Cloud Orchid Magazine was honored to cover the amazing Midwest Steampunk convention TeslaCon. Our group was Bryan Thompson of Graffiti Photographic, our co-editor and in-house photographer; Little Alice of Little Alice Productions, our co-editor and chief writer; and Che our second shooter and personal assistant. Little Alice was the only one in our group to interact in character part of the time. She drew upon her ancestral roots and deep knowledge of European history to create her persona- the Duchess of Cheshire, who enjoyed parties and sumptuous clothing.
This was the third annual TeslaCon- with the theme “Trip to the Moon.” We were overwhelmed by the amazing costumes and the whimsical immersion acting. Upon entering the convention center, we saw a wondrous contraption, the Foundry Cigar Desk, designed by Doc Grymm. This charming young adventurer that we photographed in front of the cigar desk is known as Dave Pace. He was popular with the ladies, and no wonder, he certainly is dashing!
We began with a tour of the Vendor Hall. Many of Victorian England’s finest merchants squeezed into this small room and hawked their wares to passerbys. Gold exchanged hands and beautiful items were purchased. Little Alice even purchased “The Kracken” from Scoundrelle’s Keep. A full listing of designers will be featured in our Steampunk special issue. Some of the designers were featured in the fashion show. Please check out our Youtube channel for footage of the designers’ models walking the runway. While this convention took place in Madison, Wisconsin, the designers came from all corners of the United States. Some from as close as Ohio, and others as far as Arizona. Most items were handmade by designers and their assistants, but all were designed independently.
We will be featuring these wonderful designers and their wares in our February Steampunk Special Issue. Due to the enormous amount of content from this convention, we will be splitting the special issue into two volumes. This will allow us to give our readers the best quality while keeping the issue affordable. If you can only afford to purchase one volume at a time, not to worry! Thanks to MagCloud, each issue of Cloud Orchid Magazine is available for purchase indefinitely.
Her Majesty, Queen Victoria attended the launch of the Silver Star on her maiden voyage to the moon. The Queen was received with great pomp by the head coordinator of TeslaCon, Lord Hastings R. Bobbins III. This ceremony was observed by the Royal Air Frigate (H.M.S.) Defiance: Airship & Crew and a multitude of English citizens. The passengers of the Silver Star include both people of nobility and those of lesser standing. Her Majesty blessed the ship and gave approval to the mission. Foreign dignitaries greeted the Queen and shared with Her their loyalty and respect. Queen Victoria was escorted by her personal doctor, Professor Todd, a dashing English gentleman played by Eli J. Kurtz, as well as the English Guard. It is noted that Her Majesty was converted to a cyborg state and kept alive via a serum invented by the scoundrel Doctor Proctocus, now handled by his former assistant, the Professor Todd. Queen Victoria’s makeup was done by the Lady Dawn Marie Svanoe of Glitter to Gore LLC.
Even on such a happy occasion, there was dissent in the crowds. An organization known as S.W.A.R.M. hissed and declared “Death to tyrants!” as Her Majesty walked by. As supporters of Doctor Proctocus, S.W.A.R.M. – Society Warring Against Royal Masses, these people are exactly what their title suggests, a rebellion against The Crown and her supporters. These colourful rouges scampered about encouraging others to join their cause. They even approached Little Alice, telling her about their leader Doctor Proctocus and his plans to take over England, and hopefully the world. Little Alice enjoyed their enthusiasm, but had to decline, as Duchess of Cheshire and lady in waiting to the French Queen, she is an avid supporter of both the English and French Crowns. Supporters of S.W.A.R.M. could be identified by their purple garb and rough clothing. Posters decorated the walls supporting their cause, one even parodied the ever popular “Keep Calm” meme with the crown overturned. These characters kept the convention lively and certainly made the moon landing more than interesting.
We were able to attend a handful of panels while covering the convention, one of which was the history/story of TeslaCon. Lord Bobbins was the main speaker at this panel, telling all about how Doctor Proctocus went insane (lemon and milk in his tea!) and rose up against the monarchy, as well as the many other adventures the people of England have had attending the two past conventions. We also amused ourselves at the Victorian Porn panel where we learned how even when canoodling, proper ladies were sure to wear a hat, and the gentlemen kept their socks on. The main coordinators of TeslaCon had so many activities and events at this convention that we were unable to attend everything. We were disappointed to miss the “Century of the Beard” panel, as well as tea time in the Tea Room. Even so, we attended all that we could and ended up with over 3,000 images and a little less sanity for our efforts.
