Trial By Steam is Taking a Vacation

Fair ladies and gentlemen, it’s been my honor for over 600 posts to bring you daily news from the Steampunk world. I’ve discovered so many amazing things about this incredible subculture and it’s breathtakingly talented participants and I’ve delighted in sharing each of my daily discoveries with all of you. It says something about the vibrancy of a subculture that manages to produce something new to discuss everyday.

The past few months, I’ve gone through some incredible changes in my life. I moved to the city I’ve always belonged in. I got a job where I get paid to write. I moved into my own place.

And all throughout this, there’s been no disruption in service to you, my beloved readers. Since I started writing this blog, I’ve pretty much never had a day away from writing posts.

That’s why I’m taking an indefinitely long vacation from writing for Trial By Steam. I’ll be taking the time to focus on my own creative endeavors. I’ll also be managing the website and contributing the occasional article for the recently resurrected Steampunk Magazine.

During this off-period, I’ll be using the time to reassess Trial By Steam’s future role, if it will have any. If you have any feedback, commentary or ideas on anything at all, please feel free to drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you. Really, I would.

Thank you so much for reading!

What is Steampunk (and what is not)

EDIT: Apparently, the article in question actually is satire. I think, however, that good satire is supposed to use wit to make a general commentary on a vice or shortcoming with the effort of changing it through shame. The real topic of Christwire’s article, then, is conservative Christianity’s view of anything different, but it ultimately, in my opinion, fails to poke fun at its intended targets and serves only to incense and offend the subculture it addresses. There is neither sarcasm nor irony employed in the article, key facets of a good satirical article; instead, the article makes it look as if the statements being presented in the article are indeed fact when they are not.

As promised yesterday, today’s post highlights one group’s crazy interpretations of Steampunk and the nonsensical commentary on the subculture that follows.

Apparently, conservative Christianity just found out about Steampunk this month. And man, are we some nasty, fucked up people in their eyes. Christwire recently published the article What Is Steampunk? and, well, this is how they define Steampunk:

Steampunk is a new sexual fetish that is sweeping across hipster groups in liberal urban areas. It is a sub-genre of hipsters that like Star Wars, books from the wild west, and World of Warcraft.

I’ll be honest, when I first read that, I seriously thought that was satire. I was all like, “Lulz, that’s pretty fucking hilarious.” But then I read on, and it became suddenly and sadly clear to me that these people are serious. Their website’s tagline is literally, “Conservative values for an unsaved world.” Here it is in case you didn’t believe me.

Holy shit.

This article is full of amazingly ill-informed statements about the subculture, and talks about things I’ve never even heard of that are, according to this wack-job, important facets of the Steampunk subculture. It is almost inconceivable how wrong this article gets our subculture.

If this article would have been published to something like The Onion, it’d just be plain funny. But instead, this website claims to be informing people about a subculture who are inclined to take their word as truth. They tout themselves as a news source. As a Steampunk and a writer who values an objective viewpoint in what she reads and writes, this is just disgusting.

I feel bad for some young Steampunk whose parents read this article and believe that this is actually what Steampunk is about. This article is full of fear mongering typical of the conservative Christian right that is threatened by creativity and originality. They’ve somehow managed to transform an aesthetic and art inspired lifestyle into a perversion, and I can’t help but feel disappointed in their closed-mindedness and the falsehoods they’ve chosen to publish.

The Ultimate Guide to the Steampunk Movement

Beginners and veterans of the subculture are sure to find the topic of today’s post interesting. It usually seems that when outsiders look in on Steampunk, they’re pretty damn impressed. We’re a creative and outgoing lot for the most part, and most of the Steampunks I’ve had the opportunity to meet have been a complete delight. It’s no wonder that people want to get involved with what we have; in that sheer geeky sort of way, we’re actually pretty damn cool.

Another “Guide to Steampunk” was published as of late, this time by the Atlantic. It’s actually more of a coverage of The Steampunk Bible rather than a guide on its own, but some of the commentary is worth reading, and the comparison between an old cover of Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires and the Steampunk Bible is definitely worth a peek if you haven’t seen it before. Check out the entire article here.

And tomorrow, be sure to tune in when I highlight what happens in those rare occasions when outsiders look in to the Steampunk subculture and get it completely wrong.

The London Underground

The London Underground is a structure sure to interest any Steampunk with even the slightest inkling for Victorian tech. It was created in 1863 and at the time consisted of what are now the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines. It’s expanded considerably since then, and is today one of the world’s most expansive metro systems in the world in terms of route miles, after the Shanghai Metro.

Here’s the map as of April 2011 of the underground. It’s a massive and impressive system, and it  really does make having a car in London essentially superfluous. I can’t believe how much it has expanded in just the few years since I was there last.

As is to be expected with a network so old, it has a lot of interesting history. So today, I’m presenting you a documentary on the Underground which many of you are likely to enjoy. Especially if you’re a history geek like me. Here’s part one, and you can find the other parts on youtube as well:

It also almost goes without saying that parts of a network so old has become disused and abandoned as the city changed above it. So, as an added bonus for today’s post, here’s little clip about people who go into the underground exploring its unseen beauty and mystery.

Why has steampunk persisted for so long?

Steampunk is something that many people wrote off on first sight as a fad that, with a few years time, would die an inevitable death as its fans moved on to the newest, most trendy thing in art and fashion. And yet, it has continued to persist and grows in popularity as people get swept up in Steampunk’s vast narrative and definition.

