Steampunk Festival 2018

You watch steam blow from the locomotive’s chimney as it sits idly at the station. Men and women dressed in Victorian fashion walk along the platform around you, smiling and taking photos. Your eyes catch a market set up on the other side of the locomotive. Here, you see a multitude of arts and crafts, books, and antiques for sale. Your attention, although, is on the strange contraption at the edge of the market. It looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel. The inventor of this device calls it: Virtual Reality. You put it on and reality disappears as you reappear on the bridge of an airship in the midst of a battle.

No, this isn’t fiction. This was, in fact, September 15-16 at the Adelaide Steampunk Festival at the National Railway Museum (NRM) in Port Adelaide. For one weekend, the NRM came alive with fans of both steampunk and history. This is a walking tour review of the event and why you, dear reader, will enjoy it too.

Your senses are overwhelmed as soon as you step through the museum gates. You get the illusion that you have just stepped into an alternate world, where steam and Victorian fashion is still dominant. There is the combined scent of steam from Peronne (NRM’s operating tank engine) and potato on a stick. These combine in taste as you purchase your own potato on a stick from near the signal box and begin your journey into the festival.

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Entering the first pavilion you are greeted by professional photographers. To the left is a set up where you can sit and listen to steampunk enthusiasts and authors talk. On your right is a small cinema set up with Georges Méliès’s 1902 film A Trip to The Moon (based on Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon).

Down the first row, display cabinets filled with old railway memorabilia and a reconstruction of the Adelaide Railway Station ticket booth are to your right. To your left, in carriages used by Commonwealth Railways on the Trans-Australian Railway, is the Pop Club and another photography spot. The Pop Club have wargames set up for visitors in the dining car while professional photographers are set up in in a nearby carriage. A wargame or two would be good later, you think.

The main steampunk market sits in the second row of the museum. Here, you find a range of goods, foods, and crafts to buy. Some include antique dinner sets, Dark Oz’s DECAY and Retro Sci-fi series comics, and cupcakes. The first set up on the left of the market is a VR set up, brought to you by the Flinders University Digital Media Department. You continue to browse what’s for sale through the marketplace. A custom-made TARDIS coffee table catches your attention, although its $340 price tag is a little steep. You finish your snack in time to reach a cupcake stand run by B is for Bake. After a quick browse, you buy a double chocolate cupcake, fascinated by the decorative chocolate steam cog.

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Before you go down the next row another display catches your eyes. This one is filled with metalwork art, ranging from steam operated electric lights to a clockwork robotic dog. You wonder how can people make such wonderful art. You swear the robotic dog could actually work.

You continue to the end row. Here, among the carriages and steam locomotives, you find a ‘secret’ second market. Here, an artist can give you calligraphy on a picture or bookmark for a small fee (free with a purchase), purchase steampunk detective fiction by local author Karen J. Carlisle, and converse with sci-fi comic author and game developer Mike Cooper (Dr. Mike 2000). At the end of the row are a group of musicians playing some rock music to heighten the atmosphere. You stand for a moment and take in the music, finding it unusual to hear such music in a historical setting.

There isn’t much in the next pavilion, apart from a stage where more performances occur throughout the day. You begin to wonder what to do next. Do you go have a game or two at Pop Club’s set up? Do you try the VR experience? Or will you go explore what else the museum has? If so, will you go ride Perrone or Bub, ride the Bluebird railcar, or grab a drink from the 1940s style Cafeteria car?

You had a lot of fun while you were there and make a note to visit again to it again next year. You make a reminder to recommend to the dear reader to also come along and visit too if you have an interest in steampunk, 19th-century history, literature and fashion.

There is a lot of fun to have at the Adelaide Steampunk Festival. The NRM is the best place to hold it as it blends in well with the old locomotives and rolling stock. The day is great for fans of steampunk. It also gives reason to visit the NRM, one of Adelaide’s many hidden gems. The Steampunk is an annual event so if you’re interested in attending next year, you can check out more information on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/adelaidesteampunkfestival/.

 


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

AVCon 2018

AVCon is a three-day festival that runs during July and signals the end to both the school and uni break. In 2017 it attracted over 20,000 visitors and this year I suspect that record was broken. It is a place where avid lovers of video games, cosplay, pop-culture, and anime come together to share that passion. Run entirely by volunteers, AVCon is an example of a small community coming together in real life as opposed to the forums many visitors undoubtedly frequent to discuss the latest in games, cosplay, and anime.

Walking through AVCon, where-ever you might be, it’s not unusual to hear someone gasp over a cosplayer, artwork, or piece of merchandise they’ve been coveting all year. Adelaide has a lot of amazing talent and, for me, that is where AVCon shines. Not only do we have a strong community surrounding anime and videogames, but we have a range of talented artists with varying art styles who converge to sell their wares and display their skill.

