Cindy McLeod is the director of the Alternate History track at DragonCon, and she graciously agreed to talk to me about her interest in steampunk, DragonCon (which is Atlanta’s huge science fiction/media festival Labor Day weekend every year), and even a little bit about next year’s AnachroCon, the annual Atlanta steampunk convention.
Hi, Cindy. Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me about Atlanta Steampunk and about DragonCon.
1) Can you tell me how you got interested in Steampunk?
Well, I’ve been interested in science fiction as long as I can remember, and I’ve also been a history geek for as long as I can remember. Thus, steampunk, which is somewhat of a hybrid of these two interests, was a natural for me. Back in the 1980s, I kept up with the various sci-fi literary movements, one of which was cyberpunk, and I read some of the original steampunk works early on (I was a particular fan of James Blaylock).
When I saw costumers at DragonCon about six or so years back doing steampunk outfits (they were the crew of an airship, I believe) I was intrigued. At around the same time, my husband and I were starting to do historical costuming, and so steampunk seemed a natural outlet for these interests…and the rest is history!
2) DragonCon is coming soon, and my husband and I will be volunteering as staff for our 16th year. I know that you are the director of the Alternate History Fan Track. First of all, can you talk a little about how you first got involved with DragonCon?
I first heard about DragonCon from some of my geeky friends in the DC area in the mid-90s, but didn’t get a chance to attend until 1998. I didn’t see much, save the dealers’ room and a few of the Star Trek panels, but I was hooked! After a few years of being an attendee, I began volunteering in 2006, in Registration. While working at the show, I became convinced that there needed to be a place for those with similar interests to mine (alternate history, steampunk, historical costuming, reenacting, etc.) With the help of some of my good friends, I concocted a proposal and formally pitched the track in 2008, but the track was not green-lighted by The Powers That Be until 2009.
(Note: many of the panels described in that original proposal have either occurred or will occur this year!)
3) What are some of the things that are going to be especially interesting in Alternate History and for Steampunk fans at DragonCon this year?
Well, for one, some panels that were popular our first year and didn’t happen in 2010 will be coming back, such as two specialty panels on Pirates and the Weird West.
Doctor Q, who runs the Artifice Club here in Atlanta, will be facilitating some awesome panels on the track, such as Clockwork Comics (which features Joe Benitez, creator of Lady Mechanika) — he will also be spinning tunes at the Grand Pirate and Time Travelers’ Ball.
The Steampunk Exhibition, which was extremely popular last year, will be back, with new contraptions and gadgets to view, and will be in its own dedicated space, and will also be running longer so that folks will have a better chance to see all the displays.
Abney Park, the steampunk band, will be doing a showcase panel on their new RPG which is being released this year; they’ll also be appearing on a steampunk music panel.
We’ll be having a panel on the realities of the Scottish Highlands, featuring a piper, and followed up by an hour-long Pub Sing, which will move from the Westin to a nearby pub.
S.M. Stirling, the alternate history author, will be doing a showcase panel on his works, and Eric Flint will be running a mini-convention on his 1632 series of novels (in a room next to the main track room).
And, finally, just for fun, we’ll be having two large panels featuring the stars of the “Back to the Future” series: Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and James Tolkan.
4) You are also a Senior Director for AnachroCon. This year was our first year at Anachrocon and we really loved it! Are there any AnachroCon plans yet, or is it too soon to talk about that?
Well, most of the folks who work at AnachroCon are hard at work on DragonCon planning at the moment (LOL), but I will say that we have a sold-out vendors’ room–all of the favorites from last year will be back, as well as some new ones. We’re also working on getting the hotel locked-in; plans are to have the entire hotel dedicated to AnachroCon this year, with more space for gaming, as well as (hopefully) an art show.
Thank you so much, Cindy! There’s so much to look forward to this year at DragonCon! I can’t wait and I know there are literally thousands of other people who feel the same way!
For more information about DragonCon, including costuming and the Alternate History track, visit the DragconCon webpage.