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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Steampunk Symposium 2012 (and how to prepare for next year)


This was the inaugural year for the Steampunk Symposium held in Cincinnati, OH at the Atrium Hotel on April 27-29th. It was produced by Pandora Promotions and headed by Aloyisus Fox.

I have to preface this review of sorts with the note that this is my first steampunk convention; however, I've been to upwards of 15-20 anime conventions over the past six years. Which, and this is a great comment to start off on, after attending the Symposium I've pretty much sworn off anime conventions (unless there are specific circumstance) which you can read about in my other blog The BK Report. The story isn't finished there, but bare with me - the Report is in the middle of Phoenix-ing.

As a general description of the Symposium, there was an extremely wide variety of things to do, people to see, and things to buy. I've never been to a convention before where I had to actually make a difficult decision on what panel I was going to attend. The panels I did go to were informative, entertaining, fairly well organized, and made an impression (such as "Thrifty Steampunk", "Victorian Drinks and Drunkardness", and "Steampunk 320").

Along with the panels were also workshops. My husband and I happened upon the Steampunk Dances workshop (which was incredibly well organized - the lady instructing the dances was brilliant at teaching), but were unable to attend any others because we were far too distracted by the happenings in the atrium - the Airship Games.

I have a hard time deciding if I enjoyed the Nerf Dueling or the Airship Races more. For all of the events, when considering that this is a huge event and the first year of it's run, they went off without more then a few hitches (which are easily fixed with a one-time experience for next year).

The vending room was amazing, I felt like I can across a different piece that I was compelled to buy every time I entered the room. Travis found out what an ascot is and is now looking forward to making the look a common part of his wardrobe and I have some lovely new gloves, earrings, and candlestick holders/carriers.

The room set aside for board games was set up amazingly and the gentleman who was manning the room seemed very educated on the subject matter. We joined him and many others for a fun few games of "Are You a Werewolf?" which is basically like "Mafia" but instead of cops, civilians, and mafia members there are seers, villagers, and werewolves.

There were also musical guests, film screenings, and special guests otherwise, but like I mentioned previously - I was totally enthralled with the Airship Games. Apparently there was even a screening of the Steampunk Movie by Billy Boyd which I was an extra in. I've never seen the film and was really sad to miss it (I say "apparently" because I completely forgot that it was a possibility it could be showing and didn't check the schedule of films).

What was done right

Just about everything was fantastic. I wish I had three more outfits and a more outgoing personality to really reach the potential that the social atmosphere of the convention allowed.

There was something for everyone - even a children's playtime (play area?) and the majority of what we experienced was run with the classiness that is to be expected of the steampunk community. You know you are in good company when the more intoxicated a person gets, the more polite they are!

The registration was a fantastic process as well! While I am use to anime conventions of close to 1000+ people who are all arriving at the same time, I hardly ever saw a line (though I'm sure at some points on Saturday there might have been a wait) and the Symposium was simply more fluent than what I'm use to experiencing.

Though, I have to take into consideration that at least 400 people re-registered and all that was necessary was to check off a name on a list. But back to the anime conventions, attendees pre-register for the conventions all the time and still generally have to wait 1+ hours to get their badge and be on their way (unless you arrive before registration opens and wait). I don't know what brilliant mind figured out how a proper registration should work for attendees who pre-register, but it was awesome.

Also, very glad we bought the pins to go with our ribbons/badges.

Even though I'm not one of those people that really stand out among the crowd, I felt like I was making friends with everyone there. Like there was a communal bond between the attendees.

I have to mention here that I am socially awkward. I was home schooled until high school then didn't have any real social development until I was in college. For example, at the Symposium I attempted to high-five a gentleman that I had an acquaintanceship with in the hallway - our hands met in the air about half-palm to half-palm. The gentleman hit hard. He laughed, made a quip about how that failed, and attempted for a do-over. I still had my hand in the air because it was burning from the impact. When he gestured his hand for the second impact, I flinched and flat-out told him that my hand now hurt and that I'm a wuss. He smiled and went on his way.

Now, of course you might say that "Oh, Brittany, it's okay, it happens - he was a bit more forceful than you and it didn't have an ideal outcome." To which I would respond, "Yes, it would generally be fine had I not been the one who initiated said high-five, attempting to be more outgoing and social than I actually am, thus proving to my ego yet again that I should try to stay in my hole while among other large personalities. My medium-high personality just can't compete with theirs."

By the way, my right hand fourth and fifth fingers were numb for a good five minutes after out interaction.

Things not so according-to-plan

The biggest criticism I have of the event was actually the masquerade; however, that is largely because what I was expecting/hoping it to be was not what actually happened and thus it's not really fair to consider it a criticism. In my mind, when I hear/read "masquerade ball" I picture something out of a Victorian Cinderella - ball gowns, fancy masks, waltz-able music, etc.... Especially since there were those Steampunk Dances workshops, I was hoping to see some of that in action.

