Steampunk Days Out-Steamcon III
I apologize for having taken a few weeks off. In those days I have attended two conventions. Let me review the second I went to first, Steamcon III in the Seattle area.
Steamcon III http://www.steamcon.org/indexIII.php is in a new venue for the convention the Hyatt Regency Hotel and convention center http://www.hyattregencybellevue.com/ in Bellevue, just South of Seattle proper. Room rates were extremely reasonable at around 109.00 per night. The hotel was very nice and the staff was simply perfect. They were polite and helpful at all times. The area was flocking with restaurants. Our first meal (lunch) was very good but resulted in a near cardiac emergency when the bill arrived! After that we sought far less dear fare. We had three meals at a passable Irish pub called Paddy Coyne’s http://paddycoynes.net/. Food there was very reasonably priced and quite tasty. I had lamb skewers with peanut sauce and they were excellent. Shannon had fries with gravy and Irish beef stew. Their beer and cider selections were a bit weak but the Jamison ice cream was everything it should have been! The music was actually very good. Service was a bit variable, twice we had great service but once our waiter was a bit confused. The pub is just across the street from the convention center. For best results go at happy hour. Prices are very low and what they call a “small plate” is not at all small. The pub is small though so go early or be prepared to wait.
We enjoyed the hotel’s brunch on Saturday at The Twisted Cork http://www.hyattregencybellevue.com/restaurants. The brunch there was very good as well. They make a darned fine fruit compote. The bacon was thick cut, the sausages firm and with just the right amount of spice and of course the smoked salmon was excellent. Shannon spoke very highly of the corned beef sliders. Sadly the coffee had the nasty burned flavor with which Starbucks has cursed the entire world and most specifically the Puget Sound region.
We registered late for the convention but the price was still reasonable at 55.00 per adult. There were a number of add on events such as various concerts and dinners. These ranged up to 45.00 per person for the Airship Awards Dinner. Other events had lesser fees. We did not attend any of these events, so cannot comment upon them directly. We did hear really good things about them though and everyone we talked to had a great time. Shannon went to Unwoman’s concert on Friday night. The sound quality was great and the show rocked. Her recollection of these events might be a bit clouded by the after party which featured the la Fae Verte serving the green muse.
As with any event there were a few hiccups. One was gaming. The game department manager position was switched out just a few weeks before the convention and the result was a bit of disorganization. The various game masters made the best of it, although Friday was a bit of a lose. My demo that day didn’t go off although several interested parties came by and chatted about Stars of Empire. I was able to play a demo of Leviathan and watched a couple of other ones. I was impressed and will be posting a separate review of the game itself later.
Steamcon has a great identity, it’s staff know very well what they want the con to be about. This showed in the dealer’s room, the art show and artists’ alley. All three areas had participants clearly selected as being core to Steampunk/VSF. The dealer’s room had a large number of costume and gear vendors. It had a good game merchant but I would have been happy to see a better selection of book sellers. The art show was small but has some evocative works. I think I was most impressed with Artists’ Alley. There were some very nice items for sale and display there.
The panel track was excellent. Due to a miscommunication I was not scheduled for any panels but the extremely forgiving and hard working staff were able to get me on three in the two days we were there!
The first panel was on Friday and I was able to participate with several gents from The Rise of the Aester http://www.riseofaester.com/ LARP group. These fine fellows welcomed me as one of their own and we quickly became boon companions. Although the world they have created is very different in alternative history and MAcGuffins from Hive, Queen and Country their process has been very similar to the one that has brought forth Stars of Empire. One of their leaders Marshall used the word “sandbox” to describe the cooperative nature of their group. That is exactly how I’ve described the HQC Yahoo! Group. Their world is extremely detailed and textured and I was tremendously impressed! They were running a weekend long LARP. It was obvious from the level of participation they received that their games are tremendously popular. The level of costuming from the LARPers was amazing. Even more stunning was that even though The Rise of Aester group had really done a great job the general run of dress at the convention was of such a high quality that it was impossible to tell the organized players from the other attendees. Just getting to watch the cavalcade of finely made garb was worth the price of admission!
The theme of Steamcon III was 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea. A great many of the costumes were of a nautical bent and again they were fabulous!
The other two panels I got to be part of were both about airships. In the first one I got to speak at the same table as the legendary Mike Pondsmith http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Falkenstein_(role-playing_game)! He was very kind to let me participate and both airship panels seemed to go very well.
We had very nice feedback from all three panels and all were well attended. It was a total blast and some of the most fun I’ve ever had as a panelist!
The staff of Steamcon deserves major praise! I’ve been staff at Archon for over 20 years and I’ve been to a number of other conventions, including two World Cons and other regional events. The staff at Steamcon is the second best I’ve ever seen (after Archon of course). To have put together an event this well organized after only three years is simply amazing. They had great programing tracks, registration seemed to go smoothly, the number of musical acts was impressive. I didn’t see anyone having a bad time. There were a few glitches and problems but they were handled quickly and efficiently by the staff. They did a great job and deserve a big bravo zulu!
I look forward to going back next year, we’ve already reserved our hotel room!