I spent the weekend of March 9 and 10 at two wonderful events in Tucson, Arizona. The first was Wild Wild West Con, a steampunk convention held at Old Tucson Studios. The other was the Tucson Festival of Books held at the University of Arizona.
My weekend really got started on Friday, March 8, as I drove down to Tucson from work at Kitt Peak National Observatory. A storm was blowing over Southern Arizona and I left just as snow was starting to fall at higher elevation. I dropped by Old Tucson and picked up some postcards from my friend Katherine Morse, one of the authors of The Adventures of Drake and McTrowell, to distribute at the Tucson Festival of Books. (Go visit their website for exciting steampunk adventures!)
The morning of Saturday, March 9 started early. Marina Martindale and I shared a booth at the Tucson Festival of Books and my wife and kids were along to help. We set up the booth, then my daughter Myranda and I drove over to Wild Wild West Con. We spent some time looking through the array of dealers and got our photo taken with Archimedes the Owl by Greg Ewald.
We then moved into a busy afternoon of panels and workshops. I sat on a steampunk authors panel with the other two writer guests, Thomas Willeford and Muffy Morrigan. We talked about steampunk fiction and nonfiction. Steampunk is such a great area for people who like to make things that “how-to” books are very big in the genre. Of course, steampunk fiction is also growing as people push the boundaries of the genre. For example, do you include magic in your steampunk world, or is it purely based on known science and technology. We agreed that whatever course you steer, you should make sure you know the rules of your world and abide by them!
After the panel, I was interviewed by Arizona Public Media. We spoke mostly about how my background with early twentieth century astronomical instrumentation has contributed to my love of Steampunk.
Myranda and I then grabbed a quick lunch and I went over to the Sheriff’s Office to present a Steampunk Poetry Workshop. I have been finding that these Steampunk Poetry Workshops have been well attended. I suspect some of that comes from the fact that music is such an important part of the Steampunk subculture and, of course, poetry is really the basis of song and music. People who attended the workshop left with poems or poems in progress and some thoughts about new things they could do with their writing.
My final presentation of the day was Astronomy in the Victorian Age. I’ve given this presentation before, but this time I was in a place where I had no multimedia, so I had to do everything with demonstrations and hard copy pictures. One thing that was nice was that I found a demonstration that allows one to see how absorption spectra work using diffraction grating glasses and Christmas lights. Again, I had a good, engaged crowd who brought lots of good questions.
The night finished up with a concert by Professor Elemental, Steam Powered Giraffe and Abney Park. Wow! Talk about a dream team of the Steampunk music scene. They were all wonderful and I returned to my friend’s house that night absolutely exhausted.
I spent the next day at the Tucson Festival of Books. As I mentioned above, Marina Martindale and I both decided to share a booth to show off our books. We spent the day visiting with people who came by. I was able to make the rounds and see several friends at other booths. Notably, I had a very nice visit with Scott Glener and Sue Thing at the TusCon Booth where we made plans for a very special workshop at the upcoming science fiction convention. I was also pleased to see writer friends such as Marsheila Rockwell, Gini Koch, Jeff Mariotte, Frankie Robertson and Roxy Rogers.
Fortunately, the rain never got very bad and Sunday was actually rather pleasant. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and I was pleased that I could take part in two such wonderful events!