Steampunk Spectacle to Bring Together History, Fantasy

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For Jessica Cyders, Steampunk is a way to make history “sexy,” where the Victorian era meets modernity, technology and, most of all, creativity.

Think of H.G. Wells, whose 19th century time machines brought readers’ imaginations beyond the plain of reality.

Think of the year 1870, when author Jules Verne dreamed up a submarine that could travel 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Now think of the reverse — modern people transforming themselves back to those Victorian times, then, in character, mixing in a creative blend of gadget making, corset-wearing fun.

Steampunk means something different to all those who subscribe to its niche (yet welcoming) culture.

For Cyders, Steampunk’s biggest draw is the fashion. But as a curator at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, which is preparing for its first official foray into Steampunk this weekend, the magic also lives in the combination between reality and imagination.

“What attracts people to it is anything goes,” Cyders said. “You can take a time period in history and do whatever you want with it.”

The Steampunk Spectacle, a collaborative effort between the Athens Public Library and the historical society, is slated to draft a score of newcomers into the mix, complete with a “Make a Dandy Miniature Top Hat” workshop and “Victorian Low Tea Social.”

Visitors, aptly named “Steampunks,” can also make their own airships and jewelry pieces before taking a promenade down Court Street toward a soiree at Jackie O’s.

All these events, Saturday, Sept. 7 at the library, are free. Participants must register for each event by calling the library and reserving a spot.

Laura O’Neil, a Steampunk with the Nelsonville Public Library, will lead the airship build on Saturday. A dedicated bibliophile, she appreciates the literature within the movement.

“I think it’s just a fun kind of alternate history for people to imagine,” she said. “It’s becoming more and more popular.”

Cyders ordinarily works with the rigidness of historical fact, but allows herself and encourages others to partake in Steampunk’s creative liberties. The trade-off, alongside being fun, may inspire someone to take a deeper, more serious look at history.

“It’s not about being completely authentic. Because of that, more people are going to be drawn to it,” she said. “You don’t have to have that initial background in history to be attracted to it … it’s a way for people to interact with history in a way they otherwise wouldn’t.”

After all, she says, “history is not always considered very sexy.” Enter corsets, dresses, jewelry and top hats — history jumps off the page and Steampunks get to live it themselves.

For information about Steampunk and to get involved in this weekend’s Steampunk Spectacle, contact the Athens Public Library at 740-592-4272 or visit