Last weekend, a three-day long faerie revel took over a hotel in Princeton, New Jersey. This misfit faerie festival known as Glimmerdark is one of the newest conventions created by goth/geek/steampunk event coordinator Jeff Mach. A few weeks ago, I gave you all a preview of what I was looking forward to at this event. I would say that although the convention hit a few organizational snags, it met most of my expectations and I had a delightful time—as I always do at Jeff Mach Events.
Jeff distinguished this event from his other conventions by playing up panels and workshops over performances and subculture celebrities. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was very excited to discover that there was a literary track of sorts among the scheduled panels. The highlight of my weekend occurred first thing Friday evening when I got to sword fight with one of my favorite authors. Known mostly for her urban fantasy faerie series Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr also wrote a more traditional fantasy novel called Carnival of Secrets (originally published as Carnival of Souls) which sparked her love of Historical European Martial Arts. In her Swords & Stories workshop, Melissa taught us all how to do four basic guards and a couple of attacks with a longsword, staff, and other weapons, while explaining how to write realistic fight scenes in fiction. She dished out more writing advice in another workshop on Saturday and also hung around during her signings to chat with fans and aspiring writers.
A couple of other panelists gave research-based talks on literary figures. Professor Adeline Wakefield gave two whimsical lectures in which she proposed speculative theories of fae influence on her favorite works of art and literature. In one, she argued that a brief stay in the court of Queen Mab caused Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting style to change dramatically in the mid 1880s, and in another she suggested that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was based on Alice Liddell’s real encounters with magical folk. I’m not sure that I followed Professor Wakefield all the way to her conclusions, but I enjoyed the journey and learned a lot about Rossetti’s style and the composition of Carroll’s most famous story. Professor Mark Donnelly, who is known in the steampunk scene as an expert on bartitsu (the fighting style popularized by Sherlock Holmes), took a more grounded approach to his lecture on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Cottingley faerie photograph hoax. Donnelly examined Doyle’s family connection to fantastical artwork as well as his interest in the Spiritualist movement in order to explain how a man so renowned for creating one of the most brilliant and pragmatic characters in literature could have been duped by one of the most famous hoaxes of the early twentieth century.
Apart from these book-based panels, many of the other activities at the con focused on learning and doing. I unfortunately didn’t make it to any of the crafting workshops, but I heard that others had a great time learning how to paint on feathers and make floral wreathes. Several performers offered opportunities to learn their skills, such as the Mad Hattress who gave lessons on using aerial silks all weekend and the belly dancers who frequently invited others to join their impromtu dance circles. And although most of the programming was not especially designed for children, Glimmerdark encouraged an atmosphere of play. Apart from the usual board game room found at many conventions, Glimmerdark also offered an Escape Room, a LARPing session, and a few game-themed panels.
While the music at Glimmerdark was not as central an element as it is at many of Jeff Mach’s other events, there’s still plenty to say on this subject as well. I got to see my favorite local performer, Psyche Corporation, whose striking vocals were accompanied by guest dancers at her two performances. I also encountered some new bands including the delightful goth punk duo, The Long Losts. As a crowd of goths were drawn to the dance floor by their haunting melodies, I spotted Aurelio Voltaire who is often the main attraction at Jeff Mach’s events but was simply attending Glimmerdark as a guest. I didn’t get to catch as much of The Long Losts’ set as I would have liked, but luckily they’ll be playing at the next convention on my calendar, Dark Side of the Con.
This brings me to my last topic: My only complaint about Glimmerdark was that the programming petered out in the evenings. Jeff Mach seems to have forgotten to account for how much fair folk like to dance, party, and make mischief at all hours. On Friday, there were a few panels and performances late in the evening and an all-night movie screening. On Saturday, however, the only things on the schedule after 11pm were a burlesque show and a LARP. This is usually the time when many conventions throw a large rave, masquerade, or other form of dance party. Instead, on both nights between the hours of ten and midnight, people began to just mill about in the lobby, looking for somewhere to go. Several attendees stepped up and hosted after-hours parties in their hotel rooms. In fact, the gothic dance party on Saturday night, hosted by Vampire Freaks (a gothic online community and clothing/accessories retailer), was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. The excellent DJ-ing by Jet and Jaycee convinced me that I absolutely need to attend Dark Side next month which will feature a whole host of dark DJs from the VF community. Unfortunately, not all of the hotel guests were pleased with the loud room parties, and the dancing was shut down long before I was ready to stop partying.
Overall, Glimmerdark experienced a few hiccups, as might be expected for a first-year con that is still trying to figure out exactly what kind of convention it wants to be. But the good news is that Jeff Mach has been very receptive to feedback, and I have high hopes for next year. A convention with literary panels, crafty workshops, good music, AND late-night dancing would be everything I could possibly want.
Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks—Jeff Mach has promised to do an interview for The Gothic Library. Is there anything you want me to ask him? Also keep an eye out for my upcoming posts about the goth convention that Vampire Freaks and Jeff Mach are co-running next month called Dark Side of the Con. Do you like hearing about these types of conventions? Would you prefer that I stick to books? Are there any particular events you would want me to cover in the future? Let me know in the comments!