While I wrote about Steampunk some time ago in relation to my New Zealand travels, I confess I have never attended a Steampunk event in the United States, never that is until the Gaslight Gathering.  This took place over a long May weekend at the Handlery Hotel in San Diego, California.  The event isn’t new; I was just ignorant of its existence.  Still,  I thought, why not check it out?  I only went for one day and endeavored to pack as much into that time as I could.

What’s in a name?

For those of you not familiar with the Steampunk, here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrialsteam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Therefore, steampunk may be described as neo-Victorian.

As for me, I just think it’s fascinating.  I love all those weird gears and designs.  The weapons have a Flash Gordon look to them.

Prop weapons for sale at the Gaslight Gathering

Prop weapons for sale at the Gaslight Gathering

I didn’t purchase a weapon since I don’t even cosplay Steampunk.  Nonetheless I like to look because it’s visually appealing, especially the combination of pistol and ray gun in the photo above.  Yes, the costumes are interesting, but I’m not ready to make the leap.  This is my first outing; let’s not rush things.  I did enjoy the shopping.  There were two rooms for vendors and I checked out both.

Visiting the bazaar

All kinds of things were on display, clothing, books, jewelry, artwork, and accessories.  I liked those!  How about these fans?

A variety of fans for sale at the Gaslight Gathering

A variety of fans for sale at the Gaslight Gathering

Perhaps you need a parasol, or a top hat.  You would have found it.

There were also panel discussions on how to build things, or how to make Steampunk accessories from thrift store merchandise.  That must  have offered some handy tips.  That panel took place on Friday.  I didn’t attend on that day.  Rats!

The theater of times

I did go to Fashion Show: Famous Victorians.  This was something new to me.  People were in costume as historic figures.  Each had a short biographical piece, which the master of ceremonies read while the famous figure walked the “runway.”  These folks were good.  How about Wyatt Earp.  He looks fierce.

Wyatt Earp on the Fashion Show runway at the Gaslight Gathering

Wyatt Earp on the Fashion Show runway at the Gaslight Gathering

There were several characters.  Florence Nightingale, Mrs. Beeton of Household Management fame, General Custer, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and more.  The overhead lighting wasn’t the best for photos.  This was especially true for anyone wearing a wide-brimmed hat.  Just about everyone was wearing such a hat.  Hat’s were popular in the 19th century.

Florence Nightingale with her lamp at the Gaslight Gathering

Florence Nightingale with her lamp at the Gaslight Gathering

Helpful Advice with Cane or Umbrella!

Not all the events were passive.  I attended a self-defense class in the afternoon and received some hands-on training.  This wan’t one’s usual class.  Our instructor was  David L. Drake, otherwise known as Chief Inspector Erasmus Drake.  It was self-defense with cane or umbrella. Obviously this makes sense for Victorian times.  We were given dowels with which to practice our moves.  One young woman used an umbrella.

Practicing defense using an umbrella at the Gaslight Gathering

Practicing defense using an umbrella at the Gaslight Gathering

Drake, a highly ranked foil fencer, is certainly qualified to give us a few tips.  (Pun intended.)   Carry yourself with confidence and follow through with your stroke.  No slapping with the cane!   However, based on my attempts, the best ploy for me may be to throw my money at the assailant and run away while he picks it up!

The Last Act

It was an interesting day, and I enjoyed the event.  Would a full-on Victorian costume have enhanced the experience?  Actually it probably would have weighed me down.  I think I would lean toward more punk and less bustle. It would make crawling about on the floor for a photo much easier.

The panel discussions were varied and interesting, but not necessarily on the day I attended.  Do I need to go for two days?  That may be too long.  This isn’t a big venue, certainly nothing like the San Diego Comic Con.  The Gaslight Gathering is an annual and cozy affair.  People mingled and were friendly; they liked to talk about their craft.  I must say the sewing skills were amazing!  But you can do just about anything and call it Steampunk.  Visit some thrift stores or vintage shops and let your imagination take you where it will.  Add some baubles and gears and you’re on your way. Next you’ll be designing a backstory for your alter ego!  You’re a natural.

For more images from my Steampunk adventure visit my gallery.  The Gaslight Gathering photos are here.  To see images from New Zealand’s Steampunk HQ, click here.