Saturday, April 9, 2016

Con Report: 2016 AnachroCon: Guns, Gadgets, Gizmos, and Trains: TheTechnology of the Weird Wild West

This was one of my favorite panels at AnachroCon, because after we introduced ourselves and talked for a few minutes about steampunk "gadgetry", our moderator threw out the program and suggested we have some fun…creating a group character! Here are my roughly-edited notes from the thick of it:

  • Geoff Mandragora
  • Lev Butts
  • Margaret McGraw
  • Misty Massey
  • Nicole Givens Kurtz
  • Jannaea Adams
  • Moderator: Arthur Hinds

So how do you describe or introduce the"Weird Wild West" to those who do not know it?
General consensus, flawed as it is, Will Smith's 1999 Wild Wild West has "the look" - costumes, gadgets, and crazy machinery in a (sort of) Victorian-era American West -- it's instantly identifiable!

The original Wild Wild West series (1965-69) sparked the love and fascination for many of us

  • it's modern science in an earlier time period, using materials that would have been available then
  • Like a helicopter in the Renaissance -- da Vinci was working on it!
  • One of her introductions was Harry Turtledove's Guns of the South - going back in time and giving AK47s to Robert E Lee
  • Sparked her interest as a builder and maker

  • I write weird west and publish steampunk. I watch a lot of anime like Cowboy Bebop, Firefly, Jonah Hex, and Cowboy Bebop ("Jesse James w/ a space freighter")
  • Wild Wild West was a flop, but the gadgets were fantastic
  • One of the most memorable scenes -- the fight on the train with all the gadgets!

  • smart is sexy
  • Artemus Gordon was *smart* - he was always saving Jim West - he was the maker, the inventor

  • every gadget is a part of the maker's persona

Other favorites:

And here's where our panel went off the rails in a wonderfully unexpected way. Arthur asked if we, the panel and the audience, would like to continue talking about the general topic, or if we'd maybe be interested to engage in a group exercise: to create a steampunk character? Oh, we're in!
So we started throwing out ideas…what would define a "weird Wild West" character?

  • Maybe carrying a sawed off shotgun, a "boomstick"
  • Would it be a rifle reloader? Lever action? Have a magazine? Gears?
  • Maybe a focused crystal device - not a laser, but helps to focus - peep sight - purple!
  • Should we choose a gender? What about a construct? A golem? An alien?
  • A cyborg - human brain
  • Dr Who episode - clockwork robotic man - ancient race - replaced w/human parts
  • What gender? Indeterminate  - lost our sex over the years
  • Ash - name - no last name
  • No significant memories of being human, but knows s/he was
  • Vengeful? Doesn't know purpose
  • Could be multi-individual cyborg - hasn't decided who's in charge
  • Some overriding consciousness - multiple agendas, gender roles - there's the internal conflict
  • External conflict - everyone's afraid of Ash on sight
  • We're telling the Frankenstein monster story
  • Power source - can Ash wind self up, or need something to "live"
  • Not a shiny metal automaton - Boomstick, period - calamity Jane persona? Clumsy, burned down a saloon
  • True history: after the Civil War, lots of disfigured people, common to wear masks - wouldn't necessarily inspire fear
  • Mechanical face supposed to look human, from a distance, then up close know something is wrong
  • Human body - so many parts replaced it's now cyborg
  • Needs some kind of food, and some kind of power source -- alcohol
  • Ash lives out of town and has a still - only goes to town to get supplies
  • Doctor has medicinal alcohol - human contact in town
  • Could he survive on wood ethanol?
  • A Town Called Ash
  • Part desperately wants human contact - male is gregarious former gambler/thief- female is quiet angry former soldier - Scarlett Ohara and Rhett Butler

Everything we're describing is what happens in a writer's mind as they develop character and backstory

  • Cyborg legs do better than a horse would
  • Hand car, doesn't need rails - Ashmobile - wheels, crank thingy (jack handle)
  • Still on the hand cart
  • Ash doesn't refer to self gender - but others use he and that pisses female off
  • During the Civil War - women pretended to be men and served in both sides - continued after

"Anthology of Ash - coming soon from Mocha Memoirs Press"

  • Ash in long duster, holster for lever action, giant clip, sawed off shotgun
  • Built-in weapon - flamethrower to burn alcohol?
  • Metal hands - mean left hook
  • Her kryptonite - needs fuel - if he goes too long, dead - burrito could feed brain, friend could provide fuel
  • Ash would kill creator
  • Dr discovered Ash and they have saved each other - traditional male doctor? Early female doctor?  Civil War Army Doctor - knew the female soldier - hasn't told Ash they have a past connection
  • Ash gets Arthur's hat with goggles
  • Time traveler from future - saved two people by putting them together - Or put them together as a funny joke - psychopath brain surgeon, alien joke
  • Full mask could be a mask, or goggles
  • Uncanny valley - disturbing to people -

Riese - web series picked up by ScyFy - she covers her face in a way Ash would

  • Need more gadgets
  • Purple shotgun
  • Goggles - telescoping vision
  • Miniature still -
  • Could spit alcohol and flame it, but would be sacrificing own fuel
  • Lives by the bar, as a bouncer - could have done that for awhile, until someone discovered what he really was
  • Series of jobs, is discovered and move on
  • Biological part is injured and needs patching - has dr friend
  • A lot of blacksmiths were also veterinarian - adding to Ash's gadgets
  • Blacksmith Frank, Dr Stan
  • Jannaea proposes - post confederate - her town was burned to the ground  - Native American -  dr built her back up

Exquisite corpse, graphic novel by Pénélope Bagieu

What's your Passion?
  • Geoff - how people make connections, loves technology
  • Lev - combining myths with other genres
  • Me - how cultures are different, expressions of religion
  • Misty - - passion is magic
  • Nicole - publishing marginalized people's works - don't have a voice - get it out there - publishing her story - silenced (main character) Sybil Lewis - loves her!
  • Jannaea (blog) - writing, building (taking apart putting together), imagine stories behind them
  • Arthur Hines - Emerald Rose

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.