The Adventures of Steam-Valkyrie: The Convention of Dragons
Created by plotjunkie on 9/19/2011 11:48:56 PM

 Correspondent Cat Barson brings us an amusing in-character review of her day-to-day experience attending the largest pop culture fan convention, Dragon*Con

Photography by Joe Hunt, Frederick Murdock, Catherine Barson, and Doctor Q


Hail to you, my fellow clockwork-covered comrades! I am The Steam-Valkyrie, handmaiden to The Cog-Father Odin and mistress of the sacred liquor known as Loki. I come to you now, at request of my shield-brother, DJ Doctor Q, to regale you with my adventures from attending the Convention of Dragons’ 25th Annual Gathering.


Thursday, September 1st, 2011:


I began my treacherous journey aboard an iron horse owned by the Metro Atlanta Rail and Transit Authority, safeguarding my possessions and cache of Loki from the various vagabonds and the suit-clad zombies that shambled from car to car. My spear of Odin’s Wrath lit the way as I traveled up from the underground and through the feast hall and rainbow bridges to the Hyatt’s Atrium Tower. I was greeted hospitably by my gracious hosts and took the floating car to my lodgings, which my comrades and I aptly named Valhalla.


I then left Valhalla to swiftly travel to the Badge Repository. In 15 minutes I navigated the turnstile labyrinth to on-site registration and acquired my badge. I frown upon those who cut under and through the maze. Turnstile jumpers have no honor! I am satisfied that pre-reg attendees experienced less time in line than the year previous. I was in that line last year. I offer a nod of appreciation to the Registration staff for more than halving the four-hour wait time.


I then took a brief respite to Valhalla to gather my drinking horn and fill my flask with Loki before moving about my people and spreading the joy that only the tools of inebriations could provide. I at last met with my Seattle-residing comrades and traversed to the Hyatt to watch Frenchy and The Punk, and The Hellblinki Sextet perform.  I am glad I did. The steampunks and I danced and reveled to the bohemian blitz of beats, raising enough raucous to wake the frost giants. Or at least I thought we did for a moment when one dashed onto the stage and jumped about like a madman. It was good I didn’t have my spear with me at the time! The frost-giant turned out to be a friend of Hellblinki, clad in spandex and a mask. Both bands performed fantastically, though. Their ancestors must be proud.


Friday, September 2nd, 2011


The next morning I descended from Valhalla in full Valkyrie regalia, spear in hand, and joined the costumed throng in the Marriott. Many adventures were had! I battled beasts of the Netherworld, bantered with old comrades, hailed a toast to the Cog-Father with Boba Thor, and feasted on brownies and dragon wings. Eventually I met with The Austin Sirkin and journeyed to the Westin for the Applied Science of Steampunk panel, featuring The League of Steam. The League was a fine group of warriors, ingenious in their use of weaponry to battle against the monsters of Midgard. They provided a fascinating demonstration of their works as well as valuable information on how others could build working props. They were an excellent addition the Alternate History Track. I hope they return for next year’s Convention of Dragons.


That evening I had the chance to meet and converse with one of my favorite bards of the written word, Mary Robinette Kowal—a delightful woman, I recommend her epic “Shades of Milk and Honey” highly, especially to fans of Jane Austen. Shortly after I attended Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s excellent production of Sketch MacQuinor’s The Game is Afoot! Game the Third: The Tick Tock Dick, a humorous steampunk take on detective stories such as Sherlock Holmes. Finally I made it to The Dragon*Con 25th Anniversary Masked Ball.


The Masked Ball was a strange conglomeration of themes. I think those who planned it aimed for something similar to The Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball in Los Angeles in requiring that every attendee wear a mask. However this was the only requirement and it enabled plain-clothes patrons to purchase cheap masks at the door, thus ruining the illusion of elegance. The seating arrangements were particularly odd. There were a few tables with chairs. The rest of the chairs, however, remained in a large section of rows facing the stage. I am aware there was limited time to move them, but the measure limited the space on the dance floor as well as the guests’ options to either dance, or awkwardly watch other people dancing. The entertainment for the evening included a concert put on byPaul “Shredder of Strings” Mercer and The Ghost Project withNathaniel “Reaver of the Wastes” Johnstone of Abney Park as a guest on guitar. To finish out the music for the night, the “Diva” from The Fifth Element sang a portion of her famous aria. The music was intricately beautiful and dance-worthy, but I do not think it was what the other ball-guests were expecting. This I do not fault the entertainment for, but rather the organizers of the event for not really developing a cohesive theme, or even following through with what they were advertising in the program.  I enjoyed myself, but I think the event did not live up to its potential.


