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.

Continue reading “The Gatekeeper’s Scythe”

Writing Steampunk

Gail B. Williams

I’m not often moved to write articles, usually it’s fiction for me. But I was intrigued by the two “Who Killed Steampunk?” articles here and surprised by some of the responses. All genres have their ups and downs, and I’m hoping any steampunk downturn will soon turn around. Again, like the original article, I am restricting this to written steampunk only.

Nick’s articles made me think. They made me wonder what was my unwritten agenda? When I started writing the Shades of Aether series, I just wanted to write a light-hearted adventure (under my other author name I write dark gritty crime and I needed a break from that). The books started as an adventure and forbidden love story, but grew into something more. While I created that, I didn’t analyze or worry over it. It just came about organically.

Continue reading “Writing Steampunk”

Who Killed Steampunk? A Response to My Critics

My last story, “Who Killed Steampunk?“, provoked a lot of comments, both here and on social media. I’ve tried to read all of them, but I couldn’t respond to everyone individually, so let me follow up here.

Most of the criticism fell into one of three categories:

  1. You’re ignoring the convention and music scene.
  2. You’re trying to force your view of steampunk on others.
  3. You’re blaming “social justice warriors” and providing a refuge to misogynists and racists.

Each of these arguments deserves a more thorough response than fits in a tweet.

Continue reading “Who Killed Steampunk? A Response to My Critics”
Justin Bieber

Chauvinism in Steampunk

Late last year, when an image of teenage pop star Justin Bieber wearing something of a steampunk outfit appeared online, the vast majority of steampunk fandom seemed appalled. For such an icon of contemporary pop culture (or lack thereof) as Justin Bieber to delve into the steampunk aesthetic was anathema to steampunks’ self image as defying the mainstream culture. Some said this marked the end of steampunk as an alternative culture altogether.

That in itself, our Marcus Rauchfuß observed, was evidence of steampunk having gone mainstream already.

“When a scene is truly underground,” he wrote, “new members are always welcome. People are excited about and very welcoming toward newcomers. The scene has to grow to a certain point for a style-police to emerge.”

Yet that has happened to steampunk. And it’s not something we can blame Justin Bieber for. Continue reading “Chauvinism in Steampunk”

Steampunk girl

There We Go Again: “The Radicalism of Steampunk”

While most steampunks generally support a revival of nineteenth-century aesthetics as a response to modern alienation, many don’t like to acknowledge that their attitudes could be considered ideological.

Indeed! The quote comes from the article “Leftists Constructs,” published in the recent issue of the progressive Overland magazine and written by steampunk blogger Diana M. Pho of Beyond Victoriana.

Notice the subtlety: “steampunk don’t like to acknowledge that their attitudes could be considered ideological.” Of course, Pho is here to tell us that they are, whatever we like it or not. Continue reading “There We Go Again: “The Radicalism of Steampunk””