Friday, April 29, 2011

Kali's Hourglass Starring in Steampunk Murder Mystery Play

The Difference Engine is an all “Steampunk” convention that has a one day event in the summer and a three day event on New Year’s Eve weekend.  This event will not only immerse you in the creative world of the retro-futuristic imagination, but it will be totally unique among Steampunk Conventions!  This will be the first ever interactive and all “Steampunk” Murder Mystery Theatre event!  the murder mystery play will be written adn performed by the crew of the Steampunk Sailing Ship Kali's Hourglass.

The first event will be “The Difference Engine One day Summit” on June 4th, 2011 where  “Delegates” (from sovereign nations),  “airship pirates”, and other “special interests” from around the world meet to try to purchase plans for a “Difference Engine” computer (historical device) with full military application software (fictional), so the weekend is guaranteed to be a Machiavellian playground!  All participants will be invited into the concert hall for “Meetings with the Admirals” five times during the event. (Each meeting will be one act of the murder mystery play!)  In between acts of the play, you will be enlightened by panels on a variety of topics related to Steampunk and entertained by performers offering dancing and song.  There will also be a large vendors area, console gaming, table top gaming, Steampunk Movies, photography in Steampunk Attire, and a full Steampunk Fashion show voted on by the attendees.  During all of this clues to the various murders will be left around the premises and those turning in the most useful reports or clues to security will win a prize for sleuthing.  Naturally if they actually lead to an arrest, a prize is guaranteed, otherwise, those turning in the most clues win 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes.  After all of this and the conclusion of the play, there will be a dance!  Steampunk Attire is strongly encouraged, but optional.  

The second event, “The Difference Engine World Conference” on Dec. 30th, 2011 through Jan. 1st, 2012, will be similar in form, but will include a lot more panels, authors, and performers, including a performance by Marquis of Vaudville, and a little more formally attired Steampunk New Year’s Eve Party and Dance with a ‘Steampunk” ball drop at midnight.  We hope you will go to our website and see how you can become an active part of these fully interactive dramatic events!

The Difference Engine Summit Schedule

                 Concert Hall (200 cap.)       Lecture Hall w/A/V (100 cap. )      Training Room (50 cap.)       War Room (25 cap.)  

10 am     Registration and opening vendor,  gaming, and film rooms                

11 am     Act One and intro of delegates (open to concert hall)                       

12 pm     Intro to Steampunk ASI      Intro to basic Waltz              Character Creation-Cel Rogues                       (open)

1 pm     Comedic Magic act         Character Creation-Adena Tamer            Leatherworking ASI                  Eva Gordon-reading

2 pm     Act Two                             short films

2:30 pm     Weapon Mods ASI                    Dieselpunk-L. Amyett          Lighting Gadgets-Cel Rogues          OM Grey-Reading

3:30 pm      Saraswati Boddhisatva             Weapon/Gadgets- Steve Liptak            Corsets ASI                    Eva Gordon-writing

4 pm     Act Three         short films

5:00 pm     Tribal Belly Dancing                 SP Inventions-James Moran           Acting ASI?         Marquis of Vaudville Q&A

6:00 pm     Voodoo Island Cannibals         open to concert hall                    Clockpunk       OM Grey-getting published

7 pm     Act Four                                           open to concert hall      

7:30 pm     Fashion Show                          open to concert hall          
8:30 pm     Fashion Show                          open to concert hall                (open)

9:30 pm     Act Five and Conclusion                       

10:30 pm     Waltz                      open to concert hall          

11:00 pm to 2 am Dance with DJ “Son of Sam",                                            OM Grey – Reading (Steamy Romance)  
playing Darkwave, Steampunk, and various other dance music

Admiral Ramon Selected to Host TV Series "Night Class"

Night Class-Aliester Graves-Professor of Mortuary Sciences

  Last night (10-7-2010) I spent about 4 hours, with some film department students at Univ. of North Texas, just to get about 3 minutes of actual film, but it was a very important 3 minutes and they wanted it just right.  I was portraying a mad professor that is sort of a cross of Professor  Snape (from Harry Potter) Hannibal Lector, and Dr Frankenstein, who is actually the host of a series of vignettes rather like Hitchcock presents, Night Gallery, Twilight Zone, tor that sort of thing, but with a campy spoofed horror show quality to the vignettes.  The series is called "Night Class" and my character is an eccentric, and obviously tenured, professor of mortuary sciences at the fictional "university" who blends sarcasm, insanity, and a touch of sadism (toward his students anyway) in a campy, but intense introduction and closing of each episode.

We were originally contacted by a friend, who is directing this series, about making a special prop for the first show.  They need everything to be perfect as the film is not only for a grade, but is being submitted to the university's TV station as a pilot for a continuing show which will air, locally at least, as well as on the internet.
Making the prop and/or costumes, was no problem as we do that routinely, but then he asked about playing the main villain of the first show.  He is a campy, stereotypical mad scientist.  I won't tell you anything that is a spoiler for the show, but what is important is that they needed someone that was middle aged and experienced to play the mad scientist as they do not have talented enough makeup people yet to do a really good job of making a teen look old, and the actor would have to be able to move like a crotchety old man.  I was able to fill the bill and it sounded like fun, even though all my acting has been stage, rather than film, which is much more different than you would think.  My film experience has been strictly educational videos, which are sufficient to get one over the surprisingly intense and bizarre phenomenon of camera fright, but is very undemanding in terms of lighting, role playing, sound quality etc.  I didn't, for example, have to do retakes every time I left out the 4th inclusion of the word "but" as the first word of a sentence, which they were using repeatedly as a transition phrase in a sentence (in a 90 second bit of film) which my good breeding (academically that is) and creative writing editor/tutor experience rebelled against subconsciously.

Well one morning about 6 am, I get a call, no several calls, on my cell phone.  Fortunately we are up around that time, just not very awake yet. The director tells me that while he is certain I would do a great job as the mad scientist, he had a film student that worked so hard on doing such an excellent audition with excellent body language (translate that as a 20 something guy actually able to make you believe he was an old man without any make up-a truly rare talent)  He didn't want to change me to a different character, but also didn't want to turn down a student that did such an excellent prep for the part, when this was essentially a film department project.  I told him immediately that I agreed wholeheartedly!  Instead he wanted me to do the other "old guy" role, which was also a bit bizarre and difficult, but a much shorter role with far fewer lines as he didn't get anyone talented enough to audition for that role that he thought could pull it off.  I agreed immediately.  The catch was, that part was filming in 48 hours and I hadn't read the part at all.  I also had to work a full time job and take care of a 9 year old while preparing for this.  All perfectly normal insanity for the world of semi-pro drama!!!  Drama being the catch phrase here!  Most actors actually get money to pay bills by some other means that is flexible enough to allow them to do roles when they can get them.  They also have to accept unpaid roles (like this one) at times in order to gain experience and build a resume.  Fortunately, I have no ambition to do acting as anything other than fun, so I'm not under the level of pressure those people are, but it's still pretty crazy!

So....let me take you through my experience on a film set, well...lets say, the budget version of a film set on location.  They had pretty good professional equipment, and generally knew how to use it, but were not experienced enough to get such an extremely difficult lighting concept to work quickly.  In other words I sat there talking to myself for about 90 minutes while they attempted to both increase and decrease the room lighting at the same time and use spotlights without getting visible shadows.  Absurd right?

