Madison to host international "Congress of Steam" in 2013
Post by Jesse Russell on 12/3/2012 1:15pm
Steampunk is unique among fan communities in that it wasn't born from one single specific source material. The general underlying guiding principal is that it takes place in a Victorian era where steam and clockwork technology has run rampant and is accessible to the masses. In recent years, the term has also come to include amplifying the advances made into the research of electricity in the late 19th Century. It's the lack of a single personality or organization at the core and a general feeling of shared ownership by the community that puts the "-punk" in "steampunk."
Every fandom develops rifts. Even fandoms controlled by an overseer (for example, George Lucas lets Star Wars fans and professionals play in his Universe as long as they respect certain rules) have divisions on how one should operate within that community. When you have a community as individualistic as "steampunk" the rifts can run especially deep. Is someone steampunk if they incorporate clothing that isn't period-specific? Are backpacks powered with small "Tesla batteries" legitimate? Should there be a greater effort by participants to acknowledge the negative impact of 18th and 19th Century Imperialism? Should vampires, fairies, cat people and other mythical creatures exist as part of the steampunk culture?
Additionally, steampunk is an international phenomenon. How participants in the United States see the fandom isn't necessarily the same way participants in other countries see the fandom. Understandably, the culture in which a fan lives is going to greatly influence how they see the genre as a whole. Should a fan in Australia tell a fan in Mexico that their perception of steampunk is wrong? Probably not. But it happens.
The above issues are among the reasons TeslaCon founder Eric Larson has decided to make the fourth episode of the annual Madison-based event into a "Congress of Steam." Larson is making 1000 TeslaCon IV tickets available to the United States with the remaining 300 provided free to steampunk fans in other countries. Each attendee will be considered a delegate at the Congress.
On the final day of TeslaCon III Larson told attendees he watched heated debates online all summer about "what is steampunk" with the results of some discussions leading to dissolution of communities and friendships. Larson said the fracturing made him decide it was time to have a face-to-face conversation.
Throughout this year Larson has been having conversations with the heads of other Steampunk conventions in the United States. Representatives of those conventions will also be in attendance at the "Congress of Steam" to listen to the fans. Larson stressed this isn't an attempt for any one person or group to "take over" steampunk, but instead to make the overall community stronger. His hope is the convention representatives will take what they learn back home to their communities and create a generally more cohesive fandom with an emphasis on enjoyment.
TeslaCon IV: Congress of Steam will unfold at Middleton's Marriot-West October 31 through November 3, 2013 (and yes, there will be a costume party to celebrate Halloween). During Sunday's closing ceremonies Larson announced more than 500 registrations had already been made. The remaining registrations are expected to go on sale today via the TeslaCon website.
Related Links on dane101:
TeslaCon shoots for the moon
Jesse was born and raised in Connecticut, began blogging in 1997, and moved to Madison in 2003. In 2005, he co-founded dane101 along with Kristian Knutson and Shane Wealti. In addition to helping nearly a dozen contributors run this website he's helped launch various events in the city including What's Your Damage?!, the MadPubQuiz of Awesomeness, the Fire Ball Masquerade, Dane101's Freakin' Halloweekend, and more.