Teslacon 2: 20,000 Leagues Beyond the Ordinary Created by ProfHoppingood on 12/6/2011 1:49:56 PM
Correspondent Patricia Nolde reviews TeslaCon II, with quotes from our editors as well!
(All pictures used herein not taken by the author, but used with permission)
One of the most surprising aspects of the Steampunk world must be the rapidity at which new conventions appear. Each year, avid retrofuturists and novices alike have more variety in their con offerings as the event calendar fills, to the extent that if one had unlimited time and resources, it would be conceivable to attend an event nearly every weekend of the year! That being said, it is rare that any particular con breaks with the standard format and attempts something extraordinarily novel.
is one such event. Billed as an immersion event, the staff of TeslaCon puts forth a tremendous creative effort to create an experience as close to teleportation into a Steampunk universe as possible. The theme for TeslaCon II in 2011, “20, 000 Leagues Beneath the Aether” was a common thread carried through special events, room décor, staff uniforms, artwork, multimedia presentations, and panel topics.
Eric Larson, who both envisioned and actualized the event, presides over the event in persona as Lord Hastings Robert Bobbins, the proprietor of the Bobbins Dirigible and Balloon Corporation. In his role as Lord Bobbins, he serves as a gracious host to the “passengers” aboard his vessel, and rarely does he break character to display the most certainly frazzled convention organizer beneath the ebullient demeanor of a Victorian adventuring gentleman. Likewise, all of his event staff, and especially those with prominent roles in the story arc of the event, maintain their assigned roles as sailors, navigators, engineers, and ship’s stewards. This role-playing cast of characters sets the mood for the immersion immediately upon entering the hotel and checking into the event.
Suspension of disbelief was further encouraged through the use of “passports” rather than “badges”, audio ship announcements over loudspeakers, and the placement of theme-appropriate artwork throughout the event venue. However, the pièce de résistance of the immersion experience are the multimedia/special effects events that carry the story arc in film and interactive experiences. This year’s “Battle of the Leviathans” related the battle between the HMS Trident, the vessel for our voyage, and the evil Dr. Proctocus, achieved through a brilliant combination of computer-generated animation, filmed dialogues, and live performances. However, what brought the entire production to true immersive interaction was the good-natured interplay of the audience with the story. During the battle scenes, the audience screamed and rocked back and forth to further the effect of a ship under attack. In fact, it’s the willing and enthusiastic participation of the attendees in the experience that make TeslaCon so remarkable. One attendee remarked that, while standing in line for breakfast dressed in a sailor suit, the couple behind him began to engage him in conversation as though he were a member of the crew, bringing their own unscripted character interactions as passengers on the cruise liner. Steampunk Chronicle’s own Editrix de Mode, Wilhelmina Frame, remarked, “The immersion was so detailed and well executed it was actually once the con was over and I could really sit and think about it that I realized the depth and subtlety of the pitch perfect execution”. High praise, indeed, from a lady of such distinctive tastes and expertise!
Aside from the immersive aspects, the entertainments offered by the event were varied and rich. Friday night’s film screenings and Midnight Gala (which oddly began at 9:30 pm) were well attended and lively gatherings. The Official TeslaCon Ball on Saturday night was a delightful period dance, complete with dance cards handed to the ladies in attendance. Everyone turned out to promenade and waltz in their finest ball gowns and tuxedo coats. Following the formal ball of the evening, a more eclectic and contemporary beat was set by the Lords and Ladies DJs out of the Chicago Steampunk scene, and the revelry continued until early into the morning. In addition the large musical events, performances were offered throughout the weekend by such steampunk luminaries as Eli August, Veronique Chevalier, and Unwoman.
The opportunities for shopping, however, were rather limited, which I found personally dissatisfying. Although the quality of goods was extremely high, there were fewer vendors than one would hope to see at a Steampunk-specific convention. One of the joys of attending a Steampunk-focused event, for this consumer at least, is the opportunity to see and compare many retrofuturistic offerings in one location. It is hoped that next year’s TeslaCon will indeed feature more vendors, as was indicated by Lord Bobbins.
Undoubtedly the organizers of TeslaCon have brought to the Steampunk community a unique and spectacular new kind of convention with their immersive elements and the clockwork efficiency with which it ran. To quote the eminent and well-travelled Doctor Q, “as for the Steampunk Cons I have been to this year, and I have been to many, it is easily the best.” This humble correspondent could not agree more.
Patricia Nolde is an absent-minded professor with a wanderlust and too many unfinished projects.