Keep in mind that I started reading the part only 48 hours prior and got so overwhelmed with other duties, I didn't get to actually learn and practice it until 24 hours ahead.  It was short, so that shouldn't be a problem, and realistically, sleeping on a memorized piece definitely does not help you retain it.  As such, I decided to mostly memorize it the day of the shoot.  That would be fine, but I had to do this while driving to work and to the shoot after work with a short practice at lunch.  I used a tape recording of my own voice reading the script in character as using a paper script while driving pretty much ensured dying before the filming.  That actually worked pretty well except that my wife convinced me to use her nifty miniature digital recorder which has really small buttons with really small print on them and I can't read at that print size without reading glasses which magnify too much for me to drive.  What a dilemma!  It would have been fine using something familiar as I could hit the rewind and play buttons by feel.  Note to self:  listen to self when getting a funny feeling that using something new is a bad idea when pressed for time. Fortunately it really was an excellent little device that worked well once I learned to find the buttons and get around it's very different way of organizing recordings into files.

I also used the paper copy as I recall things better if I say the lines while looking at the words in print.  It has to do with having visually linked or heavily visually oriented memory.  Actually I am even more "feeling oriented" than visual, but could not seem to get the piece of paper or the recording device to send out any empathic emotional patterns to register or get any physical tactile props to work with while driving.  As such staring intently at the words on paper and burning them into my memory while saying them with feeling was my best memory device, but I was still forced to use auditory memory, my worst learning style, most of the time as it was all I could do while driving, without crashing the car.  This is why I would not have agreed if it had been a long part with so little time, on scheduled working days, to prep.

It all worked out.By the time I was able to get in front of a camera, I was rearing to go!  Of course that was after I found them after walking the halls, rather strangely dressed and carrying a bag with something moving in it, (my therapy dog which I use in my psychology practice)  through a 4 story Biology Building while classes were going on and looking for an apparently invisible film crew.  Professors were quite surprised when I asked if they had seen a film crew as the guys setting up were being very stealthy about it so as to avoid disturbing any classes.  I was given the room number, but had left it and my cell phone at home while grabbing everything else, included the afore mentioned super ray-gun prop they needed later, and getting my son to school while running out the door.   I finally found them and learned that my phone would not have helped even if I had it as they have to all put their phones off or on absolutely silent mode as even vibrate runs a big risk of a retake due to sound pollution.

I faltered only slightly on the first run through (which isn't filmed) and was pretty smooth after that. The biggest problem I was having at this point was that I could nto get even a moment to discuss the character and delivery approach to the lines with the director before I was in front of the camera, because he was too busy trying to fix lighting problems to talk to me about the part at all until after we were ready to film.  In the end I just asked for a "campy level rating" that he wanted from 1-10 and then went for it, allowing him to observe my interpretation then tell me what to speed up, slow down, or do differently in what way.  It was a clumsy and uncomfortable way to hash out a character and a style delivery, but we were pressed for time and the narrator didn't actually have a character description to work with, but he needed to have a strong character in order to make this lead in, the very first thing the audience sees in the show, intense rather than passive, so we really worked on it! 

As I started the first run through, they discovered that putting intensity and a touch of madness into the lines, which they really liked, sometimes caused volume spikes that would distort the sound recording.  They then had me repeat this one line about a million times...well OK, maybe only 10 or 20 times, while they tried to find a way to keep the line intensity without spiking the volume into the red without turing volume down too low for other parts.  In the end they had to train the "boom operator", the poor guy stuck holding a mike up on a 10 foot pole above my head for 3 hours, how to anticipate my lines and pull the mike away from me right before the two loudest parts.  As that wasn't going so well, I suggested I face down at my desk on the loudest line to disperse the sound and avoid the spike in volume hitting the mike which was over my head.  They agreed, and it solved the problem, so we could get to the actual lines before by brain went to mush and I forgot them all.(actually they still had to use the boom lifting technique later as I slammed a book down on my desk in a very "Professor Snape" (angry, sarcastic, professor) like move to startle the students into attentiveness before stating something very important, so I had to do several takes extra while they worked on learning new recording and boom mike techniques.

Most of the problems with lines had to do with articles, conjunctions (yes kids we are back to Sesame Street's wonderful grammar rock, but only because the script wanted me to do what I had 50 years of training not to do!), and the ever present run-on sentences that usually started with the word "but".  They said it was a good lead in that helped to shift the tone.  They were right!  This is a place where art and grammar just don't mix!  Just don't bother trying to tell your English teacher that unless he/she is also a closet dramatic theater type or they will just label you "rebellious" and treat you like all the other creative type individuals in the public school system.  Well at least now you just get a bad grad instead of a whipping or the stocks, so I guess that really is a little progress over the last few centuries!

After about two hours of this non-stop grind and retakes because of camera angel, camera focus, insufficient head clearance in the shot, or most frustrating of all ... a retake because a lock of my hair , which was purposely pulled forward and disheveled, falling in my face!  While on stage I would have simply brushed it aside and considered it added realism, with a director who wants the best possible film, he is likely to cut and splice the hell out of things that he wants 3 (at a minimum) perfect or near perfect shots of everything, so he can pick the best, most intense, and most dramatically interesting pieces to splice together.  As such, if a book, my lgasses, my hands, my hair or anything relaly noticeable was out of place, he yeleld cut and re did the take so it would not look like my hair teleported or something if he spiced sections fo the scenes.  He wasn't really being obsessive about this.  He was only doing retakes if it was something pretty obvious, but it happened a lot even when I got the lines and delivery perfect for them.

After two hours of this, I started leaving out lines, reversing things in a line, reversing order of lines, and finally just blanked totally on a line I knew had to be there, and worse couldn't recall what came after it.  My back was also starting to hurt from hours of driving, working a full day, and sitting on backless chairs, while under stress for 3 and a half hours (counting the wait time while they fussed with the very complex lighting setup.  I told them I needed to get up and walk a bit, get some water, and get some kind of protein to settle my blood sugar.  They agreed.  Fortunately I remembered that I'm hypoglycemic and ate two bean burritos on the way there, while driving and trying not to ruin my costume with the hot sauce by wearing my sun visor as a lap protector in the car.  This was before trying to rehearse lines using the mini tape recorder etc of course.  Unfortunately it was wearing off, and I was nibbling on Altoid mints (you can't really eat anything while filming as you can imagine what the voice sounds liek with a mouthful of anything.  Hard candies in your mouth while speaking are almost worse, but I was having minor allergy problems which distort your voice, so I had to use water sips and Altoids to keep my voice more clear, and the sugar int he Altoids, plus the intense mental processing was causing my insulin to rise and my brain glucose to fall to the point where I couldn't remember lines that I had down cold when I arrived.

Fortunately, a short walk, a stretch, half a bag of spicy Cheetos (nuts would have been better, but I was also trying to clear my vocal chords of allergy symptoms) and some slow deep breathing to get rid of the adrenaline surge caused by frustration with myself blanking on a line got me ready to resume in less than five minutes.  Apparently the crew needed a break too, so they weren't unhappy with me insisting on one.  I should mention that I get frustrated and a little irritable if i mess up any line, but actually blanking out on lines all together is terrible, because you can't recall where the plot is supposed to go enough to just fake it and continue on.  This could be potentially fatal to a stage production, but no big deal on film-the one real saving grace in fact that makes all the other insanity of film almost worthwhile.

