This is a pretty awful picture of Dominick. He’s much better looking, he reminded me of Hagar from the Harry Potter movies. I met him at CONvergence, a science fiction/fantasy/etc. convention this past weekend. He is a very large man, six four or so, maybe three hundred pounds. And his style of costume, black suitcoat and trousers, black vest, is Steampunk.
Dominick and his steam-powered hat
Steampunk is a kind of literature and a style of interior decorating and costume that combines Victorian clothing with twenty-first century technology. Imagine a steam-powered computer. If you remember the interior of the Nautilus in Disney’s “20,000 League Under the Sea,” or the movie “Wild, Wild West” you’ve seen Steampunk design. It was HUGE at CONvergence. In the dealers’ room you could buy elaborate corsets and men’s beautiful leather top hats decorated with brass or copper gears and tags and women’s Edwardian riding hats ornamented with lace and brass or copper trim. Dominick took an ordinary top hat, added some ornaments, including a decorated steel chimney, then installed an insulated box inside it fitted with a tiny battery-powered fan. He would put a fistful of dry ice in the box, turn on the fan, and a thin steam-like vapor would drift out and up the steel chimney. Very, very cool – literally and figuratively. He brought an ice chest full of dry ice to the event, to which he would resort now and again to recharge his hat. I’m smiling now just remembering seeing him walk by and doing a double-take at the steaming chimney. He entered the costume contest and won Honorable Mention.
I haven’t been to a big sf convention in years. Things haven’t changed a whole lot, the attendees are mostly young people and most of them come wearing costumes from sf and fantasy novels and movies. Lots and lots of weapons, from bows and arrows to light sabers. Spock ears and mouse ears and bunny ears and one gigantic rat tail. The Steampunk angle is new, and there are tattoos galore, which there didn’t used to be. I enjoyed just finding a seat in a public area and gawking at the passers-by. There were not as many vampires as I expected. Lots of men in kilts. I bought a lovely little sterling-silver brooch shaped like a three-dimensional Buck Rogers spaceship. My favorite panel was the one on the “Big Bang Theory” television show. One of the panelists had attended a taping of the show and gave us all a fascinating glimpse of how it’s put together. At the end we all sang “Soft Kitty,” a lullaby/running gag that has appeared here and there throughout the seasons. I noted to a woman sitting beside me that sometimes I feel as if I’ve married Sheldon – and she said she felt that way, too. I met her Sheldon after the panel and he’s almost as charming as mine.
I was a panelist on “Medieval Minnesota,” which featured Minnesota authors who write stories with medieval settings. One, Ellen Kuhfeld (Yes, my Ellen Kuhfeld) has published an alternate-universe mystery novel in which the North American continent is settled by Europeans fleeing the Muslim conquest in the eleventh century. They hold a great fair at a portage on the upper Mississippi River – which we in this world call St. Anthony Falls, located at Minneapolis – St. Paul. When an outlaw from the north is found murdered, a clash of cultures makes finding his murderer problematic. (In the Viking culture, killing an outlaw is perfectly legal.) I talked about my previous series of Tales, set in fifteenth century England, and about my first published mystery, set at the Great Pennsic War, an annual gathering of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The latter rings many sword and sorcery chimes, and I suppose it could be thought of as a kind of Steampunk because the participants drink Coke from their goblets.
I don’t write science fiction or fantasy – I don’t even read much of it any more. But the event was fun. I didn’t come in costume, of course, but I did wear my most elaborate hat, a large silver straw creation, on Sunday for my panel, and it felt right at home