The Specter of Elitism

Recently, an image of Justin Bieber wearing a steampunk glove or gauntlet was going around on the ætherweb.

There have been a wide range of reactions regarding the photograph. Many have voiced their disappointment or even disgust of steampuk going mainstream and someone like Justin Bieber using steampunk paraphernalia. Several commenters on Facebook and a number of forums and blogs have even declared steampunk to be dead because of it.

Well, excuse me, but could somebody please explain to me how Justin Bieber’s use of a steampunk glove and other apparel can spell the doom of a global subculture?

Continue reading “The Specter of Elitism”

Steampunk Is Not a Subculture — Yet

Not a long time ago, Nick wrote that steampunk means different things in different places. He talked about how in Europe, it is a kind of aesthetics while in other places, including the United States, it looks more like a cultural movement.

Because there are so many differences between people who enjoy the steampunk aesthetic, Nick suggested that it’s hard to call steampunk a subculture. Rather it should be understood as an aesthetic that’s applied in different ways. But it’s not just a matter of preference. When a lot of people around the world realize that they share appreciation of an art style or a genre or an interest in reviewing the possible political implications of the steampunk ethos, we are talking about a community that’s organized around a particular theme. While some marvel in the aesthetic, others are attracted to steampunk for another reason.

What we’re really talking about then is a movement.

Continue reading “Steampunk Is Not a Subculture — Yet”

What If Steampunk Hurts?

What should steampunks do if their art or fiction or role-playing hurts others? Stop and abandon something that’s been part of the steampunk culture for years? Or ignore the feelings of others and have “fun”?

It’s a relevant question because the Victorian era had a lot of problems, several of which have found their way into steampunk even if we’re not always aware of it.

Continue reading “What If Steampunk Hurts?”

Steampunk Means Different Things in Different Places

In a discussion about the punk in steampunk at The Steampunk Forum, Vagabond GentleMan from the United States raises an interesting point: steampunk can have different meanings depending on one’s location.

Vagabond GentleMan suggests that steampunk isn’t a genuine sub- or counterculture because, unlike earlier countercultures, it isn’t just scattered but divided geographically.

When a New York hippie in the 1960s traveled to San Francisco, he “pretty much found that the West Coast hippies had the same basic sociocultural mores and the same basic ethos” that he had, according to Vagabond. When punks from Los Angeles traveled to Baltimore, “they found that though there might be some superficial differences in self-presentation or philosophy, they knew the Eastern punks were gonna ‘be about’ the same sorts of things.” Same thing with Goths.

Not with steampunks.

Continue reading “Steampunk Means Different Things in Different Places”

Half Full, Half Empty: Russian Dieselpunk

Did you know that only one year ago the most populous dieselpunk community on the Web was the Russian one — about one thousand members? It was also among the oldest, established in 2006.

No surprise: starting conditions for the genre were extremely favorable. It was defined relatively early, in an article by Mikhail Popov published in SF & Fantasy World monthly in December 2004. Actually, this article helped to promote dieselpunk in the same way as a well-known publication in DarkRoastedBlend did four years later. So when in the English-speaking world dieselpunk’s right to exist was questioned and disputed, in the Russian-speaking networks it was legitimate and widely acceptable. Different communities, from weapon geeks to noir freaks, adopted it to label weird devices, retrofuturist art, megalomaniac projects, rare war machines, etc.

Continue reading “Half Full, Half Empty: Russian Dieselpunk”

The Philosophy of Dieselpunk

Often when one reads of the Jazz Age, the term is limited to the 1920s. But there’s a relatively young philosophy known as dieselpunk that is trying to keep the glory of the Jazz Age alive.

The term “dieselpunk” was first used by Lewis Pollak in 2001 to describe his role-playing game Children of the Sun. Dieselpunk has since grown far beyond his initial usage to describe a philosophy that forms the basis of a subculture and art movement with distinctive music, art, fiction and cinema.

Dieselpunk philosophy is a postmodern phenomenon that comprises three aspects: decodence, contemporary and punk. To understand this young philosophy one must understand each of these aspects.

Continue reading “The Philosophy of Dieselpunk”

Get Your Punk Out of My Steam

Tor.com‘s Steampunk Month is over. For the last four weeks, the website has published an impressive collection of artwork, essays and fiction that has kept us thoroughly entertained.

About midway through, one article appeared I would like to comment on.

In “There is Totally Punk in Steampunk,” Jaymee Goh writes about how the ‘punk suffix relates to the genre and the developing subculture that we understand today under the banner of “steampunk.”

Continue reading “Get Your Punk Out of My Steam”

Battle of the Sexes: How Steampunk Should Be Informed by Feminism

During the reign of Victoria, the women’s suffrage movement began and, shortly after her death, culminated in women receiving the same legal right to vote as men. It was a landmark period in history for thinking about gender equity. Informed by such works as A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, written by Mary Wollstonecraft almost a half century prior to the Victorian era, it spawned such well-known feminist thinkers as John Stuart Mill, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward and Florence Fenwick Miller. In spite of the oppressive atmosphere created by a focus on eradicating “vice” via the Comstock Laws and other means, as well as the caricature of women as weak and feeble-minded by many scientists of the day, women were making strides toward being recognized as equal to men and having autonomy.

This is the historical background which inspires much of steampunk fiction and we should take its lessons to heart when building our steampunk community.

Continue reading “Battle of the Sexes: How Steampunk Should Be Informed by Feminism”