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Virus Sends Steampunk to Cyberspace

Organizers are setting up virtual marketplaces to help vendors cope with event cancellations

Monday, March 16, 2020
Plague Doctor
Plague Doctor in the Clockwork Alchemy vendor room.

As the COVID-19 outbreak forces suspension of steampunk and geek culture gatherings around the world, organizers are setting up virtual vendor markets and other online alternatives to in-person events.

Dozens of conventions and festivals have been postponed or cancelled in recent days, following directives from public health officials seeking to slow the spread of the disease. This has led to steep income losses for the artisans, authors, musicians, and other creators who perform or exhibit at these events. The online marketplaces provide a way to patronize these artists from the safety of your home or office.

These efforts include:

A virtual steampunk market featuring traders from the Shrewsbury Steampunk Spectacular in Shrewsbury, UK. That event, produced by Chantilly Grey, was originally scheduled for March 21 but was postponed until next year.

A Virtual Vendor Fair for artisan vendors and others who were slated to appear at events in Northern California. Organized by the Northern California Black Hat Society, it launched on March 13 and continues through April 30.

Faire Relief 2020, a Facebook group set up on Friday for attendees and vendors at Renaissance festivals and similar events such as Celtic and pirate festivals. It quickly grew to more than 7000 members as of Sunday evening. Vendors and entertainers can post information about their offerings along with contact and product info. They must be vendors who have exhibited at these kinds of events. Rules are spelled out in this post by admin Bella Wilson.

The Facebook group launched as large Renaissance festivals in Arizona and South Florida abruptly closed. The Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California and Georgia Renaissance Festival near Atlanta both postponed their scheduled April openings by two weeks. (Update: The Renaissance Pleasure Faire announced on March 17 that it’s cancelled the entire season for 2020.)

Wyngd Lyon
Wyng’d Lyon Creations

In addition to the online marketplaces, the organizers of Clockwork Alchemy in Northern California asked attendees to support the authors, performers, and vendors who were slated to appear. Originally scheduled for March 20-22, the convention is now set for March 19-21, 2021.

The International Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati also has a list of vendors. That event was originally set for March 27-29 but is now slated for Aug. 28-30.

A Virtual Comic Con

Several large comic cons have also been postponed due to the virus. In response to the postponement of the Emerald City Comic Con near Seattle, author and podcaster Russell Nohelty hosted Wannacon, a “virtual comic convention” with presentations by independent artists and other creators. It live-streamed on Twitch and YouTube, and he’s also posted YouTube videos of each day’s presentations.

The presenters included Matt Knowles, creator of Heirs of Isildur, and Madeline Holly-Rosing, creator of Boston Metaphysical Society. Knowles spoke on Day 1 (Friday) and Holly-Rosing on Day 2.

Impact on Musicians

Musicians are also feeling the pinch from event cancellations. “Abney Park has lost four shows (so far) over the next two months, grossing a loss of $15,000 to $20,000 of income,” wrote band leader Robert Brown. To make up the shortfall, the band will perform a livestreamed concert on April 4 at 6 p.m. Pacific Time. Tickets are available on Indiegogo at prices ranging from $15 to $100.

In a message to fans, Samantha Stephenson and Scott Helland of Frenchy and the Punk noted that they get 98 percent of their income from live performances. They lost one major booking for April, and Helland was also slated for a solo performance at the International Steampunk Symposium. So they’ve stepped up their efforts to promote their recently launched Patreon account, which features five support tiers and benefits that include livestream and video concerts.

Steam Powered Giraffe has advised fans to watch for an announcement of a “free impromptu out-of-makeup acoustic YouTube livestream that will take place this Thursday.”

Steampunk Hats
Kyla’s Keepsakes.

More to come?

The impact on steampunk events could extend well into May. On Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised cancellation or postponement of all gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. The recommendation is aimed at event organizers and “is not intended to supersede the advice of local public health officials,” the agency stated. However, local and state government officials could issue mandatory bans in line with the advice.

Public health experts believe these drastic steps are necessary to avoid situations like the one in Italy, where the outbreak rapidly escalated and hospitals are now overwhelmed with patients. The Italian Prime Minister last week ordered closure of most businesses in the country, and France and Spain followed with similar restrictions.

We’ve set up a virtual marketplace of sorts in the gallery below. It shows many of the vendors, authors, and musicians who were slated to appear at Clockwork Alchemy. However, you’ll find a more comprehensive list on the Clockwork Alchemy website.

Event info: 

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