Steampunks in Space is an event that takes place at the National Space Centre in Leicester. For the uninitiated steampunk is a mash-up of history and sci fi. Victorian/Edwardian settings with technology that is anachronistic or fantastical. I love H.G. Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds’, and the ‘Doctor Who’ episodes “The Talons of Weng-Chiang’, ‘The Horror of Fang Rock’ and ‘Ghostlight’, and ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlement’ and that’s as close as I’ve gotten to steampunk. However, that was until writing ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, and researching genres and markets, and seeing where Darkwood and Hobbs will be going at times, I started thinking more about steampunk and wanted to understand and experience it more. Steampunks in Space was a great place to start….
The National Space Centre was a bit of a surprise. As in, I didn’t even know we had a national space centre. It seemed a fitting place for the convention, and with its full size rocket standing proud it’s pretty impressive. I’m not a big science or space fan but they had lots of exhibits. Much of it aimed at kids, so a decent place for a family outing. The canteen is beneath the rocket and periodically (or if you press a big button that says “Do Not Press”) the engines roar, glow, and pump smoke out into the canteen, which was pretty cool.
Sights & Events
There were authors doing a talk (sadly, we missed that), but they were on stands for their fans for chats and greets. A gaming room where the game developers were on hand to teach you their steampunk games, workshops in writing steampunk, hat and jewelry making, gin appreciation, a free admission to the planetarium, a live action Steam Invaders game–people dressed in steampunk with inflated alien heads and hands walking back and forth while people took turns to shoot them with nerf guns, and my favourite–Tea Duelling. Totally ridiculous but fun! Two people sit face to face with a mug of tea before them. They select a biscuit and are told by a referee to simultaneously dunk, hold the biscuit in the tea, then when told to draw, they have to hold their biscuit up for a time, and then eat it. The aim being that one player ‘survives’, ie doesn’t suffer a tea duelling ‘injury’, or ‘die’–all determined by how much of a mess the person makes or gets in. One man took a malted milk biscuit to the shoulder. Nasty.
(Sorry about the quality of the pictures!) There were also artists creating and displaying their steampunk creations, which ranged from sculptures, gadgets, weapons, and clothing. The fashion for these is rich, decadent and fantastical, so great to look at. I’m going to check out some of the creators and share more information about them on here. But here’s a taste.
These were created by Herr Doktor:
And these were created by Joe Slatter:
As with most conventions, its the attendees in costume that make the day. Victorian dresses, frockcoats, and military costumes. Oh, and some glorious facial hair. One woman in a mobility scooter converted it to look like she was riding a horse. She was like a one woman parade float for steampunk. She looked great. They all looked awesome. I can only tell you how awesome they were. Namely, because my pics turned out to be rubbish. It was fairly dark in the place. Just imagine some of the steampunk gadgets I’ve photographed as being on people…
I can see the attraction of steampunk in just the clothing, jewelry, and gadgets. The clothes are smart and sexy, and who doesn’t like dressing up to their best?! Not often we get the chance. Bustles, fascinators, hats, basques, frock and tail coats, costume jewelry, canes, and all the trimmings. The gadgets were the fun part though–varnished wooden boxes, with gold and brass ornate finished, with vials of liquid, and flashing lights. They all look functional, even if you don’t quite know what their function might be. I never knew I needed a leather holster that holds a teacup, saucer and spoon. I mean, I love tea, so why not have it all ready for the draw when you fancy a cuppa. Just how cool would I look in Costa with my own cup and saucer? No? Ah, well, it may have no practical value, but hey, this isn’t about practicality, it’s about fun.
I actually learnt something about myself when browsing the market. I have a massive noggin. I mean massive. I tried on hats, looking for my first Victorian steampunk purchase–a bowler hat. Sadly, I came away empty-handed. If not marveling at why my head is so huge. Is there more in it than I appreciated? It must be all the ideas.
Sitting here writing this, drinking a mug of tea (I feel I need a cup and saucer now), and eating ‘Tipping the Violet’ fudge (get the reference? I’m not explaining it–Google ‘tipping the velvet’. Not at work or with your granny though) that we bought from Empire Edibles, I keep contemplating what steampunk costume I can make for myself for our next convention and can’t wait to get back into writing ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ again. Just the inspiration I need for ‘The Hunt for Spring-Heeled Jack’.