Yesterday, a convention I attend every year, Geneva Steam, announced that this year’s event would be their last. I was stunned by the news. It’s a small event, it attracts mostly locals, and it seemed to have a lot going for it, but in the end, the three main people running it all found that life was pulling them in other directions: they just didn’t have the time to devote to it any longer.
It should be no secret that running a convention is a lot of hard work even for a small event. Besides just staying organized, it’s a huge energy drain on top of one’s day-to-day life. There are always money worries: will enough people attend for the convention to pay for itself? Will the weather keep people away?
I enjoy attending conventions. For the most part I find them a fun way to spend a weekend, connecting with people and maybe even finding a new reader or two for my work. Along the way I’ve made numerous friends, and found some writers whose work I enjoy following. When I first started attending conventions many years ago, there was a culture surrounding them; many people planned their lives around which conventions they wanted to attend, sometimes as many as two or three a month! That’s a lot of travel and, frankly, a lot of expense – expense which keeps me from attending as many conventions as I’d like to. Since most conventions happen at hotels with meeting space, out-of-town events will require either a day trip or at least one night paying for a room, and that gets pricey in a hurry. In today’s economy it isn’t surprising that many people can’t afford to go to many conventions during the year, even though there seem to be more conventions now than ever before. I don’t know how all of them can stay afloat financially.
Many of my local conventions have fallen by the wayside over the last decade. Some collapsed from internal issues, and some just faded away until they were no longer viable. I had a more personal connection to Geneva Steam than most other events I’ve attended: I helped with programming for the last three years, trying to attract local authors to promote their work. If there’s one complaint I have about the Steampunk community, it’s that we don’t do a good job supporting our community’s authors. Some are better than others of course, but steampunk fans seem to be all about makers – the people who design and construct the fabulous clothing or wacky devices that so readily capture our imagination. There’s ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with supporting those folks and being interested in what they do: but without the writers, I doubt very much the steampunk aesthetic would even be a known thing, much less a thriving sub-culture.
With Geneva Steam, I was trying to build a community of local authors — particularly steampunk but not exclusively so — and to build more awareness of the wonderful work those folks do, encouraging people to buy their books and read them. For the last several years I’ve been trying to recruit local authors to attend, to show off their work, doing readings from their books and speaking on panels to help build a strong foundation. Geneva Steam seemed like the perfect setting: a small-ish, relaxed convention at a comfortable resort, close to both Chicago and Milwaukee. I’ve been only slightly successful: a number of local authors have given it a chance, but with the limited budget Geneva Steam has/had, it wasn’t possible to bring people on as invited guests and paying for their expenses and rooms. Even so, a number of locals took me up, and most had fun, even if books sales were pretty scarce.
So buy a book. Please. You don’t have to found an entire steampunk library in your home – one or two books will suffice. READ THEM. If you enjoy them, buy another one when you have the money to spare. There are MANY talented steampunk authors out there, and every single one needs our support in order to keep writing. If you’re looking for recommendations I have a few, but my knowledge of the genre is far from complete, so ask other steampunk fans what they enjoy reading, too. For your convenience, I’ve added a list of steampunk authors’ Goodreads pages for you to check out at the end of this post. It’s far from a complete list, but it’s enough to get you started.
Looks like I’ll have to find some other venue within which to build that writer’s community. I’m very sad at losing Geneva Steam, but it was fun while it lasted, and those memories will always stay with me. As far as building a stronger community of local authors, several ideas come to mind: I’ll let you know if I’m successful…
Alex Acks (Murder on the Titania, Wireless): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16340735.Alex_Acks
Philippa Ballentine (Phoenix Rising, The Janus Affair): https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/1000381.Philippa_Ballantine
Robyn Bennis (The Guns Above, By Fire Above) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14223164.Robyn_Bennis
Maurice Broaddus (Buffalo Soldier, Pimp My Airship) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1419586.Maurice_Broaddus
Beth Cato (The Clockwork Dagger, The Clockwork Crown) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2937730.Beth_Cato
Frank Chadwick (The Forever Engine) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/165406.Frank_Chadwick
P. Djeli Clark (The Black God’s Drums, Haunting of Tram Car 015) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15117586.P_Dj_l_Clark
Genevieve Cogman (The Invisible Library, The Masked City) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/119888.Genevieve_Cogman
Jonathan Fesmire (Bodacious Creed, A Steampunk Zombie Western) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/908870.Jonathan_Fesmire
Theodora Goss (The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11890.Theodora_Goss
Sarah Hans (An Ideal Vessel) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3448382.Sarah_Hans
Mark Hodder (The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3222611.Mark_Hodder
David D. Levine (Arabella of Mars) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1988739.David_D_Levine
Sean Patrick Little (Lord Bobbins and the Romanian Ruckus, Lord Bobbins and the Dome of Light) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6209726.Sean_Little
George Mann (The Affinity Bridge, The Osiris Ritual) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/54989.George_Mann
Tee Morris (Aladdin and His Wonderfully Infernal Device) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/460870.Tee_Morris
Richard Ellis Preston (Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders, Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7033323.Richard_Ellis_Preston_Jr_
Cat Rambo (Altered America, Clockwork Faeries) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1014253.Cat_Rambo
Nisi Shawl (Everfair) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/806782.Nisi_Shawl
Molly Tanzer (Vermilion) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3400076.Molly_Tanzer