On stage, most of the re-takes, which don't' exist at all actually, would never have been necessary.  Lighting, is not so difficult.  Sound is normally dependent on a good set of vocal chords, actors that can project their voice, and patrons buying good seats so they are close enough to hear rather than complicated microphone systems.  There is also no need to take at least 5 really good shots of everything (3 standard-good takes, 1 close up, and 1 at greater distance to permit pasting together something from multiple angles and views with only one camera when a full film crew is unavailable) , so I was unaccustomed to this regime.  On the other hand, really freezing on a line, where you dont' just stumble a little, then pick up the next line or at least make something up until you remember the lines, can cause an entire professional show to get bad reviews and be canceled.  In other words, after millions of dollars in production costs, you can make a single mistake that causes hundreds of people to suddenly lose their jobs, and worse , their chance at fame, and ruin your own career and reputation in the bargain.  No pressure.  Really!At least in film, grueling as it is, anything, and I mean anything, can be fixed!

In the end, we got something that they were extremely happy with for the introduction/lead in to the show, and for the closing sequence that sets it up for another episode if they can sell the pilot (quality programming wise as there is never any actual money involved in University TV channel programming even though they do agree to advertise in the credits and elsewhere for funding.)  Actually the script calls for commercial breaks, but I thought they intended to put in spoof commercials to be funny, not real ones.  Maybe I'm wrong and they actually intend to have commercials to finance the TV station.  What a crazy world performance art can be!
Did I mention the line where I had to deliver the most tongue twisting and literally confusing "Chemistry Professor" quote the director could find, as fast as possible?  Imagine trying to say "Quickly, name 8 common synthetic, organic polymers.  Go!"  really fast with a straight face!   Remember, we had been doing this for about 2 and a half hours before we got to that part, so my tongue, or rather brain, was exhausted already, but I made sure it looked like a sadistic pleasure on the crazed professor's face just the same!

If they pick up the series, I was informed after the fact, that they will be calling me about once per month to do all of this again for each of the vignettes they produce.  What fun!  Hopefully it will get easier each time.

Below is a copy of a practice session.  It got refined about 40 or 50 times by the time it made the film, but it will give you an idea of my part as the show's host.  The first is the opening sequence and the second is the closing sequence before it fades to black.  You click on the link, go where it takes you, then click where it says download.  If you have speakers on or headphones plugged in it will play on your computer.

Trailer below:
(opening sequence practice session, not yet in final form-audio only)
(closing sequence practice session, audio only)

All Convention Reviews Now Posting on Convention Fans Blog Magazine

I have been accepted as the on site reporter for South Central US Anime and Steampunk Conventions by Convention Fans Blog Magazine on the condition that I meet their strict writing guidelines which include giving them exclusive access to the articles they publish.  In order to meet that condition, I will simply publish my reviews of conventions and some similar events on their site, as well as some convention celebrity interviews, and link to the article from my blog here.

Suggestions On How To "Steampunk" Your Outfit

I am receiving requests from some performers we have recruited for the first “Difference Engine” Steampunk Convention for advice about appropriate attire.   I would be happy to advise, but this is supposed to be fun, and the only real rule is “play nice with others”.  Actually there is a second rule, sort of, that defies making rules about anything else.  The punk part is not only a rebellion against modern corporate attempts to turn us all into blindly obedient mindless consumer zombies, but also against anyone trying force their views or rules on other people’s efforts at creative self expression.  As such, this is all purely advice about what is common and most likely to be highly appreciated by many in the Steampunk Sub-culture and it’s many sub-genres, but there is no set rule about what is right or wrong for Steampunk ensembles and the “punk” aspect partly refers to the fact that we fully intend as a group to keep it that way!

There are no firm and fast rules for this, but I was asked to put together a list of general suggestions that would not be so much expensive as creative solutions to making any outfit more "Steampunk".  Naturally it helps if you know what type of character, time period and character type you are wanting to represent already.  Others may simply focus on using an inexpensively obtained, or easily altered item they already own that is interesting enough they want to base the rest of their primary ensemble around it.  Either approach works.

Steampunk ensembles are effectively taking historical period clothing and adding science fiction elements to them as intentional anachronistic elements.  They should also show a strong leaning toward adventure and preparedness for anything!  Weapons that are time period are just a functional part of the historical ensemble.  Futuristic weapons or gadgets are needed (at least a little) to point out that science fiction is going on in the outfit.  Some people choose to ignore that on purpose and bring out the futuristic stuff occasionally, but just brazen through on attitude the rest of the time.  

Almost any type of attire from a time period earlier than the 1900s will work.  This would include Celtic attire, such as kilts, or event the modern kilts or utilikilts, but really, anything with tiny pleats or a totally flat front, while appropriate, is a more dieselpunk era or post-apocalyptic era style  (mentioned later) as opposed to "Age of Steam" style.  Victorian era style, or more appropriately called simply Colonial Style (referring to the fact that all the nations of Europe tried to use superiors military power to conquer others and enslave whole cultures for profit) refers to the clothing style of the 1800s and most often European styles.   In these styles men almost always wore vests, often in bold colors, but with slacks and jackets of darker and more severe colors due to the amount of coal dust and soot in the air of industrial cities that would “grey down” brighter colors on outer layers of clothing.   For those choosing to avoid the whole Colonialism idea in their work, the term "Age of Steam" works, but suggests that the culture they choose to focus on is indeed experimenting heavily in this steam power technology as well in their characterization story even though they may (as we always do) portray groups that fight against imperial expansionism rather than in support of it.  Some of the clothing styles; however, may still relate to your characterization regardless.
For women:  Ladies wore very elaborate gowns, often with “hoop skirts”, gloves, hats, etc, but only for those that could afford servants to handle things too hard to manage in such attire.  Corsets were worn, but hidden then, but now we wear them on top of clothing both to show off the most expensive  (for a good one) item and to rebel against “Victorian” rules of propriety, but other rules about courtesy are actually supposed to be observed with the corsets outside of clothing as an interesting extreme out of place element turned on it’s head as what is most desirable rather than most scandalous.  All the more reason to buy a good one as they worn often and for long periods of time.  An economical option is to get a good black Waist cincher style that comes up to just below the bust as it will go with almost anything.  Bloomers and striped nylons with garters were very common, but only ladies of the evening, or modern Steampunks, would lift their skirts high enough to see them.  We do it pretty much constantly making a good pair of skirt lifters almost essential unless wearing a formal gown or hoop skirt.  Skirt lifters can either be the older style with 2 D rings or the easier and more sure to hold style with clips on each end available in many sewing stores, but they should be decorated with Steampunk styles such as leather, brass, gears, etc. as they will be clearly visible.  Bloomers can be made easily by cutting off a pair of pajama pants, (men’s often have more historically used colors and patterns, but use what you like) then sewing on a bit of lace at the end.  If it is sewn to where the lace still has a bit of the cloth under it, the lace is less likely to be scratchy.  Sometimes a sleeve is sewn in for a drawstring made of decorative ribbon or the ribbon is woven through a piece of lace and used as a drawstring to "bloom" or "balloon" the bloomers.

