The Future for Airships

The anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster recently passed on May the 6th. The event became something of a landmark in modern  transportation as interest in airships waned over safety concerns and the appeal of the airplane as a faster mode of transportation. For a long time, the airship became something appreciated for it’s novelty rather than its practicality.

But all of that could change in the future. Is There a Future for Airships? written by Bruce Dorminey and The Daily Climate for Scientific American addresses the notion of dirigibles being used in the future as a means for transporting cargo.

These cousins of the old airships of the twentieth century are a cross between lighter than air technology and fixed wing aircraft. The advancements made in airship technology have been astounding, and the airship’s ability to do things aircraft cannot, such as landing without an airship or tarmac and its significantly smaller demands for fuel, make the dirigible an interesting contender for the future of aerospace.

To read all about it, check out the article here.

The Punk in Steampunk

I make no secret about my belief that Steam and Punk are both important facets to the Steampunk philosophy and lifestyle. That combination of mindset and aesthetic makes Steampunk as beautiful as it is counter cultural.

The Steampunk Bible, edited by Jeff VanderMeer, was recently published and features some of the best in the many facets of Steampunk at present. This compendium of the movement is a beautiful and enlightening volume of which the subculture can be genuinely proud.

Introducing the Steampunk Bible is science fiction writer Bruce Sterling in his article, “The User’s Guide to Steampunk.” He offers some fantastic insight to Steampunk beyond Steam:

“Frankly, the heaviest guys in the Steampunk scene are not really all that into ‘steam.’ Instead, they are into punk. Specifically, punk’s do-it-yourself aspects and its determination to take the means of production away from big, mind-deadening companies who want to package and sell shrink-wrapped cultural products.”

– Bruce Sterling, from his essay “The User’s Guide to Steampunk” in The Steampunk Bible

I honestly couldn’t agree more with Sterling’s assessment, and so does Jake Von Slatt. Go here and read the entire article right now. Your views on and interpretations of Steampunk may be forever changed. 

Fantastic Victoriana Online

Back in 2005, a book called The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana by Jess Nevins was published. Within, it chronicled what was, up to that point, important aspects of Steampunk fiction before it became overwhelmingly popular a few years later. Listed in alphabetical order as a proper encyclopedia should, the book details the most outstanding aspects of “fantastic Victoriana” in fiction from Nemo to Frankenstein.

Unfortunately, however, this volume has been out of print for sometime now, and with the current resurgence and interest in Steampunk, the remaining copies of Fantastic Victoriana are going for hundreds to thousands of dollars. Case in point: the only volume up for sale on Amazon is currently running for 2,475 USD. Guys, that’s a lot of money.

If perhaps you don’t find yourself with a grand fortune to spend on experiencing this work, you’ll be happy to know that you can read much of the information presented in the encyclopedia on Jess’s website. There, you can peruse all the entries and become better versed in the characters and features of Victorian science fiction and fantasy from before Steampunk went big.

Happy reading!

Punk Pride

Because I love both Steam and Punk, I love showing off how Steampunk as an aesthetic and subculture go hand in hand. What is ultimately recognized as the most beautiful in Steampunk, regardless of the creation or its medium, is something that has been created by hand.

Punk Pride is an article published recently in the City Weekly, an Australian newspaper based in Docklands, Victoria. It describes Steampunk as seen through the eyes of some of the local Steampunks out there. I particularly love this article because it succeeds in going beyond the surface layer of Steampunk as an impressive aesthetic and delves into the Maker ethic. It’s fantastic that people as far away as Australia are delving into Steampunk not only as a way to look, but also a state of mind.

Read all of Punk Pride here. If you’ve found yourself enamored with Australian Steampunk, do be sure to visit the multitude of resources for Aussie Steampunks including (but certianly not limited to) the Australian Steampunk and NeoVictorian Live Journal Community and The Antipodean League of Temporal Voyagers.

Where Did Steampunk Come From?

In my explorations of the various art walks that occur around Seattle, I came across an interesting series of paintings by local oil painter Chris Sheridan that are currently hanging in the lobby of City Hostel Seattle. Some of the paintings combine one aspect of life the artist thought would have been in our lives by now, and one thing that is in our lives that he never saw coming.

Those two things? Aliens and Steampunk.

For many people, Steampunk seems to have appeared from no where, a random aesthetic that has very little past or history to account for its eccentricities. And while Steampunks love to point to Julies Verne and H.G. Wells as the founders of Steampunk before there was such a term, many of the archetypal elements of Steampunk fiction was found in many novels and short stories throughout the years.

Where Did Steampunk Come From? is an article by Jess Nevins that explores the appearance of Steampunk’s literary tropes. It’s an interesting in article because there’s likely to be no complete consensus if all of these works could be considered Steampunk by everyone in the community, but each features elements of the larger Steampunk genre in every title listed.

For more reading recommendations, check out this list of 25 recommended Steampunk novels, and to learn more about the history of Steampunk in a larger, cultural perspective, see A History of Steampunk and the The Great Steampunk Timeline.

How To Be A Retronaut

Retrofuturisum encompasses all of the major genre-punk subcultures, from Steampunk to Dieselpunk, Clockpunk, and the many other emerging groups. The act of looking back to a particular time period and bringing a modernized version of that time period into our current world is what retrofuturism’s many flavors is all about.

