Book Lovers Gather in Berkeley

Not much steampunk, but lots of creative inspiration at the 2018 Bay Area Book Festival

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Bay Area Book Festival, held annually in downtown Berkeley, California, is a major event on the local literary calendar. Many attend the festival to hear talks by celebrity writers, but what's most interesting to me is the opportunity to meet lesser-known authors and other creative people who purchase booth space at the event.

The 2018 festival was held the last weekend of April, and I spent Sunday wandering the exhibitors' area with my camera and notepad. I did not encounter any steampunk authors, but fantasy and horror were well represented, and I did find some folks who might offer creative inspiration for steampunks.

Case in point: Joshua Margolis, an Oakland sculptor and author of Melvin, The Sad. . .(ish) Robot. He sculpted Melvin and then posed the character in various locations around the Bay Area to illustrate his book "about one robot's longing for love and happiness."

Rebecca Rosenberg

Sonoma County author Rebecca Rosenberg was there to introduce her new historical novel, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, about a love triangle between Jack London, his wife Charmian, and Harry Houdini. The story is set in 1915, and Rosenberg was dressed in period attire as she discussed the book with passersby.

Bevan Atkinson of San Francisco was selling copies of The Tarot Mysteries, a series of contemporary mystery novels based on the Tarot. So far, she's written five: The Fool Card, The Magician Card, The High Priestess Card, The Empress Card and The Emperor Card. One of her inspirations was Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone alphabet series ("A" Is for Alibi, "B" Is for Burglar, etc.). Since there are 78 Tarot cards, she doesn't have to worry about hitting "Z."

I also had a chance to meet authors from the local chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Horror Writers Association.

826 Valencia

826 Valencia was on hand with books about writing, plus a selection of products from the 826 Valencia Pirate Supply Store in San Francisco's Mission District. The non-profit organization offers programs to promote writing skills among students, and it operates the pirate store as a fundraising vehicle.

I noticed a faux dive helmet on the table, and not being one to pass on a steampunk photo op, I asked an 826 volunteer if she would wear it for a picture. She kindly obliged.

Founded in 2002, the group has inspired similar efforts in other cities, each with their own retail outlet. A couple examples: the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store in New York and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies in London.

Most exhibitors were authors or publishers, but some were selling book-related crafts. Among them was Jim Rosenau of Berkeley, who turns vintage books into clocks and furniture.

Here's a look at these and other interesting sights at the festival.

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