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I must have started this a dozen times, each time deciding just a few lines in (once or twice only three or four words) to hold down the delete key and erase it all. I was having a hard time figuring out not only what to write, but how to write it. Eventually, this lead me to think about why I was struggling to come up with the words to express my thoughts. Which, in due turn, reminded me of one of the few parts of life I think I finally have figured out. Life, no matter who you are, what your ethnicity, nationality, age, financial, or marital status, is struggle. And when one marries, those struggles aren’t decreased. They often multiply at least threefold as you now try to take on as much of your spouse’s tribulation as you can bear, and face new challenges that arise for the both of you, and between the both of you. But, this isn’t all bad, nor unwanted. Our struggles teach us, strengthen us, bind us together. As Kirk once told a powerful being posing as God and offering to take his pain, I need my pain. It tells me who I am, and what I have survived. I also discovered, that while I can get into the head of a cutthroat pirate captain and his bloodthirsty crew or a nerves-of-steel gunfighter, that writing my own thoughts and feelings was harder, because I spend far less time analyzing them. It’s far easier to write about the things you think about deeply and often, then it is to speak on those you don’t, in the written or audible word. As Mark Twain once said, write what you know. What does any of this have to do with the subject I am supposed to write about? Simply this: I don’t think about what your 60 years of marriage means to me, because it is something I rely on like the sunrise and the changing of the tides. You start to take it for granted, its removal from your life as remote (and as devastating) as experiencing the super nova that destroys the sun or the discovery of a portal to other worlds in the back of your closet or an alien invasion. Its something I have come to count on, a reminder that while my own first attempt at such a relationship was far less successful, there are people to be found who will stand by you through all of your troubles and struggles in life. And eventually, one of those found persons just might be material for a marriage like yours, that stands against all the tests and trials of life. It is a not often thought about, but contstantly felt, source of comfort and hope that I won’t always be alone. There is a guide, blazing a trail for me to follow, leaving signs along the way, and one that can provide a living perspective, answering questions and doubts, often even more subtle, and always more patient, then the manner of requesting that advice. The sun also rises, a new day dawns, and the darkness shrouding my path forward will be lifted. And even in the darkness, when I trip over an unseen obstacle, there is a light showing me the way back to that path. I would blame the maudlin stream of over emotive narrative on alcohol, but the beer was made by A&W, not PBR, this time around, and while not necessarily the best example of my attempts at writing, it is from the heart. Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa Trapp, and may there be many more to come.
July 9th and 10th I had the privilege to be in a few pictures, attend a few panels, and volunteer at the most recent incarnation of AFW. In addition to nerding out with friends old and new, I got the chance to sit in a few panels, and meet some people I admire a great deal. It was a great experience, and thanks to Dustin Draper and the folks at Dock 410, I will soon have some pretty cool pictures to remember the weekend with. I have been doing the convention/faire thing for a long time, from here to Texas, as a guest, a performer, and a volunteer, and I have to say that AFW was one of my favorite experiences. In no small part because of the heavy steampunk influence, I will admit, but steampunk has been a passion of mine since before I knew the word for it, reading Tick Tock and Tin Man of Oz, and Dungeons and Dragons Blackmoor (pre AD&D rules no less!), and other books and movies and animated features. I knew the con/faire culture was something I wanted to be a part of since I was thirteen and attending my first Great Plains Renessaince Festival (or whatever it was called back when it was at Kansas Newman and admission was only a dollar or two). I have been working to make it my profession ever since, although progress towards that goal slows to an almost complete stop from time to time.
I wanted to say thanks to Little Beard and Holly, for letting me volunteer and enjoy the weekend. Things have been a bit rough lately, and I wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise. And thanks to all of Wolf Moon and everyone who volunteered and worked hard on making it something I really, really enjoyed. It really was one of my favorite experiences.
While I am handing out those thanks, Dustin Draper and Mark and Taylor over at Dock 410 need one, for taking pictures of me. I hope I wasn’t too much of a pest, I tried to stay out-of-the-way and let others have as much or more of the spotlight as I.
Thanks also to Cedric Whittaker and the Airship Isabella crew, for taking the time to attend and host their panels, for being inspiring and supportive, and being some of the coolest people I have had the pleasure to talk to. I have admired you guys for a long time, and meeting most of you face to face for the first time, I was thrilled to find out you were far more than worthy of that admiration.
