Kicking Tires

Buying cars seems to have changed a little bit since I bought my trusty Dodge Neon back in 2006.  I have been going to dealerships and looking at vehicles for a few weeks now and thus far the salespeople aren’t quite as pushy as I remembered back then.  I’d like to think that the Internet and social media have made it harder for bad dealers and salespeople to get unnoticed.

In any event, I haven’t had to raise my hackles at any pushy salespeople, even though they’re on a hair trigger almost from the moment I leave home to go looking around.  One guy made me wonder, though.

As I was shopping for a new vehicle last Saturday, I happened upon a Ford dealership and pulled in to check out what they had.  A younger gentleman introduced himself and showed me around the vehicle I was considering.  We went out for a test drive and started just talking about stuff.  I made mention of my job as editor of Original-Gamer.com and he made the comment that yeah, he had played World of Warcraft and League of Legends.

I figured, okay, I can talk shop with this guy.  As it turns out he, was either a poser or had been out of the game for way too long.  He asked me what “MUMORPUHGERS” were, barely batted an eye when I mentioned my beta invite to Mists of Pandaeria and didn’t know what E3 was.  Really?

I guess shopping for a car hasn’t changed that much.

Steampunks and The Furry Fandom

steampowergirl_by_psychochris20
Glue some ears on her and call her Furry?

The Furry Fandom and Steampunks.  On the surface, these two groups/sub-cultures/what-have-you would seem to be very far apart, but I think they have more in common than there appears to be on the surface.

First, there is the Furry Fandom (AKA ‘Furries’ for short): these are people that enjoy works of art and fiction that feature animals with human-like qualities, such as the ability to talk and walk upright.  There really isn’t a hard-and-fast rule as to what makes a character ‘furry,’ as far as I can tell.  For example, both Mickey Mouse and Mrs. Frisby (that is, the one from the book) would be considered ‘furry.’

Next, we have the Steampunks, who combine Victorian era aesthetics and dress with fantastic accessories and weapons, asking what if the scientists and engineers of the day had found a way to power everything either with steam or some new form of energy.  Think Victorian-era dress accentuated with leather, brass, gadgets of all types and for better or for worse, gears.

I have had exposure to both groups, having attended the first two Aetherfests in San Antonio as well as Furry Fiesta in Dallas this past February.  In doing so, I noticed a few similarities between the two groups:

The first, and probably the best thing that separates these groups from ‘traditional’ comic book, sci-fi and anime fans, in my opinion, is that they are both very creative.  Members of both groups choose to create their own characters and personas.

In the case of steampunk, it is almost a necessity as there is not very much in the way of established material.  While there are a few folks that take existing characters and reinterpret them in the ‘steampunk’ aesthetic, such as Steampunk Boba Fett, they are in the minority.  Instead, most steampunks will create a character, usually with an honorific or military title added to the name.  Groups will sometimes refer to themselves as being part of an “airship crew.”

Insofar as the furries are concerned, you are not going to find very many folks dressed up as Bugs Bunny or Baloo at a furry convention.  Instead, just like the steampunks, people will make up their own characters, often referred to as ‘fursonas.’  While many furs wear ears and tails at conventions, the apex of adopting a fursona is represented by the ‘fursuiters.’  Fursuiters dress up in costumes to fully take on the appearance of a character.  The effort required to create a fursuit, to say nothing of putting one on, is impressive.  Indeed, at Furry Fiesta I witnessed a wide variety of species represented.  They also come in many different styles, from the cartoony to the more realistic.

Or glue some gears on him and call him Steampunk?
Or glue some gears on him and call him Steampunk?

Secondly, both groups appear to be more receptive to writers.  Writers are virtually nonexistent in most fan groups save for science fiction.  Heck, I can count the number of writers that I’ve seen at conventions on one hand.  Thus, I was encouraged to see a few writers with tables at Furry Fiesta and Aetherfest.  Both conventions even held panels that were involved writers: meetups, discussions of the craft and even story readings.  As a writer myself, I find it very encouraging and hope to have a table at a future event.

Both groups also attract older crowds, at least from what I have observed.  The Anthropomorphic Research Project believes that there is “…evidence to suggest that there is a significant proportion of furries over the age of 25 (upwards of 30%)”  I don’t know that anyone has done a survey of Steampunks, but most of the attendees I saw at Aetherfest appeared to be at least college-age or older.  Being just south of 40 myself, I was relieved to not find any teenagers running amok at Aetherfest and just a few at Furry Fiesta.

Finally, both groups like to prefix everything with their descriptor: if you are a furry, then everything starts with ‘furry’ and if you are a Steampunk, everything starts with ‘steam.’  😉  Okay, I’m just being silly now.

Despite being somewhat ‘on the fringe’ (or perhaps because they are on the fringe) both the Steampunks and the Furry Fandom have quite a few things in common.  I’ve enjoyed taking part in activities held by both groups, and I look forward to continuing to do so in the future…just gimmie some glue, some gears, and some ears!  🙂

Artwork “SteamPowerGirl” by Chris Holm, used with permission.

