TeslaCon West Slated for Seattle
The organizer of the immersive steampunk con hopes to launch a West Coast edition in 2020
The organizer of TeslaCon, the immersive steampunk convention in Wisconsin, is making plans for a Seattle event that will likely debut in spring, 2020. “We really want to bring our version of steampunk out there,” says convention chair Eric Jon Larson, who is currently preparing for TeslaCon 9. That event is scheduled for Nov. 15-18 in Madison.
TeslaCon, he says, is “more than just a convention. It’s a destination experience.”
Each edition features a steampunk drama with a large cast of characters, many portrayed by professional actors. Larson himself is Lord Bobbins, an industrialist who has ascended to British Prime Minister.
Set in an alternate-world 19th century, the drama is presented in a series of skits. Between the skits, the performers interact with attendees much like characters at a theme park. The immersive experience is enhanced by sound effects and visuals throughout the convention.
TeslaCon also has programming similar to what you’ll find at other steampunk conventions, including panels, dinners, a tea room, vendors, and teapot racing.
The Madison and Seattle events will be “a little different,” Larson says. “It will sort of be like Disney World and Disneyland.”
Each year’s story will first be presented at the Seattle convention. “We’ll test the story out there,” he says. “But then, when we bring it back [to Madison], we’ll add more to it. We’ll see how it works with the actors and everything.”
This year’s TeslaCon is themed “The Battle of Britain.” Set in 1888, it’s the ninth episode in an ongoing series that began with the first TeslaCon in 2010. That storyline will conclude at next year’s convention, themed “Murder on the Orient Express.” (See “More Than Just a Convention” for additional info.)
Slated for 2020 is “Mary Bobbins,” a musical featuring a steampunk robot inspired by Mary Poppins. Though the character is similar to the one in the popular movie and children’s books, “Mary Bobbins” will be an entirely new story, Larson says. At TeslaCon 9, attendees will get to vote on story ideas for conventions after 2020.
The West Coast event will be produced in partnership with Airship Ambassador Kevin Steil, a Seattle-area resident. “After a couple of years, I will hand it over to Kevin to run,” Larson says. “It will still be TeslaCon, but he’ll be in charge of it.” Steil has also been a participant in the Madison event.
“I think it will be another great opportunity to celebrate steampunk on the West Coast, mixing the flavor and feel of TeslaCon with the global perspective of the steampunk community,” Steil says.
Larson first announced plans for a Seattle event two years ago. He had originally hoped to launch it in 2019, but got caught up in preparations for ExpectoCon, a “Wizards & Witches Weekend” that debuted in August. Steil was also busy with other activities. So “I said [to Kevin], ‘Let’s shoot for 2020,’” Larson says.
Initially, he’s planning for an event that will draw up to 700 attendees, eventually building to a larger convention on the same scale as the original. He expects about 1000 people at this year’s TeslaCon. “If we do well enough [in Seattle], we won’t have any problems selling tickets [to future events],” he says. “People will want to come. That’s how you build the business.”
For now, he’s aiming for a date in April 2020 that won’t conflict with other events in the region. He plans to visit Seattle within the next year or so to discuss the convention with local steampunk fans.
A “different kind of event”
Seattle has an active steampunk community, but it’s also seen the cancellation of two major events due to financial troubles, first SteamCon and most recently Steamposium.
Larson advises folks not to worry about TeslaCon. “For nine years, we’ve had a solid track record,” he says. “We’re not going anywhere. I’m financially solvent with the company. If you buy a ticket, there’s damn well going to be a convention.”
It will be a different kind of event, he adds. “I think when they see what we can do, it will be, ‘Oh! This is what they’ve been talking about.’ I don’t know if everyone is going to like it, but I think enough people will get into it that they’ll get excited about it.”
This story was updated with additional information about the new convention and Larson’s plans to visit Seattle.
Photos: (Top) Photo illustration by Stephen Beale, using images from Adobe Stock. The others are from past TeslaCons and are used by permission of the event.
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