Before Never Was, there was The Gatehouse. And before The Gatehouse, there was Ottens Library, a personal website with history, steampunk and Star Trek concept art. (The Star Trek section became a separate website called Forgotten Trek.)
A fully browsable, archived version of Ottens Library from June 2005 is available here. It describes steampunk as “a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian alternate-history setting” and it contains a history inspired by The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels.
The first Gatehouse
In 2008, the steampunk portion of the website became The Gatehouse. This was still a hand-coded HTML site with “rooms” for categories: a “Dieselpunk Parlor,” which had a few articles and an architecture page; a “Colonial Chamber”; a “War Room”; and the “Smoking Lounge,” which was the name of our new message-board community.
By January 2009, the “rooms” had been replaced with regular pages, except for the Smoking Lounge and War Room. A version of this website is also available in the archives.
Daily updates with artwork and links led to more visitors. We started publishing a bimonthly e-zine, the Gatehouse Gazette (all issues can be downloaded here). The Gatehouse truly became a gateway to the world of dieselpunk and steampunk online.
Switch to blog
In February 2009, we switched to a proper blog. Members of the Smoking Lounge community, including Hilde Heyvaert, Ella Kremper, Damon Molinarius and Amanda Stock, signed up as bloggers. Armat joined his Steampunk Pics with the site in May. Stefan Prohaczka, then an up-and-coming dieselpunk artist, started sharing his work on The Gatehouse a few months later. Tome Wilson of Dieselpunks.org provided a weekly Dieselpunks.org News update beginning in September. I wrote a regular Gatehouse Bulletin with steam- and dieselpunk news from around the web. Sean “Sigurjón Njálsson” Schönherr joined in October with his Cinema is Cinema column.
Most of the posts from this period have been lost, but we were able to recover a dozen in September 2018.
In April 2010, we switched to a picture blog hosted by Tumblr. For about a year and a half, the site published little original content other than a fresh edition of the Gatehouse Gazette every two months.
This changed in October 2011, when we returned to regular blogging. The motivation was the politicization of the steampunk movement. The Gatehouse had always resisted this tendency. The Gatehouse Gazette was founded in response to the publication of SteamPunk Magazine, which attempted to put a punk “back” into steampunk where we felt it had never belonged.
Posts from this period include “Get Your Punk Out of My Steam,” “Popular Steampunk” and “Is Steampunk Radically Political?“
The site’s design changed a couple more times between then and now: in October 2013, to a grey background with white text and yellow links, reminiscent of the 2010-11 picture blog; in February 2016, to a mixed blue-and-green color scheme with a huge banner on top; and finally in December 2016, to a clean magazine layout not too different from the current version.
The Gatehouse and the Gatehouse Gazette played an important role in defining the dieselpunk genre. Notable essays include Larry Amyett’s “The Philosophy of Dieselpunk,” Piecraft’s “The History of Dieselpunk” and Nick Ottens’ posts about the meaning of decodence and how dystopias influenced dieselpunk.
The Gatehouse became Never Was in February 2018. Click here to read Nick’s inaugural post from that month, which looked back on ten years of The Gatehouse and forward to a new chapter in our history.