Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Magical" Weekend at Geneva Steam Con

On the weekend of March 10-12, Monroe St. Press took part in its second event of the year, Geneva Steam Convention at beautiful Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, Wis.

With a theme of "Mysticism, Mystery and Magick," this gathering emphasized the Victorians' interest in the supernatural, the unexplained and the unexplored, along with the typical Steampunk interest in the mechanical and whimsical.

At this event Monroe St. Press debuted its newest title, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood",  Charles Dickens'  final, unfinished serial suspense tale, which numerous readers, authors and other artists have attempted to complete ever since its publication in 1870. One attempt involved (literal) "ghostwriting" (more on that in a moment).

Lake Lawn's fascinating history, pictured and described in these displays, dates back to 1879 when the original hotel served as a winter home for circus performers. In the 1920s it became a summer retreat for employees of Commonwealth Edison. Opened to the public in 1929 and opened year-round in 1942, Lake Lawn once hosted nationally known Big Band shows and radio broadcasts. More recently the resort went through various ownership changes and foreclosure before local investors brought it back to life. The resort property itself also contains dozens of Native American burial mounds believed to date from the Hopewell era (500-1200 A.D.)

As with any Steampunk gathering, there are plenty of creative and eye-catching costumes on display, along with period-themed or period-inspired activities. You can enjoy high tea in the afternoon followed by a "steerage" party (with Irish band Dublin O'Shea) in the evening. In keeping with this year's theme there were also tarot card readings and other forms of fortunetelling offered.

There were also various panel discussions and demonstrations.... including one by yours truly on "The Spiritualist Frontier" -- an overview of the rise and decline of the Spiritualist movement in the United States during the 19th century. During this period, in English-speaking countries, there was intense interest in the idea of communication with departed spirits and in the mediums who claimed to possess this ability. Public seances, trance lectures and automatic writing were among the manifestations of Spiritualism that attracted the most attention.

In one well-known instance, Thomas P. James, a Vermont printer, claimed in 1872 that Charles Dickens had spoken to him from the beyond and chosen him to finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Over five months, James added more than 200 additional pages, written in longhand and allegedly dictated to him by Dickens, to the story. James' "complete" version of Edwin Drood was published in 1873 to mixed reviews--some believed it to be an accurate representation of Dickens' style, others thought it amateurish and melodramatic. You can read the James version of Drood at this link.  James' contribution to the story begins with Chapter XXI on page 218.

Finally, Monroe St. Press wishes to recognize some of the people who took the time to visit our table, learn more about what we do and purchase our titles.

Art and Cathy from Racine, Wis., picked up a copy of Angel of the Revolution (1893) by George Griffith, an action-packed tale of an unstoppable airship fleet waging the "war to end all wars" in the (then) near future of 1904.

MK Wiseman of Mequon, Wis., checks out Across the Zodiac (1880) by Percy Greg, a pioneering "space opera" tale of a journey to Mars.

Lara from Grayslake, Ill. bought both of our George Griffith titles -- Angel of the Revolution and its sequel The Syren of the Skies (1894), set in the year 2030, when the peace imposed by the Brotherhood of Freedom is threatened by a vengeful descendant of the last Czar.

Finally, Holly and Andrew from Chicago stopped by after my Spiritualism presentation to get a copy of Unto This Last, an anthology of utopian and dystopian tales from the Victorian and Edwardian eras -- many of them set in the year 2000 and beyond.

Monroe St. Press thanks everyone involved with Geneva Steam and Lake Lawn Resort for making this weekend enjoyable. We plan to be back next year, when the theme will be Heroes and Villains!