Return of the Aether Salon!

The Aether Salon in New Babbage is returning under new management!

From the new Manager:

What is ‘Salon’? According to it is:

salon [suh-lon; Fr. sa-lawn]

1. a drawing room or reception room in a large house.
2. an assembly of guests in such a room, especially an assembly, common during the 17th and 18th centuries, consisting of the leaders in society, art, politics, etc.
3. a hall or place used for the exhibition of works of art.
4. a shop, business, or department of a store offering a specific product or service, especially one catering to a fashionable clientele: a dress salon; a hair salon.
5. ( initial capital letter ) (in France) a. the Salon, an annual exhibition of works of art by living artists, originally held at the Salon d’Apollon: it became, during the 19th century, the focal point of artistic controversy and was identified with academicism and official hostility to progress in art. b. a national exhibition of works of art by living artists: Salon des Refusés; Salon des Indépendants.

We may extract bits and pieces of those definitions to answer an even more burning question: What is ‘the Aether Salon’?

The Aether Salon has, in its illustrious past, attracted speakers from all over the Steamlands to gather on the third Sunday of each month in its iconic building in the City/State of New Babbage. These interesting, talented, or sometimes simply lunatical speakers have enthralled and educated rapt audiences for an amazing 28 month run under the original ownership. The final ‘first edition’ Salon in August, 2011, ended with the unfortunate destruction of the building in a freak explosion, something quite rare in New Babbage.

But the Aether Salon is returning, now under new management, but quite respectful of the reputation and history of the Aether Salon. Soon, you shall again be able to soak up the knowledge and wisdom of a fresh crop of Salon speakers.

Or – shall you be amongst the speakers? Think upon it. What is your passion in life? What knowledge do you have to impart? Might your topic be suitable for the Salon? If you are able to put your passion into words, please contact Baron Klaus Wulfenbach (klauswulfenbach.outlander inworld) and describe your chosen topic.

The first ‘second edition’ Salon shall be Sunday, October 16th at 2 pm SLT as is usual; it will be celebrating the Anniversary of the Salon as a whole. All former speakers are requested and urged to attend (please wear your sashes if possible). The unveiling of the model of the new Salon building will also take place, so the first regular speaker of the new season will present in an eyecatching venue on November 20th.

Please join the Aether Salon group, free of charge, for notices of upcoming sittings:


Klaus Wulfenbach, Baron
Manager, Æther Salon


Occasionally, there are losses

It’s rather cliche for those who spend time in virtual worlds to gripe about how those who don’t cannot understand the sense of community and purpose that we experience in-world.  It’s all a game, some say.  None of it’s real, others argue.

But when there’s a loss … it’s felt keenly, as much as friendship, affection, anger and pride.  And perhaps even moreso.  One can anticipate the latter emotions, but few of us are prepared to consider death and its effects on our relationships.  Should it matter that the person who has passed is someone you’ve never seen, never touched, never even knew their legal name?  As some who’ve experienced such a loss — it does not matter.  The loss is felt.  It is a concrete thing, weighed heavy in the chest and displacing the air, tendrils pressing behind the eyes.

I must honestly say I didn’t know Sumie Kawashima, let alone the human behind the avatar.  She was a voice on the group chat of the Independent State of Caledon … like many others in the community, she was a source of good humour and enthusiasm.  She flew and built airships, was active and involved with the community, had friends and projects and was social.  Many people have many things to say about her firsthand, and I will not appropriate them for here.  What I can say, speaking directly and only for me, is that she was part of a community and that community … as strange and artificial and based on fictions as it is — it will miss her.  Many of us will have no way of knowing how much the person invested themselves into the avatar of Sumie Kawashima, but it was enough for her to leave her mark on us, individually and in toto.

Diogenes preceded a small remembrance for Sumie at the Falling Anvil in Caledon Tanmenwith the following:

I would then like to say, that while I did not know Sumie personally,
I knew of her…
and after all, what makes this world of ours..this virtual world as well as the real one, such a remarkable and wonderful place
is not the things and stuff and bits and prims
it is the people who add life and creativity and joy and dpeth to the society we have formed here
this odd little civilization
when we lose any of those people who have made it such a special place
we are all diminished

And as suggested by my friend, Alastair Whybrow:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne, Meditation XVII

We are an odd little civilization.  But like all others … we feel and we mourn and we lift each other up.

Steampunk in the outside world

Jake Von Slatt and his Wimhurst

Jake Von Slatt and his Wimhurst

No one seems to really agree what is the exact scope or focus on steampunk is.  Is it confined to the Victorian era?  Is the focus on making cool props or cool clothes?  Is it really hip to be so retro?  Is it just a fad?

Not sure those questions were answered this weekend at Steampowered 08 or will be answered anytime soon.  But it appears that steampunk is big enough, inspires enough passion, gets people fired up enough to be considered … a fandom.

Will it last?  Will it become popular?  Will it sell out?  *shrug*  I think it will go through the same phase a lot of fandoms experience: underground to popular subculture to ubiquity to backlash to minor thing.  Some people wonder if there’s enough coalescence around steampunk for it to survive the backlash.  I think so if only because its diversity will keep on fueling people’s passions around what they already value.  Or, the label may die, but the passion and geekery won’t.

And yes, I think steampunk is ready to be a fandom, whatever that entails.  At a small hotel in Sunnyvale, CA over Halloween weekend, it entailed Abney Park (but in concert and at the con), Dr. Grordbort and WETA NZ, Mr. Von Slatt above (debutting an electro-static generator made from items he got at Home Depot – those with corporeal hands and the curiosity may want to wait for the Jan. 2009 issue of Make Magazine), the Vandermeers, and a host of costumers, re-enactors, hobbyists, academics, artists, writers, musicians, dancers and geeks.  And a few of us from Caledon. 😀

T’was a first con – staffing issues, hotel issues (the cafe was criminally understaffed), little organizational stuff.  But I think just about everyone had fun.  Captain Robert managed to perform a full set despite getting over walking pnuemonia, and even he seemed to have fun.  Beautiful costumes, inventive props, graceful dancing, displays of wicked humour.  If only the airship had flown … *sigh*

But enough of my blatherings.  See the pritty, pritty pictures. Wallow in the brass, sigh over the gears, gasp at the corsetry, marvel over the display of passion …