Saturday, 24 August 2013

"Steampunk 1.02": My Thoughts on the Revolution

It's 'Victorian Science Fiction'... but what else can it be?

How do we create a Steampunk world and how do we recreate ourselves? I don't want to prescribe a way to do or be things to anyone because change comes from within. We are drawn to things that speak to us. I don't want to be one of those people who says you have to dress this way, think this way. I think everyone has to come to it from their own direction.


What follows is merely my opinions, which I am happy to discuss with others in the hope of a greater understanding and growth of Steampunk.


Creating another world


Steampunk is wonderful, but it is just dressing up, right? Wrong! It doesn't just have to be another persona, an outfit we take off! We can transform our world! We may not all be able to afford to Steampunk our house, but we can make our lives a little more like the one of our dreams! It may be as simple as wearing a piece of Steampunk jewellery or Victorian inspired item every day, or using a few charming anachronistic Victorian words, or raising your hat and bowing to people in the street

There was an article in SteamPunk Magazine that interested me very much. It discussed how creating Steampunk worlds can actually help us see the way to a better world, if it is done the right way. We can't expect the change the world outright, but perhaps we can create a place outside of ourselves where manners, creativity and imagination can reign triumphant. The more we work at it, the more conventions, meet-ups and 'craft togethers' we can have with like minded people, the more people we can introduce to the sense of community and imagination within Steampunk.


Think about what you want to be. Do you want to be charming and well mannered? Do you want to be the catalyst of a stylistic revolution or help create a new way of thinking and living? Do you want to write new worlds, or make clothes that show who you really are? It is all there in Steampunk.

Steampunk is the escapism that fantasy has been for years, but the difference is that with such an encompassing culture it can become a cultural revolution. It could become a spirit of the times, a revolt against the crushing normality of our era. All around the world, Steampunks are using that thing with supposedly alienates us- technology, the internet, to connect with each other. We are anachronistic par excellence, loving the old steam powered technology, but finding ways to use the new ones to our advantage.


We don’t want to go back to the past, we want a better present!


Steampunk people do not necessarily yearn for the past, we know there were many bad aspects to the past such as sexism and racism, and we don't want to relive those! We want to take the elements we love- fancier clothes, nice manners, etc. and set them in our own imaginary world. It is a very creative subculture! But can we make this world a reality?


Branching out

When someone makes something wonderful and then I hear someone say (or write online) 'that's nice... but it's not Steampunk!' I cringe. We need to admire creativity in all its forms. We shouldn't have to have a narrow identity where we can only like things that are Steampunk. One of the great things about Steampunk is the creativity and openness of it.

Steampunk is taking inspiration from everywhere. I have seen Steampunk Faery outfits, Steampunk R2D2s, everything can be Steampunked! There shouldn't be too many rules, we shouldn't criticise people for being 'not Steampunk enough'.


Perhaps the biggest danger we actually face is making TOO MANY rules, we must take inspiration from everywhere, stylistically we are not just Victorian we are Punk and New Romantic and Goth, Steampunk literature is there, but we mustn’t fall into the trap of only worshipping things with cogs. There are books now that just throw a few cogs in there just to relate to a Steampunk audience and that is not a good sign. we have to be more open. embrace Steamgoth with its depictions of darkness and monsters, but not ask for it to be too filled with machinery, embrace urban fantasy, depictions of other glittering worlds. be inspired by rockstars and dandies.

Some of the people who inspire me most are the authors who generally don't write Steampunk, Sarah and Jenn Diemer (although they did do one great Steampunk short story collection), Francesca Lia Block, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, writers who see the world in different ways, but, in a short story, bring us completely into their world.


If we label ourselves too much, pigeon-hole ourselves too much, we are doing ourselves, and Steampunk, a disservice. we must branch out, keep things wide, keep things fresh and buzzing with new and different ideas.
The point of Steampunk is that it is anachronistic. We can listen to other music, read other books, and put them all into our Steampunk. We can have an alternate Victorian future with a post-punk soundtrack and dandy aliens dancing in Victorian dance halls.

After all, Steampunk is about mining the past for the bits we liked, but throwing away the bits we hate. No gender inequality and racism, thank you very much, but beautiful clothes, lovely manners, and the alternate technology and magic envisioned by the Science Fiction and horror writers of the Victorian era.

It's about finding a way to think about things differently. Like the 1985 song Rock me Amadeus, which envisioned Amadeus Mozart as the first rock-star. Sure it's not exactly Steampunk, but something we can draw on for inspiration? Yes? Velvet Goldmine re imagines Oscar Wilde and his words, a story of Dorian Grey but also the idea of Oscar Wilde as a 'pop idol.' Anachronistic indeed. 'The curves of your lips rewrite history.' We can rewrite not just history but the present and future as well. We can rewrite ourselves.


Community

Steampunk is a subculture that thrives on community. There aren't a lot of events in Australia yet, but at the ones I have been to, everyone has been so friendly! They are happy to talk about where they bought their outfits or what patterns they used, what books and movies they like, and it is mostly the same online, helpful and friendly. But we need to make sure this community exists, not just online, but also in the physical world. There is nothing like really hanging out with those who have things in common with you! We need to work to get our groups together and keep them going!


