There’s no question that steampunk, a subgenre of science fiction that blends Victorian era fashion with modern technology, has been part of the national consciousness for years, with pop stars as mainstream as Justin Bieber making music videos based on the subculture.
But, as the Athens Steampunk Spectacle prepares for its debut, those behind the event are unsure whether an audience for the niche trend exists on campus or in surrounding cities.
The Athens County Historical Society & Museum has collaborated with the Athens Public Library to present a daylong event in two halves: the first, labeled the Diurnal Phase, will feature workshops and lectures based on steampunk fashion, history and gear, which will be followed by the Nocturnal Phase, a ball with music provided by Qiet, a gypsy punk band from West Virginia.
With sparse ticket sales heading into the weekend, most of the people behind the event’s organization now wonder how big of a turnout the Steampunk Spectacle will attract.
Ron Luce, executive director of the historical society, has been involved with overseeing the production of the Steampunk Spectacle. He said he hopes the event will help the historical society reach out to a younger audience, but he is not sure how many of those who have shown interest will ultimately come based on current ticket sales.
“We’ve had a number of calls and people talking about coming and being interested but not coming in early to buy tickets,” Luce said. “I’ve gotten people calling from Parkersburg as early as (Thursday) morning, but I think a lot of it is going to happen at the door.”
ReStore, which accepts donations of new and used building material to sell at discounted prices, has been holding a steampunk-themed “Best Gadget” competition in conjunction with the event. The contest ends once the store closes on Friday but has received no entries as of Thursday, according to ReStore manager Molly Blair.
“I’m pretty disheartened by the response,” Blair said.
One of the biggest draws for steampunks, and one of the outlets within the niche that allows for the greatest creative freedom, is through the costumes that they wear.
Athens Underground employee Jean Cunningham said steampunk fans have been coming in for weeks, looking for themed attire, including black velvet, capes and fingerless gloves. She believes that greater interest in the event will come with time.
“This is the first year, and whenever you try to get things started up, the first year is the hardest,” Cunningham said. “The PR that surrounds it before and after I think can also get some interest for next year.”
Jessica Cypher, an employee at the historical society and one of the main people behind the Steampunk Spectacle, said that although the library reports to have generated plenty of interest and expects about 1,000 attendees, she has had a hard time estimating the actual turnout.
“It’s a way to access history in a very fun and sexy way that not many people think of when they think of history,” Cypher said.