Monday, October 12

The issue with Steampunk

This post is going to be me voicing some thoughts I have been having for a while.
If you've talked to me for any length of time on the subject of steampunk, you have heard me talk about the 'That's not Steampunk' issue.
If you haven't I am about to talk your ear off.

I discovered Steampunk as a movement over a year ago. I was excited by the prospect of it. Not just the look, it went beyond aesthetic. It is interesting to look at, but what I loved was what it stood for. Or at least what I saw in it.
It was a place for people to go if they had an appreciation of our (somewhat) recent past. Maybe even more than the past. They had a desire to know how things worked, how to be independent of corporate and industrial confines, and how to admire things you might not fully understand.
For example:
I am not a science person. I excel in philosophy and fantasy. I love a good story just as much as I love a fascinating fact. Maybe more. Sometimes those things coincide, sometimes they don't. But either way, I am not an engineer, a scientist, or a master craftsman. So I am a bit of an outcast in any circles that revolve around these things. Facts and science. Even if I admire a machine, or the act of building it, or the person building it...I am not part of it. I am merely someone who doesn't know what they are talking about.
In Steampunk I found a way to "Love the machine and hate the factory". I could admire these things in my own comfort zone, outside of science, and in my personal headspace. Not only that, I found a group of people who shared that view. People who liked to make things, simply to say they made them. Regardless of their craftsmanship or ability...they simply make things to make them. I dubbed these people 'Steampunks'. That might have been premature.

Now I wonder if those people I found are separate from Steampunk as a whole. Maybe those people simply turned to Steampunk as a method of expressing themselves, and they really aren't 'Steampunk'. They simply are that way, and they gravitated towards this strange subculture for a time. (and face it folks, it IS a subculture.)

What I find most disheartening about this movement, subculture, fandom....whatever you wish to call it, is the amount of FUN that is simply being choked out of it.

I have run into many people in the past year who have this burning need to have things be historically accurate, aesthetically appropriate, and downright generic... It has simply been a year, and steampunk has become complacent and bland to me already!
I recall seeing a picture from dragon had hundreds of Steampunks on a flight of stairs, and they were posing for a picture. It was so indestinguishable, and so...I can't find words for it! It was a sea of khakis and creams, nerf guns and gears... Everyone looked the same. I only thought 'When everyone is special, nobody is'.

The worst amongst the steampunks are those who only see one thing. "THIS is steampunk, THAT is not. Victorian Era London had it right, Damnit!" People who put more effort into telling you "You are not steampunk, you are more clockpunk, oh wait, that's made of aluminium... they didn't use aluminium in steampunk eras. Airship pirates never existed, so I don't know where this fantasy came from. I am NEO VICTORIAN!" I've heard people argue that they are Neo-Vic and that steampunk has nothing to do with that...or that steampunk is ONLY neo-vic.

Those groups of people are ass-hats... in my humble opinion.

As a side note, not all Neo-Vics are douchebags...but I am noticing a trend that most douchebags align themselves with Neo-Victorianism.

I came to steampunk with a sense of wonder, awe, and excitement. I have spent the last year of my life fighting to have fun with Steampunk. I think I am losing.
Yet isn't that a novel idea? HAVE FUN!
Not be bogged down by what is or isn't...what's historical and what's fantasy...who is 'more steamier!'...who is a legitimate part of 'the scene'...who is a 'scholar' or 'writer' or 'journalist' for steampunk...
I don't give a rats ass what you are and what you call it! Simply let me have fun for christ sake!

If the sampling of people I have seen in the past year are the representatives of the anomilie that is Steampunk, then I don't think I could have fun with it.
I just remeber when I use to exchange ideas with people about something I wanted to do or work on in the realm of steampunk, and people were excited and would exchange thoughts and ideas with me. Most steampunks don't anymore. That's quickly being exchanged with pointless posturing and bitchy remarks.
I can't say anything like 'back in the good ole days of steampunk', because there weren't any of those. It is still too young a group.
And it is going through one HELL of a puberty.

I am putting all this out there in the hopes that someone will keep the sense of fun and optimism alive in steampunk. I shouldn't have to fight to have fun, and nobody else should either. But it isn't as simple as screaming "GET OUT OF MY SUBCULTURE!" as most people do.

Steampunk, at it's core, should be a mix of fantasy, science, art, and culture. It should be enjoyable to get all dappered up and show off the things you've made, and even find out new ways to make them.
Steampunk served as an exchange of information, enjoyment, and appreciation for me. It helped me discover that I enjoy what I can create, and appreciate the things I use to create it. It allowed me to look at someones clothing, tools, furniture, and technology, and really appreciate the fact that we are capable of making these amazing things. I was allowed to take aspects of the past I enjoyed, and put them in a blender, and make myself a completely innacurate and delightful smoothie.

This is why I am a part of the Steampunk World's Fair. I am hoping that there are still people out there that will love the things I love. If I can make World's Fair FUN and keep the elitist bullshit out of it, maybe I will find that group of people where I can speak freely without being chastised or ridiculed for simply enjoying something.

If you agree with any of this, please, enjoy it. Don't let people ruin it for you. I do that far too often.

Keep it light folks.

1 comment:

  1. Amen Cap. If I have one more neo-vic slight my work as "historically inacruate" so help me, I WILL build a deathray on the spot and liquify them. Just for the irony.


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