Category: opinion/editorial

Doing IT right!

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.