There is a wonderful sense of community, that we are all in this crazy thing together. When I see people joining facebook groups for Steampunk or coming to an event where there are other Steampunks they often say something like, 'finally, I have found others like myself,' I know for myself, it was like coming home. I love my Goth brothers and sisters of course, but Steampunk had that which I had always been searching for. Alternate history, alternate self, the ability to transform myself. It's hard to define, and a little different for everyone, but it can be like coming home. I feel like these last few years I have been more and more who I really am, having picnics, learning to sew, learning about Steampunk books, movies and music, and adding all my other inspirations to it, making my own personal definition of what Steampunk is to me.


Supporting the Community


One of the things we should do is support others efforts, especially those creatives who want to make new things, we need more Steampunk web-shows, movies, etc. Keep an eye out for kickstarters and give them $5 or $10 if you can afford, it, tweet and facebook updates on it to get others interested. Social media is the friend of us anachronists, it allows us to meet other anachronists from around the world, and it allows us to try and get the word out there. We envision and create our own worlds and we can share them. we can drag others out of the dull monotony of everyday life, and show them another world.


The 'Steampunk Bandwagon'

Some people don't want Steampunk to become too mainstream, they see the idea of everyone 'getting on the Steampunk bandwagon' as a bad thing, but imagine Steampunk as a cultural movement, a big one because it has it all, literature, music, fashion, because people make things themselves and inspire others to do so. We shouldn't try and keep it small, we should invite everyone who is interested, give everyone a chance to be part of it! Wouldn't it be wonderful to go see Steampunk movies at the cinema? And, of course, greater exposure means that more people who would be interested can find out about it, and more events for us to attend!


My mottoes for a Steampunk Revolution


In the end, I look to the words of Professor Frank N. Furter, 'don't just dream it, be it.' The words that were scrawled in lipstick on Oscar Wilde's Tomb- 'the curves of your lips rewrite history', the words of the song from the Dresden Dolls that stuck in my head when I was about 18. 'I will join your century but only on a rare occasion... I am the girl anachronism'. Mottoes, battle cries for a 'Steampunk revolution'? or only words to inspire my path? Find your own mottoes and inspirations. Let them inspire you!


I leave you with the words of the Abney Park song, 'Steampunk Revolution'


We've got a steampunk revolution
We're tired of all your so-called evolution
We've darted back to 1886
Don't ask us why; that's how we get our kicks


Out with the new
In with the old
Out with the new
In with the old


Our underworld isn't filled with fear
Just brass and copper, leather scrap, and rusty gear
You can keep your hip-hop techno-pop-rock schleppin-dub
I'm on my way to a coal-powered underground vintage pub


We've got a steampunk revolution
We're tired of all your so-called evolution
We've darted back to 1886
Don't ask us why; that's how we get our kicks


Out with the new
In with the old
Out with the new
In with the old


Your subculture shops at the mall
We build ours with blowtorch, needle, thread, and leather awl
With our antique clock parts we've taken all arts, fine art to fashion
And now we're spreading worldwide to circle the globe with a furious passion


We've got a steampunk revolution
We're tired of all your so-called evolution
We've darted back to 1886
Don't ask us why; that's how we get our kicks


We've got a steampunk revolution
We're tired of all your so-called evolution
We've darted back to 1886
Don't ask us why; that's how we get our kicks


Out with the new
In with the old

8 comments:

  1. Don't know what happened to the comment I just wrote. Something odd.

    Exactly my thoughts on the world. Sadly, not many people seem to lead as magical a life as I do. I've been like this for a long while, maybe forever, and at some point I stopped constantly wondering my ways, just taking a step back every now and then and letting out a chuckle - I'm still aware I'm somewhat unusual and that the events of my day are supposed to occur in fiction only. Dangit, I'M fiction. Who doesn't want to live like that?

    I need to tell you some day about a certain strange yet practical item I bought for a kitchen tool. I think you'll like it.

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  2. I agree, steampunk is a 19th century-like milieu that never was, and as such, it is the ultimate playground. What better sandbox than steampunk to explore who we really are?

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  3. Awesome post!! I pretty much agree with everything you say here! I wear quite a lof of steampunk in my everyday life... I don't quite feel like myself without my top hat on, without my vest and my pocket watch. But I hate lables and prefer not to think of myself as part of any single style subculture.

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  4. Wow, this is a wonderfully researched well-thought-out piece. Thank you so much for tying it all together. The only danger to Steampunk, as you pointed out, are the people who insist only their version of Steampunk is valid. I'm assuming rigid people like that would be a pain in whichever group they were in. The rest of us are open and accepting.

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  5. Great post! I'm re-blogging this asap :D

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  6. Excellent piece!! I heartily agree. steampunk isn't just an aesthetic or a fiction genre, it can be a lifestyle and a philosophy. A way of interacting with the world.

    It's invigorating to read this, because I've been feeling a bit jaded about steampunk and the steampunk community (or at least my local one) recently. I've had a lot of feelings about what I WANT the steampunk community to be and disappointment in the way in which the reality hasn't lived up to it.

    I don't know. I need to get out there and meet some different people, but I'm limited by my location and resources.

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  7. Wonderful article. Arrived here via Rhissanna's Gaslight and Gilt after she posted to my Steampunk collaboration. I'm pleased to see Steampunk is so popular on the blogs. I'm also pleased to see an open minded take as Steamers can be a little rigid. Strange as Steampunk seems so open to new ideas.

    Great Blog!

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  8. Definitely one of your very best posts. :) Really thought-provoking.

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