SoonerCon 25 Q&A: Aislinn Burrows
The multi-genre convention SoonerCon 25 will be held this weekend at the Reed Conference Center, 5800 Will Rogers Rd, in Midwest City. Memberships at the door are $25 for one day and $50 for three days. The show runs 10 a.m. to midnight June 24-25 and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. June 26.
The convention's vice chair, Aislinn Burrows, answered some questions about SoonerCon 25 for Nerdage and The Oklahoman.
What should fans look forward to at SoonerCon this year?
Between performances, discussion panels, gaming, kids activities, film screenings, and more, we have over 200 events scheduled throughout the weekend, making this 25th SoonerCon our biggest and most action-packed convention to date. We are celebrating SoonerCon 25: The Silver Age as an anniversary for Oklahoma and regional fandom. We’re going back to the roots of what makes us geeky, what’s to love about fandom and speculative fiction, and plan to offer a little something for everyone’s interests this year. Along with educational panels like Quakenado: The Earth Science of Oklahoma, we have a full track of workshop and demos. Our costume contest sponsor Bernina OKC will be doing “make and take” sewing demos all weekend, and Microsoft at Penn Square will be out once again with their YouthSpark Camp: Minecraft Hour of Code hands-on coding for kids classes.
We are also pleased to be the first Oklahoma convention host a D&D Adventurers League Epic event. The game will be on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and is a 60-player Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition adventure RPG fans should really enjoy. We’re doing outdoor gaming events all weekend including a Nerf war on Saturday and Sunday, Muggle Quidditch, Stick Horse Jousting and others.
We have several social meetups planned, special events like our all-ages Friday night dance and World Peace Through Chocolate art show reception, our annual costume contest on Saturday, as well as lots of vendors, artists, authors, film makers, and other creative and technical industry professionals will be out all weekend. Costumes are encouraged! We’ve just released our full convention schedule on our website, www.soonercon.com for more details.
What's different about the show for 2016?
This is our anniversary blowout, and we’ve somehow managed to pack in more content than ever before. We are really hoping that new and returning convention attendees will enjoy this year’s program, make some new friends, and find something new to get geeky about. We have gone completely nonprofit this year and have increased the number of educational activities, charitable giving opportunities, and significantly increased our volunteer opportunities at the convention. At a time when STEM and arts and humanities support is most needed in Oklahoma, it’s very exciting for us to take on the challenge of increasing the community’s engagement with these using popular culture, science fiction, and fantasy as a platform for people to get started. We have a bright future ahead and everyone who attends SoonerCon 2016 is a part of making that happen.
What is your title and role with the show?
I am the vice chair for the convention. My role is largely onsite operations for the convention. I also work very closely with our programming department, logistics, and marketing team members.
What are some of the main challenges you've faced?
Each year we do the convention, we identify new areas of opportunity for improvement. We established the Future Society of Central Oklahoma in late January to begin the process of forming our nonprofit, for which SoonerCon will be the primary annual event. We’ve been calling this our building year for that reason, and our convention committee members and board members have worked tirelessly to ensure that we have strengthened our operations while simultaneously building out our brand with both innovative and educational programming offerings. The convention and the Society are entirely volunteer organized, and balancing the time that goes into the annual planning process with everyday life obligations is always a challenge. The most rewarding part of working on the convention each year is the rewarding friendships we maintain. It’s exciting to be a small part of making Oklahoma a little more awesome, and to get to do so with good friends.
Tell me about some of the marquee guests.
Our literary guest of honor is David Weber, known for his Honor Harrington novels and other military science fiction series. We have OKC-native Nene Thomas coming out as our artist guest of honor and she will have works on display in the art show. Toni Weisskopf, publisher at Baen Books is our sold-out Writers Workshop clinician. We are very fortunate to host her on some panels during the weekend as well. Returning as toastmaster is Yard Dog Press editor-in-chief Selina Rosen, along with Peter Pixie as Master of Ceremonies, and Larry Nemecek (a.k.a. Dr. Trek) will be back in the house with the latest Star Trek news and inside scoops. Finally, our featured guests this year include voice actor and Star Trek Continues web series star Vic Mignogna (Attack on Titan, Full Metal Alchemist), video game voice actress Rachael Messer, and special guest Ron Chaney, grandson of the infamous Lon Chaney, Jr.
What are some other cool things people can see?
Lon Chaney, Jr. will be inducted into SoonerCon’s Oklahoma Speculative Fiction Hall of Fame at this year’s opening ceremonies. Accepting this award on his behalf is grandson Ron Chaney. The Chaney family has graciously given SoonerCon the opportunity to enjoy some of both Ron and Lon’s film work. We will be screening the 2009 House of the Wolf Man film at 8:00 p.m. Friday, and will screen the original 1941 The Wolf Man film on Saturday at 2:00 with a special introduction and Q&A with Ron Chaney. We will have several art demos including body painting, a special effects makeup demo with Rachael Messer, and our guests of honor and featured guests will appear all three days of the convention. Did I mention the costumes? We’ll also have a number of independent web series being screened, including the latest episode of Star Trek Continues, along with Oklahoma made short film Heroes of the Realm, and anime screenings.
What sets SoonerCon apart from other shows?
We’ve been around a long time and continue to grow every year. SoonerCon attracts fans of all ages, backgrounds, gender, nationality, etc. from around the country. The convention is designed to be an immersive fandom experience. We start at 10 a.m. running through midnight Friday and Saturday, and end late Sunday afternoon with our closing ceremonies at 4:00 p.m. It’s a full three-day weekend geek getaway, so to speak. It’s about learning, fellowship, and knowing that you’re a part of an accepting creative community where you can be yourself.
What else would you like to tell me about?
Our charity is NAMI OKC Metro, Inc. There is a huge need for the mental health services and support programs they offer to our community and we are very happy to support their organization again this year. Our charity live auction will occur Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and 100% of charitable proceeds will go to them. Any gift amount is welcome and the support is appreciated. Memberships to SoonerCon can be purchased in advance via our website or at the door. At the door pricing is $25 for single day membership or $50 for weekend memberships. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.