Top hats are commonly used as they were a symbol of power, money, and prestige at the time, realistically bowler hats, of the middle class were much more common.  The poor wore what they could find, but it was more often a worn bowler hat, straw hat, or sailor cap of some type.  As we are doing this for fun, people most often dress more upper class or military.  Why?  Simply because, unlike the real people of history,  they can.  Ladies hats go from stylish, to ridiculously elaborate on purpose, though that came later in the 1800s, but it certainly did happen.  

Then there are the people recreating styles of “Fops” who intentionally overdress in the most expensive materials and the gaudiest colors and styles possible just  to show off that they can.  Such people historically dressed this way to show that they had more money than some of the royalty and were present at every major gathering, but not particularly popular.  It is a rather fun and interesting character to portray however, and allows one to intentionally violate almost every convention of good taste imaginable, since they did this on every level.  It would be a mistake however, to portray this character in a manner that actually offends or upsets people though, as unlike the historical “Fops” we actually don’t fawn over rich people and only respond well to those that are kind and supportive of one another, so our “Fop” characters are generally just loudly dressed, but otherwise very well behaved, except maybe in comedic plays.

While all of these Eurocentric “Victorian era” or “Colonial Era” styles are quite appropriate and very common, we actually encourage regular rebellion against this style and trying out styles from other cultures or other parts of the world as well as from other times and places, but there are some in the community that may look at this as cultural misappropriation if not done in an educated and respectful manner.  It is impossible to please everyone, so use your own best judgment and wear what you like and fell most comfortable wearing that is still interesting and some type of historical period attire.  

A safer option to dress differently is to go for a completely different time period which would put you in one of the many well loved sub genres.  If it is a style older than 1800, it is called “Clockpunk and tends to emphasize clockwork gears even more than usual as that is the age where clockwork is paramount and prior to the age of steam, where more modern gadgets, made with older materials and workmanship style began to appear.  The most common styles of this are sometimes called “Pirate Punk” if the ensemble looks like those seen at “Pirate Festivals”, but with a few futuristic weapons and gadgets attached or the “Steam Nautical” which can be almost any type of sailor from older eras, but usually military naval commanders, as without enough rank and medals (and sometimes even then) bystanders tend to often call anyone nautical looking a “Pirate”.  Even older styles appear in actual Renaissance Festival Garb (which works beautifully for this, but is a bit unusual so far-we are actively trying to change that) with once again, time period weapons mixed with futuristic ones and gadgets as well as goggles, though the hat can stay period appropriate and probably should.

Actually even the early part of the 1900s, such as roaring twenties gangster wear or WWI soldier/sailor, is also very appropriate as a sub genre called Dieselpunk.  This style is loved for it’s adventuresome attitude and the fact that famous figures from that time tended to “ooze glamor and class from every pore”.  It could also include the hard nosed detective types, but often with very unusual weapons or gadgets under their trench coat and sometimes chasing mythical monsters as often as normal criminals.

Wild West Steampunk is the same time period as "Victorian Era", but set in the American old west.  As such one should start with something that appears in "Western films" and is attired suited to the character they have in mind.  Next add once again futuristic elements to weapons or gadgets.  That may sound complicated, but can involve something as simple as wiring on metal rocket looking attachments to the barrel of your six gun, attaching a miniature flashlight laser pointer to the top as a laser aiming sight, making the bullets glows with fiber optic lights, or plugging the barrel with something that looks like a raygun transmitter and wrapping copper wires and unidentifiable gizmos around the weapon.  Don't forget gadgets, goggles, brass, corseting, compass, etc.

The same can be done with Native American attire, (still roughly falls into Wild West era) but expect to get some that love it and a few that question it if you don't look "Indian enough" for their rather "racially minded" sensibilities.  I am Cherokee, but don't always look it, so I avoid the whole thing if I'm not sure to be surrounded by friends that day.  Southern Native people, such as Aztecs for instance, are far less sensitive, so that style, which we have in abundance as we are formally adopted Aztecs and danced with them for years, we will use much more often.  Extreme abuse of their people by other cultures slackened off about 400 years ago (The Virgin of Guadalupe told them to stop it, thereby explaining why she is so important to us Aztecs).  As that was not the case with Northern Native peoples until about 50 years ago, they and those that believe themselves their cultural protectors, are much more sensitive about "white" looking people wearing their traditional clothing and symbols if they don't know you and know that you are really their friends or relatives.

Post apocalyptic Steampunk refers to a “Mad Max” situation where any fabric or material or technology is appropriate, but civilization has been destroyed so much that return to older methods and technology , like steam engines, became necessary.  While more modern materials etc. are acceptable for this, they are generally avoided as they generally are considered unattractive.  As such you are more likely to see armor that is light weight and includes some football, hockey, or motocross pieces, but stripped to bare framework and covered more in leather and brass for appearance sake.  This tends to be darker in look at times and far more rustic and battle worn.  As modern weapons are standard in post apocalyptic period, they can and should show up with this, but should be offset with futuristic items as well.  What is also common is the addition of barbaric looking medieval hand melee weapons to point out the essential barbarous nature of what civilization has become.  

What is more critical with all of these sub-genres is that you try to wear things that look decently constructed of more natural fabrics and/or leather, and that you add both time period appropriate (matching the type of clothing) accents as well as a few obviously out of time anachronistic, generally futuristic weapons and/or gadgets, preferably both.  This mixes historical flavor with science fiction very intentionally.   If someone were a real time traveler, they would generally have to hide the fact, (thus we are more subtle than some as we pointedly get very into character) but it is far more fun to have some elements glaringly out of time period.  The reason these are generally gadgets or weapons is both because they attract more attention, and because they could be put away or hidden, if necessary, when not in use, but pouches and clothing would be hard to hide, so they should generally fit whatever time period your basic ensemble is set for.  Items that will add "Steampunk" aesthetic generally to any ensemble include, but are not limited to: leather (brown most common as the color just looks better with brass), rivets and buckles (brass preferred, but could be nickel plated-silver)

General ideas to add “Steampunk look to any outfit include the following:  Add brass, leather, buckles, goggles, corseting, spats, and interesting hats as well as anything with gears.  I know that may sound flippant, but it’s true.  How good the finished product comes out depends on the amount of thought and time that goes into how you use these items.  Here are a few suggestions.

 Corseting of any type (lacing going through grommets from two sides to draw in an area of clothing to make it more form fitting) can be added to almost any type of garment that is a bit too large in that area and is sometimes even used as pure adornment such as on a hat. Goggles are extremely important as a sign of preparedness for dust storms, snow storms, driving sleet/rain, or other exotic forms of weather (and can sometimes be made functional as well such as with magnification lenses), a period era hat is desirable that matches the type of clothing worn. 

All shoes should be of natural materials (or at least look like they are) of older manufacture design, and lean toward leather.  Please try to avoid tennis shoes all together, but if foot problems make that impossible, then try to get them in a very dark color and cover them with spats that hide the laces entirely.  Actually spats are preferred for all shoes and garments from 1800s forward, and sometimes before that especially if armored with small plates over leather.  Actual armor pieces such as bracers, greaves, helmets, and especially metallic or robotic arms, legs, etc,  can be made very decorative, yet functional, but need to suit the type of ensemble, character, and look, and It also helps, if appropriate to character type, to add anything related to tools, direction finders (such as compasses, astrolabes, sextants), telescopes, brass, gears, clockwork, and (strangely enough) cephalopods (octopi or squid-relates to one of the best loved early source novels 20,000 leagues under the sea and another symbol of literally being “ready for anything!”)