Recently on SF Signal, they tried to answer the conundrum of Steampunk’s continuing popularity and drew in some contributors from the movement and subculture to help answer the question. The answers were rather interesting and reflect the many different attitudes that people have when they approach Steampunk. You can check out the entire article here.

And for those of your particularly interested in the science fiction aspect of Steampunk, you may wish to extend your stay beyond the Steampunk article and have a look around the SF Signal website. It’s a great resource that gets updated frequently with great material.

The Greyshade Estate

It seems nearly every day I find myself debating with someone on whether Steampunk is or isn’t Punk. People seem all too willing to nit pick definitions of punk and insist that Steampunk has no need for the counter-cultural elements that makes Steampunk more than just an aesthetic and a genre of fiction. Steampunk to them is all about dress up and make believe. It has nothing to do with their realities, and that, in my opinion, is a damn shame because they’re completely missing the point of the subculture.

One person who has definitely not missed the point is Professor Greyshade of San Diego Chrononaut and the Greyshade Estate. His ongoing project in the Greyshade Estate is an effort to live a truly Steampunk lifestyle. Here’s the introductory paragraph of their blog, which explains their undertaking perfectly:

In 2010 a family of four sold their charming little condo in the increasingly fashionable neighborhood of University Heights. With the money they bought a stripped out house in East San Diego previously owned by human smugglers. Their goal was the pursuit of a truly steampunk lifestyle. They are already known in the steampunk community for projects such as the Chrononaut clubMachina Fatalis, and the SoCalSteam list. Now they hope to bring DIY Makerism, self reliance, alternative technology, permaculture, and urban homesteading into their lives in ways their HOA would have never allowed.

This is Steampunk as a lifestyle and philosophy that so many insist does not exist.  Professor Greyshade’s article Towards a Steampunk Lifestyle presents their individual notion of lifestyle Steampunk in a beautifully articulated manner and should be required reading for anyone who thinks Steampunk cannot be a way of life or a philosophy. This is one of the many ways in which the Punk in Steampunk is real and alive for the community.

The Greyshade Estate’s blog updates regularly and is definitely worth your attention as an excellent read and an amazing example of the Steampunk Lifestyle.

What is Steampunk?

Steampunk is somewhat challenging to explain to people who are unfamiliar with the concept. On the surface, it can appear to be only a simple aesthetic, but for many people it is so much more than that. It can be a musical genre, a fashion statement, or a way of life. People make what they want of Steampunk, and as a result, creating one all-encompassing definition of Steampunk that everyone can agree on is near impossible.

Instead of trying to achieve this, Chrononaut has created a page for the very purpose of helping people decide what Steampunk is and means to them. With informative articles and video clips, What is Steampunk? is worth your attention.

Whether you are new to Steampunk or a grizzled veteran of the subculture and its many facets, you’re sure to find the reading and video information in What Is Steampunk? enlightening.

Steampunk as a Philosophy

Explaining Steampunk to people who are entirely unfamiliar with the subject is enough of a difficult task to begin with. It seems as though people are first introduced to the concept most frequently through our aesthetic and find it surprising that there is more to Steampunk than just in the way something looks.

Steampunk as a philosophy, mindset, or lifestyle is a small but powerful subset of overall Steampunk and has a huge influence on the subculture’s focus on DIY and individual artisans. Explaining this facet of Steampunk to people who have just been introduced to Steampunk in general is particularly challenging because the topic is so hotly contested among its participants.

Adding to the discussion of philosophical Steampunk is the article Steampunk as a Philosophy by Inventrix at Clockwork Dreams. This is her take on the whole question of Steampunk as more than just an aesthetic, and you’re sure to find her commentary thought provoking at the very least. Check it out!

101 Signs That You Might Be Addicted To Steampunk

Steampunk has many passionate adherents that love taking their love of the aesthetic and subculture to some rather impressive heights.

Earl S. Wynn has created a list entitled, 101 Signs That You Might Be Addicted To Steampunk, which may help put into perspective just how much you love Steampunk. The list is rather amusing and at points, painfully truthful regarding the Steampunk community’s love of all things steamy.

For a few good laughs and a bit of brutal honesty about the quirks and eccentricities of Steampunks, check out the entire list here.

When Punk Gains Steam

I love that Steampunk has such a strong emphasis on individual artisans and makers. In a time when most of what the populace consumes is mass produced and disposable goods, Steampunk makes a stand and consciously supports its artists and creators. And that’s a good thing because it gets people asking a lot of the right questions they should be asking about everything they buy. Questions like, “Who made this?” “Where did it come from?” and “How do I take care of it?” aren’t questions that need be limited to the arena of Steampunk.

That Maker Ethic plays a huge role in Steampunk philosophy, lifestyle and politics, and recently an article entitled When Punk Gains Steam by Jennifer Hendrix was published that focuses on the DIY aspect of Steampunk and is definitely worth your attention. Here’s a blurb of the article I found particularly insightful on the whole idea of what it means to have Punk in Steampunk:

As does punk, the steampunk community applies the idea of individual freedom and openness, beginning with our relationship to technology, to an entire lifestyle involving everything from a unique style of dress to music and film.  Through its aesthetic, it provides a way to question the status quo definition of “progress.”

The article goes on to talk about how Steampunk has and continues to adapt to an increasing audience as more people become interested in it on a variety of levels.

Although something of a lengthy article, When Punk Gains Steam is certianly worth your time and consideration, so do be sure to give it a look.