How To Be A Retronaut is a new blog that will capture the attentions and imaginations of retrofuturists everywhere. It’s accurately described as a visual time machine, presenting for your daily viewing pleasure old images from eras long past.

How to be a Retronaut takes some of the most interesting visual pieces from history and puts them in one remarkable spot that has already harnessed the attention of The Guardian, BBC News, and New Scientist.

Not everything on How to Be a Retronaut is going to be of interest to Steampunks, but there’s enough here to warrant frequent visits, including the occasional explicitly Steampunk topics.

Like Victorian Star Trek.

Why Steam Needs Punk

Recently Diana Vick, the co-chair for Steamcon, published an article entitled “‘Seven Steampunk Fallacies,” a discussion on preconceived notions of what Steampunk is and is not. There are aspects of the article with which I agree: Steampunks in general do not take themselves terribly seriously and not everything with a retrofuturistic twist can be considered Steampunk.

However, there is one of her points that I vehemently disagree with: that Steampunk does not need “punk.”

I’ve long advocated for the notion that the -punk in Steampunk is not a powerless suffix. It is integral to the way that I view and live Steampunk and the backbone of Steampunk philosophy and lifestyle.

Without the Punk in Steampunk, Steampunk is nothing but an aesthetic. It becomes impossible to be a Steampunk without your Steampunk clothes, your Steampunk art, or your Steampunk house. For those who live Steampunk, it is about more than the things you own; it’s a counter-cultural mindset that welcomes rebellion from the mainstream and rejects passive living.

Without the Punk in Steampunk, we deny our own historical roots. The Victorian Era was a revolutionary period in the course of human history. Discovery and the questioning of established orders, beliefs, and political systems marked the era. This plunge into the seemingly limitless expanse of discovery and change is what birthed the science fiction that frames today’s Steampunk. As a subculture, Steampunk carries on in that revolutionary and indomitable spirit by refusing to submit to the status quo and question the mainstream.

Without the Punk in Steampunk, we would lose our cultural focus on the Maker culture that supports individual artisans, musicians, and makers. Steampunk promotes a genuine relationship between creator and consumer. The value on handmade and individually produced items, whether you make them yourself or you buy them through an independent artist is a counter-cultural idea in today’s world of mass produced garbage. Without that Punk mentality, it would become okay to buy your Steampunk gear from Wal-Mart, Hot Topic, and other corporations that are good at replicating the look, but not the spirit, of Steampunk and by doing so, shirk accountability and ownership of your own movement.

Without the Punk in Steampunk, we become nothing more than reenactors or Neo-Victorians. Punk allows us to look back on the Victorian era without feeling the need to replicate everything from the period. It allows Steampunk women to be whatever and whoever they want to be. It allows for the open expression of one’s own gender or racial identities. It breaks free of the conservative mindset and sensibilities of the Victorians. The Victorian Era informs but does not define Steampunk.

Without the Punk in Steampunk, our subculture has no meaning, no purpose, and no opinion about our world.

The Starving Steampunk Foundation

Steampunk is, by in large, a culture of creators, makers, and artists. Creating takes resources, however, and for those strapped for necessary materials, the creative process becomes an expensive luxury. For those who need the create as part of their very being, economic troubles hamper the expression of their full Selves and denies the artist’s audience the delight of witnessing ideas materialize into reality.

The Starving Steampunk Foundation was created to combat this problem among Steampunks. Captain Robert wrote a wonderful post on the Foundation not too long ago that summaries it perfectly, so I’m redirecting it to you:

On February 1st, 2011, the Starving Steampunk Foundation made its debut on The Steampunk Empire (www.thesteampunkempire.com). The SSPF is a non-profit organization incorporated in the State of Montana, USA, to provide grants to artists and inventors of the Retro-Futurist Genre. It is run by a volunteer board of seven people from England and the United States.

The Foundation’s mission is to give artisans the chance to start or complete projects in the Genre when they may not have the capital to do so through modest grants. As is the case with many non-profit organizations, the Foundation is completely run on donations. All donations go directly toward the Foundation’s modest operating costs and the grants we provide to artists.

The Foundation is currently striving to be able to give its first grant by the end of Quarter II, 2011. Artists are encouraged to apply for grants at any time, all applications will be considered but please read the application guidelines. Donors may make a donation to the Foundation’s Paypal Account through our website, www.thestarvingsteampunkfoundation.org.

We would like to give a special thanks to Captain Robert and Abney Park for helping us get the word out.

The Starving Steampunk Foundation

See the original post here.

To apply for funds please visit the Starving Steampunk Foundation’s website and find their online application. To make a donation, please see the Foundation’s donations page. Please consider helping a Steampunk artist in need!

Steampunk Names

The naming of Steampunks, just like cats, is indeed a difficult matter. Finding a name that succeeds in expressing the Steamy essence of a character, pet, child, or even yourself is no simple task. Once you’ve chosen a name, it tends to stick, so it’s imperative to ensure it’s a good one.

Nephele over at Nameberry.com has compiled an impressive list of Steampunk inspired names, many of which have some root in proto or modern Steampunk literature.

This is a great place to start the search for that perfect Steampunk moniker. I especially appreciate how many of the names have a rationale/story behind them. They are not all just pulled at random, although there is some of that, of course.

Another resource some may find useful is the Victorian and Steampunk Name Generator which takes a few variables into consideration such as gender, class, and name length to come up with a new name. Keep pushing refresh until you arrive at one which suits your desires.