Steampunk powers into Wichita

Neo-Victorian actors, enthusiasts and artists in 19thcentury-style costumes, with ray guns and goggles, will be invading our city this weekend.

What is this subculture?

Long answer short: It’s a social movement. Rediscovered in the late ’90s, Steampunk is inspired by scientific-romance novels like H.G. Wells’ “Time Machine” and has inspired films (like “Wild Wild West,” 1999) and music (think Sugarland’s “The Incredible Machine” theme). The fantasy-fiction fever combines goth, punk and gaming, pays homage to pre-war industrial America and is named after the discovery of steam-powered machines.

Here are ways to discover the genre in Wichita this weekend:

Steampunk art

On Saturday, CityArts unveils “Steampunk: Beyond the Goggles.” Its main and upper galleries will feature works by Richard Bergen, Larry Goodwin of Salina and Guinotte Wise of Kansas City. The display incorporates a variety of material, including leather, metal, electrical features, paint and digital graphics.

In the main-hall and third-floor galleries, Skylar Lovelace and students in her Butler Community College digital media class will display their collection “Steampunkery.”

Marilee Mitchell, CityArts assistant artistic director, said the show “captures the imagination as well as the drama of the Victorian era.”

Family carnival

Old Cowtown Museum will time-warp back to the 19th century Saturday with Steampunk Day, which inspired CityArts’ exhibit.

The vintage carnival-themed event will feature contortionists, juggling, sword-dueling and fire-breathing. The Dime Museum will give a glimpse of eerie artifacts. Attendees can participate in the Penny Farthing Bicycle Race, a Steampunk poetry slam and a variety of art and costume workshops.

Three-day convention

The Emerald City Steampunk Expo, today through Sunday, features performers, interactive events and gadgets.

At 5:30 p.m. today is a free concert by External Combustion Orchestra and Unwoman, an electric cello musician. Performers throughout the weekend include magicians and acro-balancing and juggling acts. There will be additional concerts, comedy shows and a film screening.

Interactive events include a murder mystery, fashion show and beard and mustache competition.

Science-fiction enthusiasts can check out fantasy machines by local and national inventors. The highlight will be the Airship Isabella, a whimsical flying ship with anatomical enhancements, complete with crew members and live staging. Also contributing to the event is nationally recognized author O.M. Grey, who writes Steampunk paranormal romances.