Science fiction used to be all about the future, but in steampunk, it’s gone back to the past to create a steam-powered alternate Victorian era full of airships, goggles and rayguns where Tesla trumps Edison. If you think that steampunk is just about creative costumes, there will be plenty walking the halls of AnachroCon, this weekend (Feb. 22-24) at the Marriott Northwest, but there will also be so much more from literary to art to performances. Read more about the many facets of this fast-growing subculture in our interview with STEAMPUNK BIBLE co-author S.J. Chambers, then head on down to AnachroCon to experience the city’s biggest annual steampunk gathering live.
As Anachrocon’s Website says, it’s the “place in the South for Steampunk, History, Alternate History, Science, Music, Classic Sci-Fi Literature and the most amazing costuming you’ve ever seen!” This year’s theme “The Roaring ’20s” takes steampunk into the 20th century so be prepared to do the Charleston with goggles on and a rocket pack on your back.
Here’s our top nine coolest things to do at Anachrocon. For times and locations, check the full con schedule here.
1. Costumes Extraordinaire
Men in top hats, boots and goggles. Ladies in their finest Victorian dresses with rayguns tucked into their beaded evening bags. Gizmos galore. In the case of steampunk, accessories make the outfit and it’s not just a look but a way of life for some followers who meticulously craft their eccentric wardrobes in home workshops. Expect to see an amazing array of hall costumes, but the best of the best compete in the Costume Contest at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Or learn to make your own from award-winning costumers in the Fashion and Fabrication programming tracks.
2. A Marvelous Menagerie of Musical Acts
If steampunk has a look, thanks to a motley menagerie of talented musicians, it also has a sound – a diverse blend of jazz, ragtime, gypsy, classical, goth and even a touch of rock n roll. At Anachrocon, you can hear some of the best in the region and nation including The Extraordinary Contraptions, Frenchy and the Punk, The Gin Rebellion, Vauxhall Garden Variety Players, Denim Arcade, New York Disco Villains, Valentine Wolfe, Eliza Dane, Mark Gunn, Victorian funk rapper (yes you read that right!) Montague Jacques Fromage and more. Dance the night away to several DJs including “self-described eccentric audio arranger and morally ambiguous scientist” Dr. Q, the mad mastermind behind The Artifice Club which stages quarterly steampunk shindigs and is the official sponsor of the Friday night ’20s themed Repeal Revival. Keeping with the ’20s con theme, the repeal is, of course, of the Prohibition Act and the event is also the official afterparty of their Secret Speakeasy bash in December as well as their 3rd annual Opening Night Dance for AnachroCon. Read an interview with Dr. Q here about The Artifice Club here.
3. Trick or Tease: Burly-Q Steampunk-style
Burlesque arose out of vaudeville and sideshow hoochie-coo, all of which go back to the bawdy dancers, singers and comedians of the Victorian music hall. Award-winning Atlanta burlesque beauties Talloolah Love, Ursula Undress and more will be entertaining at The Repeal Revival and offering costuming workshops throughout the weekend.
4. History, Science and Fashion, Oh My!
Yes, the whole idea of steampunk is based on an alternate history and a different direction in science and energy. Costumes are not mandatory to attend these bonafide actual history and science with fascinating panels on such topics as and much more including a variety of historical periods, musings on literary figures such as Sherlock Holmes, pulp fiction, culinary discussions, Vikings, pirates, great comets, the paranormal and more.
5. A Little Etiquette & Indulgence Can Do You Good
The Victorian Age was known for being prim and proper, unlike our uncouth contemporary era, so it seems only fitting that AnachroCon has a programming track centered on Etiquette & Indulgence. Founded last year by Peter Beer Slayer and Richard Carnival, “their mission [is] to make the world a better place by providing instruction on the Social Graces and how to truly enjoy life by using their combined powers to become the Traveling Revelers!” Take a ConChemistry class on whiskey and cigar pairing at 5 p.m. on Friday, or ConSociology on “how to meet people at cons” at 10 p.m., learn to mix civilized cocktails, or engage in properTea Dueling at 5 p.m. Sat.
6. Viva the Revolution – Meet the Founding Fathers
Tea Partiers and Ultra-Liberals, take note! OK, AnachroCon isn’t breaking out the Ouija Board (well, not right now anyway; we kind of think there has to be some Ouija-ing going on somewhere), but professional Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin impersonators (J.D. Sutton and Bill Pacer) will be on hand to share their wisdom on government, electricity and even provide a Q&A. Find out what the founding fathers really thought about freedom of religion, gay rights and sleeping with French prostitutes – we dare you to ask them!
7. Astounding Alt-History Literature & Pop Culture Panels
At the end of the day, it’s sometimes forgotten that steampunk started not as an aesthetic movement but in the pages of books and now is a lively literary genre. Panels discuss classic influences from Edgar Allan Poe to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells might get a few mentions, as well as how to write in the steampunk universe. Author guests include Cherie Priest, Lee Martindale, Eugie Foster , Jana Oliver, Philippa “Pip” Ballentine, Delilah S. Dawson, James R. Tuck, Tee Morris, Kathryn Hinds, Emilie P. Bush, Kimberly Richardson and Alan Gilbreath.
Need a pair of goggles, a trusty ray gun, a corset, jewelry, custom leather items? All of these and more are available in the Vendor Room, a veritable bazaar of steampunk-related merchandise, with a little Medieval-Renaissance-Celtic thrown in for fun. Well, steampunk does share some roots in modern fantasy which is often inspired by those eras. Be sure to also visit the Artisans Room where you can buy unique, one-of-a-kind creations.
9. The Horror! The Horror!
OK, maybe we’re a little prejudiced because ATLRetro’s Anya Martin is on several of the panels on the all-new classic horror programming track, including Frankenstein: Horror or Science Fiction? (Fri. 3 p.m.), Cinema of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe at the Movies (Fri. 7 p.m.), Two-Fisted Tales of Robert E. Howard (Sat 1 p.m.), Dracula’s Bloodline (Sat 7 p.m.) and Jack the Ripper at the Movies (Sun.). Other panels cover Hammer horror movies and much more, and it’s all conceived by Derek Tatum, the grand master of the horror and dark fantasy track at DragonCon.