And also Airship Nox, whom I understand this event was the first panel you have hosted? I hope to sit in many more, it was entertaining, thought-provoking, informative, and inspiring. I was impressed. I look forward to seeing much, much more from you guys.
And last, but definitely not least, thanks to James Agin and Jeremiah Loder. I am acquainted with a lot of “big names” in steampunk, and even have the privilege to call a few friends. What you guys do with Great Plains Steampunk, our meetups, the photo shoots, the sense of community and friendship you promote, it puts you up right up there with the best of them. No, really. It does. You include and encourage everyone, no matter their preferences or limits, and no one is left out, or “doing it wrong.” Its a privilege to be a part of this group with you guys, and watching you work hard to keep everything moving, and organized, and fun. James, Jeremiah, I owe you guys a drink, and keep it up. You deserve to be recognized in far wider circles then you may be so far, because what you do, is truly what steampunk is really all about.
So, this was brought up on Steampunk Empire. Has steampunk gone too mainstream? Recently on Jon Stewart (missed the episode myself, so I have to rely on others’ accounts) they made a joke about steampunk clothing for sale on an etsy site. Now, I have my own issues with many things on etsy and ebay labeled steampunk just to get hits on the page. (I love regretsy’s steampunk page, by the way, absolutely hilarious.) And I admit, when I see something with a few gears tacked on the outside, I cringe a little inside. Comparing William Gibson to some of the authors on the market (who, to be fair, I must say was often a marketing decision of their publisher, and not the author’s fault) is like comparing a copper kettle to a cast iron dutch oven. But these things do serve a purpose. Steampunk Lite (I want to trademark that, along with Mainstreampunk) makes a great bridge for introducing people who have no idea what they are getting into. Some of us grew up with Gibson’s work, with Jules Verne, with L. Frank Baum’s Oz. Some of us didn’t. Some of us have the talent to build things like the Airship Isabella crew or Jake Von Slatt, but many of us don’t. Many people will say steampunk is about the music. And you know, as we see it today, the music played a huge part. (No, seriously, if not for Vernian Process or Abney Park, we probably wouldn’t have the convention culture aspect, or nearly the fashion aspect, Neo Victorians and brown discovering Goths aside.) So all the corporate intrusion has it’s place, just like the Neo Victorians, the Weird Westerns, the DIY Makers, et al. It was never intended to be underground, or stay underground. That’s like claiming Renessaince Faires and the SCA are an underground movement.
There is a lot more to the ‘punk in steampunk then being a sub or counter culture. We don’t always fit in with the “normals” and the “mundanes.” Hell, often we don’t fit in with the geeks and the freaks. These knockoffs, these examples of exploitation, these tawdry attempts to make a buck have their place in steampunk, same as everything else. Do I want to be overwhelmed with them? Oh dear God in Heaven, no! And a thousand times NO! But, they do serve a useful purpose. And if that’s how someone who is new to the Movement, to this Grand Experiment, to this Great What If all enjoy so much is able to identify and understand, THEN I SAY LET THERE BE SCHLOCK! And nerdsploitation (I ripped off that word from a friend, but I wish I could claim it), and commercialism, and corporate ventures, and anything else that will help this idea I have grow, mature, evolve.
What makes us different is what makes us stronger. Even in the face of capitalism gone wild. Embrace the good, tolerate the less good, and encourage the new interest to learn and grow and evolve with us. Because if we are so serious about ourselves that we can’t take Jon Stewart making fun at our expense as the joke and compliment that it is, then we are doomed.
So life is improving… significantly… more on this to come
The screams and moans continued outside the tiny room. It was a broom closet, a small utility room for storing cleaning supplies at the end of the hallway of medium-sized hospital in the emergency wing. She had chosen it because the door was made of metal, and outside, things that used to be human were running in the halls, and the streets outside, eating each other. Now, locked inside the room, with the heavy steel door between her and the mayhem outside, she shuddered and heaved, trying to catch her breath between sobs of terror.
Sarah didn’t understand what was going on. It was like a horribly real zombie movie out there, and men in military uniforms were shooting everyone, not just the crazy things with blood dripping from hungry mouths. All she could think was this must be some terrifying dream, and soon she would wake up.
She began talking to herself, muttering about getting it together. All she had to do was wait until it got quiet, and then she could make a run for it. She had no idea where she would go, but one thing at a time. Stay hidden in here until the coast was clear.
