Interviews from the past.
AA: We talked last time about how the panel ideas are chosen. Is there anything you look for in program participants and panelists to make sure they are a good fit for the topic and work well in front of a crowd?
AG: I look for unique, approachable people with strong speaking skills, knowledge and/or experience on topics that are related to Steampunk, the Victorian era and/or our convention’s theme for that year.
AA: Steamcon II is just around the corner. What kinds of hurried and harried things are you doing right now?
AG: Working on panelist itineraries and the “Room Bible”. The Room Bible is a book used by Operations that list all of the programming rooms by the hour (starting at convention setup through to convention teardown) with all the details of what is going on in that room.
AA: What differences do you see between Steamcon I and II?
AG: A huge amount of growth is the biggest difference I’ve seen. The Chair & Vice Chair really listened to all the feedback from last year. There were lots of requests for bigger rooms, more time, and more opportunities for programming and special events. They have worked very hard to meet those requests.
There also seems to be more of a sense of calm in the staff. I think it’s because we know what to expect and most of the staff from Steamcon 1 chose to stay on for Steamcon 2. I think that is very telling about their dedication to Steamcon.
AA: I’m sure part of that dedication is indicative of how much they also enjoyed the experience. Looking back, what were some of your favorite programs from Steamcon I?
AG: That is really tough. I enjoyed so very much. The 19thCentury Weapons was definitely a standout for me as well as the Dungeons & Dickens panel and the Boilerplate Reading. Girl Genius Radio Theatre was also a lot of fun (when aren’t they). I am also excited to say that all of these folks have agreed to come back for Steamcon 2!
AA: People are always eager to see the programming schedule as soon as possible for a convention so they can start planning their time. What are some of the things attendees can look forward to in November?
AG: We have a Magic Show, a very special panel on the gold rush, a Gun & Gizmos show where we’ll be recruiting people from the hallways to show off their fabulous props and so many new things I don’t even know where to start.
AA: In talking with several convention organizers, a convention can actually take more than a year to plan and execute. Are you already working on 2011 programming?
AG: We are planning a little bit for 2011. We always have a running list of potential panels as part of programming. Just because a panel isn’t used this year, doesn’t mean it’s not a good panel. It just wasn’t a good fit for this year, so it’s set aside for next year’s list of potential panels. We will take a month break after the convention and then start on planning 2011.
AA: If you had unlimited access and an unlimited budget, what is one programming piece you’d leap at to offer
AG: I’d have the prop builders from Warehouse 13 come teach a how-to workshop.
AA: Now THAT would be a lot of fun! What advice or suggestions do you have to people who want to be involved in convention programming?
AG: A patient and understanding spouse is helpful. If my husband didn’t feed me the week of our publications deadline, I would starve. My biggest suggestion to people is “just volunteer”. By volunteering, you will learn a great deal about how a convention runs; you’ll find out what parts interest you to learn more about and you also will meet a lot of great people. Some of my best friends in the world are on my staff or I met while working for a convention.
AA: Aside from Steamcon, what other steampunk things are you involved with? Books, fashion, music, movies, etc
AG: I love costuming and jewelry making. I’ve been doing both for about 12 years. I got my start as an emergency costume helper for my sister when she was the Head Costumer for the first time (for a play in college). She had almost no budget, so we had to be really creative to put it all together. I’ve always been a DIY girl. When I was little, I would get in trouble for cutting up my clothes to remake them into new outfits. These days I’m still cutting up my clothes. My favorite is to use vintage men’s blazers & turn them into women’s steampunk attire.
I’m a big Girl Genius fan. I’ve been reading it for years (now online). I’m also learning the music scene. So far I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve heard. I have to thank Sepiachord for introducing me to so much new music through their compilation CDs!
I have always loved to read, but I never seemed to have time. After meeting so many new authors at Steamcon, I’ve started making time again. I have been calling it my “summer reading list”. I have a big pile of books that I’m working on next to my bedside table. So far I’ve read works by Tim Powers, Gail Carriger, Paolo Bacigalupi and Jay Lake. I’m currently reading Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.
AA: And how about interests outside of steampunk?
AG: Party planning is a big one. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a hobby, but I’ve always been a Halloween nut & I like to go all out for it every year. My husband & I always throw at least two big parties every year (usually Halloween & New Years). They always have a theme that is carried throughout the party. I start planning the parties a few months in advance. For example last year’s Halloween party was “Haunted Luau” and New Years was “Star Wars”. I often build props or decorations for them. So far my favorite pieces we’ve made are a 12’ high pirate shipwreck for my front yard and a Jabba the Hutt bean bag chair.
I also love Sci Fi and Monster Horror movies (especially anything zombies or vampires), I watch just about every movie that comes out on those subjects. My favorite Sci Fi movie is The Fifth Element. My favorite Monster movie is Alien.
AA: Those parties sound like a lot of fun! Do you find any overlap or influence of those interests with steampunk
AG: All the time. The costuming started as mostly Halloween outfits and has definitely been influenced for the last few years by steampunk. I also see it creeping into some of my ideas for future party themes.
AA: I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Do you have any final thoughts to share with our readers?
AG: One of my favorite things about steampunk as a culture is the DIY aspect; each person that embraces this part has a unique, interesting look and a story to share. To those of you who have been afraid to try creating your props, costumes, whatever; you don’t have to be artistic to be creative. Embrace your mistakes you never know what will come from them.
That’s good advice in almost any situation. Thanks again for taking the time for this interview in these crazy few weeks running up to Steamcon. For those of you who are attending Steamcon on November 19-21, please take a moment to say hi, and thank you, to Alisa.
Kevin Steil is the creator of the steampunk news and information resource website, Airship Ambassador, the annual month-long global blogathon, Steampunk Hands Around the World, and is the curator of the online Steampunk Museum. He has been a guest and speaker at a number of conventions, contributed to several books, and has consulted for national media programs and events. He can also officiate your wedding!