By Diana Vick
And Then There Was Steamcon
I’ve been in science fiction fandom for a lot more years than I am going to cop to right now. I’ve attended well over two hundred conventions.
They have always been a great source of wonder, creativity and surreal adventure for me that I have never found anywhere else. My husband and I met at a convention. It’s still a shared love of ours. We had been talking about getting more involved in running cons or maybe even beginning one, when we found ourselves swept up in a new community… steampunk .
We knew that we had found the perfect new subject for our convention. Up until that point, most steampunk events that I had heard of, had been music festivals or one day events or the theme of an existing general science fiction convention. I saw a huge potential for a bunch of like minded folks to spend a weekend completely immersed in the world of Victorian science fiction, or steampunk.
Steamcon was born.
We based our convention on the armature of a science fiction convention, but we fully intended to expand the model. Having attended anime cons, goth cons, furry cons and lots of general science fiction/fantasy cons, we had seen many different ways of running things. We felt we could select some of the best aspects and combine them to the best advantage.
We began to gather a crew made up of old con runners and some complete newbies. We swore that the words “because that’s the way it’s always done” would be seldom heard. Of course we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel either, so we got advice from many old hands at this. Having not much starting budget, I went the route of viral marketing, using social networks on the internet, and creating communities specifically for Steamcon.
I taught myself the skills and posted everywhere I could think of. The veteran con runners told us not to expect to big a crowd. First year cons in this area usually attract about 500 attendees, they said. When our pre-registration numbers were almost double, we began to worry. We suddenly found ourselves in the awkward position of needing to cap the membership so the space wouldn’t be too crowded.
Our final numbers were 1350, which includes the small amount we could take at the door. Amazing and gratifying. The result of all our hard work was a bustling, lively, successful steampunk convention. We had gotten the word out far and wide, and folks came from so many places. New York, Texas, California… all over, even Europe.
My greatest fear was that as the “face of Steamcon”, people would approach me to solve their problems all weekend long. As the first few came up to me, I internally cringed, but they just wanted to say “Thanks!” I spent the entire weekend meeting people and hearing about how much fun they were having. Despite the things that went wrong behind the curtain, the audience was well pleased. They were having fun. The best outcome a con runner can hope for really. I am so proud of my fabulous staff and my wonderful husband, the convention chair. I was the creative director or visionary but he was the details person. It’s an unorthodox teaming, but it works for us.
As we gear up for yet another Steamcon, we are aiming even higher. There were so many ideas that we simply didn’t have time for last year. This year, with two hotels and twice as much space, I imagine we can be more than twice as entertaining.
Our theme this year is the weird, weird west, a nod to our western roots, and it’s got so much potential. From clockwork sharp shooters to Indian shamans, we expect the eye candy to be spectacular and that’s just the attendees. Many fun schemes are in the works. Steamcon has come a long way from the fanciful idea we had to a fully fledged steampunk convention. And we couldn’t have done it without our attendees. You beautiful, creative, steamy folks! Hope to see you all again in November at Steamcon II! www.steamcon.org
(If you want to see some of the amazing attendees from last year: http://www.flickr.com/groups/steamcon/)
Diana Vick is vice chair, creative director, and co-founder of Steamcon, the largest steampunk convention held thus far. For the past several years, she has been speaking on the topic of steampunk at many conventions across the country, beginning with the infamous “guerilla steampunk panel” that she instigated at Dragoncon in Atlanta. She has been interviewed by Women’s Wear Daily Fast, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine and Marie Claire, and appeared on King Five News. She has written many articles and guest blogs on the subject of steampunk and has many more in the works. She has a few short stories and serials in the works as well. One of her steampunk costumes took grand prize in the masquerade at Orycon in 2009. Even her art has taken a decidedly steampunk direction lately and you can find examples of this on her Zazzle site at http://www.zazzle.com/artvixn*. To find more of her art, costumes and articles, you may go to http://www.dianavick.com.