My Interview with Jeff Mach, Creator of the Steampunk World’s Fair
Jeff Mach started the Steampunk Worlds Fair in 2010, and continues to oversee this amazingly successful event as well as other special interest conventions. I interviewed him as part of the Steamfest Gazette, and now that my backers have had their copy for a while I thought I’d share my conversation with you all as well. Steampunk World’s Fair 2016 was amazing and I’ve already got my room booked for SPWF 2017. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Now, on with the interview!
PD: Which came first, your love of Steampunk or your knowledge of large-scale event planning?
JM: The events definitely came first, and I’m glad I had that experience. We’ve always created events with a focus on tremendous entertainment. They say that every word in a poem should matter; we feel that every minute in an event should matter. This meant that we wanted to have lots of stages and lots of opportunities available to our attendees, which really helped change the way people saw Steampunk events. It was very rare to see that much music or entertainment at Steampunk events when we got started; you’d usually see a lot of panels. Panels are wonderful, but Steampunk culture is so much more broad than what you’ll find through conversation alone!
PD: Tell us a little about your event and the inspiration behind it.
We had a simple idea: We wanted to try to give people an opportunity to experience EVERY aspect of Steampunk creativity we could find, and we wanted to be accepting of ANYONE who wanted to attend, regardless of how they dressed, or how involved they were in the Steampunk community. We wanted a place where anyone who enjoyed Steampunk could feel at home.
PD: What was your biggest mistake, er, “growth experience” when you first started holding SPWF?
JM: I took time off from managing the event in year two, when I was busy getting married. I don’t regret getting married! But I should have run that event, no ifs, ands, or buts.
PD: What are some strategies for people to use, or avoid, when it comes to increasing attendance at special interest events?
JM: Have a clear harassment and consent policy! It will help increase your attendance with people who want to see a safer fandom, and decrease attendance from people who don’t. It’s a win-win.
PD: What is your favorite thing about Steampunk in general, or your Steampunk event in particular?
One of our mottoes is “”We don’t make imaginary worlds. We make real worlds that come from imagination.” Steampunk is based on literally endless whimsy and creativity. You’ll rarely find any two Steampunks whose Imaginary 19th Centuries are the same – and yet we ALL respect each other and we all respect each other’s views of that universe. It makes me happier than I describe.
It’s also what inspired me to create Glimmerdark. I wanted to make a Faerie universe, but not one which obeyed or imposed any single set of rules for how it came about. I wanted to see if I could take Steampunks freewheeling acceptance and apply it to a fantasy event. (Of course, Glimmerdark is multi-genre – so we do expect and hope to have quite a lot of Steampunks there, too. It all works together!)
PD: You also got a chance to bring Absinthe Heroes to life at this year’s fair. What was your inspiration for writing this Steampunk opera, and who is your favorite character?
Part of it was simple: There was almost no other Steampunk musical theatre at the time, and I felt that Steampunk culture could use a theatrical tradition. I figured I’d do my part to help prime the pump! I was a playwright long before I started doing events, and I felt that, with the resources of a festival behind me, I could really produce a show worth seeing.
Favorite character? Ah, c’mon, that’s like asking about a favorite child! But I will say that I can’t imagine not falling in love with an Evil Chocolatier.
PD: I know Absinthe Heroes was funded through a Kickstarter campaign because I contributed to it 🙂 Do you have any advice for other people who are developing their own crowdfunding campaigns?
JM: Always, ALWAYS have a plan BEFORE you start. Always have an idea of how you’ll get your ideas out to people, and have a clear vision of what would make it worthwhile for other people to contribute. YOU know why your project’s going to be fantastic and why, once it’s funded, it will succeed. But other people don’t! You have to explain it to people who don’t live in your own head. Too often, people run a crowdfunding campaign on the basis of, “Trust me, this will be THE BEST” – and that’s just not going to help unless the people reading it already know who you are. And even then, having a clear vision and a structure to what you’re doing will really help people decide that backing you makes sense.