For our readers unfamiliar with Steampunk and TeslaCon, this may seem like a stuffy, dull affair, but we assure you this cannot be further from the truth! Little Alice was quite raucous with other attendees each evening. There were several small parties, as well as the Aristocratic Ball and the Steerage Ball on Saturday evening. Several bands played during the convention, entertaining the 1300 attendees. While the well known Steam Powered Giraffe was at the convention, they did not play. But we did have a chance to photograph these wonderful performers. What is truly amazing is that all these persons were able to enjoy themselves to the fullest, but nearly everyone was polite and cordial to us. TeslaCon does have a code of conduct which everyone is required to follow. Pleases, thank yous, and how do you dos filled our ears every day. It was a refreshing change of pace from ordinary life where people are less than polite when approaching a lady at a party. At one point Miss Che actually lost her borrowed fan, but we recovered it moments later since someone had turned it in. We heard many similar stories that even expensive phones and jewelry were turned in by these wonderful, honest people
Little Alice, of course, enjoyed dressing up all weekend long. For the Saturday night balls, our second shooter, Che, even got in the spirit and allowed Little Alice to dress her in a Pendragon dress and a Deborah Olson hat. The Aristocratic Ball was a grand affair with a full brass band and traditional dancing. There was also a cash bar, which we all took part in. It turns out, the more alcohol Little Alice consumes, the better her British accent becomes, quite the anomaly.
Santa Claus was also at the Aristocratic Ball, sporting smooch marks on his cheeks. Looks like some lucky ladies were trying to bribe their way off the naughty list. The Aristocratic Ball certainly felt authentic, with all the supremely dressed lords and ladies. But the Steerage Ball was where the real action was. After some regal chatting, we headed down to steerage and enjoyed some Irish folk music by live band Dublin O’Shea. The dancers were lively, doing spins and jigs. Little Alice and Miss Che even removed their shoes and joined with the pirates and adventurers in for a bit. As the Aristocratic Ball closed, more and more nobility snuck in and enjoyed the raucous atmosphere.
Many of the attendees created their costumes themselves, several of which entered the costume contest. This was featured after the fashion show and we caught both on tape. We will be featuring the Costume Contest on our Youtube channel, along with the fashion show. We were impressed by the painstaking efforts that these attendees made. While most costumes were not terribly historically accurate, they held true to the world that TeslaCon created. Many costumes had lights and things that spun and moved. One attendee, Troy Marion, is a machinist by trade and created a rifle with spinning barrels and a backpack with delightful flashing lights and buttons. He even went as far to use real glass for the lights on his costume, rather than resin or plastic. Some costumes even included extensive makeup and custom contact lenses. This kind of creativity and work takes dedication and imagination.
Adding to the air of enchantment, when the Silver Star crash landed onto the moon we encountered the Selenites. Their handlers were friendly and helped us to communicate with these wonderful moon people. Little Alice had a short audience with the King of the Moon and Miss Che complimented him on his shiny crown.
Two ladies who intrigued us were Toby Holmes and Bonnie Scott. Toby dressed up as a “moon bat,” modeled after The Great Moon Hoax of 1835. People believed that the moon was inhabited by large bat-like creatures and blue unicorns. In honor of this, Toby was in full body makeup with custom ears and wings. She explained to us that her blue loincloth was actually a blue unicorn pelt, a lovely touch. Bonnie was dressed as an elven adventurer with clockwork wings. She had even custom made her corset and added extra detailing. Her reason for being a clockwork elf: “I usually go with the idea that I’m an elf wanting to fly, so I created wings like the faeries.” Bonnie wore a multitude of costumes throughout the convention, we were lucky enough to capture a few of them. Her charming work is titled “White Alchemy” and we will be working with her in the, hopefully near, future.
One of the bands we had the pleasure of listening to was The Uprising of the Gin Rebellion on Sunday. A trio, H.M., Renfield, and Ophelia play a variety of instruments and sing. One of their more interesting instruments is the accordion, played by Renfield. They even have a song about it- “The Haunted Accordion.” We hope to feature Gin Rebellion as entertainment at future events.
There is so much more to be said about this amazing weekend event. We hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and will pick up a copy of our magazine. Much more will be revealed in the Steampunk special issue, along with many more wonderful photos and features.