HRM Steampunk Symposium 2015

I spent last weekend aboard the Queen Mary docked at Long Beach, California for the 2015 edition of Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium. We kicked things off by listening to the radio show edition of London, Where It All Began by David L. Drake and Katherine L. Morse on the drive over. The authors attended the symposium in their Drake and McTrowell personae, and their stories are a delight.

Reading at HRMSS

Once we arrived at the Queen Mary, I made a quick change and went right to my first event, where I read the first chapter of my latest novel, Lightning Wolves. Although it was early in the convention, some brave souls arrived and took in the story. After the reading, I attended a presentation on Victorian-era Voodoo in New Orleans by my friend Denise Dumars.

As day gave way to night, we set up two telescopes on the sun deck of the Queen Mary in hopes of viewing the Orion Nebula, Jupiter, and any other objects we could find through the bright lights and sea air of Long Beach. The little steampunk telescope I described last week proved to be a success. It was easy to use and we found objects right away. My 8-inch Celestron which I’ve had for thirty years proved a bit more challenging, but I finally figured out I mis-read the label on the eyepiece I selected and it was both one difficult to use with all the lights around and a narrower field of view than I thought. I moved to a wider field-of-view Plössl eyepiece and things went much more smoothly.

I rounded out the night by attending a magic show by the talented Aiden Sinclair. This show took the form of a séance to summon Jack the Ripper. Of course, Aiden is an illusionist and doesn’t claim to actually summon ghosts, but this was a small intimate group and we got to watch his work in detail. It was a wonderful show and I also had a chance to visit with friends such as Drake and McTrowell, long into the night.

Drake and McTrowell

The next day came much too soon. Kumie and I awoke and took books up to our merch table outside the dealer’s room, where we were delighted to spend the day next to Nathaniel Johnstone and Laura Tempest Zakroff’s table on one side and Gaslight Gathering’s table on the other. We had a wonderful day chatting with readers and other steampunks. That afternoon, I presented my “Mars, Across the Aether” talk where I told a tale of the red planet, its canals, Queen Victoria’s watercolor teacher and extraterrestrial signals detected by Nicola Tesla. Afterwards, we returned to the deck to set up the telescopes. Here you see me working alongside my youngest daughter.

HRMSS Telescopes

Once the viewing finished for the night, I made my way back to the main ballroom to catch the Nathaniel Johnstone Band. They were in great form and it was a delight to hear such favorite songs as “Snugglefish,” “Stone Woman,” and “Frog and Toad.”

Sunday morning saw a return to the merch table for a short time. Early in the afternoon, I promised to serve as second for Steampunk Gamera in a grudge match tea duel against Steampunk Godzilla.

HRMSS Dueling

For those unfamiliar with tea dueling, it is a competition which allows two people (or monsters) to settle their differences with a show of manners and decorum rather than through the use of arms. Girded with a cookie and cup of tea, the opponents each dunk their cookie into the tea for a five count. Once raised, the last one to eat their cookie without it crumbling is the winner. In the Gamera vrs. Godzilla tea duel, the seconds had to take the field as shown here. Godzilla’s second is the delightful Madame Askew.

After the tea dueling, I gave a presentation on building the steampunk telescope. Sadly, because of the long drive back to New Mexico, we then had to pack up and leave immediately afterward. The weekend was a delightful blur, but I hope to make it back again next year. My next convention will also be a foray back to the age of steam, Wild Wild West Con in Tucson, Arizona. Stay tuned for more details!

Steampunk Academy

In a week, I’ll be over at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California to present lectures in the Steampunk Academy series at Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium. Queen-Mary This may sound like pretty serious business, but in fact, it’s all great fun. The Steampunk Academy is basically the Symposium’s series of workshops and presentations. I’m working on presentations about such mad scientific pursuits as nineteenth century Martian astronomy and a telescope building demonstration. I’ll also be reading from Lightning Wolves and, as an extra special treat, if the weather is clear, I’ll bring a couple of telescopes out on deck so we can view such objects as Jupiter, the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy.

Here’s my tentative schedule for the event:

Friday, January 16

  • 2pm – Verandah – Reading. I’ll be reading from Lightning Wolves and will be available to sign books.
  • 5pm – Gazebo – Victorian Astronomy. Come learn what was going on in the world of astronomy in the nineteenth century. Afterwards, if the weather is clear, we’ll move out on deck to observe those objects which are available.
  • Saturday, January 17

  • 4pm – The Board Room – Mars Across the Aether. This presentation is focused more specifically on Mars than my Victorian Astronomy presentation. Come learn about the canals on the red planet and hear extraterrestrial recordings from a Teslascope.
  • 6pm – Gazebo – Telescope Viewing. I’ll be out with the telescopes again, weather permitting with another opportunity to see what’s in the skies over Long Beach.

