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Author Topic: Too little "Punk" in steampunk?  (Read 2060 times)
Alva Maria
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« on: April 09, 2015, 01:55:59 am »

I came across this post on a little blogging website by the name of tumblr, and i'm wondering...

Could it be true? Personally, and this is not meant to offend anyone who would be posting here or enjoys anything like the mainstrream vision of steampunk, I find it uncomfortably true. Outside of my happy realm of the internet, I have a lot of friends who have taught me and brought me into what would be considered modern punk culture, all of that fun liberal nonsense that says naps are punk because capitalism hates slackers (which i have to agree with, as a college student naps are the most unproductive and feel good thing you can do for yourself), and being a part of that other sort of subculture, it's exposed me to quite a few ideas that conflict with the suffix in steampunk, and how steampunk is presented.

Once more, I'm not trying to offend anyone, and i wish the wording was a little different in the original poster's remarks. But I'd like to hear your thoughts about it.
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2015, 02:23:45 am »

Steampunk, first and foremost, started as a literary movement sometime in the middle 20th. C to denote retrofuturistic science fiction in the aesthetic style of 19th C novelists such as Jules Verne. The term "Steampunk" was a tongue-in-cheek term coined by Sci Fi author KW Jeter in 1987? 1989? I don't remember the exact date. His idea was to create a term, more or less, following the usage of other literary terms like "Cyberpunk."

My understanding is that Goths and people into alternative fashion began to migrate into Steampunk in the early 90s, and by the early 2000s the Maker and DIY movements, along with politically associated people (sustainability, conservation, etc.) had joined in along with many post-punks, survivalists, anarchists and almost any other group you could think of.  

By the mid 2000s the movement had already been established through Western Europe and was spreading steadily in the Non English speaking world, primarily Eastern Europe. In the last 3-4 years, it exploded in Latin America and Japan being the last.  China, India, and Africa being almost silent IMHO.

So within this context, where does Punk proper fit?  You will get many answers, and I have known proper Punks who happen to be Steampunk. But comparing Punk to Steampunk is like comparing Apples and Bananas: they are not mutually exclusionary, as they make a perfect fruit salad, but they're not the same thing.

In that blog post, saying that you want more punk ideals and less colonialism and/or frivolity in Steampunk, is basically like saying you want more apple in your fruit salad and less bananas and keeping the nasties, such as raisins out of the bowl. Nothing wrong with that, but you have to remember that Steampunk is all about individualism as well. You can never define Steampunk for someone else, as it means something different to each one of us...
« Last Edit: April 09, 2015, 09:13:34 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Hurricane Annie
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2015, 04:18:25 am »



 Like "punk" there are ebbs and flows  , trends and philosophies that flow and evolve  in "steampunk "'

Some will   have a hankering for high tea  on the grounds, others  yearn for  sailing the skies   as an air ship officer, some fellows fantasize  an apocalyptic  future  with contraptions  and caves.

 As someone who has lived through a few eras I can say there is an overlap to all pop culture zeitgeists

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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2015, 04:21:19 am »



 There is a theme that runs through all "underground" "älternative" "counter cultures"

 Leather , flouncy shirts , lingerie  and tu tu , sometimes all at once on everyone.
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2015, 05:23:00 am »

I think the blogger is a little confused - the last paragraph says '... the “punk” suffix has no real meaning in the original coinage', reflecting Mr Wilhelm's statements about the term 'steampunk' following on from 'cyberpunk'.  So if - I'm paraphrasing considerably - the 'punk' in steampunk is meaningless, why would you want more of it?

The blogger makes some valid points about the less glamorous side of the Victorian era.  Yes, there was disease, child labour and slavery, and we shouldn't ignore that.  But this was also the era when great strides were made in the understanding of disease and its prevention (the London sewers come to mind).  It was also when it was recognised that child labour and slavery were bad things, and the (successful) movements for their abolition began.

Perhaps my main reason for enjoying steampunk as I practice it - because it's fun! - is self-centred and ignores the plight of the disadvantaged in Victorian/Edwardian times.  But along with all the Victorian ladies/gentlemen, airship pirates, butterfly collectors and archaeologists there's certainly room for alternatives.  I've found the steampunk world very inclusive.  If somebody decides to base their persona on a street urchin or a cholera victim I don't believe they'd be shunned.  But if you can look splendid, why wouldn't you?  This is a hobby, and amusement, a bit of fun.  I don't believe most of us are doing it as a political statement.
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2015, 09:01:34 am »

Hmm, the blogger makes an interesting point, but at the same time seems to misunderstand the ethos of the movement. Just because people don't turn up to events as cholera victims, mangled victims of industrial accidents or oppressed colonial 'natives' doesn't mean we ignore their existence. I'll be the first to admit we perhaps have a rose tinted (or idealised) view of the past, but in a movement/culture which celebrates individuality just because no one's done something like that doesn't mean any one attempting it will be shunned by everyone else.
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2015, 09:22:08 am »

I don't think I want someone in my party if that someone shows up as a cholera victim.  You never know how well he or she researched the persona and is willing to be "authentic"  Grin
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2015, 12:26:38 pm »

As it is written : "Always look on the bright side of life"

I think that works for steampunk and everything else.
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2015, 12:52:10 pm »

For me '' punk elements'' mean focusing on those who were rebelling and pushing forward the evolution of society instead of the protector of the statu quo. And this a important elements on my own universe.
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« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2015, 01:41:25 pm »

May I point out that the stories of "queer" people are out there and it is her responsibility to look for them. Many people in the steampunk world are extremely accommodating and creative with sudch cultures in their works. They're there just look for them!
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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2015, 01:51:09 pm »

I am a Punk by history and by nature.
I was a Punk before I discovered Steampunk, but I remain a Punk.
I am both.
I support the underclass, the working man/woman, and his/her fights for equality with the privileged few.