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CDW Stall at AVCon 2018, photography by Cameron Lowe

Each year the convention begins with the opening ceremony on the Friday evening—generally characterised by weekend and gold-pass holders gathering in the foyer of the Convention Centre for up to a couple of hours before the doors open. This year was the first year I attended the opening ceremony. We were introduced to the organisers, volunteers, special guests, and the spirit of AVCon with a skit which blurred the lines of dream and reality. The special guests for 2018 included Major Sam, Spike Spencer, Vera Chimera, Neil Kaplan, Beke, and Knitemaya who were all involved in panels across the weekend. The ceremony was followed by a screening of Ready Player One in conjunction with Hybrid World Adelaide.

With Saturday morning came a rush of people flocking in to enjoy the weekend. In the gaming hall there was a mixture of free-play and indie games, as well as some of the weekend’s gaming tournaments (which were also held on the Sunday). In the Exhibitors Hall there was a selection of stalls selling official merchandise as well as stalls promoting Marion and City Libraries, HIDIVE streaming service, and CDW Studios. Beyond the hall was the chaos of Artist Alley. Downstairs you could find panels, special guests, and anime screenings from both HIDIVE and Madman.

With the evening came the ever-popular quiz night with forty-nine tables competing for the prize and privilege of first place. Unfortunately, this year the quiz wasn’t as enjoyable as it has been in previous years with challenging questions and barely anything accessible to your non-gamer. Unfortunately, the winning team disappeared before they could claim their prize and their prize was passed on. I can only hope that next year’s questions will be better and more specific to avoid confusion and that next year’s winners will remain present.

The cosplay competition on Sunday was a wonderful display of talent from local and interstate cosplayers who cosplayed a range of people from games, anime, and pop-culture. Some had spent months on their costumes and others just a few sleepless days. One thing was consistent however, the attention to detail each cosplayer had for their costume, all doing a fantastic job of portraying their chosen character and their personalities. One highlight of the competition was seeing a Xenomorph come onto stage and break out into dance.

My highlight was, predictably, Artist Alley. I’ve always loved the scattering of stalls, the friendly faces, and familiar fan-art portraying characters I knew and didn’t, as well as those I’d long since forgotten. Artist Alley isn’t just fan art; Decay Comics, indie author Matt J. Pike (whose self-published book series Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is set in Adelaide), and Anthony Christou (a full time visual artist) stood out from the crowd by providing their own unique work. Artist Alley had a wide variety of products on offer ranging from prints and badges all the way to socks and scarves printed with original designs.

I’ve always found that AVCon is what you make of it. It is a wonderful place to engage with the gaming, cosplay, Lolita, and anime communities here in Adelaide. It’s also a place to meet new people and form life-long friendships. It offers a sense of belonging for people of all ages and celebrates the talents of video game enthusiasts. Overall I’ve always found it a friendly environment and would recommend getting a friend or two and heading in next year if you can afford it.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair 2018

 

Despite being a small city, Adelaide has a number of pop culture conventions, one being the Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair. Now in its fourth year, the Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair is held around the Adelaide CBD and this year’s April 28th event was held on the first level of The German Club on Flinders Street. I decided to make my first visit and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.

I felt at home right as I entered the room, after paying the $2 entry fee. I found figurines from popular franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Action Man filling the tables inside. The variety of them was diverse, from boxed Farscape figurines selling at $15 to a $500 boxed Black Series Boba Fett with Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Alongside all of these were Lego (but not actual Lego) sized figurines of super-heroes selling for $10-15 each. Whether it be for starting a toy collection, or finding your favourite childhood toy, the Comic and Toy fair had it all.

 

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For retro game collectors, the Comic and Toy Fair did not disappoint. There were boxes full of games, mainly from retro consoles like the Sega Saturn and PlayStation 2. Many games were the usual shovelware titles, but there were some hidden gems. One gem was a copy of Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (case included) for the Nintendo DS selling for $40. Perhaps the most impressive find was a copy of Final Fantasy V (cartridge only) for the Super Famicom selling for $7[1]. Speaking of the Super Famicom, one was on sale for $130 with its box for any willing game fan.

For bookworms, the Comic and Toy Fair had enough books to quench your thirst for reading. There was a little a bit of everything, from the classic Doctor Who Target Books series to old encyclopedias of the Star Trek universe. Comic book fans were also spoiled for choice, having a wide selection of comics from both the past and present. Both Greenlight Comics and Gamma Rays had a presence, offering the usual $2-$4 range of old single-issue superhero comics to trade paperbacks of V for Vendetta. Alongside these were comics from Adelaide indie comic writers like Darren Koziol of Dark Oz, and Dr. Mike 2000 of the Universe Gun series. Fans of the DECAY series could pick up the final issue for $12 from Koziol himself.

