Driving through the small, winding road on my way to Wild Wild West Con 6 was only the start of a truly unique convention experience. The mountains and desert around the single lane highway pushed the city from view and gave me plenty of time to wonder what sort of experience would be waiting for me. But before I could get there, I had to change a tire after hitting a veritable crater of a pothole in the middle of the desert.
Starting with Jules Verne, Steampunk is a genre of fantasy and science set mostly in Victorian England and the American Frontier. It reimagines the “world of tomorrow” with steam as the primary power source. People travel in airships, explore the deep ocean, and build complex robotics and other gadgets.
To many, Steampunk is much more than just a genre. Steampunk is an excuse to explore the quirky and bizarre, to escape the mundane into a world of whimsy. To someone like me, who has only attended comic and anime conventions, WWWC6 was a completely new experience. You step through the gates into Old Tucson Studios and into a world of steam. You can tell that for some this is a lifestyle, with fully crafted alter egos and endless wardrobe choices. As you walk down the dusty streets, various performers entertain with music from a small stage; my personal favorite was a barbershop quartet covering pop songs. Con-goers wander through the streets in full skirts and handcrafted contraptions. One even had a giant crab-like claw made of metal and gears affixed to their arm.
One of the downsides to such a specific, niche con is that WWWC does not rent out the entire venue; unsuspecting tourists do wander through and gawk, ruining the fully immersive experience. It also means that ticket prices are relatively expensive. A single day Explorer pass cost $45, with a full weekend pass just $10 more; and this does not include the concerts in the evening.
However, this doesn’t take away from the unadulterated excitement and enthusiasm from the panelists, vendors, and attendees. One panel, a class on being a henchman, gave a full on lesson full of laughs on the dynamic between villains and henchmen. One of their instructional demos separated the “class” into villains and henchmen ready for a game of hot potato with a bomb. After a brief meeting, the game began and the villains tossed the bomb to their henchmen, turned tail, and, in true villain fashion, ran out of the building.
Live–action roleplay, or LARP, is a huge part of the convention. Groups like L.O.S.E.R. (the League of Supremely Evil Revolutionaries), the group running the Henchman panel, have sprung up to keep the community found at events like Wild Wild West Con going all year round. LARP includes not only creating a character for yourself but looking the part as well. The convention’s vendor hall offers rack upon rack of skirts, suit coats, and inventions ready for you to purchase. You can see how carefully constructed each item has been prepared for sale. You can feel how each vendor is practically bursting with creativity and eagerness. This world, this enthusiasm, is what sets apart Wild Wild West Con from other standard conventions. It is what makes it a home for the people who love the world of Steampunk, and an adventure for those who simply step into it for a day.
Take a look at our photo gallery of Wild Wild West Con 6 HERE .