My Punk and my Steampunk do not always effect each other.
But my personal history will always mean that elements bleed into each other.
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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2015, 06:44:27 pm »

I don't think I want someone in my party if that someone shows up as a cholera victim.  You never know how well he or she researched the persona and is willing to be "authentic"  Grin

Well that's actually quite a good example of what (for me) is the essence of Steampunk and what separates us from reanactors, we're perfectly happy having anachronistic costumes and we don't tend go about doing random stuff in the name of 'authenticity' or tear into people because of mistakes (you may as well decry someone at steampunk event for using anything made of stainless steel since it wasn't invented until the 1920's, or shun a woman because she's gone out publicly without a chaperone), we may admire the 19th/ early 20th century but that doesn't mean we can't approach it from a 21st century viewpoint and with modern ideals.
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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2015, 07:52:29 pm »

My impression is that Steampunk isn't really a well defined 'movement' but rather a point where a lot of different interests, with different starting points converge.

It's also important to bear in mind that there have been people interested in almost everything which SP encompasses long before it was any sort of cultural badge.

Even if you try to break it down into sub categories as there are people approaching it from the directions of cosplay, clubwear, reenacting etc as well as those who just like vicwardian clothes.

Similarly with 'makers' the category might encompass anything from hardcore model engineers to casual craft jewelry makers as well as the angle of self-sufficiency and survivalists who are looking for simple durable technology and aren't at all bothered about period authenticity.
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« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2015, 07:58:30 pm »

Also...

Why the hell would I get into a whimsical adventurous subculture just to get outraged over the plight of disadvantaged peoples several centuries dead? Not all of us are George Orwell, ranting on the state of the handkerchief industry whenever we blow our nose. We are, contrary to the tumblrite presuppositions, allowed to have fun without turning our fun into a soapbox.

Ffs, I face at least three different kinds of deeply ingrained social injustice every day, steampunk is a way to get away from that.

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« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2015, 10:02:44 pm »

Just a friendly reminder from your neighborhood moderator to keep things civil in here.

Nobody has crossed lines yet, but I could see it going that way.
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« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2015, 10:23:36 pm »

Apologies. Short temper these days.

Will leave the thread be.
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« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2015, 10:25:32 pm »

No no, you are perfectly welcome to post, I'm just here to remind you of the rules Smiley Wanted to prevent escalation was all.
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Maets
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« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2015, 10:30:06 pm »

There is actually too little steam.
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« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2015, 10:31:07 pm »

I think I could be inclined to agree with that.
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« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2015, 10:33:01 pm »

No no, you are perfectly welcome to post, I'm just here to remind you of the rules Smiley Wanted to prevent escalation was all.

Fair enough.

The social justice community is swiftly becoming a berserk button of mine. I'll keep it check, though

And, yes, need moar steam.

Also luminiferous aether. And phlogiston.
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« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2015, 10:34:06 pm »

Thanks for your cooperation, and I do sympathise with your point of view.

lumi-what? philosopher gen? *googles* Ah, those things sound cool. *sigh* More awesome stuff to add the SteamCraft2 todo list  Wink
« Last Edit: April 09, 2015, 10:43:53 pm by Major Vincent Smith » Logged
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« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2015, 11:22:43 pm »

Thanks for your cooperation, and I do sympathise with your point of view.

lumi-what? philosopher gen? *googles* Ah, those things sound cool. *sigh* More awesome stuff to add the SteamCraft2 todo list  Wink


I had the enjoyment of writing a brief article on Phlogiston Theory several years ago. (I'm rather proud of it, in fact!)

Admittedly my perceptions may have been tinted by the fact that I arrived here by way of Steampunk Magazine and the late Gaslight Bazaar, but I have long held that it is up to each of us not only to define Steampunk but also to define the "punk" found therein. For me Steampunk actually holds close to the spirit of BritPunk in the sense of rebelling against the status quo, in our case by being splendid in the face of incivility and by endorsing craftsmanship, makership and repairmanship in the face of mass-produced disposability.

As to the nastier, seedier aspects of the Victorian era, we cannot and should not try to deny that they are facts of history. It's just that we're not historical re-enactors, dammit, we're Steampunks!
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« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2015, 11:25:27 pm »

Indeed. Agreed good sir, and that article is decidedly interesting, thank you.
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« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2015, 10:53:48 am »

A short paragraph I read on an SCA website could just as easily apply to Steampunk fandom.

"You will frequently hear SCA participants describe the SCA as recreating the Middle Ages “as they ought to have been.” In some ways this is true – we choose to use indoor plumbing, heated halls, and sewing machines. In the dead of winter we have more to eat than King’s venison, salt pork and dried tubers. However, a better description is that we selectively recreate the culture, choosing elements of the culture that interest and attract us."
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« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2015, 11:04:46 am »

Precisely!
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