Dec 13, 2017–I came face to face with steampunk for the first time in 2010.
It happened during my tenure as director of Club Ed community education program. As a marketing hook, I would adopt various personas to make my catalogs stand out. Over the years, I dressed up as Philvis, a private dick Flatfoot Phil, mad inventor Phil the Science Guy, Phil the Builder, and finally Find Phildeaux, as in Where’s Waldo?
One day we were shooting Phildeaux at the long-running Texas State Arts and Crafts Fair. I roamed the grounds, followed by my artistic director and photographer Christie Kitchens, inserting the red and white striped character into random groups with the idea that readers would try to “find” me as they selected their country-western dance and Windows 98 classes.
Coming around a corner, I bumped into a “character” who was out of place and time. He appeared to be dressed as a pirate, but more high sierra than high seas. The fully bearded fellow sported an ebony velvet vest over white ruffled shirt, black cowboy hat, classy cane, man purse, and lots of rings, buckles, buttons, and brocade. He cut quite a contrast from the crowd of flip-flopped, T-shirted tourists.
I had encountered my very first embodiment of steampunk–a convoluted fantasy fusion of past and future.
That’s not hyperbole. While the term was recognized by the Oxford Dictionary in 2010, it was coined in the 1980s, to describe fiction written in the 1970s, inspired by television shows from the 1960s (Wild Wild West), and authors from the 1860s (Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley).
“Think of a future if technology had stopped with the Industrial Revolution,” said April Cory, who with her husband Hal Robinson is bringing the very first Wild West Victorian Fest to Kerrville Dec 15-17.
On the ground, steam punk manifests as characters dressed as airship pilots or mad chemists, using contraptions that feature a maze of gears, cranks, and lenses, with fashion flourishes such as top hats, eye patches, and ruffles. Expect to meet time travelers, inventors, Victorian dandies, and indescribable apparitions. Fashion tilts toward the sepia spectrum, with lots of browns, blacks, and bronze. Players sport jewelry featuring copper, brass, cogs, and gears.
“Always goggles,” Cory confirmed.
Audience participation is de rigueur. Singers, musicians, dancers, and magicians will vie for attention while actors engage unsuspecting guests in badinage and improv. Those seeking an even more immersive experience can attend teas, balls, séances, contests, and photo ops with fantastic backgrounds.
One of the questions I had when Cory and Robinson brought their Renaissance Fest to the Hill Country last January (which returns Jan 26-28), was whether residents in this area would embrace such an event. Turns out we needn’t have worried. They had visitors travel from all over the country, many already signed up to come back. Even though weather can be unpredictable in December and January, they are able to hold events inside the Youth Event Center if needed.
So, whether you are a steampunk rookie, or have been involved since 1860, or are traveling from 2060, put on your telescoping goggles, grab your cane, buckle your vest, and set your time machine for Dec 15-17, 2017.
Phildeaux will be waiting for you to come out and play.
The Wild West Victorian Fest will be held Dec 15-17, 2017, at River Star Arts and Events Park and the Hill Country Youth Event Center in Kerrville.
Pricing, attractions, times, reservations, and advance tickets online at www.WildWestVictorianFest.com, or by calling 214-632-5766.