m just saying that we have very little to gain, very much lose, by opening ourselves up to needless fighting.
And Steampunks should recognize this thing: that each of us really is a part of something which is affected by all of us. Our actions, for better or for worse, have consequences on an entire world of other humans. That’s something I think about all the time. Whether or not you think about it is up to you. But I find that, for me at least, it helps add a lot of meaning to this odd, wonderful Universe that we’re building.
(As a sidenote: Punk was, among other things an anti-commercial movement. It distrusted the possible financial motives of a lot of its participants. It feared that the movement might be co-opted by those without that core ethos; and it was probably right. Punk was–and still is–a nihilistic expression of anger. Steampunk is an expression of a fiercely weird joy. They’re both passions; they’re just very different passions.)
“There’s nothing like a murder to enliven a party, except, perhaps, for two murders.”
If I had a shilling for every time a Steampunk asked me, “Jeff, how do I figure out whether or not there’s poison in my tea?”, I’d have….three shillings and a ha’penny. Which would be fairly unfortunate for me, as I live in New Jersey and have no idea what a shilling is. (I believe a “ha’penny” is a kind of ham sandwich.)
Still, given my considerable experience in this area, I’ve developed a few criteria which might be helpful.
To determine whether your tea is lethal, or simply full of the usual arrangement of boiled leaves, ask yourself some of the following questions?
- Are you the heir to a deeply substantial fortune, one which has caused decades of family trouble and strife? Was the tea possibly brought to you in a suspiciously deferential manner by someone whose last friendly interaction with you was in 1827? Are your relatives lined up in an anxious row on the other side of your door, eagerly awaiting the ominous “thump” of your lifeless body hitting a very expensive carpet?
- Does your beverage taste strongly of arsenic? And if so, why in heaven do you know what arsenic tastes like, and how are you even reading this?
- Has the liquid within your teacup melted through said teacup, and the plate underneath, and the floor beneath that, and is it currently bubbling, hissing, and rapidly dissolving everything below it until it reaches the molten centre of the Earth?
- When you attempt to sip your refreshing beverage, do you find yourself grabbed by a highly inconvenient tentacle which appears to be emanating from within the libation itself?
- Are you now a ghost, standing over your corpse, examining the potation which brought about your demise and attempting to figure out how to fire your butler from beyond the grave?
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes”, then I fear you have, indeed, most likely had your tea poisoned. Congratulations! You now know the answer to your question! I do hope it helps. If this is not actually of assistance to you, I recommend switching to coffee.
Sir Reginald Pikedevant wrote a song, of which you may be familiar, entitled, “Just Glue Some Gears On It And Call It Steampunk (video above). His objective was to criticize what he saw as a cheapening of Steampunk through making it too easy, overusing the category, or taking something from outside of the Steampunk era and trying to fit it under that umbrella.
My dear Sir Reginald: I am guilty, and I am not sorry.
It’s a brilliant song. I disagree with many parts of it, particularly Sir Reginald’s primary definition of Steampunk itself; as you might know, I am pretty vocal in arguing that Steampunk is NOT “Victorian science fiction. (On the other hand, his advice on how to create Steampunk – “blend antique Reality with Imagination” – is perhaps the best and most concise way I have ever heard that sentiment expressed.) And as I mentioned, I’ve done all of the things that the song forbids.
In defense of the tune, the video came out in 2011. There was a lot we didn’t know about Steampunk, and most of us had this particular misconception: We thought that Steampunk needed to be protected from imitation. We thought that if Steampunk started popping up everywhere, people would get tired of it. And this, in turn, was based on an understandable but totally incorrect fear: we thought that, if more people did Steampunk, or decided what they were doing was Steampunk, it would stretch Steampunk too thin, as if it were a rubber band, and eventually it would snap.
That didn’t happen.
Because Steampunk is NOT that rubber band, stretching to a breaking point. If Steampunk is some kind of office supply, it’s a refillable pen. And we use it to create a series of sketches, writings, maps–even doodles and notes.
Does Steampunk have an end? Depends on whom you ask. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to finish off Sherlock Holmes–and then, for many reasons, bringing him back, effectively from the dead, in a series of stories which rival the best Holmesian work. Now modern authors are taking a swing at the great detective. I consider some of the modern Holmes work to be brilliant, some of it to be beyond terrible, and some of it to be so unexpected and offbeat that I can’t classify it. Sherlock Holmes is a mythic force, animated so long as humans decide there are still stories to tell. Steampunk is the same thing: it is a modern mythology, and that mythology is bounded, not by whether or not we’ve simply “glued” symbols onto something, but by whether or not we create compelling ideas with it.
Go forth. Glue some gears on something. Call it Steampunk, if you want; if your idea is creative enough, powerful enough, funny enough, or simply interesting enough, it will become legend.
Specifically – from now until Monday, use code “steamdrunk” to take $5 off ANY drinking event at The Steampunk World’s Fair or Dark Side of the Con – in fact, you can even use it for BOTH! That includes the Steampunk Absinthe Party and the Steampunk Social, as well as the Speakeasy events at Dark Side Of The Con!
This sale assuredly will not last, unless you have a time machine. So do get yours today!
Would you like a carefully-chosen Steampunk gift which shows that someone has given a lot of thought to what will make you happy? That’s unfortunate, because instead, we’ve come to give you…
The Five Worst Steampunk Gifts
#5. A device which converts any fully-functional smartphone into a broken telegraph. Telegraphs are AWESOME. I would, however, be very sad to replace my phone with such a thing. I might enjoy having BOTH, but that’s a different story.
Plus, I don’t know Morse Code, which would make telegraphing quite difficult.
#4. Steam Powered Steam. This is not a gift. This is an appetizer to the least-satisfying dinner of your life.
#3. Invitation to the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse. (Actually, I think this would be an incredible gift. Until such time as zombies ate your brains, of course, at which point your appreciation would likely diminish considerably.
#2. A book of Nikola Tesla’s favorite recipes. I love Tesla and would never say a word against him, but in his later life, he ate nothing but milk, honey, bread, and vegetable juice. AND…no coffee, ever! I would perish.
#1. The Kraken. The Kraken is the most terrifying thing within the seven seas, and its vast tentacles could pull a hundred ships into a swirling maelstrom of the deepest waters with ease. It is enormous, implacable, and always, always hungry. It is one of the most fascinating and wondrous beasts in the world. However, it still makes a terrible present. For one thing, it will eat your entire family in the blink of its single great eye; for another, it’s very, vary hard to gift wrap.