UPDATE: Dress-up is not required, so come one and all!

When I first heard about the upcoming San Antonio Steampunk convention Ætherfest a few weeks ago, I was excited.  I noticed that Steampunk had been gaining a larger and larger presence at anime conventions, and it was good to see that they were going to try their own thing.  Having more geek conventions in San Antonio is also a Good Thing and I was looking forward to supporting these guys and learning more about what the whole Steampunk scene was about.  Thus, I went to the Ætherfest webpage to read up on it.  It featured the usual parade of guests, events, and dealers, and everything appeared to be business as usual until I got to the FAQ, which included this little tidbit of info at the bottom of the page:


I have to dress up, don't I?

Appropriately enough, this made me steamed

After reading that, I don’t feel like attending Ætherfest anymore.  The paragraph above does not make me feel welcome as a guest.  One of the points of a convention is to get folks that aren’t into your particular flavor of geekdom to see what it is all about in the hopes that they embrace it, or at least understand what its really about.  Telling people that they might not be welcome because they aren’t dressed up is sending the wrong kind of message to your potential attendees.  Yes, it does say: “we’ll try our best not to look peeved,” but that isn’t entirely reassuring.  Indeed, the thought of spending a day being looked down upon by a bunch of self-important nerds in costumes and opera glasses is not my idea of a fun time.

If this message was intended to be delivered “in character” then okay, fine, I get the joke.  That said, lots of other people will not, and when you’re starting a new convention, you don’t want to give people a reason not to attend.  Admittedly, I’m probably making a mountain out of a molehill here, but I hope somebody sees the point I’m trying to make.

If Ætherfest is supposed to only be for hardcore Steampunk fans (steam-core? steam-elite?), then okay fine, do what you like.  If, on the other hand, you are looking to get as many people to show up as possible and grow your fanbase, then this is not the way to do it.

Come on guys, we’re better than this!

UPDATE: Apparently some of the Aetherfest folks read the post.  They agreed that their wording does come off as a tad ‘elitist’ but their intention was to poke fun at other cons where dress up is required, which is what I had guessed.  They have posted the following disclaimer on their homepage and look forward to seeing everybody there for a jolly good time!

Well played, fellows!


4 thoughts on “Steam-Punks

  1. Maki says:

    I totally get what you’re saying, and wholeheartedly agree. As a lieutenant volunteer for San Japan in San Antonio, I feel that making our guests feel comfortable and welcomed is a HUGE part of our jobs. For the staff AND volunteers. I already know of a couple of potential conventions that couldn’t get a jump start because of a small fanbase. It really is a huge part of the convention’s success and “fun-ness”. Without that welcoming of “inexperienced” (for lack of better word), con goers, the convention might as well be just a club for those that are already well into the steampunk culture, tailcoats, opera glasses and all.

  2. I’m sorry you got that impression!

    That section is actually a joke poking fun at conventions (especially within the Steampunk community) that have a clothing requirement. We just decided to poke fun at that and ourselves. If you notice, we have no requirements and if you’ve ever been to a steampunk event organized by us or any other steampunk organization in Texas, we’re not keen on the whole sneering and judging thing common amongst other Steampunk communities. I mean, hey, my co-chair doesn’t even dress Steampunk, he dresses in a simplistic Neo-Edwardian style or just wears a Browncoats shirt.

    It’s an attitude mixed with an aesthetic.

    Thanks for bringing this view to our attention and we’ll definitely put out an explanation of our intent as a convention. We’re reaching out to everyone, including recently Browncoats, anime fans, gamers of all stripes, Trekkies and the like. Why? I’m not just a Steampunk, I’m many other things as well.

    Everyone is welcome, not just overdressed steampunks. 😀 I hope you’ll attend and we apologize for the confusion. I should have been more keen on the fact that sarcasm doesn’t translate well through the webs. 😦

    • I figured it was a joke but your average Joe Blow might not “get it.” There is such a thing as being a little too clever for one’s own good. I hope y’all have a successful Aetherfest with many more to follow!

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