Were her eyes adjusting to the darkness or was it getting lighter? She looked up, then fell back into the wall as she watched the door frame begin to crawl with electricity. The sparks writhed and danced outward from the door, crawling along the wall, and growing with intensity. With a flash of lighting, and a sound like a thunder-clap inside a metal drum, the door into the hall vanished, leaving the silhouettes of two tall figures. The lightning winked out as abruptly as turning off a light switch. One man immediately spun to face the hall, while the other took half a step forward, both with guns in hand. Sarah froze in the corner, holding her breath and tried to pretend she was invisible.
“I told you, trying to portal the same door was a really bad idea, Stock. Do we have any idea when or where we are?”
Stepping into the light coming in through the window, the speaker was a scruffy man, dressed very strangely, and bristling with guns and knives holstered and sheathed to harness and belts he wore over bits of armor, a leather coat, and old-fashioned, vaguely cowboy-like clothing. And was that a sword at his hip? Sarah was in too much shock to speak, staring at him and his companion, who was wearing a long duster over similar clothes, if less weapons. Quantity was made for by size, however, and the sawed off pump shotgun looked like a hand cannon as he swept it back and forth over the hallway.
“Earth, Syfer, about 600 years after where we were last, and I think somewhere on the west coast of the United States. But, absolutely no idea which parallel we might be on. And what choice did we have? This at least doesn’t look as tight as the spot we left. No soldiers charging us with steamlances lowered, at least. But, sounds like trouble here, too, listen to the screams…”
The one called Syfer pulled something from an inside pocket of his jacket. It looked like a pocket watch.
“Trouble is right, Stock. This is the 5th Parallel. 2011. And by the screams, I think it’s Los Angeles.” Syfer’s voice was grim. “Dammit, Stock.”
Sarah couldn’t hold her breath any longer. With an explosive little puff, she exhaled, shifted her weight and bumped into a broom. Syfer spun and pointed what looked like a shortened version of an Old West rifle from TV Westerns at her. He worked the action of the lever under the gun and an empty brass cartridge popped out of the side with a ringing click. As the brass bounced on the floor, he took another half step forward.
“Easy now, stand up and be seen, and no one needs get hurt,” he said as he raised the weapon to sight down the length of the barrel. “What are you doing back in this hiding hole?”
Sarah rose shaking to her feet. “Trying not to be seen by those things outside,” she whispered. “What are they? Who are you?”
The man lowered his gun and grimaced. “My name is Syfer Locke, Captain of the Banish Misfortune, and my friend here is Stockard McGuinley. Reckon you can see, we aren’t from around here. That gets a little complicated. The things outside, if I’m right, are what you might call zombies, but they don’t shamble and shuffle. They are fast as lightning and three times as mean. ”
The most ominous sound around is the sound of working the pump on a big gauge shot gun, the hollow sound of a spent cartridge rattling on the floor. “Explanations might have to wait, Syfer. I think we brought attention on ourselves.”
Stockard was peering down the hall from the door frame.
“Well, we have to do it the hard way. Risky enough opening a second tesseract to a different place through the same door, not chancing doing it a third time. No telling where we come out, assuming we do come out.” Syfer turned and lowered a pair of goggles he wore on his hat down over his eyes. “Hall is clear, for now. But, youre right, we need to move.”
Stockard lowered a pair of goggles over his own eyes, then jerked his chin over his shoulder. “What about her?”
“She comes with us, of course, leave her here and she’s bait at best, and lunch regardless.”
“Always the knight in shining armor,” Stockard mocked, with a grin. “I don’t think the Banish can track us through two jumps, Syfer. We are going to have to find them.”
“Yep.” Syfer cocked his head, listening. “Time to move, we are going to have company soon. Did you bring the grenades?”
“Take me for an amateur?” Stock grinned. “Following your lead, Captain.”
“Wait for it……. NOW!” Syfer spun around the edge of the door, hugging the right wall and sweeping the dark hall with his rifle. Three rapid shots, and the muzzle flash illuminated three ravening once human creatures, heads splinter under the impact of heavy rifle rounds. The rolling thunder of the big shotgun boomed down the hallway as Stockard mirrored his move, taking the left wall, their fields of fire overlapping down the length of the dark corridor. They moved at not quite a run, in quick spurts, stopping and starting, and shooting at any moving obstacle in their path. Sarah realized the goggles must let them see in the dark as she watched more of the dead looking things lurch and rush down the hallway, only to fall in the hail of gunfire. She had to almost run to keep up with the two taller men as they rushed down the hall, trusting them to clear a path for her.
