In the last installment of Starting Out Steampunk, I spoke about different kinds of events and mentioned conventions. Conventions are large gatherings of like-minded individuals who are there to discuss and celebrate an idea. Idea, here, can be loosely defined with something as broad as Science Fiction to as specific as a television show like Firefly. For Steampunk, there are any number of cons such as the upcoming TeslaCon and SteamCon, or you can find associated sections of conventions such as the Alternate History Track at Dragon*Con.
Going to a convention is something I highly encourage folks to do so they can get firsthand experience with the community at large. Even if it’s a smaller, more localized convention — such as GearCon – you get a chance to immerse yourself with other Steampunks and see what other people are working on. You can usually pick up tips and tricks, make new friends, and find a smoking deal on a parasol.
What should one do to prepare for going to a convention? What should you do when you’re there? Really, nothing can substitute for experience at these massive events, but I did want to give some ideas for what to expect and how to approach them. This advice is good for any convention or large scale event, but should still be said for those who’ve never gone to something of this size or magnitude before.
Before you go to a convention make sure you keep a few things in mind. The first is where the convention going to located? Is it going to be outdoors quite a bit or completely indoors? What’s the weather going to be where you’re going? If it is outdoors, what kind of terrain are you going to be dealing with? What’s the theme of the convention going to be?
This extends beyond the environment and into what’s going to be going on at the con. Make sure that if you want to go to the tea party or to the concert you find out if extra tickets are required to go. Get an idea for which of the panels you’d like to attend so you can fit them in as well as the other events and performances that are usually going on around the convention.
An important part of this is also to find out if there are any special rules associated with the con. Many hotels and convention centers have their own regulations that might limit the sort of props you can bring with you. Don’t base your entire appearance around that sweet rifle you painted up only to find out when you get there you’re not allowed to carry it. There might be other regulations as well involving masks, metal accessories, or even hats.
It’s almost a contradiction in Steampunk. Many Steampunk outfits involves heavy layers or thick fabric. If it’s going to be 90 degrees at an outside event sometimes it’s hard to justify wearing that leather duster you’re so fond of. Ladies are more than capable of getting a great look going in a short sleeved top, but if it’s windy and rainy you might want to consider something a little more protective. Make sure that you’re not going to be miserable due to the weather not jiving with the outfit you picked out.
Invest in very comfortable shoes. A typical con experience can see you walking upwards of thirteen thousand steps and often more. Your feet are probably going to be hurting by the end of it, so make sure your footwear doesn’t add to the pain.
You’re going to be surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of people. In such a tight space it’s bound to happen that someone will bump into someone else or even accidentally step on someone’s foot. Be cognizant of your surroundings and make sure to use ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘pardon me’ as much as possible. Be aware if you’re standing in the middle of a tight hallway talking to your friends and understand if someone has to push past you because everyone is squeezed in together.
Make sure to treat the staff of the convention with courtesy as well as most of them are volunteers and not getting paid for what they’re doing. Most will be more than happy to help you, though understand sometimes they’re under an immense amount of pressure and might be running late for something themselves.
This extends to any celebrities that might be attending as well. Ask rather than demand things such as autographs and pictures with them.
Even if you’re in an environment where you aren’t outdoors or the air conditioning is working keep in mind that you’re constantly in motion at a Con and need to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and remember that soda tends to be a diuretic and is no substitute for H2O. Even our beloved tea still contains caffeine which can run counter to keeping oneself full of liquids, though it’s a far better choice than a sugary beverage. Most conventions have water stations set up or places to at least get bottles of water. Go for these as often as you can.
Make sure you eat as well. Not all con sites have a great food selection, but do what you can to stay full. Don’t over eat as it can make you lethargic, but keeping yourself energized is a good way to keep motivated and moving. Don’t rely too much on candy bars or energy bars, though, as those are limited in how much they can keep you moving. If a hotel involved with the con does have a free continental breakfast associated with it, make sure to take advantage of it; especially if there are waffles.
Don’t be shy:
A while back the League of S.T.E.A.M. was asked on their podcast for suggestions on how to meet new people at a convention. Robin Blackburne had the best answer when she said to not be afraid to walk up to people and ask them about their outfits or props. Steampunks tend to like to talk about the work they put into costumes and props and this can be a good way to strike up an easy conversation to meet new people.
Don’t be afraid to talk to others, even the writers, musicians, and performers that are there to entertain you. Most understand they wouldn’t be in the position they were if it wasn’t for fans. Just remember the rule about being polite.
Last, but by no means least, make sure you have fun when you go. Create a plan for charging into the convention with the intent of wringing every bit of joy you can from it and having great stories and great memories. Hit as many of the panels and events as you can, make new friends, and learn something you didn’t know before. Do all this with an open mind and a desire to enjoy yourself and you’ll be very glad you went.
After all if you’re not having fun, then why are you doing it?