Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe artwork

The Steampunk Political Guillotine Machine

It was Sunday morning and the first thing I read on Facebook was a call from someone in the steampunk community demanding that another person be “unfriended” by all of her followers. Along with this, she posted a screencap of a meme this terrible person had posted which said, “Share if you also want to see Hillary Clinton in jail.” It had the former secretary of state’s face photoshopped behind bars.

For one anti-Clinton meme, this steampunk woman demanded the deplatforming of someone I didn’t even known before this incident. One wrong meme in some circles and you’re out.

By that logic, I should have been “canceled” a long time ago. I’ve disliked Hillary Clinton since the early 1990s. But social media has made it much easier to scout out thoughtcrimes. Don’t belong to the right political party? Don’t hate politicians from the other side? Someone will screencap something you wrote, share it on their own page and demand that you be shunned.

We’ve crossed into a weird McCarthyism — Jenny McCarthyism — where if you’re not liberal enough you’ll be chased out of whatever fandom you’re in.

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Jakub Rozalski artwork

The Gatekeeper’s Scythe

More than two years ago, I caused controversy with the rant “Requiem for Steampunk” in which I outlined what had gone wrong the genre. I wrote in declarative statements that what we call “steampunk” isn’t steampunk anymore by bookending the article with these two paragraphs:

Since it has lost the anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment aspects, “steampunk” is no longer steam “punk.” It’s something else now and I’m not sure what to call it… So either steampunk is dead, it’s dying, or it was never what it should have been and what is now called “steampunk” is a bastardization.

And:

If steampunk — and for that matter, dieselpunk, decopunk and so on — isn’t about flipping society right-side up with a splash of non-conformity and anarchy against the ruling class, we should find another suffix besides ‘punk.

Sandwiched between those statements was the thesis of my argument and how I came to my conclusion that steampunk was in a lot of trouble as a “social movement”.

I have continued to write and talk about the topic, including in a review for The Steampunk Journal and in an appearance on “Radio Retrofuture” with Bonsart Bokel.

So have others. Nick Ottens’ recent “Who Killed Steampunk?” is the latest entry in this debate.

I have come to the conclusion that if only I had written “Gatekeepers Are Killing Steampunk” and made that the title of my rant, I would not have caused so much controversy. I could still have heaped much of the blame for what’s killing steampunk on the people who are trying to control it and make it their own and I wouldn’t be the villain and scoundrel that I am accused of being today. (Although, let’s face it, I actually enjoy the “scoundrel” part.)

I suspect that a more mundane title would have also spared Nick much of the heat he has taken for his article.

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