Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Asylum 2012

Lincoln Castle courtesy of lincoln online live

A late post about this lovely event, out of the gate after most of the other attendees have posted blogs about it (I've had surgery for a hernia this week so I've not been working as diligently as I should; that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Like glue).  For the ooh five of you that don't know what the Asylum is (let's be optimistic and assume that I'm going to get more than five readers shall we?), it's a big steampunk event, that takes place in the absolutely gorgeous, and rather steep, city of Lincoln in the, erm, east of England... I'm not actually sure how to explain Lincoln's location, it's not really very north, or east, or midlandy but sits between the three.  Anyway the Asylum coats Lincoln with people in beautiful clothes, selling beautiful things, doing beautiful things (you get the picture).

All in all it was a highly enjoyable weekend; Eve and I had a lot of fun catching up with friends (we didn't get to do enough of this, boo to have friends who were working over the weekend) and seeing great stuff, with a couple of 'why the hell did I bother' moments thrown in, as is my wont (Guinness World Record Attempt I'm looking at you there I'm afraid, though I concede the fault was mine for not really having paid attention to what was going on and not assumed my pirate clobber which comes from a much more fantasy based version of steampunk was going to suffice).

I'm glad to say that the flag parade on the Saturday went well, I carried the banner for Eve's pirate group (Emilia Etherheart's pirate crew if anyone's interesting in joining up for piratey doings, tea and cake) and didn't drop it - though I note with amusement that my face is obscured by the flag in the photos on Facebook and I felt sorry for the Lost Patrol who managed to lose half their flag group somewhere, reducing it to Arkwright and Linzi.  It's a shame that the plaques detailing all the flags and who they belonged to didn't get printed and that the planned announcement of each group also didn't come about. I'm not sure why it didn't happen but its a shame especially as I suspect that people put a lot of work into getting the words right as well as doing their flags.

The First Tea Company parade was gloriously shambolic in a way that only a fictional military company drawn together by a love of tea could be. It was the very opposite of the 3rd Foot and Mouth parade that preceded it, and was mostly concerned with people having tea and cake before getting on with the very serious matter of someone being tried for tea duelling (see here for an explanation:, which ended up with a defence in the form of a song by Rachel Hayward and Robert Rankin whilst Michael Susan Smith did marvelously as the prosecution.

The last Broad Arrow Jack gig on the Friday night was masterfully performed and its a genuine shame to see the group split up. Their quirkiness was one of the great things about the group and I hope that Crimson Clocks the sort of successor group that a couple of members have founded will take on that aspect and really move it forward; steampunk is as much about whimsy as it is anything else.  The only bone I have to pick is that there was the lack of Drunken Steampunk, which was a shame but otherwise

The panels I attended were well put together, though the second one 'Write a Cog on it' benefited from a strong moderator in the form of Jonathan Green who steered the conversation a lot more effectively than the panel about publishing on the Saturday, which ended up feeling a bit more random in its content.  To me I must admit the publishing panel trod over a lot of familiar ground, this kind of discussion seems to be de-rigeur at most events that have a publishing or writing element, but for many of the delegates I'm sure it was more helpful.

On the Saturday I was also privileged to attend many friends' book launches and was really pleased to see my friend's Linzi Cooke's first novel the Home Front in print (her site is here: .  Whilst I don't know if I'll read it (that damnable not reading genres I write thing again), I'm so pleased that she's gone from being unable to show anyone her work to being a published author, with all the sudden elements of having a second job that that entails.


It was also good to see Raven Dane and Sam Stone launch their books (though Raven's book launch did reveal one of the flaws of the way that the book launches were originally being done - being in the middle of a trading hall with lots of people milling around talking made it so that poor Raven couldn't be heard over the background noise and David J Howe from Telos books had to do her reading for her).  Nonetheless the launch went well and .  To their credit the organisers realised that this was the case and moved the book launches to the cafe area, which was better if not truly ideal, and I'm sure that it's something they'll get sorted for next year if the same set up has to be used again.  Sam was launching two books, the fifth and apparently last in her Vampire Gene series and a stand alone steampunk/horror book called Zombies at Tiffany's, of which I've read some (I got bored on the way home and we had the book to hand).  Again David did one of the readings, which only confirmed what a good reading voice he has (up there with John Probert in my opinion).  Perhaps Sam should get him to record some of her stories when her next book of short stories comes out, whenever that is.

Oh and a little book from the Last Line with a story of mine was also launched... Check it out here:

I must confess that we didn't do much of the nightlife this year, mostly because of both of us feeling tired on the Saturday night and Eve needing to get ready for the Illicit Market the next day - which led to something of a culture shock, watching actually television for something like the first time in a year and realising that our decision to abandon it when the digital switchover came about was the right one. That meant we missed the burlesque but that's okay as we have the lovely Enchanted Burlesque coming up in Birmingham soon - well next month.

So all in all a good weekend, as I said.  Congratulations to Raven Dane for winning best novel, to Geof Banyard for being inducted into the Victorian Steampunk Society and Jemma Hewitt for winning the best nonfiction category.  And if anyone else knows who won the other awards please tell me.  

As ever with the Asylum I've come away with a head full of ideas for all sorts of things; stories to write, costumes to make (or try to), props to create (ditto) and various other things.  Which all sums up to me the wonder of steampunk, the manic, frenetic creativity, the conviviality and kindness that permeates the community and makes it such a great, welcoming phenomenon. Cheers to you all and hopefully see you all next year.

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