Daily life: IT technician.
Steampunk persona: It’s evolving.
Number of years steampunking: Six.
Whether he was studying theater in college, or establishing a career as an IT technician, Meyer attended every one of Tucson’s Wild Wild West steampunk conventions.
“Steampunk is very much an escape,” Meyer says. “I think that’s why a lot of people do it. I’m not ‘Mike the IT guy’ out there. It’s very much a second world to me.”
When Meyer heard about the Tucson convention in 2011, he bought the priciest ticket available, some boots and goggles, and attended the event. “I instantly fell in love with steampunk at that point,” he says. “I like being a different person for a weekend.”
Although many cosplayers adapt an entirely different character once in costume, Meyer is still working on his. “Most people have a different persona,” he says. “You can say it’s more of a freeing version of yourself.”
Even if he doesn’t have his character cemented, he’s got the swagger. He looks like a regular Tucsonan in his everyday outfit of jeans and a T-shirt. But when he dons his hat with the goggles attached, the leather vest, and grabs his hefty walking stick, he looks like a man from another era.
Meyer says participants mix their own personalities into their costumes. For him, part of his costume includes that hat from local shop Steamjunk and tall, black lace-up boots — even though the zipper is broken, forcing him to physically unbuckle and unlace them every time he puts them on and takes them off. He says it’s worth it.
When he’s not in steampunk gear, Meyer accessorizes with a little taste of steampunk wherever he goes, most notably with steampunk jewelry, his lucky coin, and occasionally, a lapel pin.
“It’s been neat to see how much steampunk has evolved. It’s not so freaky anymore to see,” he says. “Steampunk brings people together and gives you camaraderie. It’s that instant friendship and sense of family.”
Daily life: Caretaker.
Steampunk persona: Ariel from Disney’s “Little Mermaid.”
Number of years steampunking: Three.
Lane — or Cheyenne Rae as she’s known in the steampunk world — uses her favorite childhood princess for her steampunk persona.
She was inspired to join the ranks when she met Gentleman Robot, a steampunk regular. The following year, Lane won tickets to the convention and her commitment was solidified.
“I did my research on steampunk, made a quick costume, and I went to the convention and fell in love with it,” Lane says.
She typically spends a month or two on her costume, but she puts it together using pins instead of sewing, which allows her to morph the costume depending on her mood. All of her costume elements are thrift store finds, and she even has a “dinglehopper,” Ariel’s fork that, in the movie, the little mermaid mistook for a hair comb. It’s Lane’s red wig that gives her the unrecognizable-from-daily-life look.
Even her friends and family are caught off guard when they see her in costume. “It’s like looking at two different people,” she says.
And although she admits that some of her friends and family members might not understand the steampunk passion, she describes steampunk simply.
“We’re just a bunch of crazy adults dressing as Victorian-western folks,” she says.
Daily life: Costume designer, professional performer.
Steampunk persona: Madame Askew.
Number of years steampunking: Six.
“Madame Askew is larger than life,” Simone says of her steampunk character, who is decked out in a bustier, carries a red parasol, and has a mass of curls on the top of her head. “I think of her as me, but turbo-charged.”
She describes Madame Askew as 137 years old, British, and “powered by tea.” When in character, Simone takes on an English accent and changes her body language.
Madame Askew came about six years ago when Simone began her position as “helmswoman” for the Tucson Steampunk Society. She had a goal to be at every function early enough to welcome everyone.
“I was always running late by my clock,” she says, which caused her to “run around like a crazy person.” When a friend called her actions askew, the description stuck.
Simone now performs comedic improv as Madame Askew at many events, including conventions in California, Washington, Texas and Canada. Though she is in costume for steampunk events, when she sheds that persona, you are more likely to find her in a demure skirt and blouse with a scarf wrapped casually around her neck.
Besides performing, Simone crafts costumes and mentors others on costume design.
“I don’t feel like I need to hold off the knowledge of my art,” she says, mentioning a time when she dined at Feast and asked Chef Doug Levy for one of his recipes — which he wasn’t the least bit hesitant to give to her. For her, teaching others the art of costume design is “akin to Doug and his recipe.”
Simone has a wardrobe of steampunk clothing and wears something different every day of the 3-day convention, sometimes staying in costume for as long as 22 hours. Although her costume changes, one of her accessories doesn’t: a plastic Godzilla toy given to her by an aunt when Simone was 10. It’s been her constant travel companion since her divorce a few years ago.
“My friends kept checking in on me,” she says. “But I had Godzilla, so I’d take pictures of him on the side of the road and behind the steering wheel, and I’d post them on social media so people knew I was OK.”
Eventually, the Godzilla trend caught on, and Simone couldn’t travel without him.
Recently, Godzilla’s plastic arm snagged and broke off — but no worries, he now has a steampunk’d bio-mechanical arm replacing the original. He also has steampunk hats and helmets, bunny ears, and a Santa hat.
Although steampunk is a profession for Simone, she also considers it to be her second life.
“I probably spend more time on my second life sometimes, but I have no shame about that,” she says.