No raining on parades: Calgary Steampunks about comfort-zone smashing and inclusivity

From the outside looking in, it's an odd pairing, but retro-Victorian science fiction is a thing that's bringing Calgarians together for passion-sharing and comfort-zone expanding.

Costume enthusiast finds group has 'elements of hopefulness and inventiveness and creativity'

Mike Johnson is an organizer with the Calgary Steampunk Asssemblage, a group that honours and celebrates retro-Victorian science fiction. Costumes are a big part of it. (Ellis Choe/CBC)

From the outside looking in, it's an odd pairing, but retro-Victorian science fiction is a thing that's bringing Calgarians together for passion-sharing and comfort-zone expanding.

Mike Johnson, an organizer with the Calgary Steampunk Asssemblage, spoke with the Homestretch at a recent Alice in Wonderland-themed tea party at Prairie Winds Park in the city's northeast.

"I just love the creativity and also the inclusivity of the Steampunk culture. Anybody can play," Johnson said.

"The biggest rule for Steampunk is you don't rain on anybody else's parade. I am part of the club because I have fun doing the costume stuff."

Member Deloris Booker also enjoys good food and dressing up. (Ellis Choe/CBC)

In addition to tea parties, the community has done "expeditions to Africa, otherwise known as going to the Calgary Zoo in explorer outfits," he said.

One year, a group of 30 people in costume did a mock "march of the penguins" at the zoo.

"The tourists were taking pictures of penguins and then they realized there were all these people in costumes. It was kind of funny," Johnson said.

Deloris Booker said Steampunk ticks all the boxes for her.

"I am part of this club because I have always involved science fiction," she said.

"Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, for example, have always been favourites, and I love to dress up and eat good food."

For young adult writer Adam Dreece, it's about pushing himself.

"A couple of years ago, after I put out my first couple of Steampunk fairy tale books, I joined the Steampunk society as one of the ways to get out and meet other people who were interested, and also to push myself out of my comfort zone," Dreece said.

"There are those elements of hopefulness and inventiveness and creativity. It's got some of those alternate possibility questions thrown out there."

Pete Justine met his partner Josanna two decks ago, in part through a community similar to Steampunk. (Ellis Choe/CBC)

For musician Pete Justine with the band Hazel Grey, Steampunk is more than that. It's how he met his partner.

"My wife and I have been performing in costume for about 20 years. We met at a little place in Texas. I did a scissor kick off of her table, which is a great way to not have her want to get to know me," Justine said with a laugh.

"But here we are now 20 years later, with three kids and still playing music, doing what we love doing together.

"It seemed to be a good fit when we found the Steampunk community here in Calgary. We jumped right in and really fell in love with the community."

Listen to the sounds of the Steampunk Alice and Wonderland tea party:

If you're out and about in Calgary and come across a group of people dressed up in old fashioned goggles, leather, and Victorian outfits, don't be alarmed. They may well be members of the local Steampunk Assemblage. The Steampunk sub-culture, inspired by science fiction and 19th century industrial steam powered machines, has a huge following all over the world. Today we continue our series introducing you to some impassioned hobbyists in the city. The Homestretch's Ellis Choe met up with the head of the assemblage Mike Johnson and some of his friends at their annual Alice in Wonderland Tea party in northeast Calgary. 7:33

With files from Ellis Choe and the Homestretch.