What’s a quirky subculture without a safe place to revel with people who share your love? Luckily, steampunk fanatics have this oasis, escaping to a fanciful world where conflicts are only imaginary, fashion is what we secretly wish we could wear all the time, and fun comes with ease.
Steampunk—a science fiction writing genre with a cosplay following—has a home in Cincinnati thanks to the International Steampunk Symposium. Steampunk draws on industrial-revolution era mechanical imagery riffing with futuristic fantasy motifs, cobbling into anachronistic takes of what a 19th century scientist or factory worker would look like if rendered a few centuries later.
The steampunk symposium takes place June 16–18 at the Eastgate Holiday Inn, and the weekend-long event is set to feature no shortage of performances, vendors, and contests to keep things fired up. Special guests like authors Leanna Renee and Emilie P. Bush along with costumer Brett King are slated to appear.
And perhaps the most thrilling event in store is the Steampunk Olympiad, a competition where attendees form teams to battle it out in classic affairs such as tea dueling, teapot racing, and costume making.
Although the International Steampunk Symposium is alive and well, its future wasn’t always so certain. After a rocky, pandemic-struck streak from 2020-2021 forced the organizers to cancel the tradition that took off in 2012, the event made a comeback in 2022 under new leadership. Jennifer Noran rescued the annual event from croaking when the convention’s founder Jason Dean moved away.
“I want people to come to my Symposium, kick off their ‘adulting’ shoes, and get to have fun and play,” Noran says. “As grownups, I think some people forget how to play, and I feel it’s a big part of staying young and celebrating being alive! The target audience for The International Steampunk Symposium are people of all ages, and cultures that like to have a good time, learn cool stuff, meet amazing folks, see some cool sights, and just escape the real world for a short time.”