Steampunk World's Fair

The Steampunk World's Fair is happening at the Radisson and Embassy Suites in Piscataway, NJ this weekend. Steampunk is a swing back to the simpler side, Steampunk is what the individual Steampunker wants it to be, as David Lee explains. Lee, standing in a narrow hallway of the Radisson hotel, is dressed as a Steampunk Darth Vader, complete with a longer, kimono-like overcoat to give the getup an Asian Gothic feel. An explanation for the melding of these genres seems almost besides the point. “Part of the beauty of it is that, in the process of defining it, you come up with your own definition,” Lee said. "You can take anything you want and Steampunk it." This year’s festival – touted as the largest of its type – will feature scores of Steampunk-related vendors and events, a full listing of which can be found: here. The event kicked off Friday, and will go on through the weekend. The best way to understand Steampunk is to actually attend this weekend’s festival. Here are five reasons you should do just that. Susan Spencer, the owner of Spencer’s Mercantile of Ontario, Canada, is selling all manner of Victorian-era replicas of clothes, weapons and other assorted goods. What appears to the non-Steampunker to be a hotel room in the Radisson is actually the Aether Treader, an airship sailing through the dark night sky after Spencer and her fellow travelers were kicked out of uptight England, Spencer explains. There is a sultry undertone to her fictional removal from Victorian-era England. “I’m always astounded at the creativity – the free expression and creativity,” said Spencer, who will present a lecture called “Victorian Secrets for Today’s Seamstress.” Steampunk World's FairJonathan Becan spent three months putting together this Steampunk outfit. He poses for a photograph at the Steampunk World's Fair in Piscataway Friday. The event started on Friday night and continues throughout the weekend. Brian Amaral/ Some people spend five minutes preparing their costumes for the Steampunk World’s Fair. Others spend literally months, and thousands of dollars, to get in costume. We've already mentioned Asian-gothic-Steampunk-inspired Darth Vader. You can find more examples of outfits in the photo gallery, including Flavorius Flave (ne Tom Keeler), wearing a giant pocket watch around his neck, and Jonathan Becan, who spent three months learning how to stitch leather for his outfit. Basically, it’s Halloween in May. May of 1870. If you’re interested in getting into the Steampunk subculture, you’ll need an outfit, and there’s no better place to start than a Steampunk convention. Rooms of the Radisson and Embassy Suites are filled with Victorian- and Wild West-inspired clothes and other accoutrements. There are also plenty of gifts for that hard-to-buy-for loved one. “Victorians were obsessed with the supernatural,” says May Burnett, who is hawking fairy-catching kits – intricately decorated pieces that come with a simple instruction: “We ask that you practice catch and release with fairies.” You might actually learn something “I wrote a dissertation on Victorian vampire fiction, and it really took off from there,” explains Curt Herr, PhD. Herr, who teaches at Kutztown University, is selling compilations of Victorian and Gothic best-sellers from more than 100 years ago, giving the event an academic burnish. These classics have largely been forgotten, Herr says. And this will please the New Jersey variety nerd: On Saturday from 10 to 11 p.m. and again on Sunday from noon to 1, two authors will give lectures about the supposed rivalry between Thomas Edison (who made many of his inventions in the Garden State) and Nikola Tesla. Steampunk World's Fair Jason Reinhardt and Zoe Hanson, of New York City, show off their mustaches at the Steampunk World's Fair Friday night. more info