Steampunk Blanket Wars

This is a conversation between me, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow and Emerging Technologies Librarian at Emory BRIAN CROXALL and MIKE “The Steampunk Scholar” PERSCHON. This arose from me tweeting some relevant points that came out of presentations and discussions at the Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition this weekend. Warning, lots of aca-jargon, and gets a bit fun and silly!

JM: Is there really a schizsm between the performativity of SP and the socio-political literature and commentary? Can costuming be sociopolitcal statement? Can literature just be frivolous, fun dressing up? #Steampunk #cnse

JM: Liking The Tinkerer’s talk about the #steampunk “Be Splendid” movement in the UK. Be splendid in what you create, in how you interact, in life. AirshipEmbassy: @scifrey Found the link to Be Splendid Great idea, will spread it to everyone 🙂

Mike: #CNSE joy unspeakable at the rabbinic geek midrash shared between @redlianak and @scifrey tonight! This is what it means to dialogue!

JM: I am tweeting from the past! Notes from the @SteamScholar’s presentation on the struggle to define the #Steampunk aesthetic this past Sat.

JM: #Steampunk is an aesthetic, not a genre. There are no narrative or characteristic tropes, only archetypes. Steampunk is a tool box for artists.

JM: #Steampunk is like a teacup – empty of content, but a recognizable shape to be filled with a narrative (any genre), characters, and art.

JM: #Steampunk performativity can be viewed as a nostalgic return to etiquette, and pride in careful, semiologically freighted fashion. #cosplay

JM: #Steampunk also celebrates an era when items were made to last, where opulence was important (whether this is informed by nostalgia or not).

JM: #Steampunk is focused on a era when Alchemy was giving way to Science; still a sense of ‘magic’ mixed with the genesis of Industrial Revol’n

JM: One of the “pillars of #Steampunk” – TechnoFantasy – technology that has a retrofuturist origin, but could not actually operate without bending the rules of physics (i.e. creating a new element or gas, etc.)

JM: One of the “pillars of #Steampunk” – Neo Victorianism: the art work is evocative of the era, but not a slavish recreation.

JM: One of the “pillars of #Steampunk” – RetroFuturism: imagining the future (or present) as imagined by the creators of the past.

JM: GOOD #Steampunk will be a) aware of the issues inherent in the era/geography – colonialism, sexism, racisism, etc. b) ADDRESS these issues c) not “vanish” the issues by not addressing them AND not admitting to them, d) will attempt to avoid euro-centric cliches and pitfalls.

JM: A “sub-pillar of #Steampunk”-SP is concerned with exposing the “inner workings”; corsets on outside,gears and guts shown,political anarchy

JM: While “Steampunk” sometimes bows to the “punk” aspect,it doesn’t all have to be about ‘anarchy’ and rebellion.It can be a more subtle shift.

JM: What’s with the [big] guns? Visible #Steampunk weaponry = Victorian-ish desire for adventure, making nature and empires submit (danger of Colonialism! Beware!); recalls an era when gentlemen were allowed to wear weapons visibly, but with the cosplay skew towards hyperbole; conflation of showing of power in the POTENTIAL and Romantisization of violence. 

 Brian: @scifrey @steampunk I’m not sure about the definition of “good” here. Couldn’t “good steampunk” be faithful to the 19th-century vision?

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey I think I’m being devil’s advocate here. In some ways, I’m asking *why* we want that distance now? +

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey To what degree can our awareness now change the past? (The future, sure!)

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey Of course, as all SF / Fantasy do. All right, I think I’m just being an imp of the perverse now.

JM: @SteamScholar @briancroxall Being slavishly recreationist of past narratives only perpetuates the atrocities. #Steampunk lets us break them.

Brian: @scifrey @steamscholar I think I’m quibbling with the term “good.” Atrocities were real. +

Mike: Introductions are necessary! @scifrey, author and fanthropologist, meet @briancroxall, editor of that #steampunk issue of Neo-Vic Studies!

Brian: @scifrey @SteamScholar But what would #steampunk look like if “good” meant reinhabiting that worldview? +

JM: @briancroxall @SteamScholar IMO, Sci-fi and fantasy in general exist to allow comment on NOW and US by talking about THERE/THEN and THEM.

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey Well said, Brian – recreating the monstrosity to underscore it, perhaps?

Brian: @scifrey @SteamScholar Let the reader (not the narrative voice) create the dissonance. There. *That’s* what I meant. [-]

Mike: @scifrey @briancroxall Precisely what I tell my students about all speculative fictions – SF, Fantasy, and Horror. Godzilla IS the bomb!