Saturday, September 3rd, 2011


On Saturday I spent most of my day relaxing and catching up with various comrades of mine. I passed some time with Costume Uprising in our Nerfpunk regalia. Nerfpunk, in my humble opinion, delves into some of the true roots and ancestors of steampunk: Nerf Guns. For it was the Cog-Father who once instructed the race of men: “Oh ye Punks of Steam/ Ye Shall not go into convention halls unadorned/ But take ye this Maverick bright/ And hence paint it with the hues of metal and earth!”  We chose to honor our armaments’ ancestors by donning garments in their colors.


I took a brief leave of absence from my party to attend and perform in the Silk Road Expo, put on by the Silk Road Track. It was well attended and full of dancers of great skill and presence including Natakiya, Jahara Phoenix, Kartane of Raven’s Wing, and The Cross-Cultural Dance Company. Track Director Kira “Wielder of the Bifrost Fans” Lang explains that “With the Expo we hope to be able to promote the Silk Road arts, give fans a venue to perform their arts and give Dragon*Con a great show for the fans who want to see it!” I was also impressed with the power and presence the dancer Phoenicia possessed in her performance. Truly she could lead the fallen to Valhalla by her art alone!


I returned to my Nerfpunk-clad comrades and was shortly joined by The League of Steam, also adorned in Nerfpunk regalia. There had to be eighteen of us in our party as we mightily and proudly held our weapons high in procession from the Hyatt to the Marriott. “Nerf! Nerf! Nerf!” We chanted in a battle cry to honor the gun-cestors. The people knew who we were and what we stood for! To the Cog-Father!


I then departed my brightly adorned comrades to attend an especially epic performance by Abney Park. The heightened energy brought on by the music and connection between artist and audience could have melted the faces of the frost giants themselves! Josh “The Axe-Grinder” Goering returned to the line-up with a vengeance this evening, picking out a breathtaking solo on “The Root of All Evil”. “I thought the show was really fun,” his bandmate, Nathaniel Johnstone, remarked. “We totally rocked it!” Such an evening will remain alive in the memories of the Punks of Steam!


I then returned to Valhalla to find my comrades feasting and reveling.  I joined them and we toasted the Cog-Father loudly into the night with each other, and also with the Crazy 88’s across the way in the International Tower. Oh Valhalla!


Sunday, September 4th, 2011


The main highlight of Sunday was the Steampunk Exhibition. The line was well worth the wait as I spent the next hour or two feasting my eyes on amazing sights such as a miniature airship that near reached the ceiling in height and perhaps the most epic fist bump in the world between Sheyne Fleisher of The League of Steam and the Emperor of the Red Fork Empire.  I offer accolades to Paige Gardner Smith for putting the Exhibition together. If anything I wish it had been sooner so I could’ve met and gotten to know everyone earlier in the convention.


After resting my feet during an enlightening panel on The Regency Era, also put on by the Alternate History Track, I met with my comrades again to feast before preparing for the Guinness World Record Attempt for the most steampunks in one photograph. I regret the decision. We stayed in accordance to our honor, though we were disgusted that a beer company would dare insult the Cog-Father by reducing the Punks of Steam down to a few insulting stereotypes.

The night was not lost, however. I took respite once more in Valhalla to recuperate for the evening and descended later to revels that only my comrades from all over the world could offer. The convention went to great lengths to ensure the safety of its participants by only permitting those with badges and room-keys to enter the hotels. I appreciate this, and traffic flowed much more smoothly this year.


At last I wandered down to the lower levels of the Marriott and discovered a large gathering of steampunks: Abney Park, The League of Steam, Costume Uprising, G.D. Falksen, Evelyn Kriete, The Clockwork Fox, and The Emperor of the Red Fork Empire. I joined them, and with toastings of Loki, we hailed the Cog-Father till we were thoroughly steam-drunk! Not long after we became rather steam-krunk. And at around the hour of three, I bid good eve to my companions, went back up to Valhalla, and went steam-ker-thunk!


Monday, September 5th, 2011


This was a day of resting and bidding fond farewells to those who are close to the heart, though far in distance, to The Steam-Valkyrie. On a whole, despite the few drawbacks, I can look back on this year’s Convention of Dragons with happy memories of spending time with those who have been dear to me, and those who will be dear to me for years to come. It is as this time I reflect and thank the Cog-Father for all the wonderful Punks of Steam who make our revels possible. I must also thank those involved with working the Convention of Dragons this year for such an amazing experience.


If you have not been to the Convention of Dragons, by all means, come next year! I will be waiting for you, and we, the Punks of Steam will raise a raucous worthy of the halls of Valves-gard!


Catherine Barson is a contributer to the Steampunk Chronicle and a self-proclaimed nerd of many talents including costuming, belly dancing, and writing. You can follow her on Twitter, or on her writing blog: Writing Fiction With The Plot Junkie.



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