In the world of conventions I’m a relative newcomer. Some of you who know me may be shocked to learn that my first convention (con) was Steampunk Industrial Revolution (SIR) in March of 2011. SIR was a first year con that was close to home for me, and I figured if I hated it, I could just go home with little loss on my end. So I took a deep breath and dove in headfirst.
I was pleased to discover that I didn’t remotely look like a newbie but was a little worried that I didn’t look like everyone else either. I had been working on Belladonna’s character and costumes for nearly a year without attending a single convention, so she was developed in a vacuum of horror and my vague ideas of what I believed Steampunk to be. Despite my differences and not appearing exactly Steampunk, I was welcomed into the community by the most happily accepting group of people I have ever met. I was elated that these strangers immediately took an interest in not only my character and costume, but also in me as a human being.
This is the convention where I first saw Melanie Rosenbaum’s friendly smile as she cheerfully showed me various Steampunk creations, where I accidentally locked boots with Savan Gupta, heard a beautiful passage from Leanna Renee Heiber, where Miriam Rosenberg Rocek got her lip glitter all over my face, and where Daniel Holzman-Tweed’s first generous words to me were “12 year scotch?” as he handed me his flask. These individuals and so many others (I wish I could name everyone) made my first convention experience unforgettable. They are also all people I have remained friends with ever since.
That is why I go to conventions. I go to conventions to go “home”, to spend time with others who are like me, who love me for my weirdness. We flatter each other, bounce costuming ideas off one another, offer to help with projects, we bitch about the con, and yes, we gossip about others.
Unfortunately, there are many who have lost sight of why we go to conventions. It has become a competition to some, a chance to misbehave, an opportunity to fulfill personal vendettas, and has brought out some of the worst qualities in some of the best people I know. There are some of you out there who want to drop out of Steampunk all together because of the actions and words of others. This makes me incredibly sad. Please know that there are still many of us out there who understand that cons should be fun and still wish to embody the spirit of our first convention.
Steampunk is something that I didn’t know I needed until I had it. There are many others like me who love this community and want it to remain a place where we can express ourselves. This is a plea for all Steampunks to do their best to remember why we do what we do. Think about your first convention or your favorite convention and remember what you loved about it. Our community is in pain, and it hurts me to see the community that readily accepted me, cast one another aside so hastily.
In reality we are very lucky, no one has died or been seriously injured at a con, and I would hate to see it take a horrible event such as that to help us gain perspective. Our community is filled with creative and intelligent individuals who have all overcome difficulties to get where we are. This is just one more along the way. Don’t lose sight. And please, be excellent to each other.