For Ladies:  Actual Corsets or bodices (similar to corsets, but actually intended as outer wear as opposed to corsets which are worn as outer wear only by very disreputable women historically, but are typical and desirable outer wear in the modern re-imagining of the Steampunk subculture.  This is kind of like the tendency to wear lacy mini skirts (very common with Steampunks), or much better, skirt lifters that draw the front of the skirt up high enough to show off garters holding up the hose, yet still cover the front like a mini skirt.  Bustles are also highly desirable, but can be made cheaply by layering ruffles over an old purse attached to a decorative belt or ribbon that can be tied on at the waist.   It was historically thought to add sex appeal if a woman had plenty in the rear.  Today it is a classic symbol of Steampunk wear and if, as I mentioned you sew it over an old purse (obtainable at any thrift store) it has more thickness and is extra storage.  My wife, who is a bit of a “Pirate Punk Fop” likes to say that she likes to store her “booty” over the booty.  Just an idea.  Do what you like, but have fun doing it!  
Admiral Ramon Leon del Mar,  
1st Admiral, Kali's Hourglass

Kali's Hourglass in the news via Fearcast video of OK Steampunk Expo

Fearcast was interviewing various attendees and performers the first day at the debut of the Oklahoma Steampunk Expo in April 2011.  They briefly interviewed some of our crew at the beginning of the day.

Kali's Hourglass Posts a Video about Promoting the film "Nickel Children"

We filmed a short piece about our reasons for adopting the project of promoting the award winning steampunk western short film "Nickel Children" and why we think all steampunks should support this film in it's efforts to use good art to effect social change.

Steampunk Sailing Ship Kali's Hourglass at Oklahoma Steampunk Expo

Steampunk Convention Debuts in Oklahoma City: A Report from the Oklahoma Steampunk Exposition

20 April 2011 by Ramon Fagan

Contest Winners ("Best Group", I think)

How does one describe the Oklahoma Steampunk Exposition? It was fast paced, confused, hectic, but a whole lot of fun! It was confusing as the guest list changed radically during the last two weeks due to unforeseen financial problems that caused most of the plane tickets for top name celebrities flying in to be canceled. In addition to that, while the online schedule was freely available, the actual printed program didn’t show until partway through the second day, and even then, it was difficult to find out for certain who had canceled and who was still appearing. The schedule was further moved around simply because we were all having too much fun to go to bed on time, so bleary eyed people were still just waking up around the time the first programming was scheduled. Kali’s Hourglass was ready to perform at 10 am on both Saturday and Sunday, but was asked to move it back 1 hour both days due to lack of audience awake enough on Saturday and the failure of the hotel to provide a projector on time on Sunday. In spite of this sort of thing, most people really enjoyed themselves, which in the end, is what this type of event is all about!

Two members of the Hellblinki Sextet

The Hellblinki Sextet performed Friday Evening to an enthusiastic crowd. As they often offer a fusion of jazz, rock, and experimental music, crowd reaction was varied in some areas, but overall extremely positive. Honestly, if you don’t get a few people with a “deer in the headlights look” saying something like “I’m still trying to figure out how much I liked it, because it was so unusual, but it was certainly very interesting”, then you have no business really calling it “experimental music”. They did not disappoint! As such, they made an excellent addition to this year’s lineup!

Unwoman (on right) with V. Adm. Narasimhan

Performances included an excellent set by “Unwoman” who provided hauntingly beautiful melodies and songs both at 3pm (when Psych Corporation was supposed to have performed) and again at 4 pm on Saturday. Her show was very well attended and appreciated, that is until the costume contest began at 4 pm, drawing away most of the attendees. The contest was very popular and had some excellent ensembles as you can see from some of the Flikr site photos, but the scheduling opposite a major concert was unfortunate timing.

Weapon Mods Panel by Airship Isabella

Steve Liptak Inventor and Guest Speaker (in the cafe)

Panels by Airship Isabella included an excellent demonstration and explanation of various modified or “from scratch” Steampunk weapons and gadgets with a guest speaker Steve Liptak (from Airship Nocturne) joining them at their request.  They not only demonstrated their greatest creations, but also gave away secrets about how these marvels were created on a budget!  They also gave a panel explaining their form of Steampunk performance art, their projects, and their involvement in the community.   Naturally their high quality offerings in their vending and display booth were very popular as well.

Kali's Hourglass at the Steampunk Alchemy Panel

Panels from Kali’s Hourglass included “Steampunk Fashion Alchemy”, “Multicultural Steampunk Ensembles”, and “Nickel Children”. The first panel taught a variety of ways to increase or decrease the size of garments while making them much more “Steampunk” in the process as well as how to make interesting and useful weapons and accessories on a very limited budget from almost any sort of junk or left overs. The second actually taught about the vast array of “Steampunk” ensemble options and sub-genres that are now popular, yet are quite different from the original Victorian Eurocentric designs people often think of as “Steampunk”. It also gave a brief explanation of various controversies and ways to overcome them regarding the use of styles inspired by cultures from around the world. This focused mostly on pointing out that culture is everything and that culture is primarily learned rather than born into a person. They also encouraged members of the community to really study cultures to learn how to best honor them, rather than simply borrow from them in ways that might be seen by some as disrespectful if done in a careless manner. The third panel presented the award winning Steampunk Western short film “Nickel Children” and answered questions about it’s creation, purpose, and impact on the Steampunk community and the world today.

Cherie Priest giving a reading From her new book

The event stirred a lot of controversy when so many guests had to cancel due to lack of money for their airfare less than 2 weeks before the show, and there were many other problems with questionable stage conditions, no seating in the concert area, no A/V support, general layout, poor communications before the event, missing programs, missing badges, and very limited security in general. The Program Director (who was also Co-Chair) specifically stated that they plan to use a different venue for next year and to adjust as needed to avoid similar problems next year.  In spite of everything, the volunteer staff and the performers banded together to put on a great show, and make it a really fun event for all those that attended. That may well make up for this year’s limitations enough to bring a much larger crowd back next year.

Cut, Thrust, And, Run

For the rest of the full article click the following link:

Kali's Hourglass Presents 6 panels at Allcon 2011

Allcon 2011 was somewhat difficult, but very rewarding!

Allcon 2011 Steampunk Themed Fun and Fiction in Addison

As you may already have heard this year’s theme for Allcon 2011 was “Steampunk” as special genre of retro-futuristic science fiction that takes the elegance, innovation, and indomitable spirit of the Victorian age and the science fictional imagery of it’s most imaginative writers and transplants it into very unlikely places in very unlikely ways.  Steampunk has also attracted very creative and imaginative people that have turned what was at first a special science fiction loving society into a real world subculture that strongly promotes “Maker Culture”, ecology, creative expressions of individualistic art in all it’s forms, and encourages forceful rebellion against the marketing messages that encourage mindless consumerism and the following of an endless stream of fashion trends. 

Local groups, like Kali’s Hourglass, The Steampunk Illumination Society, Airship Steel Rose, and Airship Nocturne came to teach, explain, and enlighten others about learning to make things the way they want them instead of settling for whatever Walmart has to offer, doing it on a budget, rebelling radically against consumer zombie cultism, and having great fun doing it!  They did this with about 17 panels, two film screenings, a dance performance, a comedic play, a demonstration table, and general spontaneous fun throughout the convention!  They also announced plans to host an all Steampunk event soon on June 4th called the “Difference Engine” to further this liberating message for Texas and the surrounding areas.

