The UK Unicons are a series of small science fiction conventions held in universities and colleges, which started with Unicon 80 held at Keele University in 1980. Congenial is Unicon 24. The BRS conventions are a similar series of cons about roleplaying, which started with Conjunction in 1990.
So what sort of con are we planning? One that brings together the wealth of ideas and entertainment from a range of different kinds of media — books (of course) but also games and comics. We will have panel discussions, quizzes, and gaming. We want to focus on what's interesting and pushing the limits in each media be that leading edge SF ideas, new forms of gaming or web comics. And we want to do it with style, panache and a lot of polished brass.
Why do we have Phil and Kaja Foglio, webcomic guests at an SF con? Why not? Technology is enabling new forms of story, and SF cons need to engage with that. Web comics are different from print: you have to commit yourself to another installment of the storyline frequently and incrementally, and you can't retcon stuff half a book ago without losing the respect of your readers. You have to work constantly, without any breaks except those you create by working harder - and if it's topical, you can't do that very much. What makes this worthwhile? We'll ask Phil and Kaja, but one thing is obvious: you're never forgotten. Your readers think about you every week, at least. That makes a difference. It also saves the capital costs of print runs and stock holding, and makes you immune to the whims of distributors. It's a very raw and direct form of storytelling.
Steampunk is more than just an SF trope now. The appeal of the beginnings of the modern age, with its visions of empire and view of the world as knowable and tamable, is strong in an period when uncertainty seems to increase day on day. Steampunk is fun because it inverts so many current ideas, while being more real than fantasy. The stiff upper lip appeals to an age that has seen the tragedies of the twentieth century, and treats emoting as socially desirable. Discovering places was fun, but it's all been done now. Assumed membership of the elite appeals in an age when the internet is making us face up to the sheer number of idiots that are around. Different social absurdities have a great appeal.
In the Foglios' hands, steampunk (or gaslamp fantasy as they prefer to call it) is more straightforwardly mad-science alternate history. In Girl Genius, we have a universe where science and engineering works really well for the talented, but people are more recalcitrant. And that's just naturally funny.