Nova Albion

Like the Domain, the Hilton Garden Inn’s general design and feel are pretty well suited to the steampunk aesthetic, and as with previous steampunk conventions the overwhelming majority of attendees were in costume, filling the space and creating a lovely immersive feel to the weekend from the moment you walk in to the lobby. Reg was right at the door, and the vendors room, restaurant and bar were all visible from reception, encircling the lobby and creating a space where it was easy to people watch and find folks. Within minutes of arriving I had spotted Andy Trembley, Chris Garcia, The Lovely and Talented Linda and most importantly Jean Martin, who gave me a key to our party room on the 12th floor.

If there were two things that Nova Albion did right as far as I am concerned, there were these; book vendors in the dealers room and a party floor. Of course, I was too broke to pick anything up from the dealers and I’m told the parties other than ours were mainly vendor-sponsored, but these are encouraging developments nonetheless.

The programming area was on the 14th floor, which I discovered more or less by accident while riding the elevator. Registration failed to give me a program book or point to the table where they were located, giving my harried brain the impression that there were none to be had. Later Deb picked some up for everyone and over the course of the convention I saw them handily displayed in several places, but it was a little odd not to get them at registration. Similarly odd was the omission of a map from said program book and the lack of signage anywhere indicating the 14th floor was the place to be, leaving word of mouth as the only way to figure it out.

For fun and as a way to nurture the convention’s party policy Jean Martin and I had decided to host a combined birthday party on Friday night, so I spent most of the first part of the evening setting up and then getting changed. We opened a little bit late, but aside from that our party was more successful than I could have hoped in spite of the small space. We even had a visit from Artist GoHs Kaja and Phil Foglio, which was a pleasant surprise. Deb helped me behind the bar and quickly outstripped my limited bartending skills thanks to Andy’s assistance. He showed us how to make Mai Tais and BananaKaffeLattas, in my case over and over again as I kept getting distracted during the process and losing track. All in all, a good time was hopefully had by all.

I managed to misplace my badge that night, and therefore after Saturday breakfast I checked out the vendor hall but took a nap instead of visiting panels.

It was probably a better idea anyway and I found my badge in time for the evening. We all got dolled up and we went to check out the 14th floor. We had just missed the Dark Garden Dollymop line fashion show which I had plumb forgotten about, but the dance was just ramping up. However it was mostly partner dancing at this point and there was no hotel bar set up in the ballroom, although the convention had thoughtfully provided punch. I don’t really like punch, though so we went back downstairs to get some drinks and met up with Jade Falcon and Eric Anderson. We made drinks and got to chatting and by the time we made it back to the dance the clock was ringing midnight and the dance was over! A great mass of sad Steampunks exited down the elevators, mostly to the lobby I presume, since by this point the party floor was deserted.

We ourselves were not ready to call it a night at 12:00am on a Saturday night so we grabbed our remaining drink supplies, and headed over to Kevin and Andy’s room where other lost souls were converging. We spent the next five hours drinking wine and chatting in a classic convention late night booze-up and geek-out. As each small group called it a night we got louder instead of quieter but our luck held and there were no complaints. Eventually it was down to our hosts, Bryan, Mette, Anthony and myself and someone put on the 2007 Eurovision Ukraine entry, “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” and it got temporarily rowdy. After that it was obviously time to call it a night.

We all slept in and I felt a little bad about that since there really had been interesting looking panels and workshops I wanted to see (but not that badly I guess). Instead we enjoyed the classic last-day-at-Con linger, wandering through the dealers room saying hi and bye to people and catching up with folks that had been busy during the weekend.

Overall the convention felt like a first year con, which it technically is. Good energy and enthusiasm, a few attempts to do new things with mixed success and some technical issues like a pretty bad parking situation that will hopefully be fixed as the event grows and matures.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #104, April 28, 2010