Once you realize what it is, it's not hard to see why Steve Dockery and Alan Darr want to bring a steampunk convention to Chattanooga.
Blending together elements of Victorian culture with Jules Verne-esque science fiction, steampunk is a genre of alternative fiction that increasingly has gained popularity in recent years thanks to films such as "Sherlock Holmes" and video games such as "Dishonored."
And one of the recurring elements in its storylines is trains. They're everywhere in steampunk stories, much as they were in the 19th century. And what does Chattanooga also have a lot of?
¦ What: Steampunk Expo & Gothic Convention.
¦ When: Friday-Sunday, Aug. 8-10.
¦ Where: Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St.
¦ Admission: Advance tickets $40 weekend pass, $10-$20 single day; additional $5 charged for tickets purchased at convention; single-day tickets must pay $5 Friday and $10 Saturday for certain special events.
¦ Website: Facebook.com/Steampunkcon, www.steampunkexpo.org.
A full schedule of events for the inaugural Steampunk Expo & Gothic Convention is available online at www.steampunkexpo.org.
Although it was built in 1905, just after Queen Victoria's death in 1901, the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo was pretty much a no-brainer location for hosting the convention, which Dockery expects to attract about 500 guests to the Market Street landmark this weekend.
"Steam is involved in steampunk, so it seemed perfect for it. I didn't look anywhere else," he says. "I knew what I wanted."
Dockery's first encounter with steampunk was six years ago, when he happened upon a steampunk fan in full costume at the Dragon*Con convention in Atlanta. It was, he says, "the coolest thing I'd ever seen."
A veteran costumer, Dockery soon began putting together his own steampunk outfit, which he wears to conventions in addition to his involvement in the Chattanooga chapter of professional Star Wars costuming outfit the 501st Legion.
"From the response that we've already gotten back, pretty much everyone who will be showing up will be in costume also," he says.
In addition to people watching attendees dressed in gear-studded leather vests and top hats, aerial goggles and monocles, the Steampunk Expo and Gothic Convention will feature a packed programming schedule including a masquerade ball tonight and a performance Saturday evening featuring local artist Doc Shock and Voltaire, a convention-favorite dark cabaret singer.
Saturday's schedule also will include a gear swap meet, in addition to the vendor hall, which will be open daily to sell merchandise such as steampunk costuming accoutrements. Guests also will be able to attend workshops and panels hosted by special guests including costuming experts Paige Gardner and Naomi Grunwald-Eberhart, and steampunk authors Alan Lewis and J.L. Mulvihill.
For steampunk fans, this weekend's event represents a rare opportunity to revel in their fandom without making a cross-country trek to events such as the Steampunk Carnival in New Jersey. Even if all he does is break even, Dockery says, it will be worth five months of daily preparation to make the event a reality.
"It's just about waiting for the community to come," he says. "The interest is out there, but it's just about making it grow."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205.Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.