I’m not a newcomer to steampunk, though nor have I been here from the start. I can remember with clarity what drew me to the community/genre/lifestyle that is steampunk. It was a book. The cover read Soulless and from page one I was hooked on this hungry heroine and the world that Gail Carriger had built from the familiar London streets. I was reminded of Dianna Wynne Jones with a dash of Terry Pratchett, and I was in love. From there, it was only an internet search away from this term I’d never heard before.
Now, as a teen I was a goth, and there is that old standby that steampunk is what happens when goths wear brown but I don’t hold to that logic. steampunk is a community that envelopes aspects of goth, and the two intermingle though do not always overlap. Discovering a community that combined my love of history, costuming and literature was…like coming home. It was like I’d always been searching for this ephemeral thing and here it was, right in front of me.
My roommate and I discovered there were a few steampunk groups nearby (Airships) and went to a couple of meet and greets, but it was not until we went to our first convention that I would say I had my first proper introduction to the community at large. It was the inaugural Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Held in a hotel that had many of recalling moments of The Shining, the atmosphere was actually rather perfect. It was cold enough that all those layers of pseudo-Victorian costume weren’t unbearable.
I attended every panel I could fit into my schedule, though now they all sort of blur together. That first convention was exhausting. I really wasn’t well prepared for it, as my only previous experience with convention going was a few hours here and there, not a full weekend. I remember best sitting in the various lobbies and hallways and just talking to other people. It’d been a long time since I had felt so comfortable talking to strangers. But if there was a single person responsible for pulling me into the community to stay, well, I know exactly who that is and I met her for the first time at that convention.
The amazing Leanna Renee Hieber, who truly changed my life’s trajectory. Fantastically theatrical, Leanna’s reading of her novel reminded me even more of what it was that I loved so much about writing. And with every year I attended the convention, I got to know Leanna a bit better. I got to see her triumphant republication of Strangely Beautiful. She encouraged my writing. I was also incredibly fortunate to connect with Emily P. Bush, author of the Steampunk children’s book hit SteamDuck. I have her to thank for pushing me to take my writing further in her writing workshops.
Thanks to them, I am now part of the team (with Sophia Beaumont) leading the literary track for Steampunk Symposium next year. Something I never could have considered happening. I get to be the person helping newcomers to the steampunk world. I get to be the person pushing writers further. I’ve come such a long way from the day I picked up Soulless. Since the day I stepped into that probably haunted hotel for my first real steampunk convention. I will never regret taking those steps. In steampunk, I found new friends. I found a community to work with. I found the stories of my heart all over again.
About the Author
Ash is an artist, author and cat mother currently residing in the Heartland. She spent her college years tromping about in tombs and museums, though that passion didn’t play out. When not writing or plotting new ways to torment her characters, she can generally be found attempting to garden.