With 3 panels in 5 hours the first day, we were running from the time our boots hit the ground in Addison!  Actually we did an improv half panel on improve comedy and spontaneous character acting when the panel ahead of us labeled "hit the talking pinata" failed show.  Actually, as we mentioned, it seemed entirely reasonable that any pinata smart enough to talk would soon realize he didn't want to go to a panel about hitting him and talk someone into calling a cab out of here, so why should they be surprised?  I mean really...can you imagine how that would all go?  Whack!  Hey!  What did I ever do to you?  Whack!  Hey!  If you have anger issues related to being bullied as a child, hit that guy next to you!  Hit him not me! Whack!  Now look...I am certain that whoever it was that abused you as a child was I right?  Whack!  Stop that!  I mean ... it's not like pinatas go around attacking unsuspecting children in the school yard do they?  Whack!  Would you just stop for a minute and think about it?  How many paper mache creations have you seen beating up small children and stealing their lunch money?

Next we gave our panel on "Steampunk Alchemy" which turned out to get more compliments about actually teaching new and useful things about making really good Steampunk Ensembles out of things no one wanted that it received considerable praise and enthusiastic thanks afterwards.  (and was good fun for all-without even murdering a pinata or any mass child arena fighting afterwards-imagine that)

We also gave a panel on acting, on multicultural Steampunk, and on Trends in Steampunk Music and Dance.  Unfortunately no one discovered that all the sound equipment in our panel room was missing and only discovered at the last minute before our panel on music and dance.  The courteous and rapidly responding con staff and our own preparedness (bringing a backup dvd player), saved the day. (or the panel at least) Feel free to take a look at photos and our "Steampunk Dance" video on the Vimeo site (similar to you tube, but better picture quality).
but please read the description first so it isn't taken out of context.  Thanks!

We had a  number of other exploits including a woman attempting to join one of our panels right after it started.  She strode in briskly right after it started, sat at the head table with us, and announced to the audience that she "had been asked last minute to sit in on the "Multicultural Steampunk Ensembles Panel" due to her Master's degree in anthropology and expertise in the field.  As there was no way to call her a liar and throw her out without looking like very rude, uncouth, boors, and we were unable to pull her aside to make certain she wasn't the well meaning victim of a practical joke, I simply gently redirected when she kept trying to interrupt scheduled lesson plan content with war stories and self promotion.  She then vanished mysteriously, perhaps because she wasn't allowed to self promote enough, when we presented our short comedy "The Trouble With Aztecs" as a practical demonstration of use of multicultural ensembles in Steampunk and so we could discuss pitfalls to avoid afterwards.

(We later learned she had been given a last minute list of panels she was asked to assist in by another group and she got confused and walked into the wrong one and sort of tried to take over panel conversations without so much as introducing herself, to us at least, but she was very apologetic when I finally tracked her down to discuss the matter.)

We managed to get past that disruption and still perform the comedic play "The Trouble With Aztecs" right before the Q&A in this "Multicultural Panel" and it went very well.  Of course I tend to judge a comedic play by three things:
1) did they laugh often,?   2) did they laugh hard?  3) Did the degree and quality of complaints lodged afterwards necessitate calling an attorney or making many public apologies?  I'm not really being flippant about this, just realistic.  I told the audience that realistically it is impossible to do effective comedy without occasionally offending someone accidentally, but I said that I try to keep it to a minimum, because I'm just not willing to offend anyone just to get a laugh.

We discussed how almost any element specifically dealing with names of Aztec deities, not out of fear of offending the good Christians attending (I mean they do realize that the Aztecs did in fact have entities they referred to as Gods, so what would be the point?), but rather to avoid offending any real Aztecs (yes they still exist...we are formally adopted by that culture) that happened to attend (not that rare in Texas) that might not have liked elements of their faith brought into a comedy play.  I also removed anything that even referred to the mention of human sacrifice (though it pains me to avoid history to that degree) or that used funny references toward Europeans that too accurately described what the Aztecs thought of the uncouth, uncultured, unwashed, and foul smelling criminals and mercenaries that the Spanish Crown could afford to send out as Conquistadors.  At that point, we needed funny bits to fill in all the gaps, so we stole cheap laughs from old films and made it Aztecified, sort of.  Actually it all worked even better than expected and everyone seemed happy as they left.  I tried to film it, but we seem to keep having problems with our video camera or any other camera when we try to film plays.  I'll have to have a long talk with our "House Gremlin" about that.

The head of programming for the convention was even more shocked about this woman's "attempted highjacking of the panel" as he described it, than we were, but the only real problem was that I spent so much time and energy keeping her from taking over the discussion, while trying to avoid appearing to do so, that 3 of my four panelists (whose credentials on the topic make us less than impressed with hers) never got a chance to speak much outside of the play.  Ah well.  It will make a funny story for us one day, but may do very unfortunate things to the woman's credibility.  She may actually have been convinced she was there at our request, but that would seem unlikely since she never spoke to any of us before or afterwards and did not even introduce herself aside from stating credentials without a name.  Another one for the convention manuals.  Always expect the unexpected and keep the security number handy during panels!

The thing that is most recognizable, and in many ways, the most fun about Allcon is that it exposes each fandom culture to others they might never have encountered otherwise.  Storm Troopers and Jedis conversed with gunslingers, Star Fleet Officers, and Klingon Warriors while Steampunk time traveling Pirates, “Maids” and Roller Derby teams rolled by in an endless stream of wonderful mad fun!  It was a bit like ending up in Alice’s Wonderland, but with a science fiction twist.

The only really big news at the con, other than new Steampunk talent being shown, was that the Steampunk Ball got canceled, then rescheduled last minute.   After discussing this with both the con staff and the headliner band, it appears to have been a massive failure in communication.  The band is very professional and does not appear anywhere without a signed contract for the performance which they had indicated, but was unusual enough in the program director's past experiences with Allcon, that he didn't realize how important it was and forgot to get it done.  The other problem was that the venue had no sound system or amplifiers capable of reproducing the kind of music and instruments that electric guitars make. 

The lead singer, Toby Lawhon, said that if they just used the 12" speakers available their sound would be not much more than distortion and would be so unprofessional that they would not perform there without renting commercial concert speakers, which meant also bringing in a concert level mixing board and sound crew capable of moving 5 foot tall speakers and setting the system up to work properly.  The staff didn't understand why a large number of people suddenly got added to the necessary list of passes for the band, so it had not gotten approved as of Friday night even though the band had tried to reach him to explain.  Obviously communications like this should have happened sooner, but they had trouble reaching the program director after they discovered this was necessary, and he didn't really understand the request.  He said it was his mistake and that the band acted very professional about the whole thing and did a great job fixing the problem when it looked like things would fall through for the concert.  The concert had to start over an hour late due to problems adjusting the unfamiliar equipment in the strange venue, but in the end, it was a great performance!

