This week we talk with blogger and Steampunk Magazine contributor, Katie Casey.
Airship Ambassador: Hi Katie! Thanks for taking time from your summer vacation to do this interview with us. When I had just started this blog, you were one of the first people to link to it in a post of your own, and that post happened to be at Steampunk Magazine. That was so wonderful and amazing for me, and there were 900+ views of the blog that first day alone. So, thank you very much for that shout-out. What is your role at Steampunk Magazine and how did you first come across my blog?
Katie Casey: Hee, glad to help! I mostly keep the blog up to date, moderating comments and posting interesting things as I find them. I’m also involved in some of our other projects, like the upcoming Winterlands book. I think I must have seen your blog in a link round-up somewhere else… I follow a lot of different blogs in search of things to put on the SPM site, and “Airship Ambassador” was such a cool name that it caught my attention, haha.
AA: How do you describe steampunk
KC: I usually go with “Victorian science fiction” because it’s the simplest answer, though it doesn’t cover everything. I like Mike Perschon’s ideas about Steampunk as an aesthetic – “steampunk manifests the nineteenth century, though not necessarily in the nineteenth century” – because it allows for crazy alternate worlds, apocalypses, etc. The difficulty is making a definition big enough to cover everything from literature to interior decorating… I can tell someone about a steampunk story, because science fiction inspired either aesthetically or historically by the Victorian Era makes sense, but how do I extend that to epic costumes, crazy modded computers, and big brass bands in waistcoats and top hats? I haven’t quite figured that part out yet, I must admit.
AA: How did you get started with Steampunk Magazine?
KC: I honestly can’t remember when I found out about the magazine – probably through the Lolita fashion community – but I opened some of the PDFs on a long family car ride two summers ago and got through all the magazines, cover to cover, in the time it took to get from Virgina to Illinois. Victoriana and feminism and stories with queer folk, all in one place! Be still, my beating heart! I got involved on the forum, and was eventually sucked into the whirlwind of Allegra Hawksmoor and her endless fabulous projects.
AA: It’s pretty interesting how we can be a quiet reader, participant or attendee one minute and then be part of the movements and creation of something wonderful. How did you get started with your blog, SpiffyKT?
KC: Haha, I don’t think I was ever a quiet reader. Believe me, my parents were sick of listening to steampunk babbling by the end of that trip! I had this very awesome English teacher who encouraged us to read blogs, which really didn’t work – Tenth graders don’t like it when, in addition to their assigned reading, they have to read something that changes every day. But eventually thanks to that I found a whole stack of blogs on topics I was interested in, and decided that I might have opinions to share and a story to tell to the emo kids of LiveJournal, too.
AA: And where did Spiffy/SpiffyKT come from?
KC: In middle school I said the word “spiffy” a lot instead of, you know, “cool” or whatever, and it stuck as a nickname, all the way to college. So many people know me as “Spiffy” that I’ve kind of just given up on my real name at this point!
AA: LOL, oh yeah, say something long enough and that’s the big thing people remember about you. Is there a particular theme or topic that you focus on for you own blog?
KC: Not really. It started out with a lot of posts about feminism and GLBT rights, especially as they applied to my own experience as a high school kid, since that was a perspective that I didn’t see much of in the blogosphere. And lately I’ve gotten really interested in environmental issues (particularly DIY culture) and religious issues as well. But I often dissolve into just posting eye candy…
AA: Eye candy is not a bad thing! How did previous experiences prepare you for blogging?
KC: I’ve loved the 19th century since I was a kid, I write like I breath, and I’m from a family of computer geeks (my dad designed the first Congressional website). Babbling on the internet about vaguely Victorian things comes pretty easily.
AA: As you write an ongoing blog, what are the qualities a successful blogger needs?
KC: Other than a close personal relationship with spell check? I guess an interest in what other people are saying, and a desire to keep the conversation going. Knowing what readers are interested in and posting consistently help too, but I’m still working on those.
AA: What are some challenges of blogging that you’ve had to deal with?
KC: For someone so loud, I’m pretty shy! I’m not very clever and I know I have at least a little bit of an audience, so I worry about not knowing enough to contribute to all the awesome discussions that go on in the steampunk world.
AA: What are the rewards of blogging that keep you writing?
KC: I love when posts get lots of comments! A few weeks ago, for example, I put up a post on women in science fiction – just an article that had caught my eye, posted in a few minutes before running off to work – and when I got home and checked it later there’d been this whole fantastic discussion. It was really excited to see such a response, and I ended up learning a lot from people’s comments! And it’s been awesome getting to know some of the fantastic people involved in steampunk – I got a hug at the Steampunk World’s Fair from another blogger who’d read my stuff, which made me happy.
AA: Hugs are always a good thing, and it’s nice to be recognized for the work you’ve done. How do you prepare for an issue of Steampunk Magazine, or a single contribution?
KC: Honestly, I ended up contributing to SPM by accident – both the pieces I’ve had in so far were just submitted to the Gaslamp Bazaar forum for critique, and written for my high school writing class. I hadn’t intended to submit them, and the next thing I knew they were in the magazine! Now I don’t have a writing class, so I need a new plan!
AA: That’s rather impressive to have been in high school and get two pieces published. What kind of feedback are you getting from the readers, blogs and convention panels?
KC: No one’s really said anything like “this was a good idea!” or “this one was stupid!”, but I’ve learned a lot from seeing where people fall in the odd little divides in the steampunk world – more “steam” versus more “punk,” more intellectual/literary approaches versus more DIY/costuming/etc approaches… The blog tends to fall more on the “punk” and intellectual end of things, so posts about multicultural steampunk, women steampunk writers, and apocalyptic steampunk fiction have gone over well, while posts about steampunk fashion haven’t generated as many comments. (Which is fun and all, but I wish more people wanted to talk about the pretty clothes!)
End of Part 1
Join us next week for the conclusion of our interview with blogger Katie Casey.
Click here to read the rest of the interview