In 1893, the World’s Colombian Exposition brought many wonders to the city of Chicago, and this September you can imagine yourself walking the thoroughfares of an “alternative” 1893, filled with strange contraptions and eccentric inventors. Experience retro-futuristic visions of an antique future at the Chicago Steampunk Exposition as you wander through the exhibits, artists, authors, vendors, presenters, and entertainment in Rosemont Illinois on the weekend of September 27 – 29 at the Westin O’Hare Hotel.
The term Steampunk was whimsically coined in April 1987 by American science fiction author K.W. Jeter as a play on Cyberpunk when he noticed a new trend of some novels that had Victorian settings, but with dystopian themes. While the name Steampunk is 32 years old, the genre itself stretches back to Victorian authors such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, and some date the birth of Steampunk as June 14th, 1822, the day that British engineer Charles Babbage almost invented the first modern computer, The Difference Engine! It was designed in 1822, but was not actually built until 1991 when it was proven to actually work. So in the laws of alternate realities, the Information Age occurred during the reign of Queen Victoria, and Steampunk fans like to dream and create what that world might have looked like; they are “historical reenactors of a future that neverwas.”
While Steampunk is the main focus of the Exposition, there are several rooms devoted to specific aspects of the fandom
It was around 2005 that Steampunk began to evolve from a literary genre and blossom into the full subculture of music, art, fashion, and shared community that we enjoy today. During that time Steampunk events have been emerging across the globe, and this year Chicago is ready to play host to one of the biggest in the world. The Chicago Steampunk Exposition is a blend of part Comic Con, part Renaissance Festival, and large dash of eccentric mad scientist, all mixed up with Victorian style and grace. In September, both floors of the Westin O’Hare’s conference rooms will play host to the massive gathering with almost a hundred exhibitors including artists, writers, musicians, vendors, and over a hundred hours of workshops, presentations, and entertainment.
Goth and satirist Aurelio Voltaire headlines the music program which also includes: Unwoman, V is for Villains, Sir Reginal Pike Devant Esq., and Chicago’s favorite retro-futuristic DJ, Vorteque. In addition to music, the entertainment also offers dramatic and comedic theater performances from Outerworld Theatre, Moebius Theatre, Terra Mysterium, and L.I.V.E. (Locked Into Vacancy Entertainment) Radio Show. Throughout the weekend, there are also workshops on costuming, prop building, and a huge variety of presentations on Steampunk related topics.
Numerous speakers will be offering up their real and alternate history expertise, many of whom are widely regarded in the Steampunk community and publishing industry. Writers Leanna Renee Hieber, Michael Coorlim, and other authors will share the joys of writing and Steampunk literature. From film and television the Exposition is joined by actor Bishop Stevens of The Steampunk Adventures of Salem Tusk, Thomas Willeford of the show Steampunk’d, H.H. Holmes documentarian John Borowski, and other filmmakers. Diana Pho, the leading Steampunk multicultural expert and TOR Publishing editor, is the featured speaker for the “Around the World” track that brings Steampunk from beyond Europe and North America.
While Steampunk is the main focus of the Exposition, there are several rooms devoted to specific aspects of the fandom, such as the aforementioned “Around the World” program. For those liking the darker and shadowy side of the Victorian Era, there is the “Gothic Parlour,” and for those who like tabletop gaming, there are several rooms devoted to board games and role-playing games in the “Steampunk Gaming” track. If you like to make things with your hands the “Maker Room” and the “Crafts Room” are places you should visit, and for aspiring writers or avid readers, the “Retro-Futurist Writers Conference” is a must. There are various other presentations on offer, and with activities for all ages, much of the weekend is family friendly.
For a Chicago event of this size, tickets are very reasonably priced, starting as low as $5 for Sunday tickets for children aged six or above; five and under get in for free on any day. One day tickets are available for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, but many people opt to buy a full weekend pass in order to get the whole experience. Parking at the Westin O’Hare is just $10/day, which those familiar with Chicago events will know is a great bargain. For those taking public transit, the Westin O’Hare is just a block from the Blue Line Rosemont station, and a dozen bus services also go to the Rosemont CTA stop. A free shuttle runs from O’Hare Airport to the venue, so whether you are flying, busing, driving, taking the train, or steering your steam powered airship, the Chicago Steampunk Exposition is easy to find.
It is worth noting that while many people will dress up in various outlandish and elegant Steampunk outfits, all explorers are welcome regardless of attire; as Steampunks like to say, “costume admired, but not required.” That said, however, there will be plenty of merchants at the Exposition with amazing outfits and accessories available if you find yourself taken with the style. Also, there will be many workshops that teach you how to make your own Steampunk props and costume pieces for the DIY inclined.
To find out more, and delve further down the rabbit hole, visit www.ChicagoSteampunkExpo.com for information about ticket prices, special events, entertainment line up, and much more.