Take a look at GEAR Con's best steampunk displays
Gears, gizmos and gadgets provided the oomph — but it's people who make it steampunk.
Several hundred converged for the celebration of all things retro-futuristic during the eighth-annual GEAR Con, held this year in downtown Portland at the University Place Hotel & Conference Center, 310 S.W. Lincoln Street, on Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8.
"I love costuming and I love steampunk, and the mix of Victorian and fantasy," said Nicole Schreiber, who was dressed in a petticoat and hoop-skirt made out of exposed industrial metal on Saturday.
Schreiber has organized a Living History Tour in West Linn for over a decade, recreating the years 1908, 1913 and now 1922 in the city's historic Willamette neighborhood. She says historical accuracy and alternative timelines can go hand in hand.
"I don't think they collide at all, they're separate parts of me," she said. "Usually when you think of West Linn you think of McMansions and just the 'burbs."
GEAR Con — known in slightly longer form as the "Gaslamp-Fantastic Explorers, Adventurers, & Romantics Conviviality" — bills itself as Oregon's largest gathering for steampunk enthusiasts.
This year, attendees could participate in swing dance, boxing or self-defense lessons, listen to talks about WWI tank warfare, shell shock and burlesque and even participate in an improv comedy performance dubbed "Whose Gear Is It Anyway?"
The real draw may have been the eye-popping getups.
Peggy Wenham and her granddaughter, Hayley, were dressed as time travelers — with matching custom-built clockwork contraptions strapped to their backs —and vintage cameras in hand to record their perilous adventures.
Wenham, who traveled from Enumclaw, Washington, for the event, said she's enjoyed the creativity of steampunk since she was watching "The Wild Wild West" program on CBS in the 1960s.
Nowadays, creating a costume involves "a lot of research on Pinterest" and "time to find all the parts that we need on eBay."
In one room, vendors hawked eldritch self-published novels, sci-fi looking faux weapons and all manner of corsets, overcoats, top hats and regalia. Elsewhere, inventors exhibited a Tesla coil, a machine that stamped out dog tags and an automated telegraph that accepted text messages.
"When you send that text it will leave your telullar phone and fly through the ether and print on this ticker tape," explained operator Josephine Czarnecki, adding that the device had been built by a Californian named John Nagle.
"This is a free service — we don't have anything better to do," quipped telegraph boy Darwin Garrett, a student at Southern Oregon University who was busy delivering the printed messages to other parts of the hotel.
Privacy was guaranteed, Czarnecki assured, because Garrett was "completely illiterate."
Others brought GEAR Con to the masses using a more newfangled technology.
Luria Petrucci — a popular livestreamer with an internet following numbering in the tens of thousands — broadcast the convention on her Twitch profile, Geeks Life TV.
"My audience is very used to me making a fool of myself and to hearing hopefully interesting content," she said. "There's this international audience that you can have this amazing connection with, and share something you have in common — a love, a passion."
Her friend, Portland resident Jen McDonnell, said she was dressed in a "diesel punk" ensemble grounded in WWI military uniforms.
"It's a combination of military uniforms and steampunk," she explained, noting that it was her first time volunteering with the group. "It won't be my last."