Photo taken by me, so nyeah

RANDOMIZER’S REACTION: AetherFest 2012

For more info on Steampunk and Aetherfest, visit the San Antonio Neo-Victorian Association’s website!

The best compliment I can give to AetherFest is that I should have set aside more time for it.  Unfortunately, I ended up being a very busy nerd that weekend (to say nothing of stupid work on Friday) and thus, could I only make it out on Saturday.  I had a good time, though.  Like last year, (actually, like most of these things) I spent a significant time hanging out at my friend Chris Holm’s table, shooting the breeze and watching the festivities unfold before us.

Unlike last year, I did not try to dress the part.  I really should put an outfit together, or at least jazz up the half-baked one I currently have.  The opportunity was certainly there at Aetherfest, because there were a good number of vendors and dealers there selling all sorts of clothing and accessories.  The spirit was there, but alas, the funds were not.  Indeed, I felt just a slight twinge of guilt over besmirching the proceedings with my uncouth presence.

Aetherfest was greatly improved over last year, not that there was too much wrong with the event itself.  There were more vendors, some of which were put in the main area, and the panels were held in bigger rooms that were located on the first floor, so they were easy to find and could accommodate more attendees.  I attended a panel on the history of burlesque and learned some interesting things in addition to being entertained by the presenters and their tales.  While I did not attend any of the main events, I heard lots of good things about them.

In conclusion, Aetherfest appears to have fixed the little issues that I had with it the first time around and ended up being a really good event, at least from my limited perspective.  I really need to just go ‘whole hog’ next year; take some time off from work, get a proper outfit together and take in all that Aetherfest has to offer.

Now to find some glue and some gears.  😉

What the ****

Most of my stories are written for a general audience, and so I try to avoid the use of swear words in my short stories.  I also believe that cursing is for the uncreative and unoriginal.  Think about it: haven’t we all cussed at one time or another because we “couldn’t think of anything better?”  The problem is that there are instances where cursing just works really well and is even expected at times.

Case in point: I am currently writing a story that involves pirates…IN SPAAAACE!   Just like any other self-respecting pirates, these scurvy dogs (really, they’re pirate DOGS) spit, belch, don’t bathe, threaten harmless people (or cats as the case may be) and should probably swear like sailors.  Thus, I have a few options:

1)  Say ‘f*** it’ and use real swear words in my story, which I don’t really want to do.

2)  Borrow not-quite-swear-words from other works of fiction, like ‘frak’ from BattleStar Galactica, but I don’t want to do this either because its well, unoriginal, and I know I’m setting myself to get stuck in some “THERE’S NO FURRIES IN BATTLESTAR GALACTICA” debate down the road.

3)  Use common words.  This method was used often by one of my favorite writers, Isaac Asimov.  When a swear was needed, his characters would say things like “Space!” or “Stars and galaxies!”

4)  Just make stuff up.  This is obviously the hardest one, because I’m essentially inventing new words, and I’d like for them to make sense and not look like a random jumble of letters.

I am going with #3 with a varying degree of success, and who knows, I may invent some new pseudo-cuss words, especially at work, but for now I’ll just have to punt and pepper my story with <SWEAR WORD> placeholders until I think of something better.

Crap.

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My second e-book “The Rules of Tech Support” is available for free today via Amazon Kindle devices and software, and of course, you can always get “One Sheet Stories” for FREE here!”

Aetherfest: The Unconventional Convention

Aetherfest attendees
Come one, come all!

While there are lots of things to like about fan conventions like the upcoming Texas ComicCon and San Japan, there are a lot of things not to like about them, too: crowded hallways, long lines, overexcited sugar-and-energy-drink-fueled teens running around everywhere and the eventual feeling of ‘been there, done that.’

If you’re tired of the same old convention scene and want to check out something different, I strongly suggest dropping by Aetherfest in San Antonio this weekend.  “Texas’ First Steampunk Convention” is taking place at the St. Anthony Hotel and will feature a host of activities, vendors and guests for all to enjoy.  For the uninitiated, “steampunk” is an odd mash-up of speculative fiction, science fiction, alternate history, and fantasy…set in Victorian times.  That’s the best way I can put it, you just have to see it.

Based on my experience attending last year, Aetherfest is very different than your typical fan convention.  The Steampunk audience slants a bit older, so there aren’t as many hyperactive kids running around, the con organizers are capping attendance at 500 in order to prevent overcrowding, and as there is no truly ‘definitive’ Steampunk work of fiction, just about everything that will be presented there will be original.  In fact, I can say with confidence that you will see many things that you have not seen before at Aetherfest.

In addition, the St. Anthony Hotel fits the aesthetic perfectly, you will feel as if you have stepped into another place and time at Aetherfest.  A more civilized time where lords and ladies spoke proper English, paraded around in elaborate outfits, and exotic devices bought to life by the not-quite-understood power of aether were in abundance.

One-day passes can be purchased for $30 or a weekend pass is $60.  For more details go to http://facebook.com/aetherfest or http://www.sanvaonline.com/aetherfest

I look forward to making your acquaintance there!