    Sunday, January 18

  • 2pm – Regent Room – How to Build a Steampunk Telescope. I’ll show you how you can build your own functional telescope, and give suggestions for how you can steampunk it up to your heart’s content!

  • Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium always features great music. This year, performers include Lee Presson and the Nails, the Nathaniel Johnstone Band, and Unwoman. What’s more, the Queen Mary is a great venue for a Steampunk event. I’m delighted to be returning and hope you’ll join us if you’re able! To learn more about the event and buy tickets, visit

    While on the subject of mad science, I’m proud to announce the release of Tales of the Talisman volume 10, issue 2. Tales 10-2 cover The issue features thirty stories and poems by such folks as Lee Clark Zumpe, Rick Novy, Abra Staffin-Wiebe, and Erin K. Wagner. You’ll find stories about elder gods breaking the barriers of time and space using the Large Hadron Collider, the steampunkish origins of the artificial heart and even a modern-day quest for King Arthur. Issues are available at, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

    A Collaborative Adventure

    Myranda and Fish

    Today I’m in Albuquerque, getting ready to hear my daughter Myranda play bass in the New Mexico All-State Symphony Orchestra. She’s worked hard to be there. The last three years, she made the All-State Concert Orchestra. Making symphony is a step up in prestige for her and I’m proud she succeeded in this goal.

    As a writer, I love symphonies. At the basic level, the music often inspires my writing, making me think of stories. At a deeper level, I think it’s fascinating to see how all of those instruments come together to make a piece of music. Hollywood director Nicholas Meyer once said, “The director is a bit analogous to the conductor of a symphony orchestra. It’s a collaborative adventure.”

    Of course, writers often work alone, and the creation of a story or a novel doesn’t always feel very collaborative. However, at the fundamental level, a story is like a song and a novel is like a symphony. The writer uses the words like a composer uses notes. When the right words are used, its wonderful. When that doesn’t happen, the story or novel grates.

    That simple analogy aside, I have to say my best experiences as a writer have come from genuine collaboration. They’ve come when I’ve worked with an editor to improve an outline or to make the words in a finished work shine.

    I’ve also had great experiences working with artists illustrating my work. I know some writers who get very disappointed when an artist doesn’t interpret their writing exactly the way they imagined it. I actually find it fascinating when that happens. Sometimes it tells me I wasn’t as clear in my writing as I thought I was. Sometimes I see new things in my own writing that I had missed before. If I’m lucky enough to get the illustration before I’ve finished polishing a work, I’ve been known to go back and use elements from the illustration in the writing, making the process truly collaborative.

    My only regret about being in Albuquerque this weekend is that it coincides with Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. I had an excellent time participating as a writer the last two years and I hope I’ll be able to return next year. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll drop in. You’ll see the magic of Dyno Staats, hear music from such fabulous artists as Abney Park, Unwoman, and Lee Presson and the Nails, and much more. Clearly, though, it was important to celebrate my daughter’s accomplishment and I look forward to seeing many of my Southern California friends at San Diego’s Gaslight Gathering this spring!

    Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium – 2013

    Next weekend I’m honored to be a literary guest at Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium aboard the Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California. Other guests include Bruce Boxleitner, Phil and Kaja Foglio, Unwoman, and Dino Staats. You can learn more about the convention at

    HRM Steam Logo

    I was one of the guests last year and I had a fantastic time. The Queen Mary is a wonderful venue for a steampunk event. The grand old ship sets the scene and most of the attendees were in costume. Tourists visiting the Queen Mary wondered if they had fallen into a time warp.

    At this point, I’m scheduled to be on several panels. I’ll be giving an updated version of my Victorian Astronomy presentation, plus I’ll be discussing Steampunk Poetry, writing steampunk in a shared world, and Dino Staats and I will once again delve the fine line between magic and science that existed in Victorian days.

    David and Kevin

    Last year, one of the things I was asked most often is whether any of my steampunk books were available as ebooks. Unfortunately, at that point Owl Dance had just been released and was only available in paper. Now, there are several ebooks available that contain my steampunk tales. Here are a few of the ones that are available. Clicking the covers will take you to their pages at Although Owl Dance is currently a Kindle exclusive ebook, both Revolution of Air and Rust and Gears and Levers can be purchased at other sites such as Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and the Kobo ebook store.

    Owl Dance Cover
    Gears and Levers
    Revolution of Air and Rust

    I’ll have these and more in print and will be happy to autograph them for you at the convention! I hope to see you there.