Sunnyvale Steampunk Conference 2008

Written November 1st, 2008
Categories: Blog
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Steampunk Laptop

Steampunk Laptop

Finally! I’m at home, showered, comfortable, and dry. While these are usually given whenever I’m writing a post, I’ve spent more time today wet and tired than I spent sleeping. Allow me to spin a yarn about biking in the rain and the local steampunk conference in Sunnyvale.

For starters, I learned a great deal about biking in the rain. You’ll want to wear pants that you’ve washed several times before or your socks, shoes, and bag will turn blue. Don’t ride through puddles or you’ll be fully soaked from the waist down. You should, in fact, start with a tarpaulin poncho before you leave home rather than buy one half way through your adventure in order to prevent creating a steamy microclimate for your torso.

But on to the juicy bits! When I wasn’t biking furiously through the rain and dodging cars, I was at the steampunk conference in downtown Sunnyvale, California! For those who are unfamiliar with the genre, allow me to explain. Between about 1850 and 1930 there was a period of time where it was likely that steam power would be the driver of fantastic machines like motorcars without rails, airships, and even time machines. What makes it so awesome is that the genre hearkens back to when machines were expertly crafted inside as well as out. Imagine computers with housing like a fine violin and those top hats are still the rage.

The conference was a sensory overload. When I attend more general conventions like ComicCon, I relish the rare slices of steampunk that drift by. However, walking into a hotel ballroom teaming with leather jackets, ray guns, and goggles threw me into a googly-eyed frenzy of over stimulation. I never knew that this subculture had picked up so much steam (ahahahaha, lame).

Cheap puns aside, the only downside is that I don’t have enough money to build a full getup right now. The fact is that I’m selling my computer on Monday and the new parts are going to set me back a bit. Not so badly that I can’t afford food and electricity, but far enough that I can’t afford a $400 custom leather jacket that fits oh so well across the shoulders. In a few months, I’ll follow up with some of these people via the web and see what options there are. I’ll include all the leads I picked up so you can sample some of the accouterments that are available.

I’ve placed the information gleaned from business cards and handshakes below (recommendations not made lightly).

I learned that there are several sub-sections in steampunk, and knowing where you fall will help you determine what you want from the experience. I didn’t realize it was so refined. You can be an aviator, a rough and tumble cowboy from the Wild West, a dashing time-traveler, a handy engineer, a Victorian aristocrat, and more. It’s a shame I can’t dress like that on a regular basis, or I might’ve been willing to take a plunge.

I still walked away with some delightful goods. I bought 3 bags of old clock parts and some nice printed fabric to “punk out” my bag. The clock parts will make a great reference for content on the site!

Ruby Blackbird
Lots of hand-crafted items ranging from the usual fare like clockwork necklaces and jewelry to some pretty creative stuff like the silkscreened fabric I bought.
Pegasus Publishing
These guys were the go-to place for goggles, top-hats, and some clever T-shirts. I also bought the clockwork parts from these guys.
Never Was Haul
(510) 292-5879
The Neverwas Haul had lots of genuine and replica artifacts from the steampunk era, and they maintain a blog with news about their contraption. They sell products through thier store on
Stormcrow’s Arcane Objects
(510) 292-5879
I was blown away with their inventory because it’s very real. These guys don’t seem to deal with replicas as much as they gather real artifacts and unusual items. The site is still under construction, but if it’s anything like the booth I’d start here if I were building a costume (vacuum tubes, gauges, etc). They also speak steampunk (words like haberdashery), so they get bonus points in my book.
Kristi Smart
A very fine clothier for the steampunk fan. The wares are not inexpensive, but I’ll vouch that they are of fine quality. Exceedingly comfortable and well constructed. The black men’s pirate coat was especially nice.
Mad Girl Clothing
Another excellent vendor of clothes at the convention. They had a wide array of shirts, vests, and jackets that could fill you out for almost any sub-class of the genre (western, aviator, time-traveler, etc). The website is pretty bad, but I’ll again say that these people make superb clothing. Call them.
Theriaca Fina by Emily
Not an expansive selection yet, but I think this website is being fleshed out right now. They had some intricate jewelry and accessories for ladies. Few items for men.
Gentleman’s Emporium
An unusually well built site that sells a great assortment of clothes and accessories. Likely one of the places I’ll start when looking to build my steampunk wardrobe, though I can’t vouch for the quality of their goods because their display was unmanned during the convention.

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