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Clockwork Alchemy Returns to SF Area with “Villains & Heroes” Theme

Monday, April 3, 2023

“Villains & Heroes” will be the theme as the Clockwork Alchemy steampunk convention returns April 7-9 to the San Francisco area. As before, attendees can expect a full program of panels, maker workshops, musical performances, a fashion show, art gallery, authors’ alley, martial arts, game room, the Alchemist Tea Parlour, and more.

But the convention will also feature some new wrinkles, including outdoor activities and the return of tea dueling, this time hosted by Glenda the Tea Witch and the Tea Scouts. And for the first time, the Vendor Bazaar will be open to the public with free admission.

It’s also taking place at a new venue, the San Mateo Marriott, about eight miles south of San Francisco International Airport.

Special guests include Author Guest of Honor Shelley Adina, Maker Guests of Honor Greg and Lora Price of Steamy Tech, and costume maker Buck Potter.

Marquis of Vaudeville
Marquis of Vaudeville

Musical guests Marquis of Vaudeville and Nathaniel Johnstone will perform at Friday night’s Aural Alchemy concert. Based in the Dallas area, Marquis of Vaudeville describes their sound as “progressive, carnival-esque punk cabaret.” Johnstone, a longtime convention favorite, will be returning after a five-year absence.

Saturday night’s main event, The Devils and Angels Ball, will feature singer-songwriter-cellist Unwoman and the big band “goth swing” sounds of Lee Presson and the Nails. Both performers are convention regulars. Strangely Doesburg will be the MC on both nights.

Meet The Steampunk Explorer

The Steampunk Explorer editor Stephen Beale will participate in two panels. On Friday at 3 p.m., we’ll join Clockwork Alchemy co-founder Thatch Durbin for a panel on “Steampunk and Artificial Intelligence,” including the controversies surrounding generative text-to-image software.

Durbin is an artist and an engineer and has worked with AI in both areas. We’ve covered the topic in multiple articles (here, here, and here) and in an episode of our video series The World of Steampunk.

And then on Saturday at 11 a.m., we’ll present “What’s New with The Steampunk Explorer,” including a look at the video series and our ongoing plans for a redesign. We’re also happy to share insights on how to get editorial coverage and anything else attendees would like to know about the publication.

Wherever possible, we like to accompany our presentations with visuals, and we’re told that the meeting rooms will have large plasma TV screens instead of the projectors used at past conventions.

Free Vendor Bazaar and Outdoor Fun

Live Portrait

Most activities will take place on the hotel’s mezzanine level, but the Vendor Bazaar will be on the lower level in the Engage Room near the convention registration area. The Bazaar, featuring handmade crafts, apparel, accessories, and more, will be free and open to the general public starting at 1 p.m. Friday and continuing through Sunday (except evenings).

Outdoor activities will be held in the courtyard near the Vendor Bazaar. Friday and Saturday events include multiple rounds of tea dueling along with a teapot racing school and the “Warbow Experience.” The latter involves archery with Nerf-like arrowheads. Activities will include beginner instruction and team play.

Sunday’s outdoor program will include the “Aether Orb Hunt” for kids plus Battle Croquet and the tea dueling finals. An all-ages Aether Orb Hunt will be held indoors.

Members of the general public will be able to observe the outdoor activities, but you’ll need a convention pass to participate.

Other Highlights

Art Gallery

The Artists’ Gallery, curated by Nathaniel Blackheart, is an exhibition of steampunk art in all forms, including paintings, sculptures, costumes, and devices.

The Fashion Show, set for 1-2 p.m. Saturday, will feature costumes related to the “Villains & Heroes” theme. No panels or workshops are scheduled for the hour, allowing most convention participants to attend.

The War Room will feature martial arts training and demonstrations with a steampunk twist. Scheduled sessions include “Airship Pirate Knife Tricks,” “Staff Fighting in Renaissance Bavaria,” “Defending Your Airship,” and “Steampunk Saber and Blaster.”

• Lee Presson will once again host the Tell Tale Theatre, where he will present readings in the guise of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s set for noon to 1 p.m. on Sunday in the Connect 4 room.

The Authors’ Alley, in the central lobby area, will be a place for attendees to meet and patronize steampunk authors. In addition to Guest of Honor Shelley Adina, they’ll include Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Anthony Francis, Drake and McTrowell, Stephanie Clemens, Thena MacArthur, Dover Whitecliff, Michael Tierney, Sumiko Saulson, and Belinda Sikes.

Adina is known for her Magnificent Devices and Mysterious Devices steampunk series. She recently collaborated with Regina Scott on The Regent’s Devices, a trilogy set in the Regency era.

The nearby Synergy 5 room will be the home for author-led panels on topics such as world building, mapmaking, writing collaboration, independent publishing, Victorian-era scientists, and steampunk architecture. Drake & McTrowell will present the “mild” version of the Hot Potato School of Writing, an improvisational writing game show.

Most of the convention program is family-friendly, but it will have some 21+ content on Saturday night. This includes a “saucy” music set by Strangely Doesburg and the “spicy” version of the Hot Potato School of Writing.

The full schedule is posted on the convention website.

Tickets and Location

Convention passes cost $99 for the full weekend and provide access to all events, including the evening concerts. Day passes are also available for Friday ($55), Saturday ($65), and Sunday ($50). You can purchase passes online or on-site.

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR COVID-19 test is required for entry. In response to changes in California masking rules, the organizers have reduced masking requirements but say they “encourage those who wish to continue wearing masks to do so.” Masks will be required inside the Convene Ballroom (the dance, concert, and fashion show venue) and in the War Room.

The San Mateo Marriott is located at 1770 South Amphlett Blvd., San Mateo, CA 94402. See the convention website and Facebook page for more info.

Event info: 

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