The trio reached the end of the hall, and Syfer gave Stockard a curt nod. Stockard pulled a thick stick from his belt, slammed the bulging end down onto the rod and threw it around the corner.
A flash of light erupted in a wave of heat and a crashing bang as the grenade exploded.
“We better hurry before the new exit gets blocked, too.”
Ok, so I wrote an article for http://www.doctorfantastiques.com about what is steampunk. I thought I had done a decent job, but thought many of the people who I shared it with weren’t really as enthusiastic about it as they seemed. I mean they were my friends, right? They HAVE to say nice things, right? Well, the article goes live, and people I don’t know as well enjoyed it. And then, TorSteampunk makes a comment on it on their twitter and facebook. Now, that really got my attention.
(edit: I suppose I should share the link in question… LOL. My article on What is Steampunk? posted to the Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders: http://www.doctorfantastiques.com/syferlockessteampunk.htm)
Never have I had writing of mine so well recieved, nor that widely promoted. I don’t know exactly what to feel about it. A bit nervous, VERY excited, and wondering if I am dreaming. Then there is something else that I am not sure if I can talk about openly yet, but as soon as I know I can, I will. A lot.
Add to that a curious message on Facebook. From someone in charge over at UltimaCon2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is a very flowery and cordial invitation to an event over a year away still. I will be investigating this closer to find out why I was contacted, exactly, but with the scheduled appearance of Airship Isabella, I will make every effort to attend.
I mean it might not be anything but spreading the word. But it might also be a chance to sell myself. To speak on behalf of the Starving Steampunk Foundation, or perhaps even to fence.
I will keep you all posted on what I manage to plunder.
Life doesn’t flash before your eyes, when you are about to die. It trods slowly, with heavy, dragging footsteps through your mind. The man in the tattered green and khaki uniform made this silent observation as he stood ramrod straight at the foot of the gallows steps.
“Never has there been a more wretched example of treason then Syfer Locke, and today we make sure he will never betray our kingdom again!” The Chancellor was still droning out the list and description of Syfer’s crimes, and the condemned man let it recede behind the reverie of his thoughts.
A summer afternoon on the West Portico of the palace. A chessboard on the table between him and his ward, the young crown prince. A loaded six shooter beside a small stack of white game pieces.
“I’ve taken both your bishops, your knights, half of your pawns, your queen, and one of your rooks, Syfer.” the young prince said, beaming.
“The game is not won until you take the king, your Highness. Remember that,” Syfer replied quietly. “Do you want to concede the game now, or after the two moves when there is no escaping checkmate?”
“Surely, I can find my way out of a trap so sparingly defended, Syfer! I believe I may win a game against you.”
Syfer raised an eyebrow, then moved a pawn one space forward. “You may. You have learned a great deal, and I expect one day you will win. But, not this game. Check.”
The prince moved his king from check to the only available square on the board. With a maddeningly calm expression, Syfer moved his last rook forward. “Checkmate.”
“How did you do that?” the prince asked, crossly.
“I keep my eyes open, your Highness.”
An old memory, ten years gone, since that afternoon, and the assignment as the bodyguard to the heir apparent. He still had both eyes, back then, instead of the mass of scar tissue under the eye patch over the left side of his face. And still the memories rolled on, playing out in his mind. And over and over the bloody last fight interjected, scoring fresh wounds. His beautiful ship, the corvette Banish Misfortune, going down in flames, a mutinous crew still aboard as Syfer barely escaped after scuttling the airship himself.
A rough hand on his arm interrupted his thoughts. It was time. Syfer ascended the short stair to the gallows deck to the rhythm of a slow measured drum beat, his head held high. The first rotten tomato hit him in the face as the noose was drawn snug around his neck. The hangman fidgeted a moment as he fussed with Syfer’s position over the trapdoor. Satisified, the hooded executioner stepped aside to the lever that operated the gallows on the edge of the platform. The rotted vegetables began to fly in earnest as the roll of the snaredrums increased in tempo. They were denying him the customary opportunity to speak his last words or a hood over his own head. Syfer took a deep breath and locked his eyes with the Chancellor, then gave him a slow wink. The Chancellor visibly flinched, and broke eye contact, looked to the hangman and nodded his signal.