 

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The final interesting part of the Comic and Toy Fair was the presence of two Adelaide pop culture clubs. These clubs were Starship Mawson and TinTin Club Australia, with the former being the prime Adelaide sci-fi fan club. Some memorabilia from Lexicon, a recent pop culture exhibition at Unley Museum, was on sale too, including a framed 1960s Spiderman comic being sold at the Starship Mawson table for $90. For anyone who might be interested in joining these club, I recommend looking them up and getting in contact.

Overall, the 2018 Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair was a worthwhile experience. It was a fun day out where you could find a hidden gem and discover more of the Adelaide pop culture scene. I recommend anyone who is interested in pop culture expos like AVCon and Supanova to go check out the Comic and Toy Fair next time it is held.

If you are interested in pop culture and toy collecting, the Mega Toy Fair will be on at Adelaide Showgrounds (June 2nd-3rd). For more information, click the link here.


[1]WARNING: Super Famicom games will not work on your Australian Super Nintendo (SNES). This is due to region lock. To play a Japanese game, you will need either a Super Famicom, or a third-party region-free system. Another word of warning: Super Famicoms run on the Japanese 110V power setting, well below the Australian 230V standard. To prevent possible motherboard frying or a fire, you must buy a step-down convertor.


Words by Cameron Lowe

DECAY Comics (2010-2018): Australia’s Longest-Running Horror Comic Anthology Series Is Coming to an End

After eight years and 24 issues, Dark Oz’s horror comic anthology DECAY will be discontinued. The announcement came when issue 24 went to Kickstarter in early April, stating that it will be the last issue of the Adelaide-produced series.

It’s been a tough decision, really tough and letting go of DECAY is very hard,’ says Darren Koziol, creator of DECAY and Dark Oz Comics. ‘I have decided it’s time to move on to other projects, other comic book series’ that is, I have a wealth of stories to tell.’
Issue #24 of DECAY will be the first Dark Oz publication to be funded by Kickstarter. ‘Many people have said I should try a Kickstarter project,’ says Koziol. ‘Kickstarter allows you to find a wider audience, internationally too, to showcase the comic to more customers than I can reach from conventions alone.’ The Kickstarter campaign ended on April 18th 2018, receiving a total of $AUD 5,420, exceeding its original set goal of $AUD 2,010.

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Darren Koziol (Creator) at Australian Movie and Comic Expo 2015

Koziol started both Dark Oz and DECAY in 2010. He was inspired to create DECAY after his lifelong love for comics, and a particularly keen interest in horror anthologies like Creepy and 2000AD. The series has since become the longest-running Australian made horror comic anthology series, according to Koziol.
One of the focal points of the DECAY series over the years has been on Australian arts/culture. The series features at least one Australian creator/writer each issue as a way of opening up Australian art and storytelling to the world. Many stories and covers in the past have had an Australian setting, with numerous stories being set in especially Adelaide/South Australia. The series has also had its own fair share of original characters, including The Sisters and the Fuck-Ups. The Sisters are three vampire sisters who appear in numerous one-off stories, while the Fuck-Ups are seven psychopaths who think they’re the A-Team, but as their name suggests, always fuck up. These characters were created by Koziol himself and now either have their own or planned comic series.
There have been many highlights of DECAY over the years, but perhaps the largest of them all is its appearance at the 2016 San Deigo Comic-Con (SDCC). As part of this trip, Koziol created a Best of series of DECAY comics to take over to sell to the American audience. These Best of DECAY series were retitled Ozploitation. The same was done for Dark Oz’s other series Retro Sci-Fi, which was retitled 2525. He was the only Australian exhibitor at the 2016 SDCC.

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Darren Koziol at San Deigo Comic-Con 2016

Although the DECAY series is coming to an end, the future looks bright for Dark Oz. The Retro Sci-Fi anthology series will continue, with issue six now in development, and the second issue in the Sisters series will be coming soon. Trade paperbacks of the Best of series are currently in the planning stage for DECAY and Retro Sci-Fi. ‘While DECAY is coming to the end,’ says Koziol, ‘Dark Oz comics will continue for a long time yet and will continue to publish top-quality comics, showcasing Australian creators for comic book readers and collectors everywhere.’


Words by Cameron Lowe
Pledges for DECAY issue #24’s Kickstarter campaign closed on April 18th. For those looking for information on the Kickstarter, follow the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/467328161/decay-24