In the program director's defense, he handled everything beautifully for us, but then all of our events were set up and re-adjusted as needed more than 3 weeks before the event.  Things start to go wonky for most convention staff when they get overloaded the last week before hand, and they sometimes have catastrophic brain cramps, like in this case, when the overload gets too great or the situation, as in this case, is too unfamiliar to them.  The other item I would like to mention is that when I approached their program director for comments about the incident, he took full responsibility for the confusion and fallout, did not blame anyone else about anything, and stated gratitude to Toby and the band for helping them fix the problem at the last minute.  That's the kind of human being I prefer to work with!  (This is based on my own interactions with Todd Carlton when I contacted him for a public statement for the magazine review, but there is speculation and rumor that he may have been less forthcoming earlier-however-Toby Lawhon also told me directly, that Mr. Carlton accepted full responsibility and was very apologetic when they agreed to reschedule and follow through with the concert.) Mr. Carlton even said that if Toby was as courteous about the whole thing in what he was saying about the incident at this point  then it was just another sign of the level of professionalism of Marquis of Vaudville and he really appreciated and respected that in him.  Did these people just step out of a time machine or something?  Where did all this gentlemanly behavior come from?  Hmmm...maybe all this Steampunk stuff isn't just fiction after all? 

So overall, in spite of the temporary setback due to miscommunication with the headliner band, I would rate this convention as one of our absolute favorites!  As both performers, and even back before we started offering panels and performances at conventions, our biggest complaint was always that they didn’t actually post a full list of who and what was performing until a week or two before the event, yet expected us to decide blind if we wanted to go.  This is especially a problem for those new to a festival trying to decide whether to buy the early discounted tickets or to wait and see who is performing there.  For us performers that is not a problem, but it is maddening to send offers to give panels and get no response for months, then be told “we definitely want you, but can’t decide what or when.  I even have trouble getting them to commit as to whether we will be performing enough to avoid paying for full price at the door to get in order to perform for them, which did indeed happen to us once. (but never again) 

Allcon, on the other hand, was entirely different!  They had over 75% of their lineup listed with times, days performing, and a detailed map of the venue over 3 months in advance.  When I offered panels to them I got a response in less than 24 hours that listed every panel they wanted in appropriate rooms with the exact day and time of the presentations listed.  Even minor changes such as adding to the number of badges needed in order to have enough crew to cover so many panels was met with quick and courteous response that met our needs every time.  Fortunately planning ahead permitted us to get these things done early before the rush and confusion of the final week before the con.

The full review including information about non-steampunk related performers on the following site:

Kali's Hourglass Promotes Nickel Children at Ikkicon 2010

Ikkicon 2010 – New Years Anime Style

9 March 2011 by Ramon Fagan
Celebrity Anime Designer Yaya Han at her finest.

We attended Ikkicon in 2010 for the first time due to it’s location (Austin is one of our favorite towns) and the fact that they agreed to present the new award winning short film, Nickel Children, that my performance art troupe agreed to promote at various anime festivals due to it’s high quality use of Steampunk as art, and it’s underlying message intended to raise awareness of critical social problems.
The realism in acting class (presented by our acting troupe – Kali’s Hourglass) itself went fairly well.  We gave a general introduction to classical acting methods using identifiable stereotyped characters and the reasons for using them, then gave an introduction to “method acting” which has largely replaced other approaches by using real emotions from within to cause the body to present the body language that is most realistic.  Where we went that was different than a typical acting class, was that we also gave an introduction to relaxation breathing exercises to “ground, center, and let go of stage fright” followed by self hypnosis (we actually gave a guided light hypnosis, but later advised how to DIY it with a tape of their own voice giving the commands) to help them get fully “into character”.  The obvious problem doing this as a group class is that everyone in the room pretty much uses a different character, so it had to be a bit genericized.  Just the same, they seemed to find it interesting and a good way to put stage fright and nerves out of the mind before a performance.
Mock Combat class given by Chris Ayers

After this it was our turn for a real treat!  Chris Ayres and Carli Mosier gave a professional grade acting class on introduction to “mock combat”.  That is essentially like being trained to use various tricks to simulate beating the snot out of each other without actually causing any harm. This ranged from using positioning on stage to block the view of observers from the stunt tricks to make sounds like bone hitting flesh without actually connecting to using a very relaxed fist to strike just in case you goof and actually hit them.
One other common technique involved pulling instead of pushing or vice versa in holds that would cause harm used normally, but were harmless with pressure in the opposite direction, yet that isometric tension made it appear athletic resistance was occurring.  Confused yet?  OK.  To make that clearer, imagine one person appears to be attempting to strangle another, but in reality the “victim” is pulling hard to force the “attacker’s” hands onto their throat while the “attacker” tries to pull them away.  As a result the struggle is real, but the outcome is that the “victim” can loosen the grip any time they wish by simply not trying so hard to force the hands around their own throat.  The grip used also blocks any actual contact on the “windpipe”, so view of the wind pipe must be obstructed so the audience is unaware of this.
Carli also does an incredible (and beautifully creepy!) job of making it appear she is terrified and being murdered before your eyes, then suddenly relaxes and says something totally outrageous or just plain funny as soon as they break from the stunt.
The safety issues in this are so complex, that it was broken into a 2 hour class the first day and a 4 hour class the second just to get us slowly (repeated movements in slow motion were the operative word!) worked up to where we could film a brief “fight” that looked believable, complete with sound effects (mostly created for you by the victim or some joint effort of the two) without anyone getting hurt.  You should definitely attend this class if you get the chance, but wear loose comfortable, non-fragile clothing, wear something underneath your clothes that won’t look immodest as you may be wrestling on the ground, and advise the instructors if you have any medical or movement limitations before hand.
When people think of a New Year’s Eve event, they think of the actual celebration for that night.  People were dressed in finery, and the line was long as is to be expected.  I would love to report on the dance itself, but unfortunately, our first panel was scheduled for 10 am that morning even though we were driving from 200 miles away to the event.   As such we were so tired from leaving Dallas at 3:30 am that morning that by midnight that we finally gave up and went to bed.  In short, I feel  you deserved to know why I am  writing a review about a New Year’s Eve event with no real information about the ball itself.
We ate a good breakfast nearby at a wonderful restaurant (slow service, but great food and d├ęcor) called El Luna y Sol, then went early to set up to screen Nickel Children. Unfortunately the film projector equipment had been disassembled the day before by another panelist who wanted to move it and didn’t know how to reassemble it, so we had some difficulty the morning it was scheduled.  In fact all of the after the film discussion had to come before while the technical crew frantically tried to re-assemble this very complex professional grade A/V system.
We finally got the film running only to find that we had video and the soundtrack, plus special effects like the sound of gunshots and fist fighting, but no dialogue at all. It was suggested by the audience that this made for a very interesting art film kind of experiment. This was very big of them considering that only a few brave souls even managed to show up to any panels that were scheduled early, like this one, on the morning after New Year’s Eve. Actually, it is a great credit to the short film that it works and works well, even without dialogue, but I was still glad when we got an adapter that allowed the audience to see it again (the real advantage of “short films”) with the dialogue available.
The dance the second night was hosted by DJ Greg Ayers who is no newcomer to throwing a party. We found the dance to be a very active, high energy, lights and electronica rave style event. As such, it was very popular with the teens and younger convention goers, but naturally less so with the over 30 crowd.

