People who are drawn to the steampunk and dieselpunk movements often forget that there is more to these genres than the Anglo-Saxon interpretations in film and writing.
The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer puts the finger on the problem when it reminds readers that there is a large and vibrant steampunk community in France that exists largely independently of the American and British phenomena.
Dieselpunk is actually more popular in Europe than it is in the United States. England, Germany and Russia are places where dieselpunk culture is probably more active than in the land where swing and zoot suits were invented.
Trying to find mentions of steampunk or dieselpunk in a language that is not one’s own is rather like venturing for lands unknown in the spirit of Vasco da Gama, Magellan and Marco Polo. El Dorado, the treasures of Moctezuma, the Flying Cities of la Plata, King Solomon’s Mines… The great adventurers Alexander von Humbolt, Ed Malone, Professor Challenger and Lord John Roxton all reached for them and so should steampunk and dieselpunk enthusiasts today try to discover the world of their counterparts overseas. Become Allan Quatermain and find that the Victorian is not just a place but an era!
The Hispanic steampunk scene may surprise the Anglophone community, if only because it is so young.
The first Spanish-language steampunk blog was probably Alrededor del Mundo Steampunk (“Around the Steampunk World”), which started in 2007. Lis Bushi opened the Steampunk Spain Forum in November of the following year and also manages the Estética Steampunk (“Steampunk Aesthetics”) blog, organizes events and is one of the founders of the ACSAR (“Steampunk and Other Retro-futurisms Catalan Association”). As if that weren’t enough, she is also an artist of the tribal fusion oriental dance!
Since 2009 the Convención Steampunk y Retrofuturista de España (“Spain’s Steampunk and Retro-futuristc Convention”) has set in Barcelona.
In May 2011, at Santiago de Compostela, Sentinel Wardrobe organized L’Extraordinaire Uchronie and a brand new Spanish steampunk forum, The Golden Gear, opened its doors. In Galicia appeared SMOG, the first steampunk musical group in the Hispanic world.
Names as Indulgence, Alassie and Lady Madeline are famous in the context of sewing. Frederik Klauss, Professor Torsten Von Brock and Dr Peks Kool are well known for their weapons and props. Lady Romana, Lady Oz and Luna Selenium are notable Hispanic wardrobe creators.
Steampunk hasn’t been confined to the Old World however. In Peru, some role-players were able to filter to the area of Steampunk Tribune since about two years ago. Nearby Portuguese giant Brazil is absorbing much of the world’s attention, though, by publishing SteamPunk Magazine in the Lusitanian language.
Chile is a different story. An important movement has emerged there focused mainly on a virtual group and a community on Facebook, but national meetings are hard to do because of the complex geography of the country.
It hasn’t stopped art-deco artists, such as Makinarium Creaciones and Nocturne Accessories, though, nor the arising of graphic artists as Ren Ato, author of Der Stahl Projekt, a comic and animation with dieselpunk overtones set in Germany in 1945, scheduled for release next winter.
For now, Tobías Von Morgan Ruindoll, one of the movement’s leaders has decided to stick with social networking and their more than 200 members.
Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia are making their own efforts to become popular with an increasing number of creative minds who organize via social networks — undergrounds hiding in a virtual jungle such as Steampunk Latinoamérica, which includes members from Ecuador, Puerto Rico and, of course, Peter Zarate and Martin Irigoyen of Vernian Process.
In Mexico, the Steampunk México Forum has launched the movement trying to take all of the territory with titanic efforts, creating their own radio station called Steampunk Army and having last June their official presentation to the dominant culture in Cronopia, a gathering for literature and comics.
The graphic novel REWARD, set in the Weird West, and projects like Nullius in Verba and Kaiserreich, which are being prepared by Mercenarios de DIOS, are examples of what is being done in Mexico. El Investigador, our monthly magazine, is the first genre publication in the language of Cervantes.
We are a land full of surprises and wonders awaiting to be discovered. All that has been mentioned before is just the tip of the iceberg. So next time someone says steampunk is just Victorian and thinks it’s exclusive to the United Kingdom, or talks about the Jazz era and thinks only of ballrooms in Chicago in the Roaring Twenties, it is worth reminding them that, in Iberoamerica, there is a fascinating scene to explore — a real Lost World with a big future.
This story originally appeared in Gatehouse Gazette #19 (July 2011), p. 18, with the headline “Iberoamerica: The Lost World”.