Friday, February 13

An Attempt to Explain. Part I

Steampunk is a word that has worked its way into everyday life for me. In peculiar ways I never considered possible. A year ago, I discovered the word as a genre. It was a setting to put books, movies, pictures, artwork into. Then I discovered the fashion. Followed soon after by the toys (lord the TOYS!) and then, I discovered the philosophy.

There is no set philosophy, and it would be wrong of me to tell you "This is all that steampunk is!" I've also said many times over that I shouldn't sit around explaining what steampunk isn't. I can take a random object in my hands, and tell you 'this isn't a table' and that doesn't help you a whole lot does it? I can spend all day telling you what it isn't, without ever explaining what it IS. So I approach you, as a self-proclaimed steampunk. I approach you as someone who has found SOMETHING worth discussing in this peculiar and ill-defined culture of anachronisms and oddities. I just hope to pass along that little spark that lit my engine to you folks. (heh...imagery.) So please allow me to muse for a little bit for you. I hope it at least provides entertainment for you.

The aesthetic of steampunk is akin to Victorian era dress and artifice , but not exclusively so. It has varied from renaissance to post-apocalyptic styles as well, but it always seems to favor the superfluous in mechanics, fashion, and style. On top of that, it has a fascination with machinery that you could see working. It has a distaste for circuitry and silicone. It doesn't always shun them, but it shy's away. Think Wild wild west, Steamboy, and H.G. Wells novels. Not necessarily in that order.

Now, the actual term came about as a joke. Certain writers were using the term to make fun of the culture/genre called Cyberpunk. It was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek nickname for the alternative style they were presenting, I suppose. But whatever the reason, the Steampunk culture has adopted it as it's own. It is also odd that this all came about from literature, as opposed to goth and punk, which centered around music.

Alright, I am getting too academic about this. But I guess, to define it, I kinda have to. Alright. Steampunk as a culture has also taken on certain political and social mentalities. The most obvious one is something called Upcycling. This is where someone takes something old, or unused, and modifies it and makes it something new or useful. Whereas recycling is re-using the same materials...Upcycling is modifying and upgrading those materials. The upcycling community has apparently been around for a while (and not as much of a community as a bunch of people who did it...just because) but has taken a front seat in Steampunk society. (is that a good term? Steampunk society? Who cares?! I'll use it know why? I'M THE WRITER! BWAHAHA!)

Next is the rejection of commercialized production, and and corporate control of...well...anything. There is a phrase that is very often dropped at steampunk gatherings..."Hate the Factory, Love the Machine". It's odd to think that something with such a heavy influence from the industrial revolution era of western development seems to deny the actual progress of industrialization. It's almost a belief that mass-production and corporate growth have wrung the neck of our our Culture. (capitol C...actual culture, not the sub culture of steampunk. Just wanted to clarify. Carry on.) People use to live in an actual community. A town or city use to actually mean something. We've heard stories about the ghettos of New York. Where you lived was important. What you did was significant. Not simply in a 'My sports team is best!' sort of way. They used to riot over societal wrongs done to them. (an aside...where the FUCK did that go?!?! I want protest songs on my radio, I got SEXY BACK! Eff you, Justin. Eff you.) Hell, look at the movie "Gangs of New York" that movie has a very good steampunk and period look to it, without using cogs and gears every five seconds. But that's just my personal opinion.

Anyways, there also used to be a pride of quality. If someone said 'I bought such and such a thing from here' people use to agree or disagree on the quality of said product and said establishment. A tool made right was considered a thing of beauty. Similar to how a well made weapon in medieval times seemed to take on a magical quality. Excaliber, in a sense. So a specific product, with a certain name to it, was respected and cared for.

Nowadays, we are a world of fast and cheap. We are not materialistic, or else we would be concerned with the MATERIALS we are using. Fabrics in clothing would be of importance...whens the last time you've wondered about the quality of your T-shirt's thread and weave? Does it even HAVE a weave? What the FUCK IS A WEAVE?!?! How often do you consider the quality of your big mac? Not in a 'this is unhealthy!' but in a 'this burger fills me up quick, but doesn't keep me going all day long.' way. I mean, look at the crap they used to eat...not even one hundred years ago! EVERYTHING was fried in fat and butter. But hell, it FILLED YOU UP. It wasn't hollow and made to taste passable. Do you see where I am going with this? Instead of Quality, we have settled for Quick and Easy. This is on of the big topics of discussion between myself and some of my steampunk compadre's.

This is becoming somewhat dense, I think. For a blog to be bogged down this soon, before we even start traveling, would be bad. So I will trail off here, and hopefully touch upon more aspects of Steampunk as a culture later on. I may even correct myself. The ideas around this are always changing, and should be allowed to do so. Don't take it too seriously. At it's core, steampunk is pulp. It is a group of people who are disinterested with the society we live in, so instead they are making toys, dressing up, and rejoicing in the finer (and not so fine) aspects of our society's long dead history.

So if you take any of this too seriously, you've lost the plot, and should stop reading the book. Take a breather, and then try it again later...ya know...when you aren't so huffy and rightious.

Captain, over and out!

1 comment:

  1. Your description of steampunk really, really reminded me of something I stumbled across a while ago...

    Anyway, I know you wrote this billions and billions of years ago (not really), but this dissertation of what steampunk IS and what it means to you, and basically what you and the Penny Dreadfuls are doing with your RV is extremely inspiring to me. I'm definitely keeping up with this blog!


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