Rehearsal for Cosplay

The cosplay is what Ikkicon is best known for and they certainly did not disappoint! The costumes were outstanding!  I do not consider myself an expert in the anime cosplay arena, I but must say they were the most beautiful and elaborate I have seen. While anime costuming is a far cry from Steampunk design and tailoring (my own costuming area of expertise), any costumer can see the quality and complexity of the work of another, and I must say I was impressed!
Unfortunately the venue was too small for everyone to even enter the performance hall, large as it was, to see the actual presentation. I got the chance to see most of the costumes while they were practicing their walk on, pose, and walk off, in the gaming room next door. There did not appear to be much time for anything more than presenting the visual appeal of the costumes, usually presented in groups of people that came together costumed to show several characters from a particular anime adventure, but realistically there would not have been time, if that had been made available because there were just so many total entries. People lined up well over an hour ahead of time just to enter the room to see them displayed, and there seemed to be almost as many presenting costumes as viewing them!
Airship Isabella was present and highly visible, but their most note able event was the “Airship Isabella Birthday Party where they celebrated the first anniversary of their coming forward publicly as a Steampunk Performance Art Group.  They discussed struggles along the way and how far they had come in that year.  I must agree that moving from relatively unknown individuals that were first really introduced to Steampunk only one year ago (at this same event!) to what is easily the most recognized Steampunk performance group in The South Central region of the US in such a short time is impressive!  As they described the sacrifices made to go from starting to give panels to becoming fairly sure of “honored guest status” at most events certainly required hard work, commitment, and a definite plan.

Exhibit Hall

The vending area was large, well stocked, and very active in trading!  Some of the vendors attending had the most interesting, well made, and reasonably priced items we have seen at conventions, so we wound up leaving ourselves with a new “Pirate cutlass”, a set of octopus fingers (latex of course), and some various bits of clothing and accessories as well as an eye toward interesting leatherwork, that we had to resist purchasing this trip.
One other area that really needs to be mentioned, is the “Gaming Room”.  Inside there were multiple rows of computer screens with Halo players immersed in an alternate universe mostly playing against one another.  Naturally there were competitions in a number of different games, and multiple types of platforms in use.  Outside the door, Sleeping Samurai had set up a large arena where they provided an excellent and well attended service in running an almost constant series of padded sword classes and competitions.

Cracked Monacle staff hosting a game of "Tephra"

What interested us the most were the gaming tables where the “Cracked Monocle” group introduced people to their new “Steampunk Role Playing Game” called “Tephra”.  The game is played similar to other table top RPGs, but the races are pretty unusual and even the various human cultures listed are so distinct that they might as well be different races as well.  As a result, this game is very slow in building characters and adjusting to all the new information, but once that was accomplished, the play was fast, exciting, and enjoyable.  Having such distinctive characters actually increases overall play for serious gamers, but is simply awkward in this sort of time limited setting, so if you make a character for this game, try to bring it with you each time.
Unlike many other adaptations of RPGs to the Steampunk world, this is truly a Steampunk game with only a bit of “Gaslamp” thrown in as it focuses much more on technology based devices than psychic or spiritual based powers, and the design encourages adaption and modification of machines including robots.  The game emphasizes technology abilities in that almost anything with gears, electric wiring, or mechanical parts can be modified if you have the right skills.  The backdrop to this, however, includes many races that are so effective with more primitive weapons that they stay a serious threat.
What struck me the most about the game, when I read further into the book, was that a fairly low to mid level character could develop surprisingly powerful weapons fairly early, but then so could their opponents which actually just translates into a certain amount of fatalistic realism in the game.  Characters take damage fairly easily, but are resilient enough to survive for a while and dish it back out against surprisingly tough opponents if they work well together and use their heads.  This is an essential aspect of this type of gaming, so I rate this new product and the group that developed it highly.
Parking for Ikkicon was a serious problem due to location and the date of the event.  Parking was so bad on New Years night that we had to pay $5 to park at a paid parking lot, then were told to come back and pay another $7 at six pm or our car would be towed even if we left it in the same slot of the paid parking lot, and this was just to get something within a few blocks walking distance.  What was worse was that cars were endlessly circling like sharks begging for and fighting for spaces even in these paid lots.  We had to use bodies to block traffic to pull out in order to leave and others used the same tactic to fend off all the competition for the privilege of paying for our space.
Ikkicon has been in downtown Austin, Texas at New years for some time, but crowded parking conditions (especially at major holidays like New Years) and crowded downtown in general is making it likely that it will continue to be a new years event for 2011, but move to a different time slot after next year.

Rehearsal for Cosplay

About Ramon Fagan

Ramon writes articles and reviews for 5 different online Steampunk magazines as well as for his blog. He also writes fiction, songs, short comedic plays, and educational books and articles about world religion and cultures for other outlets. “Admiral” Ramon is also the leader of “Kali’s Hourglass”, a nautical oriented Steampunk/Clockpunk performance art troupe, organizer for the DFW Clockpunks and Renpunks Group , co-administrator for the North Texas Steampunks Facebook website, , and an alternate administrator for the Steampunk Illumination Society website.

Kali's Hourglass Presents a Steampunk Comedic Play at Yulecon 2010

Yulecon was a three day Anime Convention event here in the Dallas Fort Worth area from November 12th to 14th and included a great number of voice actors/actresses, Arc Attack, One Eyed Doll, Mega Ran, Brental Floss, Airship Isabella and Airship Neo Dulcimer, Anime Hell, the Renai Rangers, Anime Midstream, Repo Shadowcast, Axis Powers Hetalia, Sleeping Samurai,The Covenant of the Kraken Players (Kali's Hourglass is the local group), Circus Freaks, Saraswati Bodhisatva, Greg Ayres, and a host of other performers too numerous to identify individually.  In addition they had an anime viewing room, a fairly extensive table top and role playing gaming setup in two rooms, and two more rooms that not only introduced attendees to new video games, but actually conducted fairly high money competitions with prize money up to $500 (and of course proportionate entry fees to raise said prize money).  What was new was that Sleeping Samurai, a group that taught, demonstrated, and made available an area to practice and compete with padded weapons, kept the area open for most of the convention, albeit for a modest additional price during times outside of their panels and workshops.

Aside from adding atmosphere and spontaneous humor to the event, our main contribution was the unveiling of our comedic play that spoofs the sort of controversies pitting the value of form versus function in the Steampunk community, as well as poking a bit of fun at the tendency of "Big Boys" to get obsessed with "Big Toys"  Naturally it was strange, funny, slapstick, and bizarre.  It was Steampunk after all!  The audience seemed to really love it.  For a more in depth description of the play itself, see our performance art page at:

Below are quite a number of photos of the play at this link:

As for Panels, they were many and reportedly of high quality.  I personally was able only to attend part of Greg Ayres "Host Club to Hospital", and the Steampunk Leather Working and Steampunk DIY workshops by Airships Isabella and Neo Dulcimer.  All were well handled and very informative.  Mr Ayres was personable, entertaining,  and insightful.  The leather working panel taught me a number of excellent tips and a few trade secrets even though I am not new to the topic.  The DIY workshop focused on the two most asked for topics which were making your own steampunk goggles and steampunk weapons with excellent advice given in spite of the constant efforts by the Mad Hatter and his friends to disrupt the entire panel constantly with his madness and hilarity.  Kudos to the crew members conducting and leading the panel for the first time in the absence of both Captains who were busy being insane at the time. I would also like to mention that the crew members that were attempting to serve as handlers to the mad hitchhikers did a very credible and well received performance as well.