Photo by Peeples Photography, SIR 2011
By Belladonna Belleville

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.

THIS (Sorry It's a little blurry)
I wish I could properly express the feeling I had that Saturday.  It was like I had come home.  I had come home to a place I had never been, to people I had never met, and discussed topics I had never dreamed of.  Despite the deep unfamiliarity with my companions and surroundings, for the first time in my life I was with others who were like me.  I was granted with a renewed sense of self that finally made me feel right.  My entire life I had embraced “different” because there was no other option.  I didn’t think sameness could possibly provide the level of comfort that it did.  But we weren’t clones; we were the same in embracing each other’s differences.

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.


Amy DesChenes
03/08/2013 1:55pm

Thank you!

Professor Bill
03/08/2013 3:28pm

Well said. The "coming home" feeling is a big part of all the conventions I attend, whether steampunk, science fiction, or LARP. At the conventions I go to, there is always the "we are family, and the Mundanes don't know what they're missing" aspect. Sure, there are some jerks at these things, but a much lower percentage than in the general population. More imortantly, most of the people you meet at conventions are friendly, creative, and entertaining. If you are uncertain or hurting, there will be people to help. Welcome to the circus, kid!

Jeremiah Finchteaser
03/08/2013 5:53pm

Here here good lady, well said!

03/08/2013 7:36pm

Thank you all for your kind comments!

Professor Bill - I completely agree. This sentiment can certainly be applied to many groups and not just Steampunk. I also have a similar sense of "home" at the beginning of every October when my haunt season begins.


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