Steampunk: who’s right, who’s wrong, does it matter?

While I have never been good at filtering my thoughts prior to sharing them, we have now attended several conventions dedicated to Steampunk and its enthusiasts, and I now feel at liberty to speak moderately intelligently on the subject. From what we have observed, heard, said, and inferred from our surroundings at these gatherings, there is a very broad definition of what Steampunk IS, what it SHOULD be, and WHERE it is headed.

For some, it seems, Steampunk is a platform for furthering their own social agenda, for others it is something fun to try on for a weekend but is quickly relegated to the back of the closet upon reentering “normal” society on Monday morning. There are some folks who want to make the rules of Steampunk and some who want to break all the rules that have been made. It would seem that such a varied approach to a phenomenon would result in much bickering and throwing of punches, but somehow we all manage to coexist in our dissent for the few glorious days we spend parading around in our goggles and top hats. There is a politeness that seems to accompany the putting on of a tailcoat or bustle and a playful appreciation for someone else’s effort in dress that is warmly given in the form of a smile or nod or the striking up of a conversation with a complete stranger that begins with the odd phrase, “pardon me, sir, while I ogle your brassy bits.”

Overall I have had a very positive experience in meeting my fellow Steampunks; however, there are some instances I felt my beloved aesthetic was being hijacked by those with ulterior motives slightly less congruent than the utopian ideals of Captain Nemo. I have been lectured on the need for cultural relativism, schooled on the absolute necessity of science fiction elements, instructed in the utmost importance of an authentic persona, and told flat out that I am a nutter for even participating in Steampunk and should have my head examined. (Is there a phrenologist in the room?)

To the former individuals, I plead the fifth and choose to view Steampunk as an all-inclusive form of aesthetic self expression that transcends the need for labels and lectures and allows us to create an alternative world where we can imagine what it would have been like to live during the Age of Steam without the social atrocities and transgressions against our fellow men and women. To the latter, I fully admit I am a nutter, an unashamed weirdo, someone looking for a way to get out of the box, be it a figurative one or the tiny electronic devices we seem to live inside these days, and make a true connection with another human being in the physical world.

As for where Steampunk is headed, I cannot say for sure. Is it a fad that will fizzle and fade in five years time? Will its popularity kill it? Time will tell, but those of us who believe in it and find some happiness in the three days of camaraderie and mutual appreciation a convention brings will still be Steampunk when the madding crowds abandon us for the next big thing. I, for one, choose to view the world through my rose colored goggles and view Steampunk as a return to civility and connectedness in an increasingly disconnected, impersonal world.

-M of the frenzygals

One Response to “Steampunk: who’s right, who’s wrong, does it matter?”

  1. JCR Vourteque Says:

    I must say that all in all I am in line with this post. My initial draw to SP had little to do with science fiction or performance. It was a life style and fashion choice. Here in Chicago, though, we have people of all walks and yet we all get along wonderfully, or at least I think we do! We did an article a bit back on SP being a life style choice, not just a fashion or fan focus subculture.
    But thanks! Glad to see there is a growing discussion on the subject, even more so, people less interested in definitions and more interested in action!



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