JM: Hi @briancroxall, nice to meet you. And yes, of course, “good” was just meant to be general and not an evaluating qualifier!

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey Wow. You’re crediting readers with far more savvy than I would.

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey Yegods! He’s scryed my intentions!

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey It’s a risky move. And would result in off-putting stories. But I’m just wondering about it. #steampunk

Brian: @scifrey @SteamScholar William Gibson has a quotation that I recycle endlessly on this point. It’s very apt.

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey It’s that smart ass grin in your profile pic that gives you away, Brian! Brian: @scifrey Pleased to meet you as well. I’m sorry to have gummed up your twitstreams with my retrofuture imaginings of narrative. 😉

JM: @briancroxall @SteamScholar Agreed – sometimes you need to spell it out. Reinhabiting is great, as long as you can make the reader see that there IS an issue present that needs to be addressed and not perpetuated by current societies. Can an author do that? Sure, though it will be one hell of a subtle juggling act.

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey Wondered about it too, in a different way: I suggested re-writing the Fu Manchu stories from the Other’s perspective.

JM: @briancroxall No muddling done! This is why my twitstream exists! 😀

 Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey This is WHY I’m on Twitter, Brian. The rest is mostly a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.

Brian: @scifrey @SteamScholar Right. I think Moore and O’Neal do this with the Orient in the first League. But it’s very tricky. And debatable.  

JM: @briancroxall As I said to @SteamScholar this weekend, the great thing with #academia is that you can fight over theory then go for a beer.

 Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey Re-writing from the other’s perspective is the exemplary postmodern move. What’s the post-postmodern move?

Brian: @SteamScholar Some tinkling brass too, one imagines.

JM: @briancroxall @SteamScholar Writing from the perspective for the furniture? #Idontknow #undercaffinated

Brian: @scifrey @SteamScholar PRECISELY! Or tea and laudanum.

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey Now I see where you’re going with this, Brian – how do we innovate further? Good question.

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey YES! A story written from the perspective of opium! Or a disease infested fur-trade blanket!

JM: @SteamScholar @SteamScholar CAN we innovate now? Is #Steampunk aware enough to start moving on? Not enough silenced voices speaking yet, IMO.

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey A steampunk Dr. Seuss – a society of Whos on one of those blankets.

JM: @SteamScholar @briancroxall But is the blanket appalled or smug that the disease is spreading?

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey And would that further innovation be anything more than @Pierre_Menard_’s version of the Quixote?

Mike: @scifrey @briancroxall Agreed. But that doesn’t omit the need for some writers to make the quantum jumps.

Mike: @scifrey @briancroxall The blanket is appalled – it believed its weave was meant for warmth, not the chill of death.

JM: @scifrey @briancroxall Fair enough. Also, now I envision a blanket covered in little TARDISes. All of them containing Dr. Seuss’ Whos.

 Brian: @scifrey @SteamScholar It’s hard to know when to move on. And depending on how they did it, they might alienate the whole community.

Mike: @scifrey @briancroxall Perhaps a moment for steampunk poetry?

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey That’s an anthrocentric version of the blanket.My blanket exults in eradicating humans.Blankets shall rule the earth!

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey Agreed. But it’s fun to brainstorm it nonetheless.

JM: @scifrey @briancroxall If blanket is appalled, then it has a 21st C “white guilt” positioning. If it’s joyful, then it’s a colonialist.

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey Which makes it the DALEK blanket to Jess’s Dr. Seuss Who’s.

Brian: @scifrey @steamscholar And thus we find ourselves back in the beginning.

JM: @scifrey @briancroxall God, now I have visions of a Dalek-blanket and Whovian-blanket shouting at each other from across the linen cupboard.

Mike: @scifrey @briancroxall Unless it’s a Hudson’s Bay blanket in the 21st century. Then it’s just expensive.

Mike: @scifrey @briancroxall War of the Blankets. My blanket is attempting to thwart Brian’s by getting them both thrown in a campfire.

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey I will say that involves playing from the perspective of doctor, patient, and virus.

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey So once again, we find there’s nothing new under the sun.

Mike: @scifrey @briancroxall To achieve these goals, my Whovians are using steam-powered dirigibles to tow the blankets to their destruction.

JM: @scifrey @briancroxall *helpless laughter* I love fandom! And I love aca-fandom even more!

Brian:@SteamScholar @scifrey Alas and alack. (Alas and dalek?) 

Mike: @briancroxall @scifrey Most fun I’ve had on Twitter since @mattdelman, @jhameia, and others formed a steampunk cabal!

Brian: @SteamScholar @scifrey Not bad for a Monday. Not bad indeed…

JM FreySteampunk Blanket Wars