Mar 31, 2011

Pure Speculation 2010

Having just missed the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition, and barely a month away from attending the Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition, my mind has turned to conventions. While I have yet to report on Steamcon 2011, I wanted to give some time and attention to an excellent local con, Pure Speculation.

Following my attendance at the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition in the Spring of 2010, I realized I wasn't attending the cons to collect research as much as present it. My focus is on literature that uses the steampunk aesthetic, though I'm of the opinion that the aesthetic concept itself can be applied to other steampunk scholars working in other areas such as subculture, fashion, or visual art.

Don't misunderstand me. I love attending conventions. I hate how they hit my pocket book, considering I pay for flights and accommodation whenever I attend one. That is, whenever I attend one out-of-town. I have occasionally been able to procure the funds for these trips through travel/research grants, but the rest is made up of reward points and my own meager funds.
Jay Bardyla of Happy Harbor comics, the best comic store in the world, hocks his wares at Pure Spec.
Thankfully, Edmonton has a burgeoning Geek Convention called Pure Speculation, which I attended for the first time last year. I liked the downscale coziness of the event, which had under 250 attendees. I presented the same research I presented at steampunk conventions, and in some cases, to the same number of people I gave it to at the bigger cons. What was particularly noteworthy to me about last year's con was how many people said "hey, great steampunk outfit!" This by way of contrast to my attendance at the first Steamcon and the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition, where people rarely comment on my attire - I'm simply not that outstanding in a sea of brass gears and bustles. At the local con though, I guess it stands out. There was something fun about that; in addition, shooting the bull with local uber-geeks left me with the favorable impression of the entire event, and I had it in mind to attend again.
Tanya Huff, Judith Graves, and moi, after the Paranormal Romance panel. I am laughing at some joke made at Twilight's expense here, I'm sure.
So when I was invited back, it was easy to say, "yes." This year's Pure Speculation event was bigger and better in so many ways: from the costume contest to the vendor's room to the multiple panels and talks, everything about it was an improvement. Highlights included sitting on two panels with fellow Albertan Judith Graves, who writes paranormal romance, and Canadian fantasy writer Tanya Huff, who were wonderful to share the stage with - both are smart and funny, and the panel on paranormal romance was a blast. My other highlight was having Liana K as co-presenter in my "Steampunk 101" session.
Liana K and me, presenting Steampunk 101: it was standing-room only. You can insert joke about sharing the stage with a gorgeous geek girl here, but you'd be underestimating how much SMRT she brought to the presentation. - photo by Rick LeBlanc
Aside from geeking out about getting to share the stage with the Queen of the Geeks, I was excited to have Liana present on the fashion and music of steampunk. We played to a packed room, with Liana dressed as a steampunk Harley Quinn. It was one of the best experiences I've had presented at a convention, and Liana challenged me on a few points of the thesis, which was great. Liana's a triple threat geek-girl: smart, outspoken, and attractive. Too often, people accept my thesis hook, line, and sinker, which does nothing to move my research forward. It's the friction that produces better thinking, and Liana brought some strong challenges to the debate.
Liana K, as a steampunked Harley Quinn. She warned me this was the outfit she was going to wear, but knowing didn't spoil the awesomeness of it. Some people steampunk a costume by slapping goggles on it. Liana didn't bother to include goggles, and it still kicks ass. 
Photo by Robert Blezard
I came away from 2010's Pure Speculation telling my friends that they have to attend in 2011. The con had grown to around 300+ attendees, retaining the cozy atmosphere, but giving the event a sense of critical mass. I am already considering possible panels and presentations for this year's Pure Speculation. If you're from Edmonton, it's a great weekend of finding your inner (or outer) geek. If you're further afield than the capital of Alberta,  still consider making the journey, especially if the sturm and  drang of larger events has turned you sour on the con weekend. Think of it this way - if the San Diego Comic Con was a bar, it would be one of those big, noisy, uber-clubs. If Pure Spec were a bar, it's the one from Cheers. And doesn't everyone want to go where everybody knows your name?

Pure Speculation 2011 is happening November 18-20, in my academic backyard at Grant Macewan.


  1. Had a most excellent time at Pure Spec, Mike - hope we'll chat again. Um....what's yer take on steampunk zombies? Doable? Been done?

  2. Judith, steampunk zombies are certainly doable, and have been done numerous times: in Cherie Priest's Boneshaker and its sequel Dreadnought; a zombie Johnny Ringo in Mike Resnick's Buntline Special; and zombies of a sort in George Mann's The Affinity Bridge. Thinking of writing some steampunk?

  3. Thanks for the titles, I'll get me some copies. Yes, a short story with a plucky debutant / ghost hunter. ;)


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