Science, Magic, and Music in the Old West

Earlier this month, I was honored to be one of the author guests at the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention held at Old Tucson Studios. Many classic western films were shot at Old Tucson, so it’s a great place to immerse oneself in the whole steampunk experience. The weather was beautiful for the event and, for the most part, my panels and events were standing room only.

Wild Wild West Con 3

On Friday of the convention, I spoke about how Mars became a place in people’s imaginations during the Victorian age. Of course, there is a strong wild west side to this story. Percival Lowell looked for clear, high dry skies to observe Mars and he established an observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. He then went on to document the planet’s non-existent canals. Nicola Tesla came out west to Colorado to establish a laboratory and thought he detected radio signals from the red planet. All of it helped people see Mars as a place, even if those scientists didn’t interpret their observations correctly.

Martian Presentation

Friday night, I attended a wonderful show featuring the bellydance performance troupe Osiris, the magician Dyno Staats, and the Nathaniel Johnstone Band. The bellydancers captivated my daughter and Dyno’s magic was fun. Although Dyno and I know each other, his assistant hadn’t met me and I was pulled up for one of the tricks, which was a delight. Several of the Nathaniel Johnstone Band’s songs were inspired by folktales and mythology, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Nathaniel Johnstone Band

On Saturday, I participated in two different writer’s panels. The first was Drake and McTrowell’s Hot Potato School of Writing, in which two writers and two audience members created stories on the fly from prompts provided by writers Erasmus Drake and Sparky McTrowell. Later that day, I was on a writing panel with Dashing David Grasse, and Muffy Morrigan. While all of this was going on, my daughter in a fit of mad genius constructed her very own automaton.

Verity and Friend

On Sunday, I wrapped things up with Dyno Staats on the Victorian Magic and Science panel, where we discussed how science and magic influenced and changed each other through the nineteenth century. We’ve given this presentation at a few different conventions now and I always learn new things.

David and Dyno

In addition to the panels I participated in, there were plenty of other events. David Grasse taught participants how to play faro. There was lots of tea dueling. There were many workshops where people made items to take with them. There were lots of vendors selling everything from steampunk crafts, to clothes, to books. All in all, there was a little something for everyone who either was already a fan of steampunk or was looking to learn more about it.

Revolution of Air and Rust

As it turns out, I sold out of the first edition of my novel Owl Dance at Wild Wild West Con, but the new edition is on its way. I’ll be sure to post details when I have them. In the meantime, be sure to check out my steampunk novella Revolution of Air and Rust in which Pancho Villa falls into a parallel universe while fighting against forces from the United States and finds a new weapon. The novella is available at Amazon and Smashwords.

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7 comments on “Science, Magic, and Music in the Old West

  1. Sounds like some awesome panels!

  2. wsmarble says:

    I have not been in Tucson since graduating from U of A in ’78 (should clarify…that would be 1978). Two such wonderful worlds collide here in your post: that endlessly fascinating steampunk culture and the timeless environment that I hope Tucson still remains. Your description of this charming event is the next best thing to travelling 2,000 miles to actually be there. Thank you for your thoughtful coverage!

    • Tucson really has a lot of great things going on and a lot of great places to visit. In addition to Wild Wild West Con, I love Tucson’s little science fiction convention, TusCon. Beyond those kinds of events, I just enjoy going to places like the Sonorran Desert Museum, the Saguaro National Park, and Kitt Peak National Observatory (where I’m lucky enough to work). Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Pagadan says:

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun, and I think it’s cool that you took your daughter along.

  4. […] Science, Magic, and Music in the Old West […]

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