Con Report: World Steam Expo

My dear Gentle Reader, what follows is a relying of my adventures in far away Dearborn, Michigan.

Steampunk shenanigans and the excursions of the Author Beast in far off climes will follow. You have been warned.

For some reason know only to the strange and fickle gods of flying (who have suspiciously similar capricious overtones to those of traffic and parking) it is remarkably difficult to get from California directly to the Northern Midwest. The last time I tried it, as my Twitter followers may recal it took me well over 24 hours. I ended up stranded in Cleveland with Unwoman and no suitcase. (Which, if I have a choice, I’ll take Unwoman any day!) This time, during the Phoenix transition, we got all the way out onto the tarmac before having to deplane and wait for a new aircraft (a delay of a little over 2 hours). But I did make it safely to Dearborn eventually. I had the pleasure of sharing the crisis with Pop Haydn his lovely lady, and, we thought, The League of S.T.E.A.M. However we arrived at baggage claim without hint of the League. There was much confusion as to how so many, with so much luggage, had vanished with such thoroughness. Had the League disappeared in a puff of steam? Had they been victims of their own apparition dissolution apparatus? Or had they lost a great battle to The Lords Of Terribly Silly Adjournments (AKA the Lords of TSA)? It turned out they caught a different flight, never got stranded, and easily beat us to the hotel. Never underestimated the abilities of the League.


Friday we spent swanning about enjoying myself until opening ceremonies where a general lack of purpose spat me onto the sage in mild confusion and nearly right off the other side in a serious Icarus-style flop. (I was saved by the MC.) Quite embarrassing, but then, I’m accustomed to that.

I caught of a bit of The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing who were great fun and then poodled about enjoying the costumes and the ambiance, tweeting photos and observations in a startlingly modern manner, and turning in at a respectable hour as I knew I’d have a long weekend.


I explored the dealers room and met Sal, my book vendor here and owner of Off the Beaten Path Books. She is awesome-sause. My con schedule was to officially begin with High Tea, a lovely way to start. The adorable tea room was complete with small parasol flower arrangements, delicious nibbles, fantastic tea, and lovely staff. Sal asked me questions and I relayed tall tales, many secrets, some gossip, and a few rumors. (As should happen at any tea, if you ask me.)

There was also a very Ivy hat. I blog about the con fashion over on Retro Rack.

Next up, I gave a lecture on the Gothic literary roots of steampunk fiction (not to mention science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, suspense, westerns, romances, and horror.) It was remarkably well attended for an educational lecture and people seemed to stay awake and ask intelligent questions. I spent most of my time on archetypes and tropes in the hope that writers in the audience might be able to access (or break) such tropes with greater fun and efficiency.

After that, I signed in the merchant hall. There was a lovely little line that perfectly filled up a half hour, which is all an author can really ask for in life, if you ask me. I am reminded of that Austen quote from Pride & Prejudice.

“Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough to be never without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball.”

“… and the authors had been fortunate enough to be never without readers looking for autographs, which was all they had yet learnt to care for at a con.”

I was whisked away to dinner in downtown Detroit and enjoyed fantastic Greek Food and pastries. Delighted to get an alternative to the customary hotel fare.

There were events and things that night, but I ran into the lovely Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary and Writing Excuses fame. He drew my portrait!

*insert squee here*

I ended up drifting about with him all evening enjoying scintillating conversation and good company. Someone had brought their entire tea collection! It was like Gail Mecca.

Howard and I had a delicious time watching the Aegis nerf war as if we were 1860s picnickers observing a Civil War battle. There was much discussion over what a lovely corpse so-and-so made and whether we could legitimately collect the teeth yet or had to wait. It was gruesomely Victorian and quite silly fun.


Sunday was my long day, so I wore my comfortable shoes and most mobile corset. It started out with another lecture. This one was on injecting comedy into steampunk, although I mainly just dealt with way to aces comedy for any style of writing. I’ve taught a class on this subject so it went quick well. After that I visited the merchant hall on the hunt of something very specific, no luck but several bags of chocolate later, I had another high tea. I could get used to this!

