Friday, March 02, 2007

The Steampunk Community

I haven't been posting as much as usual, because I have been spending an inordinate amount of time on the new Steampunk Forum. I have been wary of cross-posting from the forum, because I am really begining to enjoy the company of the artists, mechanics, tinkers, tailors, and tinkers there. I would hate for them to think I was just there to siphon links... plus, I borrow or share links from Brass Goggles enough, as it is.

Now don't get me wrong, there are other, older steampunk online communities. I've glanced over some of these, but the new one served up by Brass Goggles and the Aether Emporium was just the right approach at the right time, as far as I'm concerned. The timing was genius in fact, almost directly coinciding with Jake Von Slatt's web documentation of his steampunk keyboard project. This project dominated the aethernet over the last week, being linked and noticed, all over the place. Indeed google blog searches for "steampunk" last week could turn up pages of posts just to that keyboard.

A while back I read the wikipedia entry on Steampunk and it implied that some folks were interested in a steampunk lifestyle, or subculture. This got me thinking at the time, and perhaps made me more open to all the steampunk links I have posted since then.

Well folks I'm here to tell ya, there is something interesting going on over at the Steampunk forum. Though we might prefer it if you refered to it as Steampunk culture or community, rather than Steampunk subculture. After all, it is quite an international group of gentlepeople who gather there to discuss tinkering, steampower, airships, movies, games, and of course goggles.

Hanging out in the forum is like being in a technophilic salon. Discuss literature with engineers. Or airships with Muscians. Or both at the same time.

There is an old Indian story about Coyote. It seems Crow was upset with Coyote, for some past slight. So Crow snatches Coyote while he sleeping. He carries him way out into the desert, and plops him right in an endless sea of sand.
Coyote awakes and in confronted by nothing but sand, between him and the horizon. He travels for days before he finds a small puddle, a small spring. He rests there, but there is no food. Eventually, maddened by hunger, Coyote is forced to backtrack, and consume his own scat. He of course, returns to the spring. Here new scat is made of the old, and seeds which were contained in the old, are deposited near the spring, and watered by Coyote's liquid wastes.
Soon Coyote not only has fresh water, but fresh vegetables as well.
The next time he sees Crow, he is languidly enjoying his new oasis.

The moral of the story is, sometimes we must go back for what we have left behind, we must examine our own leavings, for those things of value which we might have overlooked.

I see a lot of this in the steampunk community. It seems there have been a lot of folks in the last few years who have independantly been persuing Steampunk themed projects. A lot of people who were inspired by just the idea of the term "Steampunk," as well as Science Fiction stories, role playing and video games, tv and movies, and just a generally apreciation of antique tech. Gathering a lot of these folks together, as well as people who are just becoming aware of the aesthetic due to a surge in aethernet coverage, is inspiring, to say the least.

Another example of the emergent steampunk culture is Steampunk Magazine, whose motto is "Putting the Punk back into Steampunk." This motto represents a perceived factionalization in the Steampunk community between Victorian reenactors, and anarchistic DIY tinkers. Like any polar dichotomy, the reality it describes is actually much more a greyscale, if not technicolor in origin. Still, like most incendiary Punk rants, I enjoy much of the Steampunk magazines editorial voice. I enjoy a little DIY self-sufficiency with my Steampunk. Though I do hope that in the future the mag will be more inclusive of all members of steampunk fandom.

The wonderful Jake Von Slatt uses a signature line on the forum of, "The industrial revolution... this time it's personal." I just love that sentiment.

What will Steampunk become? Fandom like the Trekkie and Anime communities? Some strange reactment society, somewhere between the SCA and LARPs? An actual culture as well as an aesthetic, manifesting into reality strange and arcane artifacts, ala Borges' Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius?

I don't know, but I can't wait to see.


Neddeth Holyspan said...

These links are great. I'm having a great time on the Forum now, and glad to see posts like these. Great job.

Halting Point said...

If you're interested in finding a place to buy steampunk items, another good resource is