We stayed in the atrium for about an hour (our room was on the second floor that overlooked the atrium ballroom). The music and the crowd were not at all what I was expecting. The energy was completely different. So we walked around the convention space for a bit (I'm not going to lie, I got in a wedding dress to be noticed so I was going to work it, haha) then decided to just hit the hay.

Another thing, I was expecting an opportunity to try Absinthe at some point that weekend, but I never got the chance. I'm hoping next year I can work up some social skills and maybe get invited to a room party of some sort.

Now, the hotel itself. Travis and I booked a room for just Saturday night because I intended to wear my wedding dress again to the masquerade ball at midnight and I wasn't about to get in a car in that giant thing. However, when we went to check on our reservation Friday (just to make sure everything was okay), both of the men at the desk could not find the information at all (I even had our confirmation number). As we stood there wondering what to do, we overheard about five other similar cases where they couldn't find reservations.

The staff themselves seemed friendly, but also to be in a bit of a panic - like they'd never handled so many guests at a time. They told us to check back later and when we checked on Saturday they found our reservation.


In any case, I give the convention itself a 4.8/5. I'm really looking forward to next year and hoping to be a part of an airship so I can contribute to the games!

What to do for next year

I know what I'm going to work on is getting into an airship and working on my social skills. I really want to be a person who can just talk to anyone about anything. I love my husband, but I go to these conventions to meet people.

So if you don't have good social skills, let's talk.

Pre-register early. This year's Symposium was a complete success, so it is safe to assume that next years event will be in even higher demand. I don't want to be caught saying, "If only I had done it sooner".

Follow the updates through Pandora Promotions and the Steampunk Symposium websites. For me, I love keeping in the loop and the people running the sites are really devoted to posting any information that they can.

Consider volunteering. This event is going to get big fast and a few good hands are always helpful. I'm in no way associated with Pandora Promotions, so I don't know what their specific needs are, but if you are interested in helping you can go to the Cincinnati Geek Club meeting at the Roxx Electrocafe (I will be going to the one in May).


  1. Ah, my dear. Let's talk. I'm admittedly rather awkward in social situations. I spoke to you after one of the panels to say how much I enjoyed your blog. But afterwards, didn't feel like I was able to convey everything I wanted to say. I thought I sounded disjointed and scatter brained. This is common for me. Though I jump out there and interact with people, I always end up with regrets. Usually something along the lines of not knowing what to say or how to include someone, on the edges of a group, in the discussion when another is talking nonstop. Or, politely interrupting at just the wrong time. I never seem to fit in anywhere in particular. Oh well, I'll keep at it.

    I completely agree with your assessment of the registration. I've never waited less than 45 minutes at an animecon when pre-registered. I don't think I waited more than 3 or 4 minutes for the Symposium and we got there at, what I would expect, to be a busy time. I also didn't wait at all to get a day pass for my daughter on Saturday. In fact, I never saw a long line at registration at all.

    I do appreciate your video, as I missed the airship games entirely. An oversight on my part.

    May I share the link to this post on my blog?

    P.S...Back to what I originally wanted to tell you...Congratulations to you both! I stumbled on your blog via the Empire when you were still planning the wedding. I was inspired by all your creative ideas and joyful attitude. I looked forward to every detail. You did an amazing job and I'm stealing...ahem...borrowing some of your ideas for future events. I wish you all the best!

    1. I do remember meeting you after the Steampunk 320 panel! It was an honor to be approached by someone who recognized me for my wedding, haha. We will both work on our socializing skills and next time I can properly convey my thanks as well.

      I have to say it was a hard decision to stay at the Airship Games the entire time, but I'm also a people-watcher so it was rather enjoyable. Next year I'm hoping to have more eyes around the convention so the video can be more diverse and I can get to see things I wouldn't have seen before.

      Of course you may share the link, and thank you for the compliments - please let me know what becomes of your theft =)

  2. It's fun to see your perspective on the convention. I pretty much agree with you. I'm glad we should be at a different hotel next year where registrations are more likely not to be lost.
    At Ohayocon this last year, we came "late" on Saturday hoping not to spend 3 hours online to register, but still had to wait about 2 hours. I'm sure we won't go next year, it's so crowded it rather stressful. We've never vended before, but it was actually pretty fun and since the con was well organized, not too much work (besides the making of stuff). I hope you enjoy those candlesticks! We'll definitely vend at next year's SES, and maybe even at PandoraCon.
    I'm glad you're promoting volunteering for next year's convention. If you don't feel up to leading panels, there are plenty of other jobs that need filling, like sitting at the registration desk or giving directions in the hallways. I think there was a volunteer in pretty much every room with programming to make sure things ran on schedule. One of the main reasons the con ran so well was having ample volunteers.