Then there was a most excellent Authors Forum. There was a nice mix of writers ~ different styles, different career points, different publishers, and we had good questions and a fair sharing of the mike. The wonderful Jay Lake was there! I caught a bit of the League of Steam being ridiculous (as they should). Then there was another signing with another pleasing line and Sal ran out of my books (which always makes a girl feel good).

Alexia Cosplay!

I met up with fellow author (and new friend) Mike Lee for dinner and spent the rest of the evening drifting about talking shop. It’s one of the reasons we authors do conventions . . . water-cooler moments.


Monday was rough. I was starting to loose my voice and suffer from lack of sleep. Mike and I were on together for a panel about villains first thing. Poor boy, he had to carry most of it because I could barely formulate a sentence. I think it went OK, but I don’t remember much. I manage to squeeze in a little interview with the Leaguers and then it was off to the airport. Mike was there waiting for his flight so we had time to take tea and gossip further on the authorial life.

Much to my delight Pop and his lady, Jon, and the League were all on the plane with me to Phoenix and we amused ourselves (and hopefully our fellow passengers) with jocularity. It was really nice to travel in the company of friends. I’m do occasionally get a little tired of flying alone. Also I’ve decided I should keep track of how many flights I take in 2012. Will make for an interesting tally at the end of the year.

Lovely fan art!

Final Tally

  • Number of Cups of Tea Consumed ~ c. 19
  • Number of Corsets Worn ~ 4
  • Number of Shoes Packed ~ 5
  • Tribute ~ 6 (tea, chocolate, and one very pretty parasol broach)
  • Number of Outfits ~ 7
  • Clothing Deaths & Repairs ~ 3
  • Portraits ~ 1 (but it’s by Howard Frickin’ Hendricks!)
  • Business Cards Collected ~ 7

Special Announcements

For those of you who found my blog via the con . . .

  • The corsets I wore were all by Dark Garden Unique Corsetry. I recommend their work without reservations. Yes they can be costly but I really suggest that you save up and invest in a good corset rather than buying a cheap one. A cheap corset is like cheap shoes ~ liable to leave you blistered, uncomfortable, and very grumpy.
  • The corset busk covers were made for me by >Rubyblackbird Hand Made. Her etsy shop is currently under construction but you can contact her with your needs in mind and she’ll be happy to accommodate you, I’m sure. She does make all her wars by hand specific to the corset so you should have an idea what you want or fabric you can send her to match. I suggest buying one more busk cover than you need, just to be on the safe side.
  • The DIY for my utility cargo belt is located on my fashion blog, Retro Rack.
  • I also have a few blogs about making some of the outfits you saw me wear at World Steam Expo including the iridescent skirts and tea died shirt.
  • For those who wanted stuff on thrifting for Steampunk, here’s the starter guide, and then the details for women and another one for men.
  • My books are available wherever books are sold. You can get the first one from Amazon in paperback (Soulless)or graphic novel (Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1) form. The hardback omnibuses are more difficult to acquire. If you don’t want to try me in novel length, I also have two shorts available for $0.99 Marine Biology & My Sister’s Song. Although neither of them is steampunk.
  • And for the truly curious you can find my exhaustive FAQ page here.

Now I really must dash, I still haven’t unpacked!!!

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Packing to Avoid Fees

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
Genres in Fiction Writing: Literary Fiction vs. Everything Else

Book News:

Quote of the Day:
“Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.”
~ John LeCarre


Heartless: Parasol Protectorate Book 4

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Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past.

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Posted by Gail Carriger

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  1. Richard said:

    It was delightful to see you last weekend and I enjoyed your panels immensely. My only regret is that I stupidly forgot — again! — to bring all of my copies of your books for signatures. Someday, I will remember!

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